Alain Mabanckou [ Congo, France ]
Alain Mabanckou was born on 24th February 1966 in Pointe Noire in the Congo. After completing his A-levels he studied Law, first in Brazzaville and then in Paris. Today, alongside his writing, he works as an advisor for a large Parisian company and as a freelance journalist.
Alongside authors such as Abdourahman A. Waberi and Kossi Efoui, he counts as one of the most successful voices of young African literature in the French language.
Mabanckou achieved his big breakthrough with the novel "Bleu-Blanc-Rouge" (1998) for which he received the "Grand Prix littéraire de l’Afrique Noire". Here he tells the story of two African men whose wishes and hopes shatter in the reality of France – the land of their longing. Fed with pictures of equality and brotherhood and the belief that education will help social advancement, Massala-Massala, a classic anti-hero, must recognize that in Paris it’s less to do with certificates and diplomas but more with the capability to, if really necessary, make your way illegally through the monotony of everyday life. And, from a distance, everything had lit up so colourfully – blue-white-red. The novel succeeds in becoming a biting satire on each African, who places everything on settling in France and so forgetting their origin. He also clearly shows that in the former French colonies, despite their independence, much is still orientated towards the former colony masters.
It is the not always conflict-free encounter between France and Africa which influences the work of Mabanckou. While his first poetry volume ("Au jour, le jour", 1993) is, in his own words, too attached to the classic French metric, Mabanckou finds, at the latest with the lyrical story of the death of his mother "La Légende de l'errance" (1995) his own tone. In "Les arbres aussi versent des larmes" (1997) he uses the picture of the tree as symbol for the cycle of life and uses this picture, which is applied to the rain forests of his home, to examine the loss of traditional values. His last poetry volume is at the same time a declaration of love and a song of mourning: in "Quand le coq annoncera l’aube d’un autre jour" (1999), Mabanckou writes about the war which destroys his country. This theme also characterizes his novel "Les Petit-Fils nègres de Vercingétorix", published in 2002. From the viewpoint of a woman, the fighting of war in the fictitious republic of Viétongo is reflected and here no great imagination is needed to see that it is an allusion to the civil war in his country of origin. The author was awarded the Prix Renaudot, the Prix Aliénor d'Aquitaine and the Prix de la rentrée littéraire française for his novel "Mémoires de porc-épic" in 2006.
Mabanckou, who has lived in Paris for 20 years and whose books all appear in France, nevertheless sees himself as an African writer: "How is it said so nicely: a tadpole can swim but that’s a long way off becoming a crocodile. It may be that my manner and way of writing make my books become a part of world literature, but it is undisputed that I am an African and that my African side is always shown in my work. I see myself as a writer, but a writer who has not forgotten that he is an African."
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