Alain Mabanckou (born 24 February 1966) is a novelist, journalist, poet, and academic, a French citizen born in the Republic of the Congo, he is currently a Professor of Literature in the United States. He is best known for his novels and non-fiction writing depicting the experience of contemporary Africa and the African diaspora in France. He is among the best known and most successful writers in the French language and one of the best known African writers in France. He is also controversial, and criticized by some African and diaspora writers for stating Africans bear responsibility for their own misfortune.
Alain Mabanckou was born in Congo-Brazzaville in 1966. He spent his childhood in the coastal city of Pointe-Noire where he received his baccalaureate in Letters and Philosophy at the Lycée Karl Marx. After preliminary law classes at The Marien Ngouabi University in Brazzaville, he received a scholarship to go to France at the age of 22. He already had several manuscripts to his name, mostly collections of poems, which he began publishing three years later.
Mabanckou dedicated himself increasingly to writing after the publication of his first novel, Bleu-Blanc-Rouge (Blue-White-Red), which won him the Grand prix littéraire d'Afrique noire in 1999. Since then he has continued to regularly publish prose as well as poetry. His African Psycho, Le Serpent à Plumes (2003) is a novel written from the point of view of Gregoire Nakobomayo, a fictional African serial killer.
Mabanckou is best known for his fiction, notably Verre Cassé (Broken Glass), a comic novel centered on a Congolese former teacher and life in the bar he now frequents. Verre cassé has also been the subject of several theatrical adaptations. It was published as Broken Glass, in English translation in 2009.
In 2006 he published Memoires de porc-épic (Memoirs of a Porcupine), which garnered the Prix Renaudot, one of the highest distinctions in French literature. The book is a magic realism-inspired reworking of a folk tale into a psychological portrait of a young Congolese man's descent into violence.
In 2007, Mabanckou’s early poetry was re-published by Points-Seuil under the title Tant que les arbres s’enracineront dans la terre, as well as a biography of James Baldwin, Lettre à Jimmy (Fayard), on the twentieth anniversary of Baldwin’s death.
His 2009 novel, Black Bazar, is a dark comic story set in Jip's, a Paris Afro-Cuban bar once frequented by Mabanckou, portraying the lives of characters from the various African diasporas of France.
Mabanckou's work has been published in fifteen languages. African Psycho (2007), Broken Glass (2009), Memoirs of a Porcupine (2011) and Black Baazar (2012) have been translated into English.
In 2002, Mabanckou went to teach Francophone Literature at the University of Michigan as an Assistant Professor. After three years there he was hired in 2006 by the University of California Los Angeles, where he is now a full Professor in the French Department. He currently lives in Santa Monica, California. He was appointed Visiting Professor at the Collège de France (Chair of Artistic Creation) for 2016.
- 1998 : Bleu-Blanc-Rouge, Présence Africaine
(English translation, Blue White Red, Indiana University Press, 2013)
- 2001 : Et Dieu seul sait comment je dors, Présence Africaine
- 2002 : Les Petits-fils nègres de Vercingétorix, Serpent à Plumes / En poche chez « Points », Editions du Seuil, 2006
- 2003 : African Psycho, Le Serpent à Plumes / Paperback « Points », Editions du Seuil, 2006
(English translation, African Psycho, 2007, London: Serpent's Tail, 2009)
- 2005 : Verre cassé, Éditions du Seuil, 2006 / Paperback « Points »
(English translation: Broken Glass, 2009, London, Serpent's Tail, 2011)
- 2006 : Mémoires de porc-épic (Prix Renaudot), Éditions du Seuil / Paperback « Points », Editions du Seuil, 2007
(English translation, Memoirs of a Porcupine, London: Serpent's Tail, 2011)
- 2009 : Black Bazar, Éditions du Seuil
(English translation Black Bazaar, London: Serpent's Tail, 2012)
- 2010 : Demain j'aurai vingt ans, Paris, Gallimard
(English translation., "Tomorrow I'll be Twenty", London: Serpent'sTail, 2013)
- 2012 : "Tais-toi et meurs", Paris, La Branche.
- 2013 : "Lumières de Pointe-Noire", Paris, Editions du Seuil.
(English translation " The Lights of Pointe-Noire", London Serpent's Tail, 2015 ; USA, New York, The New Press, 2016)
- 2015 : "Petit Piment", Paris, Le Seuil, 2015
- 1993 : Au jour le jour, Maison rhodanienne de poésie
- 1995 : La légende de l'errance, Éditions L'Harmattan
- 1995 : L'usure des lendemains, Nouvelles du Sud
- 1997 : Les arbres aussi versent des larmes, L'Harmattan
- 1999 : Quand le coq annoncera l'aube d'un autre jour, L'Harmattan
- 2007 : Tant que les arbres s'enracineront dans la terre, Oeuvre poétique complète, « Points », Seuil
- 2007 : Lettre à Jimmy (James Baldwin), Ed. Fayard
(English translation : Letter to Jimmy, USA: Soft Skull, 2014)
- 2009 : "L'Europe vue d'Afrique", Ed. Naïve
- 2011 : "Ecrivain et Oiseau migrateur:, Ed. André Versailles
- 2012 : "Le Sanglot de l'homme noir". Ed. Fayard
Awards and recognition
- Prix de la Société des poètes français, 1995 for L'usure des lendemains
- Grand prix littéraire d'Afrique noire, for Bleu-Blanc-Rouge, 1999
- Prix du roman Ouest-France-Etonnants Voyageurs 2005, for Verre cassé
- Prix des cinq continents de la francophonie 2005, for Verre cassé
- Prix RFO du livre 2005, for Verre cassé
- Prix Renaudot 2006, for Mémoires de porc-épic
- Prix de La Rentrée littéraire 2006, for Mémoires de porc-épic
- Prix Aliénor d'Aquitaine 2006, for Mémoires de porc-épic
- Prix Créateurs Sans Frontières 2007 (Ministère français des Affaires Etrangères), for Mémoires de porc-épic
- Médaille de citoyen d'honneur de la ville de Saint-Jean-d'Angély (Charente-Maritime, France), 2004
- Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur par décret du Président de la République française, 2010.
- Georges Brassens Prize 2010, for Demain j'aurai vingt ans
- Académie Française Prize : Grand Prix de littérature Henri Gal 2012 for his entire work
- Premio Strega Europeo : 2015, Finalist
- Man Booker International Prize: 2015, Finalist
- "Alain Mabanckou, l'enfant noir". "G.L.", Le Nouvel Observateur, 19 August 2010.
- Alain Mabanckou. Julien Bisson, France Today, 2009-04-09
- "Les Africains ont une responsabilité dans la traite des Noirs". Adrien Hart, SlateAfrique, 2012-03-16.
- "Le grand rire d’Alain Mabanckou" Valérie Marin La Meslée. SlateAfrique, 2012-01-30
- "Duck soup: A Congolese comedy amuses" (Review of Broken Glass). Tibor Fischer, The Guardian, 2009-02-20.