Alain Mabanckou - African Pycho (3 stars)

Alain Mabanckou

Black comedy

With six novels and six collections of poetry under his belt, Congo-born, LA-dwelling Alain Mabanckou is one of the most fêted of contemporary Francophone writers. African Psycho, the first in a series of translations of his novels to be published by Serpent’s Tail, is narrated by Gregoire Nakabomayo, a dispossessed ‘picked up’ child, mechanic and petty criminal, who longs to emulate the brutal killings of his hero, the mythical Agoualima.

The novel’s spare opening line, ‘I have decided to kill Germaine on December 29’, recalls the blank narration of Bret Easton Ellis’ Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, which Mabanckou’s work gleefully parodies. If Gregoire’s manic running commentary and the endless, casual references to violent crime eventually become wearing, the broad satire of celebrity hero-worship, embodied in the protagonist’s pathetically one-sided conversations with the dead Agoualima, are inventive and highly amusing. (Allan Radcliffe)

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