Read L'Enfant Noir by Camara Laye Online

l-enfant-noir

This book is a distinct and graceful memoir of Camara Laye's youth in the village of Koroussa, French Guinea, a place steeped in mystery. Laye marvels over this mother's supernatural powers, his father's distinction as the village goldsmith, and his own passage into manhood, which is marked by animistic beliefs and bloody rituals of primeval origin....

Title : L'Enfant Noir
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9782266023122
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 221 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

L'Enfant Noir Reviews

  • Beth
    2019-03-05 20:34

    Recently I’ve found myself reading a number of memoirs by authors who grew up in various parts of Africa. This one stands out as unique, mostly because it is so unremarkable. There’s no civil war, no violence, no rape. The only bloody scenes are those describing ritual circumcision, and even these showed a communal event of initiation and coming-of-age rather than an act of brutality (as in other books that address the subject). Injustice in society never came forward as a theme. To be honest, it reminded me much more of gentle French childhood memoirs such as La gloire de mon père than what I have come to expect from African memoirs.The narrative winds along peacefully, describing Laye’s childhood in Guinea during the early part of the 20th century. It’s a story that strikes a universal chord: love between parents and children, experiences of being bullied in school, the blurry transition between childhood and adulthood. It introduces us to several layers of Guinean society: Laye is the son of a goldsmith and shares a bed with his father’s apprentices, but at various times he spends time both with his grandmother in rural Guinea and with his uncle in the capital city. Written five years before Guinea’s independence from France, this book is one of the first major works of Francophone African Literature. In view of this fact, I found it surprising how little France’s involvement in Guinea’s history and society was addressed in this book. Without previous knowledge, I wouldn’t have known that the world described in this book was under French rule. The only hints towards this fact were that the narrative was written in French, and that the book’s final conflict centered around whether or not Laye should leave his homeland in order to go to France and continue his education. Yet perhaps in the 1950s, even a peaceful and unassuming literary description of African existence was an act of courage. *****If you appreciated this review, check out my blog at pagesandmargins.wordpress.com

  • Andrew
    2019-03-16 01:50

    This is a fairly short and simple autobiographical account of a boy growing up in Guinea in the 1930s and 40s. Camara Laye wrote it in 1954 while studying in France, and you can feel the nostalgia for his homeland. Although the writing style is quite understated, the emotion is communicated quite effectively, and it’s very moving in places.As the title suggests, the book only deals with his childhood, and it is faithful to a child’s outlook on the world. At the start, his entire world is the veranda around his father’s hut. Then it gradually expands to the rest of the concession, then to school, the town of Kourassa, then the wider country of Guinea when he goes off to study in the capital Conakry. Finally the link with childhood is severed altogether as he gets on a plane to France.The mixture of pain and excitement at each stage of growing up is beautifully rendered. He wants to be part of his family, to follow his father as a blacksmith or his uncle as a farmer, but always knows that his success in school is moving him further away from that. He is being marked out for a different future, his family are sacrificing to give him something better, and he wants that, but also wants to stay where he is. His parents, too, are caught in this conflict of wanting him to succeed but knowing that his success means his departure from their lives.Quite a bit of time is spent describing the circumcision rite, which may be of anthropological interest to some, but was for me more interesting as a symbol of the other changes he goes through in the book, the pain and fear at something new, the loss of the old, but also the anticipation of being a man, the pride he feels when he is given his own hut and his own grown-up clothes.My copy is from 1969, and made me realise a couple of things. First, the introduction emphasises again and again the “dignity” of the protagonist and his family, as if it’s some amazing discovery that Africans can have dignity. Some people of course would still hold similar views, but I’m glad that for most of us today the value of a book like this is no longer in the radical discovery that African people are actually human beings. The second thing I realised is that I need to start buying hardbacks – this paperback literally crumbled in my hands as I read it. Does anyone else have very old paperbacks (60s or earlier)? Do they last?Anyway, I enjoyed this book as an insight into a life at a moment of great change, starting in a very traditional setting and moving very quickly into different worlds. A lot of the political context is absent – French colonialism, for example, is only a shadowy presence in the book – but I don’t see this as a fault. This is a childhood memoir, and does no more or less than you’d expect: it gives a faithful depiction of the author’s early years. I found it interesting and quite moving.

  • Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
    2019-02-23 19:39

    Not much happens in this gentle, sentimental little book, but it’s a pleasant read all the same. There seems to be some disagreement about whether The Dark Child is a memoir or an autobiographical novel; my library shelves it as nonfiction, though given the abundant dialogue, the author clearly took some creative license.Either way, it’s a nicely-written coming-of-age story of a boy from in a traditional village in Guinea in the 1930s and 40s. There are no atrocities, no violence (except from bullies at school), no political themes: you would not know from Laye’s writing that Guinea was under French rule at the time, gaining its independence only after this book’s publication in the 1950s. Other characters drift in and out of the story, but more than anything it’s the story of the author’s relationship with his own culture. In the first chapter, his mother introduces him to a snake that visits his father in his workshop – “the guiding spirit of our race,” the parents explain. No one sees any conflict between their superstitions, and his mother’s mysterious powers, and their Muslim beliefs. Later chapters are spent on harvest and coming-of-age rituals. Only toward the end does Laye leave the village to study. It’s a nostalgic story, developing at a graceful, measured pace, with perhaps a bit of stereotyping for the benefit of foreign readers, though at the time apparently any portrayal of life in Africa as calm and cheerful was groundbreaking. For that matter, it’s hardly common now.At any rate, I’m not falling over myself to recommend this, but I enjoyed it and consider it worth reading. A solid 3.5 stars.

  • Book Wormy
    2019-03-15 20:59

    The Dark Child Camara Laye ★★★★This is the autobiographical account of the authors experience growing up in a village in French Guinea. Laye shares his childhood with the reader in an open and frank way, he lets us into his family, into his village and into his way of life. Layes childhood is an interesting mix of spiritual traditions and formal religion mixed together in a way that works and that doesn't appear disjointed.An almost poetical story of one boy's childhood this is a read that would appeal to those who enjoy honest writing with an insight into other cultures.

  • Anita Pomerantz
    2019-03-20 20:58

    This memoir is an enjoyable read that is a picturesque coming of age story set in Africa. It's simply told without artifice or tremendous elaboration. We follow Laye's story as he is raised by his loving parents, attends primary school, falls for his first love, and finally becomes a man through a ritual circumcision. Unfortunately, the book ends on a bittersweet note and left me wanting more. Nicely rendered, but not likely to be memorable.

  • Elena De temmerman
    2019-02-24 03:50

    Fuck this fucking shit bruh

  • Janelle Bouman
    2019-03-18 20:38

    First book I've read entirely in French, which I'm pretty proud of. It was an easy enough read for someone with 3-4 years of language experience.

  • farahSmidi
    2019-03-18 21:01

    the best <3

  • Susan Denney
    2019-03-15 02:55

    I used several chapters of this book in my 4AP French classes. I have read the book many times. The book has an outlook which is unique. Camara Laye has a foot in two worlds. We see him as a boy in the villages of his father and grandmother. He opens a window for us into a world where spirits reside in every living thing and where a snake can speak and share knowledge with the leader of a clan.He also shows us his introduction to European science-based culture. And even though the two worlds seem to be mutually exclusive, he does not invalidate one at the expense of the other. I found it to be thought-provoking. The book allows the reader to question almost all of the givens in the knowledge bank he or she has acquired from Western civilization. Those who read the book carefully can never fully trust their belief in the inferiority of an animistic culture to their own. In one memorable chapter, Laye reminds us that politeness and good manners are never more important than in a small village. He shows us that the small group of people in his grandmother's village who knew that they would always have to live and get along with each other developed a code of behavior that provided everyone with respect and dignity. I have only read this book in French. I have no idea if the English translation comes close to capturing the essence of the book.

