Alain Mabanckou

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Alain Mabanckou at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2017

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 at UCLA. He is best known for his novels and non-fiction writing depicting the experience of contemporary Africa and the African diaspora in France.[1] He is among the best known and most successful writers in the French language[2] and one of the best known African writers in France. In some circles in Paris he is known as the Samuel Beckett of Africa.[3] He is also controversial,[4] and criticized by some African and diaspora writers for stating Africans bear responsibility for their own misfortune.[5] He has argued against the idea that African and Caribbean writers should focus on their local realities in order to serve and express their communities. He further contends that categories such as nation, race, and territory fall short of encapsulating reality and urges writers to create works that deal with issues beyond these subjects.[6]


Alain Mabanckou was born in Congo-Brazzaville in 1966. He spent his childhood in the coastal city of Pointe-Noire[5] 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.

After receiving a post-graduate Diploma in Law from the Université Paris-Dauphine, he worked for about ten years for the group Suez-Lyonnaise des Eaux.


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.[1] 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.[7] Verre cassé has also been the subject of several theatrical adaptations. It was published in English translation as Broken Glass in 2009.

In 2006 he published Memoires de porc-épic (Memoirs of a Porcupine), which won 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.[1]

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 20th anniversary of Baldwin's death.[1]

Mabanckou's 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.[2]

Mabanckou's work has been published in 15 languages.[2] 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.[1] 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, The New Press, New York, 2016)

  • 2015 : "Petit Piment", Paris, Le Seuil, 2015

(English translation "Black Moses", London: Serpent's Tail, 2017; USA, The New Press, New York, 2017)

  • 2018 : "Les Cigognes sont immortelles" , Seuil , Fiction et Cie collection

(English translation "The Death of Comrade President: A Novel", London Serpent's Tail, 2020 ; USA, The New Press, New York, 2020)


  • 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
  • 2016 : Congo, Montréal, Mémoire d'encrier, coll. « Poésie » no 62 (ISBN 978-2-89712-375-8)


  • 2007 : Lettre à Jimmy (James Baldwin), Ed. Fayard

(English translation : Letter to Jimmy, USA: Soft Skull, 2014)

  • 2009 : "L'Europe vue d'Afrique", Editions Naïve
  • 2011 : "Ecrivain et Oiseau migrateur:, Editions André Versailles
  • 2012 : "Le Sanglot de l'homme noir". Editions Fayard
  • 2015 : "Lettres noires : des ténèbres à la lumière", Co-édition Fayard / Collège de France
  • 2016 : "Le monde est mon langage", Editions Grasset
  • 2017 : "Penser et écrire l'Afrique", Editions du Seuil
  • 2019 : "Dictionnaire enjoué des cultures africaines", (with Abdourahman A. Waberi), Paris, Fayard, 2019
  • 2020 : "Rumeurs d'Amérique", Paris, Plon, 2020

Illustrated books[edit]

  • 2000 : "L'Enterrement de ma mère", Kaléidoscope, coll. « Fiction française », 2000
  • 2010 : "Ma Sœur-Étoile", illustrated by Judith Gueyfier, Paris, Seuil-Jeunesse, 2010
  • 2019 : "Le Coq solitaire", illustrated by Yuna Troël, Paris, Seuil-Jeunesse, 2019

Awards and recognition[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Alain Mabanckou, l'enfant noir". "G.L.", Le Nouvel Observateur, 19 August 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Alain Mabanckou Archived 2014-03-09 at the Wayback Machine. Julien Bisson, France Today, 2009-04-09
  3. ^ "Prince of the absurd", The Economist, 7 July 2011.
  4. ^ Adrien Hart, "Les Africains ont une responsabilité dans la traite des Noirs", SlateAfrique, 16 March 2012.
  5. ^ a b Valérie Marin La Meslée, "Le grand rire d’Alain Mabanckou", SlateAfrique, 30 January 2012.
  6. ^ Perisic, Alexandra (2019). Precarious Crossings: Immigration, Neoliberalism, and the Atlantic. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-8142-1410-7.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  7. ^ Tibor Fischer, "Duck soup: A Congolese comedy amuses" (review of Broken Glass), The Guardian, 20 February 2009.
  8. ^ "2016 Puterbaugh Fellow Alain Mabanckou", Puterbaugh Festival.
  9. ^ "The Man Booker International Prize 2017 Longlist Announced", The Man Booker Prizes, 15 March 2017.
  10. ^ "100 Best Books of the 21st Century". Retrieved December 8, 2019.

External links[edit]