Gum Arabic

Leiden University Press 2019 Verkrijgbaar

I remember how I would stare, squinting, at the hexagonal bottle on the desk that reflected sunshine like a phial of liquid light. It contained ‘real glue’, which my brother and I were not allowed to use. […] Sometimes, under my father’s watchful eye, I was allowed to fidget with the cap. Dried gum, like sugar, would peel off cleanly. But even better than that was being able to hold the bottle up to the window and turn it around in the light. I thought it was part of a chandelier, like one I must have seen in a picture book or a shop window somewhere. And I understood that what I saw was lustre.

From the reviews:
It is both a commodity history and a personal account, with scholarship presented in a narrative rather than formal style. It is very well written.  To me, this is the most difficult kind of non-fiction to write, and one of the most rewarding to read, with knowledge conveyed through enjoyment and fascination.
Kaori O’Connor, University College London.

Interview in Libération about the cultural and economic significance of a commodity that has turned conventional relations between the Sahel and Europe upside down since the seventeenth century. (First in French, then in English.)