  • Moses Kilolo
    2019-02-20 03:58

    I have always heard of Camara Laye, but never really got to read any of his writing till now. I'm glad I did. This book, detailing the earlier part of his life in the French Gambia is simply amazing. Its writing is brilliant, and there is no doubt it is a book to last. So sad that I still don't know much about what happened from the time he went to France for further education, but Im going to find out. Its similarity to Ngugi's book is that education is given a focal point in his dreams and desires, and that is always the beginning of a good life. I like his depiction of the African right of circumcision as a crossover between childhood and manhood, and what differentiates genius from the just good is how they make the ordinary look magical.

  • Jen
    2019-03-11 19:53

    This is a wonderful little book. Why it is on the 1001 books to read list is a mystery to me - I thought that was meant to be a list of novels but this is clearly a childhood memoir.The storytelling is unapologetically sentimental and extremely touching. It is refreshing to read an account of an African childhood not defined by war, the slave trade, famine, or other atrocities. This is a story of family love, deeply entrenched culture and custom, and the pull of a shrinking world in the early / mid 20th century. It's beautifully told and my only complaint is that it isn't longer and more detailed - there are a number of unanswered questions and dynamics here.

  • Eadie
    2019-03-10 19:42

    This was a fascinating memoir of the author's youth growing up in the village of Koroussa, French Guinea. It shows the simple life of a dark child living in the great plain of Guinea. It is a very readable account as his words are rich with sincerity which flows through his language. He wrote this account while attending school in Paris and it is very evident that he was missing his homeland very much. I would recommend this book highly as I found his detailed account of the 'ceremony of the lions' which prepares boys for circumcision extremely worthwhile and a very interesting read.

  • Patrick Robitaille
    2019-02-25 03:57

    ***A coming-of-age novel, outlining how it was to grow up as a boy in Guinea back in the 30s and 40s. There were several little interesting aspects to this novel, such as the combination of traditional rites within an Islamic environment. But in terms of novels addressing the passage from a colonial/tribal state to the integration into a "civilized"/occidental society, I think that Achebe and Dangaremgba were much better. Cute, but not really exciting.

  • Elise
    2019-02-25 00:40

    This book, which I read in one sitting, will always be close to my heart. I identified so much with Camara Laye because of my own firsthand experience of leaving my childhood home post-Katrina, during the time of the New Orleans diaspora. His detailed, slice of life account of the enchanting lives of Muslims in the village of Kouroussa(Guinea--French Africa) was very moving. I can't wait to discuss it in my "Literature of the African Diaspora" class!

  • Kristel
    2019-03-20 21:49

    This is a good book, a memoir, Camara Laye tells us about his youth in Guinea. He shares with us the culture, family structure, spirituality of his people and his trip towards his own destiny. He wrote this book when he was in his twenties and studying engineering in France. He died in Senegal in 1980.

  • Jennifer
    2019-03-14 03:43

    I read this for my African Francophone lit class and I believe it was a good introduction to the subject. While others may have been bored by the monotony of the novel, I found it to be interesting, simply because the entire setting was new for me. I have (I'm ashamed to admit it) read very little by African authors and was intrigued by the day to day explanations Laye provided. In class, we did cover criticism of the novel and one of the critiques is that: 'it was a little too good to be true.'Was this because there was little to no conflict throughout the novel? There seems to be an amazement, almost disappointment that a memoir written by an African author doesn't include talk of war, famine, disease, poverty, etc. It's almost as if the very notion of a child having an idyllic childhood in Africa is a sham. I disagree with this of course, and found it refreshing to show an alternative side to what we usually read about or think about in regarding African lit. Overall, it was a very good read and I would recommend it to anyone toying with the idea of reading a book in French--very approachable for even intermediate readers/speakers.

