A Human Burden

Original title: Une somme humaine

Author: Orcel, Makenzy

Publication Date:

August 2022



Original language and publisher

French | Payot & Rivages

Territories Handled

Netherlands, Nordic Countries


Literary Fiction

A Human Burden

Original title: Une somme humaine

Author: Orcel, Makenzy


In leaving Haiti, his native land, Makenzy Orcel takes a step forward in an already stunning path as a writer. Une somme humaine will surely be a key piece of a powerful and unusual body of work. — America Nostra

A masterful whirlwind of a novel. — TTT, Télérama

A true novelistic experience, both singular and universal, in its portrait of France and in its denunciation of the oppression suffered by women. — Sébastien Omont, En attendant Nadeau

By leaving his country of origin, Haiti, Makenzy Orcel takes a step forward in his already brilliant career as a writer. A Human Burden will undoubtedly be an important step towards a strong and unique body of work. — Christian Roinat, America Nostra

Very few authors know how to anchor their novels in the contemporary world as magnificently as Makenzy Orcel does. Throw in a spell-blindingly dazzling style and turn of phrase. — Serge Bressan, La grande parade

Through the voice of a woman looking back over her own past, Makenzy Orcel explores the workings of female alienation, couples and families with great clairvoyance.

In her notebooks, the narrator describes the series of tragedies that have composed her existence, from a chaotic childhood in the south of France to being abandoned for good on the tracks of the metro. Born in a little village rife with rumors and legends, where she gets to know, among other characters, the old pharmacist who poisoned her husband, the Horse Child who gallops around the square in front of the church, and the Odd Priest who comes for a cocktail at her home every day. But when she was raped by an uncle, the truth, covered up by her genitors, has trouble getting heard. Left to her own devices, she develops a one-track mind: get to Paris and erase her past. Between university, encounters and loneliness, she’ll try to make a place for herself in the exhausting metropolis, by becoming first a slam poet then a town-hall employee, by exploring cemeteries at night, and by listening to her Auschwitz survivor landlord’s traumatic memories as well as the complaints of her one-of-a-kind actress neighbor, and by loving Orcel, her ephemeral soulmate, or Makenzy, by far the worst of men.

Through the life of this young woman and a juxtaposition of singular characters, Makenzy Orcel lends his voice to a veritable human sum, in an inimitably poetical style.

Marketing Information

  • Finalist for the Prix Goncourt 2022
  • Shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt, Goncourt des détenus and Goncourt des Lycéens 2022
  • Over 8,000 copies sold

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