The lights of Point-Noire by Alain Mabanckou

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The lights of Pointe-Noire by Alain Mabanckou

Congolese memoir

Original title – Lumieres de Pointe-Noire

Translator – Helen Stevenson

Source review copy

 

“Back To The Old House”

I would rather not go
back to the old house
I would rather not go
back to the old house
there’s too many
bad memories
too many memories

When you cycled by
here began all my dreams
the saddest thing I’ve ever seen
and you never knew
how much I really liked you
because I never even told you
oh, but I meant to

I choose “The smiths ” as back to the old house is about return to your youth as well .

Well the second stop ion a few days I am spending on the blog in Africa .I am now in Congo , with one of my favourite writers Alain Mabanckou has featured on the blog three times before with his fiction with the books Black Bazaar ,Memoirs of a porcupine and broken glass . This is his latest to be translated to English and is a memoir of his return to Congo and his home town .Since he last featured here on the blog Alain Mabanckou has been on the Man international prize list and was on  this years Priz Goncourt longlist for his latest novel in French .He is also one of my favourite writers ever !!

For a long ttime , then , I let people think my mother was still alive .In a way I had no choice but to lie , having picked up the habit way back in primary school when I brought my two older sisters back to life in an attempt to eacape teasing of my classmate , who were all very proud of their large familes , and offered to  “lend” my mother their offspring

He remembers his mother and being at school , the school now named  after a leader once hated by the locals .

The lights of Pointe-Noire follows Alain Mabanckou as he returns to his home .He left in 1989 , he didn’t return when his m other died but many year later in 2012 . What faces him is his home town Pointe-Noire a busy port town that he left and he has written about in his novels , was no more the sights he remember have changed vastly in the time he was away .The cinema he loved is now a church , the faces he knew have aged .WE see him in the two weeks he spends there in a flat from the French goverment pieces together past and present the brutal nature of what was his bringing up (brutal maybe to us , but he doesn’t turn this into a misery story , no it is littered with that wit , I so love in his fiction ) Mabanckou is able to mix humour with the deepest darkest sides of the human soul .As characters from his past reappear not only do you see them as they are now but as they were and also the sense of how he used them in his books .

Now I notice various details that I haven’t seen before .For example , my mother’s right shoulder seems to be crushing me , while my father ‘s trying to keep us propped up .that’s why his head is pressed up against mine .I can see , too , my t=father’s finger on my mother’s left shoulder .I think it must be his left arm holding us up and without it we wouldn’t have managed to hold the pose . Lastly , the marks left by the bottles on the surface of the table suggest the waiters didn’t wipe them very often

Looking at an old photo , don’t we all notixce how odd we can seem , I remember one of dad , mill , my brother duncan and I that seems so posed now .

It’s often said the past is a foreign country and this is shown to be so true in this book although the places look familar to Alain as he revisited where he grew up after nearly a quarter of a century away .The sense of the place has moved on and he is returning but more like a figure captured on a sepia toned photograph of the place he want tpo escape did escape , but has used so much in his fiction he never real escaped the people that surrounded him , do we ever really escape our past just put it in a different box in our memory .

Have you a favourite book from Alain Mabanckou , if not you should read him ?

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Guy Savage
    Sep 06, 2015 @ 15:05:02

    Haven’t read him, Stu, but I know I’ve seen the name before.

    Reply

  2. Claire 'Word by Word'
    Sep 07, 2015 @ 06:45:31

    Which is your favourite of his books Stu? Thanks for the review and sharign that he one’s of your favourites, high praise indeed!

    Reply

  3. 1streading
    Sep 07, 2015 @ 19:15:19

    I found this a little too episodic for my taste, particularly the first half. I also found the procession of grasping relatives hard to take, though this doesn’t seem to be a feeling he shares. It’s interesting to see the way his fiction rises from his life, though.

    Reply

  4. Tony
    Sep 08, 2015 @ 01:53:30

    Having finished ‘Tram 83’ by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, I’ve moved on to Mabanckou’s ‘Verre Cassé’ (‘Broken Glass’) and loving it so far – a very funny book🙂

    Reply

  5. Max Cairnduff
    Sep 14, 2015 @ 15:01:28

    Haven’t read him Stu, though I know of him. Which would you suggest starting with?

    Reply

  6. Trackback: September on winstonsdad | Winstonsdad's Blog

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