  • Molly
    2019-03-19 22:56

    An enjoyable coming of age story about Camara Laye's childhood in French Guinea. Laye takes you through a lot of critical milestones in his life in just a few pages. I didn't realize how much ground he was covering and how quickly he was doing it until I was about 75% through the book. Laye slows down to add detail when it matters and doesn't bog down the story with unnecessary information in other places. The setting makes Laye's life interesting because it is unique and simultaneously underscores universal themes of home, family, and growing up.I do wish there had been a final chapter about his next trip home after his flight to France or some other final thoughts from his perspective as an adult.

  • Andy
    2019-03-06 23:41

    read for 2018 Irish Meridians Challengereally enjoyedautobiographical, boyhood tales in Guinea in the 30s and 40senjoyed the simplicity of the account, worked well with the lifestyle and culture describedtouched on village life and agricultural practice, family, rites of passage, superstitions and educationmost of the other characters are lightly sketched, outside Camara, his mother and fatherinteresting social structure with polygamy, but little detail on his father's other wives, or his siblings

  • Jenna
    2019-03-19 03:35

    I loved how the author was so close to his family and culture.

  • Kelly James
    2019-03-06 20:01

    Un beau memoir d'un jeune homme africain

  • Isa
    2019-03-12 20:35

    Un beau récit autobiographique plein de tendresses, de respect

  • Sahar Ayachi
    2019-03-14 00:54

    5 stars because the moment I finished the book I wanted 2 things:- the book to not end, I wanted more! What happened next!!!- to re-read the book once more.beautiful!

  • Briana
    2019-03-06 01:46

    Laye's brevity and elusiveness on the day to day affairs of his childhood were the biggest failures of the memoir. Written as an explanatory presentation of life in Guinea for the French reader, Laye stresses the humanity his people, the Malinke, to refute the continuing portrayal of Africans as savages during the last decades of colonialism. Even understanding all of this, Laye does not engage the reader to get inside of his head as a child. Throughout, we are given intimations that he somehow different from of his kinsmen as a budding scholar, but we never delve intimately into his family life to discover why he is different. Different men and women, often relatives or friends of Laye's, appear and fade without warning in the story. He rarely paints a full tableau of the people who influence him in life, their mannerisms, beliefs, or even simple, physical descriptions of appearance. For example, the rite of circumcision is Laye's greatest trial in the novel. Out of nowhere, his father's second wife appears and bears the symbols of his chosen profession, a notebook and a pen. This is the first and last time that we meet her. Why is her presence absent throughout the story? Why don't we ever meet his brothers or sisters beyond those cursory instances in two chapters? It is possible that Laye made no lasting connections in Guinea before leaving to study abroad, but we spent the entirety of his childhood in Guinea. He does not spend one chapter reflecting on the most intimate aspects of his childhood life. Even though the novel is narrated from a first-person perspective, Laye leaves the reader looking down on world from the sky, distantly. His writing doesn't bind the reader to his life, its characters, or its significant events. Even the chapter on the circumcision rite is lacking. For eight chapters, he dreads and longs for the day, but when writing it, Laye strips the chapter of all detail that allow the reader to fully visualize and understand its importance. We learn that he is now considered a man after the rite, but he does not give the ordeal any sort of personal or spiritual importance. It happens, there are few spare details of the night, and that is it. No reflection. No deepening relationships. Nothing. This is less Laye's reflection as a child growing up in the rural town of Kouroussa and more about his desire to pursue his education in the country's capital and in France. Laye writes his parents' struggles with his growing disconnection from Malinke culture fairly well, but once again, what is Laye thinking? His thoughts as they connect with Malinke culture and identity are few in the novel. He has very little to say about the French presence in the country as well beyond extolling the virtues of the French education system. It is impossible to connect with Laye on any sort of personal level. As an attempt to humanize the Malinke to outside readers, the memoir is lacking in any sort of humanity on its own.

