Shortlisted for the 2023 International Booker Prize
A funny, fast-paced, and poignant take on Franco-African history, as told through the eyes of three African security guards in Paris.
All over the city, they are watching: Black men paid to stand guard, invisible amongst the rich white flâneurs—and yet the only ones who truly see. From Les Grands Moulins and the sales at Camaïeu to a Sephora on the Champs-Élysées, Ferdinand, Ossiri, and Kassoum, two generations of Ivoirians, seek their way as undocumented workers amidst political bickering at the Residence for Students from Côte d’Ivoire and the ever-changing landscape of French immigration policy. Fast-paced and funny, poignant and sharply satirical, Standing Heavy is a searingly witty deconstruction of colonial legacies and capitalist consumption and an unforgettable, unprecedented account of everything that passes under the security guards’ all-seeing eyes.
Praise for Standing Heavy
“This book is about the anti-flâneurs: not the rich white men who roam the boulevards of Paris but poorly paid Black men whose jobs require them to stand still. As a security guard, the protagonist of Standing Heavy is invisible but sees everything. Told in a fragmentary style—as if from different camera angles—this is the story of colonialism and consumerism, of the specifics of power, and of the hope of the sixties diminishing as society turns cynical and corrupt.”
—International Booker Prize Judges’ citation
“Inventive and very funny.”
—John Self, The Guardian
“This compact, humane satire, deftly translated by Frank Wynne, entertains as much as it informs.”
—Lucy Popescu, Financial Times
“A cunning observer and a disenchanted protestor, Gauz’ makes shopping an ethnological mine, a priceless sketch and a combat sport.”
“Gauz casts a tender, yet lucid gaze on the African community. By devoting a book to the shadowy men of security, Gauz finally gives voice and life to those who, oddly enough, are invisible.”
—Le Matricule des Anges
“A funny and poignant intergenerational tale of three Ivoirian men newly arrived in Paris. And a sharp social and political commentary, delivered via the sharp eyes of the black security guards that white Paris relies on to keep itself safe.”
—Tiffany Tsao, author of The Majesties