Friday, March 9, 2018

Black Moses, by Alain Mabanckou

Staff review by Chris Saliba

Alain Mabanckou's latest novel is a biting satire on political corruption and ideology.

Thirteen-year-old Moses has lived in an orphanage since he was a baby. He never knew his parents. At the orphanage he hangs out with his friend Bonaventure and tries to avoid the bullies. Moses finds parental figures in the kindly Papa Moupelo, the orphanage’s priest and Sabine, a worker who supplies him with books. But both these surrogates are shipped out of the orphanage by the corrupt orphanage director, Dieudonné, who replaces them with his cronies.

Sick of the moral cesspool that is the orphanage’s administration, with its mindless veneration of the Congo’s Marxist government, Moses runs away to the city of Pointe-Noire and lives by his wits. He descends into petty crime, lives with a plucky brothel Madam and sinks to eating cat and dog meat to get by. Things don’t improve. Moses finds himself continually mired in poverty and the novel ends with him reaching the age of forty, nursing a serious mental illness.

It’s hard to categorise Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses. Its relentlessly bleak but also full of savage humour. The plot, such as it is, runs almost like a dark Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Moses narrates his own story and his voice is chipper and excitable. He describes so much corruption, violence and degrading poverty in a vivid and mercurial manner, skipping cheerfully over the abyss.

A biting satire that makes you recoil in horror at the truth it must be based on.

Black Moses, by Alain Mabanckou. Published by Serpent's Tail. ISBN: 9781781256749 RRP: $19.99

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