African Psycho

Alain Mabanckou, Author, Christine Schwartz Hartley, Translator
Alain Mabanckou, Author, Christine Schwartz Hartley, Translator Soft Skull Press $13.95 (145p) ISBN 978-1-933368-50-4
Reviewed on: 01/01/2007
Release date: 01/01/2007
Hardcover - 163 pages - 978-1-84668-632-0
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A Congolese writer in his early 40s, Mabanckou teaches at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and has won numerous French prizes for previous novels; he makes his U.S. debut with this slim, witty monologue of a would-be serial killer. Whereas Bret Easton Ellis's Patrick Bateman (from American Psycho) was a Wall Street golden boy notoriously matter-of-fact in relating his shocking crimes, Mabanckou's Gregoire Nakobomayo is an insecure, unattractive metal worker in Africa, a long-winded neurotic trying to talk himself into murdering his prostitute girlfriend, Germaine. For Gergoire, the act would finally make him a worthy successor to his idol, legendary serial killer Angoualima, whose grave he periodically visits, seeking inspiration. Emerging over the course of Gregoire's ramblings is a general hatred of society, a Travis Bickle-esque duty to clean the scum off the streets, and a more personal, plaintive desire: ""to exist... to be somebody."" For all his cruel intentions and narcissism, Gregoire, ala Humbert Humbert, is an amusing, sympathetic character; readers may find themselves, if not exactly rooting for him, at least anxious to see if he can follow through with his grisly task. The all-important conclusion, however, is an abrupt and disappointing fizzler. The result is a very compelling (and very well-translated) exercise in literary voice.
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