The Death of Comrade President by Alain Mabanckou, Helen Stevenson (Translator)

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Winner of the 2015 French Voices Grand Prize, this poignant and riotous tale starts as a tender, wry portrait of an ordinary Congolese family, but quickly expands into a powerful examination of colonialism, decolonization, and dead ends in the African continent.

Pointe-Noire, a bustling port town on Congo’s southwestern coast, is host to Alain Mabanckou’s astonishing cycle of novels that are already being hailed as one of the grandest, funniest fictional projects of our time. His novels have been twice shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize and have been described as “beautiful” (Salman Rushdie), “brutally satiric” (Uzodinma Iweala), containing “fireworks on every page” (Los Angeles Review of Books), and “vividly colloquial, mischievous and outrageous” (Marina Warner).

Mabanckou’s riotous new novel, The Death of Comrade President, returns to the 1970s milieu of his awarding-winning novel Black Moses, telling the story of Michel, a daydreamer whose life is completely overthrown when, in March 1977, just before the arrival of the rainy season, Congo’s Comrade President Marien Ngouabi is brutally murdered. Thanks to his mother’s kinship with the president, not even naive Michel can remain untouched. And if he is to protect his family, Michel must learn to lie.

Moving seamlessly between the small-scale worries of everyday life and the grand tragedy of postcolonial politics, Mabanckou explores the nuances of the human soul through the naive perspective of a boy who learns the realities of life—and how much must change for everything to stay the same.

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