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The Lights of Pointe-Noire: A Memoir

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A dazzling meditation on home-coming and belonging from one of "Africa's greatest writers" and the Man Booker International Prize finalist (The Guardian).

Alain Mabanckou left Congo in 1989, at the age of twenty-two, not to return until a quarter of a century later. When he finally came back to Pointe-Noire, a bustling port town on the Congo's southwestern coast, he found a country that in some ways had changed beyond recognition: The cinema where, as a child, Mabanckou gorged on glamorous American culture had become a Pentecostal church, and his secondary school has been renamed in honor of a previously despised colonial ruler.

But many things remain unchanged, not least the swirling mythology of Congolese culture that still informs everyday life in Pointe-Noire. Now a decorated writer and an esteemed professor at UCLA, Mabanckou finds he can only look on as an outsider in the place where he grew up. As he delves into his childhood, into the life of his departed mother, and into the strange mix of belonging and absence that informs his return to the Republic of the Congo, his work recalls the writing of V. S. Naipaul and Andr Aciman, offering a startlingly fresh perspective on the pain of exile, the ghosts of memory, and the paths we take back home.

Grand Prize Winner at the 2015 French Voices Awards
"This is a beautiful book, the past hauntingly reentered, the present truthfully faced, and the translation rises gorgeously to the challenge." --Salman Rushdie

"A tender, poetic chronicle of an exile's return." --Kirkus Reviews

ISBN-13: 9781620971901

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: New Press

Publication Date: 03-01-2016

Pages: 208

Product Dimensions: 7.60h x 5.10w x 0.90d

Alain Mabanckou was born in 1966 in Congo. An award-winning novelist, poet, and essayist, Mabanckou currently lives in Los Angeles, where he teaches literature at UCLA. Among his acclaimed novels are African Psycho; Broken Glass; Black Bazaar; and Tomorrow I Will Be Twenty, a fictionalized retelling of Mabanckou's childhood in Congo. In 2015, Mabanckou was a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize. Helen Stevenson is the author of three novels and has worked as a translator for Faber & Faber and Serpent's Tail. Since taking up full-time writing, she regularly reviews for The Independent. She now lives in London.