The Death of Comrade President

The Death of Comrade President

Alain Mabanckou

Fiction / Cultural / Africa

In Pointe-Noire, in the small neighbourhood of Voungou, on the family plot where young Michel lives with Maman Pauline and Papa Roger, life goes on. But Michel's everyday cares - lost grocery money, the whims of his parents' moods, their neighbours' squabbling, his endless daydreaming - are soon swept away by the wind of history. In March 1977, just before the arrival of the short rainy season, Comrade President Marien Ngouabi is brutally murdered in Brazzaville, and not even naïve Michel can remain untouched. Starting as a tender, wry portrait of an ordinary Congolese family, Alain Mabanckou quickly expands the scope of his story into a powerful examination of colonialism, decolonization and dead ends of the African continent. At a stroke Michel learns the realities of life - and how much must change for everything to stay the same.
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Black Bazaar

Black Bazaar

Alain Mabanckou

Fiction / Cultural / Africa

Finalist for the Man Booker International Prize 2015 Buttologist is down on his uppers. His girlfriend, Original Colour, has cleared out of their Paris studio and run off to the Congo with a vertically challenged drummer known as The Mongrel. She's taken their daughter with her. Meanwhile, a racist neighbour spies on him something wicked, accusing him of 'digging a hole in the Dole'. And his drinking buddies at Jips, the Afro-Cuban bar in Les Halles, pour scorn on Black Bazaar, the journal he keeps to log his sorrows. There are days when only the Arab in the corner shop has a kind word; while at night his dreams are stalked by the cannibal pygmies of Gabon. Then again, Buttologist wears no ordinary uppers. He has style, bags of it (suitcases of crocodile and anaconda Westons, to be precise). He's a dandy from the Bacongo district of Brazzaville - AKA a sapeur or member of the Society of Ambience-makers and People of Elegance. But is flaunting...
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Memoirs of a Porcupine

Memoirs of a Porcupine

Alain Mabanckou

Fiction / Cultural / Africa

All human beings, says an African legend, have an animal double. Some doubles are benign, others wicked. This legend comes to life in Alain Mabanckou's outlandish, surreal, and charmingly nonchalant Memoirs of a Porcupine.When Kibandi, a boy living in a Congolese village, reaches the age of 11, his father takes him out into the night and forces him to drink a vile liquid from a jar that has been hidden for years in the earth. This is his initiation. From now on, he and his double, a porcupine, become accomplices in murder. They attack neighbors, fellow villagers, and people who simply cross their path, for reasons so slight that it is virtually impossible to establish connection between the killings. As he grows older, Kibandi relies on his double to act out his grizzly compulsions, until one day even the porcupine balks and turns instead to literary confession.Winner of the Prix Renaudot, France's equal to the National Book Award, Alain Mabanckou is considered one...
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Black Moses

Black Moses

Alain Mabanckou

Fiction / Cultural / Africa

LONG-LISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE A rollicking new novel described as "Oliver Twist in 1970s Africa" (Les Inrockuptibles) from "Africa's Samuel Beckett . . . one of the continent's greatest living writers" (The Guardian). It's not easy being Tokumisa Nzambe po Mose yamoyindo abotami namboka ya Bakoko. There's that long name of his for a start, which means, "Let us thank God, the black Moses is born on the lands of the ancestors." Most people just call him Moses. Then there's the orphanage where he lives, run by a malicious political stooge, Dieudonné Ngoulmoumako, and where he's terrorized by two fellow orphans—the twins Songi-Songi and Tala-Tala. But after Moses exacts revenge on the twins by lacing their food with hot pepper, the twins take Moses under their wing, escape the orphanage, and move to the bustling port town of Pointe-Noire, where they form a gang that survives on petty theft. What...
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Broken Glass

Broken Glass

Alain Mabanckou

Fiction / Cultural / Africa

Alain Mabanckou’s riotous new novel centers on the patrons of a run-down bar in the Congo. In a country that appears to have forgotten the importance of remembering, a former schoolteacher and bar regular nicknamed Broken Glass has been elected to record their stories for posterity. But Broken Glass fails spectacularly at staying out of trouble as one denizen after another wants to rewrite history in an attempt at making sure his portrayal will properly reflect their exciting and dynamic lives. Despondent over this apparent triumph of self-delusion over self-awareness, Broken Glass drowns his sorrows in red wine and riffs on the great books of Africa and the West. Brimming with life, death, and literary allusions, Broken Glass is Mabanckou’s finest novel — a mocking satire of the dangers of artistic integrity.
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Blue White Red

Blue White Red

Alain Mabanckou

Fiction / Cultural / Africa

This tale of wild adventure reveals the dashed hopes of Africans living between worlds. When Moki returns to his village from France wearing designer clothes and affecting all the manners of a Frenchman, Massala-Massala, who lives the life of a humble peanut farmer after giving up his studies, begins to dream of following in Moki's footsteps. Together, the two take wing for Paris, where Massala-Massala finds himself a part of an underworld of out-of-work undocumented immigrants. After a botched attempt to sell metro passes purchased with a stolen checkbook, he winds up in jail and is deported. Blue White Red is a novel of postcolonial Africa where young people born into poverty dream of making it big in the cities of their former colonial masters. Alain Mabanckou's searing commentary on the lives of Africans in France is cut with the parody of African villagers who boast of a son in the country of Digol.
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Letter to Jimmy

Letter to Jimmy

Alain Mabanckou

Fiction / Cultural / Africa

Written on the twentieth anniversary of James Baldwin's death, Letter to Jimmy is African writer Alain Mabanckou's ode to his literary hero and an effort to place Baldwin's life in context within the greater African diaspora.Beginning with a chance encounter with a beggar wandering along a Santa Monica beach—a man whose ragged clothes and unsteady gait remind the author of a character out of one of James Baldwin's novels— Mabanckou uses his own experiences as an African living in the US as a launching pad to take readers on a fascinating tour of James Baldwin's life. As Mabanckou reads Baldwin's work, looks at pictures of him through the years, and explores Baldwin's checkered publishing history, he is always probing for answers about what it must have been like for the young Baldwin to live abroad as an African-American, to write obliquely about his own homosexuality, and to seek out mentors like Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison only to publicly reject...
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The Lights of Pointe-Noire

The Lights of Pointe-Noire

Alain Mabanckou

Fiction / Cultural / Africa

Finalist for the Man Booker International Prize 2015 Alain Mabanckou left Congo in 1989, at the age of twenty-two, not to return until a quarter of a century later. When at last he returns home to Pointe-Noire, a bustling port town on Congo's south-eastern coast, he finds a country that in some ways has changed beyond recognition: the cinema where, as a child, Mabanckou gorged on glamorous American culture has become a Pentecostal temple, and his secondary school has been re-named in honour of a previously despised colonial ruler. But many things remain unchanged, not least the swirling mythology of Congolese culture which still informs everyday life in Pointe-Noire. Mabanckou though, now a decorated French-Congolese writer and esteemed professor at UCLA, finds he can only look on as an outsider at the place where he grew up. As Mabanckou delves into his childhood, into the life of his departed mother and into the...
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