Saturday, April 18, 2009

African Psycho - Alain Mabanckou

"I have decided to kill Germaine on December 29", declares Gregoire Nakobomayo as the narrator in this "American Psycho" inspired novel from the young Congo-Brazzaville born author. Gregorie, small time car mechanic , a petty criminal and a wanna be killer is trying to emulate what his idol Angoualima a legendary serial killer, to clean the street from the bad elements.
His routine visits to the grave of his idol, and his small attempts of criminal activity does not get him to the league of Angoualima. He has only ideas and plans, but none , barring few petty cases, gets him where he wanted to be , to the displeasure of his idol. Hence the decision to do something big. To kill his girlfriend, who satyed with him during the last couple of months, and he believes, she is one of those girls of the street.
The story also takes us through his troubled childhood, where he had been an adoptive child to various family, each time he runs away. The author also takes us through the criminal records and the end of Angoualima, his idol. He make a fool of himself in every attempt to be a villain, be it an attempted murder, rape , rob or whatever he does. The D Day has arrived and the preparation is at its peak. But the girl does not return home at night, spoiling his party. The next morning report on TV carry the news of the murder of the girl, and who could have done this ?
My first impression of this book was very negative. I do not see any compelling story in it. Every thing is loosely held. The characterisation is not strong and is not convincing. More apt for a short story, dragged to 164 pages with some flash back of Angoualima and the his child hood memories.
The attempted humour and the satirical take on the press etc are interesting, but not seems to be making any impact. The use of the names like , He-Who-Drinks-Water-Is-An-Idiot and sort also making it rather puneasy to read. I am sure he was attempting to write a satire, if not the book is extremely disturbing with the crime scene, the corruption and the other social destruction of values.
I think I have taken this book quite seriously. If I remove the literary pretensions , and look at it again, then it is a simple witty narrative, with a social satire. If you are able to laugh at the protagonist along with the author, this is not a bad work of fiction. Having said that, I am sure he has got potential and as this profile in FranceToday tells us, he has written more acknowledged books.
African Psycho
Alain Mabanckou ( translated by Christine Schwartz Hartley )
164 Pages
Rs 395
Further read : Book Slut, Wordswithoutborders , NY timeout

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