Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou
A Novel

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This tightly contained, densely packed story issues a challenge that never loses its urgency: how does a person cling to a sense of autonomy when it’s under siege by so many powerful forces?
-Kirkus

Synopsis

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 follows is a funny, moving, larger-than-life tale that chronicles Moses’s ultimately tragic journey through the Pointe-Noire underworld and the politically repressive world of Congo-Brazzaville in the 1970s and 80s.

Mabanckou’s vivid portrayal of Moses’s mental collapse echoes the work of Hugo, Dickens, and Brian DePalma’s Scarface, confirming Mabanckou’s status as one of our great storytellers. Black Moses is a vital new extension of his cycle of Pointe-Noire novels that stand out as one of the grandest, funniest, fictional projects of our time.
 

About Alain Mabanckou

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Regarded as Francophone Africa’s leading voice, novelist, poet, and essayist Alain Mabanckou was born in Congo and currently lives in Los Angeles, where he teaches literature at UCLA. He is the author of African Psycho, Broken Glass, Black Bazaar, Tomorrow I Will Be Twenty, and The Lights of Pointe-Noire (The New Press). In 2015 he was a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize and the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens. Helen Stevenson is a piano teacher, writer, and translator who lives in Somerset, England. Her translation of Mabanckou’s The Lights of Pointe-Noire won the Grand Prix, 2015 French Voices Award.
 
Published June 6, 2017 by The New Press. 208 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Black Moses
All: 5 | Positive: 5 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Excellent
on Mar 21 2017

This tightly contained, densely packed story issues a challenge that never loses its urgency: how does a person cling to a sense of autonomy when it’s under siege by so many powerful forces?

Read Full Review of Black Moses: A Novel | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by JOSHUA HAMMER on Jul 20 2017

Deftly translated by Helen Stevenson, “Black Moses” abounds with moments of dark humor, but the levity is balanced by Mabanckou’s portrait of a dysfunctional society rent by corruption, poverty, political instability and tribal rivalries.

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LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by Mark Athitakis on Jul 27 2017

For all the novel’s humor, though, Moses himself is a cautionary if not tragic figure. The latter sections of “Black Moses” turn on his loss of memory and the inability of either neuropsychologists or folk healers to repair the damage done to him.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by LUCY SCHOLES on Apr 30 2017

Evocatively translated from the original French by Helen Stevenson, this International Man Booker longlisted novel is a rip-roaring ride from innocence to experience.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Maya Jaggi on Apr 14 2017

The eponymous narrator of this picaresque tour-de-force is an inmate at an orphanage on the outskirts of Pointe-Noire.

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