In Koli Jean Bofane
In Koli Jean Bofane was born in 1954 in Mbandaka in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (former Zaire). At the age of six years he went to Belgium and up until 1983, when he returned to the DRC, he lived both in Belgium and in Africa. After his studies in communications, Bofane worked in the advertising sector and in 1991 he founded a publishing house (Publications de l’Exocet) which was mainly dedicated to satirical comics, reports on social topics as well as journalistic essays. With the increasing oppression on the publishing houses as well as on the freedom of the press in his country, Bofane like many other writers and journalists of his time, decided to leave Zaire in 1993 and pursue his writing career, turning towards literature, in Belgium.
Bofane’s first work, »Pourquoi le lion n’est plus le roi des animaux« (tr: Why the lion is no longer king of the animals), a satire about dictators, was published in 1996 by éditions Gallimard and awarded the Prix de la Critique de la Communauté française de Belgique. In 2000, »Bibi et les canards« (tr: Bibi and the ducks), which deals with the theme of migration, was published and also translated into about a dozen languages. Bofane’s latest work »Les mathématiques congolaises« was published in 2008. The novel is about Célio, a young man who lives in Kinshasa and works hard to earn a living. In the bequest of his father, who was killed while fleeing from the civil war, he finds an old school mathematics exercise book which marks the beginning of his escape into the world of formulas and axioms. Referred to as »Célio Mathematics« by his friends, Célio creates an entire world of formulas which he uses to explain the complex situation in the Congo and tries to bring order and regulation into the chaotic course of events. In this way he wants to bring the turbulent and opaque state of affairs and the institutionalised confusion onto a controlled path. With a cynical sense of humour and rebellious wit, Bofane manages to portray the grave circumstances of the country. His language, rich in imagery and melody, allows for a singular view on the everyday rhythm of the streets of Kinshasa.
The novel was awarded the Prix Jean Muno (2008) as well as the Prix littéraire de la SCAM (2009) and the Grand Prix littéraire de l’Afrique noire (2009). The author lives in Brussels.