Monday, April 12, 2010

Broken Glass - Alain Mabanckou

The acclaimed author of AFRICAN PSYCHO returns with this "shocking, hilarious, innovative" novel (Magazine Litteraire). Coming June 2010

Alain Mabanckou's riotous new novel centers on the patrons of a run-down bar in the Congo. In a country that appears to have forgotten the importance of remembering, a former schoolteacher and bar regular nicknamed Broken Glass has been elected to record their stories for posterity. But Broken Glass fails spectacularly at staying out of trouble as one denizen after another wants to rewrite history in an attempt at making sure his portrayal will properly reflect their exciting and dynamic lives. Despondent over this apparent triumph of self-delusion over self-awareness, Broken Glass drowns his sorrows in red wine and riffs on the great books of Africa and the West. Brimming with life, death, and literary allusions, Broken Glass is Mabanckou's finest novel--a mocking satire of the dangers of artistic integrity.

"Pulses with energy and invention." --Kate Saunders, The Times (London)

"Although its cultural and intertextual musings could fuel innumerable doctorates, the real meat of Broken Glass is its comic brio, and Mabanckou's jokes work the whole spectrum of humour...Much of the writing from Africa (or at least most of the stuff we get to see) is of an earnest or grim character, and it makes a pleasant change to encounter a writer who isn't afraid of a laugh." --Tibor Fischer, The Guardian

Broken Glass / Soft Skull Press, by Alain Mabanckou
Excerpt:


"today is another day, a grey day, I try not to be sad, and my poor mother, whose spirit still drifts somewhere over the dirty water of the Tchinouka, always used to say you shouldn’t let the grey days get you down, perhaps life’s waiting for me somewhere, I wish someone would wait for me somewhere, too, and I’ve been sitting in my corner here since five o’clock this morning, I’ve got a bit more distance on things now, so I should be able to write about them better, it’s four or five days now since I finished the first part of this book, it makes me smile when I read through some of the pages, they go back quite a way now, I wonder whether deep down I should be proud of it, I reread a few lines, but mostly it frustrates me, nothing really fires me up, in fact everything irritates me, it’s nobody’s fault, I feel weak, my tongue feels mushy, as though I’d eaten a meal of pork and green bananas the previous day, and yet I haven’t eaten anything since yesterday, and I’ve allowed this tide of black thoughts to wash over me, I’m beginning to wonder whether this isn’t my will I’m writing, even though I’ve no right to speak of a will since the day I do pop my clogs I’ll have nothing to leave
to anyone, all that’s just dreaming, but then dreaming’s the only thing that helps you keep a grip on this treacherous life, I still have a dream of life, even if my whole life now is lived in a dream, I’ve never been so clearheaded in all my days the days pass quickly, though at the time it seems like the opposite, when you’re sitting there, waiting for I don’t know what, just drinking and drinking, till you can’t move because your head’s spinning, watching the earth turn around on its own axis and around the sun, even if I’ve never believed those damn fool theories I used to teach my pupils when I was still a man like other men, you have to be mad to come out with that kind of far-fetched nonsense, because to tell you the truth, when I’m sitting here drinking and relaxing in the doorway of Credit Gone West, it seems impossible to me that the earth I see before me could be around, that it could be spinning away round itself and around the sun as though it had nothing better to do all day than spin around like a paper airplane, go on, somebody, show it to me turning around itself, show it to me turning around the sun, you have to be realistic, surely, let’s not allow ourselves to be bamboozled by thinkers who actually shaved themselves with a common flint or a roughly chiseled stone, maybe if they were really modern they used a bit of polished stone, anyway, roughly speaking, if I had to
analyze all that in detail, I would say that in the past people divided into two kinds of thinkers, on the one hand the ones who farted in the bath, then went around shouting “I’ve found it, I’ve found it” though nobody gave a shit about what they’d found, let them keep their discoveries to themselves, sometimes I’ve happened to take a dip in the river Tchinouka, which carried off my poor mother, and I never found anything worth talking about there, not every body
submerged in that dirty water automatically performs the famous rise to the surface, in fact that’s why all the shit from the Trois- Cents is lying on the riverbed, so someone better explain to me why the shit doesn’t obey the rule of Archimedes, and then there’s the second major category of crank, who were just plain lazy good-for-nothings who sat around the whole time under the nearest apple tree, waiting for apples to drop on their head, something to do with
attraction and gravity, I’m opposed to accepted beliefs, as far as I’m concerned the earth is as flat as the Avenue of Independence that runs past the door of Credit Gone West, that’s all there is to say about it, I declare the earth is sadly immobile, that it’s the sun that goes whizzing around us, because that’s what I see as it rises over the roof of my favorite bar, so enough of all this other stuff, and if anyone even tries to persuade me that the earth is round and turns
on its own axis and around the sun, I’ll chop his head off there and then, even if he does go down shouting “but it does turn”

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