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Memoirs of a Porcupine
     

Memoirs of a Porcupine

by Alain Mabanckou
 

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All human beings, says an African legend, have an animal double. Some doubles are benign, others wicked. This legend comes to life in Alain Mabanckou’s outlandish, surreal, and charmingly nonchalant Memoirs of a Porcupine.
When Kibandi, a boy living in a Congolese village, reaches the age of 11, his father takes him out into the night and forces him to

Overview

All human beings, says an African legend, have an animal double. Some doubles are benign, others wicked. This legend comes to life in Alain Mabanckou’s outlandish, surreal, and charmingly nonchalant Memoirs of a Porcupine.
When Kibandi, a boy living in a Congolese village, reaches the age of 11, his father takes him out into the night and forces him to drink a vile liquid from a jar that has been hidden for years in the earth. This is his initiation. From now on, he and his double, a porcupine, become accomplices in murder. They attack neighbors, fellow villagers, and people who simply cross their path, for reasons so slight that it is virtually impossible to establish connection between the killings. As he grows older, Kibandi relies on his double to act out his grizzly compulsions, until one day even the porcupine balks and turns instead to literary confession.
Winner of the Prix Renaudot, France’s equal to the National Book Award, Alain Mabanckou is considered one of the most talented writers today. He was selected by the French journal Lire as one of fifty writers to watch this coming century. And as Peter Carey suggests, he “positions himself at the margins, tapping the tradition founded by Celine, Genet, and other subversive writers.” In this superb and striking story, Mabanckou brings new power to magical realism, and is sure to excite American audiences nationwide.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for Memoirs of a Porcupine

“Award-winning writer Mabanckou blends the surreal with some sour comic observation, and the dual perspective creates a sharp narrative.” —Booklist

"[Mabanckou] has come to be known as Africa’s Samuel Beckett . . . Mabanckou’s freewheeling prose marries classical French elegance with Paris slang and a Congolese beat . . . The novel draws on oral lore and parables in its sly critique of those who use traditional beliefs as a pretext for violence." —The Economist

Library Journal
Masculine initiation tales are nothing new, but this latest from poet/novelist Mabanckou (African Psycho)—winner of the Prix Renaudot—gives a twisted and geographically specific take on the genre. According to African legend, every human has an animal double; here, the double of a Congolese boy named Kibandi is a porcupine. Once Kibandi is initiated at age 11, he draws his double into acts of violence and murder. Finally, the poor creature offers a confession for relief. The novel consists of five sections plus an appendix that places a metafictional filter on the novel: "this singular porcupine, so likable, chatty and restless, with his deep knowledge of human nature and his way, even up to the final page, of wielding digression like a weapon, his aim being to draw a portrait of us human beings, and often, indeed, to blame us." VERDICT The breezy writing plays fast and loose with familiar grammatical rules but is overall a pleasure to read if you can stomach the unexplained violence of a story where, halfway through, "death has relieved my master of the last of his scruples."—Travis Fristoe, Alachua Co. Lib. District, Gainesville, FL

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781593764807
Publisher:
Soft Skull Press, Inc.
Publication date:
04/01/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
160
File size:
301 KB

Meet the Author

Alain Mabanckou was born in 1966 in the Congo. He currently lives in Los Angeles, where he teaches literature at UCLA. The author of several novels as well as six books of poetry, he received the Subsaharan African Literature Prize for Blue-White-Red and the Prix Renaudot for Memoirs of a Porcupine.

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