  • Andrew
    2019-02-28 00:39

    This is a fairly short and simple autobiographical account of a boy growing up in Guinea in the 1930s and 40s. Camara Laye wrote it in 1954 while studying in France, and you can feel the nostalgia for his homeland. Although the writing style is quite understated, the emotion is communicated quite effectively, and it's very moving in places.As the title suggests, the book only deals with his childhood, and it is faithful to a child's outlook on the world. At the start, his entire world is the veranda around his father's hut. Then it gradually expands to the rest of the concession, then to school, the town of Kourassa, then the wider country of Guinea when he goes off to study in the capital Conakry. Finally the link with childhood is severed altogether as he gets on a plane to France.The mixture of pain and excitement at each stage of growing up is beautifully rendered. He wants to be part of his family, to follow his father as a blacksmith or his uncle as a farmer, but always knows that his success in school is moving him further away from that. He is being marked out for a different future, his family are sacrificing to give him something better, and he wants that, but also wants to stay where he is. His parents, too, are caught in this conflict of wanting him to succeed but knowing that his success means his departure from their lives.Quite a bit of time is spent describing the circumcision rite, which may be of anthropological interest to some, but was for me more interesting as a symbol of the other changes he goes through in the book, the pain and fear at something new, the loss of the old, but also the anticipation of being a man, the pride he feels when he is given his own hut and his own grown-up clothes.I enjoyed this book as an insight into a life at a moment of great change, starting in a very traditional setting and moving very quickly into different worlds. A lot of the political context is absent - French colonialism, for example, is only a shadowy presence in the book - but I don't see this as a fault. This is a childhood memoir, and does no more or less than you'd expect: it gives a faithful depiction of the author's early years. I found it interesting and quite moving.

  • Nathaniel
    2019-03-22 00:36

    In the first 90 pages of this book, the great drama involves influential parents intervening to stop schoolyard bullying and in the second 90 pages of this book, the great drama involves the foreskin being chopped from the author's penis. ("Later on, I went through an ordeal much more frightening than Konden Diara, a really dangerous ordeal, and no game: circumcision." Oh my god!!) And in case you were worried that your pulse might slow in the dying chapters of the "novel," in the last fifteen pages, there is some canned hand-wringing about hurting a mother's feelings by traveling to another country to pursue your education. I have never read an African novel with less substance or less style. It boggles my mind that Laye wrote this book in his twenties. It has no youth in it whatsoever: no playfulness; no striving; no struggle and no love. It felt like the sanitized nostalgic reminiscences of an old man who reached his age without acquiring wisdom or wit and whose primary concern is making the circumstances around his youth seem as pure, well-designed and dignified as possible. The persistent non-happening of this book might have been elevated if the author was insightful or reflective; but the closest thing he offers are perhaps a dozen scattered rhetorical questions like, "Do we still have secrets?" "Are we not always consumed with longing?" "Do our hearts ever rest?"Um? Our protagonist has a heart? He longs for something? Could've fooled me. Closest we come to experiencing that longing is his rhetorical question, which has no power whatsoever.There are so many wonderful books about growing up in Africa and there are some pretty decent ones romanticizing village life and traditional crafts. This is not one of them. It would be a shame if this was even one of the first twenty books that you read by an African author. I swear by the five yours I wasted that there is nothing between the covers but ink.If you set out to write a book that is designed to make your parents feel better about your exile and the role they had in shaping your destiny; perhaps the product is inevitably doomed to an earnest and artless one-dimensionality.

