22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Alain Mabanckou

Portrait Alain Mabanckou
© Ali Ghandtschi

Alain Mabanckou was born in 1966 in Pointe Noire in the Republic of the Congo. He studied law in Brazzaville and Paris. He is a professor of French literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is one of the most successful francophone writers of modern African literature.

Mabanckou achieved his breakthrough with the novel »Bleu-Blanc-Rouge« (1998; Eng. »Blue White Red«, 2013) for which he received the »Grand Prix Littéraire de l’Afrique Noire«. In it, he tells the story of two African men whose hopes are shattered as they encounter the reality of living in France – the land of their dreams. The novel is a searing satire of those Africans who will do anything they can to settle in France and forget their heritage along the way. This encounter between France and Africa, which is not always free of conflict, also characterizes Mabanckou’s other works. While his first poetry collection »Au jour, le jour« (1993; tr: Day to Day) still remained, according to Mabanckou, too attached to classical French metrics, he finds his own tone in »La Légende de l’errance « (1995; tr: The Legend of the Wandering), which is a lyrical reflection on the death of his mother. In »Les arbres aussi versent des larmes« (1997; tr: Trees Also Shed Tears) he examines the loss of traditional values. In 2004 his collected poems appeared in a volume entitled »Tant que les arbres s’enracineront dans la terre« (tr: As Long as Trees Take Root in the Earth). In his novel »Verre cassé« (2005; Eng. »Broken Glass«, 2009), the counter of a run-down bar in Brazzaville becomes a stage for the tragicomic life stories of a handful of men. For his novel »Mémoires de porc-épic« (2006; Eng. »Memoirs of a Porcupine«, 2012) 2011), a fable based on the popular African legend about the strange human species, he was awarded the Prix Renaudot in 2006, among others. In 2010 he published »Demain j’aurai vingt ans« (Eng. »Tomorrow I’ll be Twenty«, 2013), whose autobiographically tinged plot is set in Pointe-Noire in the 1970s, followed by »Lumières de Pointe-Noire« (2013; Eng. »The Lights of Pointe-Noire«, 2015), which tells the story of Mabanckou’s journey to the Republic of the Congo. After 23 years, he is back in his hometown for the first time, but he feels alienated above all and searches for memories of his mother, who has died in the meantime. For »Petit Piment« (2015; Eng. »Black Moses«, 2017) Mabanckou was nominated for the Prix Goncourt. The book deals with a Congolese boy and his struggle to survive as an orphan and street child. In his latest novel »Les cigognes sont immortelles« (2018; tr: Storks are Immortal) he deals with the consequences of colonialism in the Congo.

Mabanckou, who was awarded the Grand Prix de Littérature by the Académie française in 2012 for his complete works and was appointed to the Collège de France in 2016, now lives in Santa Monica.