The Madman and the Medusa

Tchicaya Tam'si, Author, Tam'si U. Tchicaya, Author, A. James Arnold, Editor University of Virginia Press $12.95 (213p) ISBN 978-0-8139-1205-9
In this second of a tetralogy by a Congolese, answers are provided in proverbial, African style; questions are posed but not always elucidated. Tchicaya (1931-88), who grew up in Paris and whose work hints at the French New Novel, sets his story in Ponte Noire, in the Middle Congo. Reconstructed are the lives of three friendsElenga, a railroad engineer; Muendo, a sawmill employee; and Luambu, a clerktwo of whom die and one of whom falls into a coma of indeterminate severity and duration, all within a few days. Their jobs and the circumstances of their demises accurately reflect the wartime conditions of June 1944. Realism mixes with legend and hallucination, Christianity with paganism and, although Tchicaya considered himself a symbolist, he introduces the surreal as well. Eric Sellin's introduction provides informative details, and the translation retrieves a prose that, while oneiric, is not necessarily magical. At times sententious (``Who taught you to lie to yourselves? You lock your hearts against life''), the writing is also at times poetically attenuated. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/27/1989
Release date: 03/01/1989
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