  • Jonathan Widell
    2019-03-13 02:00

    In this novel, the author takes us to the African village of his childhood. Ever since (I don't know when) people in the west or north have used some relatively primitive society to reflect their own society. Sometimes, those "alien" societies are populated by noble savages, such as in Rousseau's romantic view of the noble savage. Sometimes that fairly simple formula is broken by more challenging approaches, such as in William Golding's The Lord of the Flies, where British boys turned into savages on a desert island. Of course, their sad fate reflected the pessimism about British society in general. In The Dark Child, Camara Laye's point is that life in Africa is neither the utopia described by Rousseau and others, nor the dystopia described by Golding, but a mixture of both good and bad. What he also seems to point out is that rural life, especially in Africa, has not lost its spirit of community contrary to life in more "civilized" societies. That sense of community has the rather unexpected result of making the individual more conscous of himself, as his passage from one stage to another in life is underlined by the entire community. So much for the celebrated individualism of the West. In Laye's story, that effect of a rite of passage is quite clear in his description of the circumcision ceremony. France and Islam are present in the narrative either as extensions or sounding boards. On the one hand, they are extensions of the organic rural community with the effect of accentuating the original rites of passage even more, as the principal character moves to a French school, for instance. On the other hand, France and Islam provide the author with the vantage point from which to view the community of his childhood and explain it to himself and others.

  • Frumenty
    2019-03-16 00:41

    This autobiographical novel went out into the world (in 1953) like an ambassador to the French for a francophone African colony. It presents Guinean culture with dignity and affection, and much colourful detail. Laye is at pains to make his readers see beyond apparently strange customs and beliefs and appreciate a shared humanity. This he does well. The book could justly be called a work of propaganda, but worth reading (and quite short) for all that. Such has been its success that it has been a set text in high schools in Europe for decades.It presents a rather rosy picture. For the boy in the story France represents opportunity through education, and very little else - certainly nothing negative. L'enfant noir was roundly criticised by some for its complete avoidance of political themes in a time of colonial unrest. Given its success, I would counter that Laye appears to have been vindicated for providing something sweet to an audience that had yet to acquire a taste for African and colonial literature. This novel has something really worthwhile to communicate and it has been widely read and discussed. Independence for Guinea came about in 1958.

  • Sushicat
    2019-02-19 23:38

    Camara Laye tells us about the highlights of his childhood in Upper Guinea and later in the capital of Conakry. In so doing he introduces us to the people and culture of his home country. This is a fascinating account of growing up in a tight knit community with strong familial ties, based on a foundation that combines islamic belief with more shamanistic elements. As he lives mostly in town but also visits his mother's family in a more rural area, we get a broader view on the difference between the two environments. Moving to Conakry and the family of his uncle at age fifteen, he shows us yet another side of the country. Of his stay in Conakry he tells us more about that family than about life there or the city itself, which remain rather out of focus. But the scenes of his native town are vivid and the he completely pulled me into his tale when he dealt with his relations to his parents and the difficult separations and the ambivalent feelings when starting a journey into the unknown, first to Conakry and at the end of the book to France. A lovely book.

  • Lesleylarson
    2019-03-19 21:48

    I first attempted this autobiography in French, when on a Study Abroad in West Africa. In English this time, my own African experience was rediscovered in the description of this boy's childhood in Kouroussa, French Guinea. Though it is a true autobiography, it reads more like a novel -- a story of the coming of age of any African boy.It delivers a taste of cultural customs, religious rites, and a certain manner of conversation that is formal, yet interested, that I also observed while in West Africa. The story is about his youth, and Laye was in his twenties when he sat down to write L'enfant Noir. He had been sent by his tribe to Europe, where he studied engineering, but desperately missed home, especially his mother. The autobiography ends abruptly as the author arrives at the present time. While it brings closure to the main theme, I was disappointed that it left so much of his story in Europe untold.

  • Lesleylarson
    2019-02-18 22:41

    I first attempted this autobiography in French, when on a Study Abroad in West Africa. In English this time, my own African experience was rediscovered in the description of this boy's childhood in Kouroussa, French Guinea. Though it is a true autobiography, it reads more like a novel -- a story of the coming of age of any African boy.It delivers a taste of cultural customs, religious rites, and a certain manner of conversation that is formal, yet interested, that I also observed while in West Africa. The story is about his youth, and Laye was in his twenties when he sat down to write L'enfant Noir. He had been sent by his tribe to Europe, where he studied engineering, but desperately missed home, especially his mother. The autobiography ends abruptly as the author arrives at the present time. While it brings closure to the main theme, I was disappointed that it left so much of his story in Europe untold.