Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi - review by John Phipps

John Phipps

Of Mice & Man

Transcendent Kingdom


Viking 256pp £14.99

Early on in Transcendent Kingdom, the narrator’s brother, Nana, is racially abused from the sidelines during a football match. Furiously, he sets out to decimate his opponents: ‘For the rest of that half he was little more than a blur, moving not with the elegance my father associated with soccer, but with pure fury.’ For his younger sister, Gifty, this provides ‘the lesson I have never quite been able to shake: that I would always have something to prove and that nothing but blazing brilliance would be enough to prove it.’

The episode has the teachable quality of a parable: it moves from a cause to a direct consequence, before providing an unexpected moral that sticks in the reader’s head. It operates at an economical remove from observed reality (does anyone, playing football, look like ‘a blur’?) and it demonstrates perfectly

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

A Mirror - Westend

Follow Literary Review on Twitter