Read Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou Helen Stevenson Online


A rollicking new novel described as “Oliver Twist in 1970s Africa” (Les Inrockuptibles) by the finalist for the Man International Booker PrizeIt’s not easy being Tokumisa Nzambe po Mose yamoyindo abotami namboka ya Bakoko. There’s that long name of his for a start, which means, "Let us thank God, the black Moses is born on the lands of the ancestors." Most people just callA rollicking new novel described as “Oliver Twist in 1970s Africa” (Les Inrockuptibles) by the finalist for the Man International Booker PrizeIt’s not easy being Tokumisa Nzambe po Mose yamoyindo abotami namboka ya Bakoko. There’s that long name of his for a start, which means, "Let us thank God, the black Moses is born on the lands of the ancestors." Most people just call him Moses. Then there’s the orphanage where he lives, run by a malicious political stooge, Dieudonné Ngoulmoumako, and where he’s terrorized by two fellow orphans—the twins Songi-Songi and Tala-Tala.But after Moses exacts revenge on the twins by lacing their food with hot pepper, the twins take Moses under their wing, escape the orphanage, and move to the bustling port town of Pointe-Noire, where they form a gang that survives on petty theft. What follows is a funny, moving, larger-than-life tale that chronicles Moses’s ultimately tragic journey through the Pointe-Noire underworld and the politically repressive world of Congo-Brazzaville in the 1970s and 80s.Mabanckou’s vivid portrayal of Moses’s mental collapse echoes the work of Hugo, Dickens, and Brian DePalma’s Scarface, confirming Mabanckou’s status as one of our great storytellers. Black Moses is a vital new extension of his cycle of Pointe-Noire novels that stand out as one of the grandest, funniest, fictional projects of our time....

Title : Black Moses
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781620972939
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 199 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Black Moses Reviews

  • Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘
    2019-01-11 03:21

    - 3.5 stars -I'm really curious to know the reason behind the choice of the title for the English version (that will be released on June 6th). Indeed I'm pretty sure there's a wink somewhere for us to see : from the French Petit Piment (literally, 'little hot pepper', which is the main character nickname after some... hmm... hot pepper affair, lol) to the English Black Moses (which is the name given by a priest to the MC), we seem to embrace all the different parts of our dear boy, contradictions and all.Petit Piment relates the life of Moïse, a young Congolese, from his childhood in an orphanage to his adventures in Pointe Noire, Congo's capital. We follow him during the time when religion becomes forbidden due to the rise of Socialism, and see how his life is impacted by these changes.I very much enjoyed how refreshing Petit Piment was. Indeed whilst some readers were disappointed that Alain Mabanckou seemed to give the treatment of several serious issues a glossy shine, on the contrary I found his writing incredibly appealing. I savored every tiny piece of the discrete humor used to make fun of - and condemn - the corrupt politics and the violent head of school - which does not mean I merely forgot how unfair and difficult life was for our main character and for some of the other characters.Moreover, I don't think for one second that the issues dealt with - slavery, abuse, prostitution, poverty, propaganda, to name a few - have been erased by the irony and the distance with which Moïse portrayed them. At the end of the day, Moïse stays a child trying to understand how to interpret the complicated world around him, he makes mistakes, he often analyzes situations with a certain naivety, but his disapproval is stated pretty clearly. Some parts made me want to throw up - it involves necrophilia and eating cats, so, yeah, brace your heart ; other made me FURIOUS - oh, the hypocrisy! - and I sometimes smiled so big it hurt - I do like my dark humor, thank you.Why only 3.5 stars, then?Well first of all because I rarely felt emotionally invested, not really. I liked Moïse and Bonaventure, but their portrayal often lacked that little something more to make them unforgettable.The last 30% made it HARD for me to suspend my disbelief. I can't go into details, but in my opinion the whole narration crumbled at that time (because hellooo, it doesn't make any sense given that it's a 1st POV and narrated from the FUTURE). I did like the ending, though. Bottom Line : If Petit Piment reads like a farce at times, beware the moment when reality catches up with you, because it hurts. Despite a plot that became a bit nonsensical along the way, Alain Mabanckou convinced me to read his other novels with his compelling writing and the splendid way he wrapped up his story in the end.Credit for the head pict here(read the original version in French)For more of my reviews, please visit:

  • Paul Fulcher
    2019-01-05 08:15

    It all began when I was a teenager, and came to wonder about the name I' d been given by Papa Moupelo, the priest at the orphanage in Loango: Tokumisa Nzambe po Mose yamoyindo abotami namboka ya Bakoko. A long name, which in Lingala means: 'Thanks be to God, the black Moses is born on the earth of our ancestors' as it still inscribed on my birth certificate today. Book 11 of 13 for me from the 2017 Man Booker International longlist.Alain Mabanckou was a finalist in the previous author (rather than individual book) version of the Man Booker International in 2015. Following that I read perhaps his best known novel, his Rabelaisian 2005 book Verre Cassé (Broken Glass) – see my review -, a novel consciously influenced also by the classic The Palm-Wine Drinkard. My review concluded “At face value a rather simple and crude bar-room tale, but there is a lot of literary merit going on underneath, not all obvious to the reader, particularly in translation.”Now his 2015 novel Petit Piment (literally: Little Pepper) has been translated, as Black Moses [*], also by Helen Stevenson, and has been longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International.[* pet rant – the title character has two main nicknames in the novel – Moses, which he dislikes and, later, he adopts the name Little Pepper – the original title uses the latter so the English translator/publisher has chosen to use the former]The translation reads very smoothly – perhaps overly so. I noted in my review of Broken Glass that what Mabanckou describes as language that stretches French grammar to the limit ( didn’t come across like that in English. That said Mabanckou has praised Stevenson and said “In English, if you’re missing something it’s maybe just…10%” ( so perhaps my view is unfair. Stevenson’s own perspective on the challenges of translating his writing was: “Alain's literary voice is so strong, so rhythmic, the words he uses carry it entirely; I find that simply translating them honestly, without strain, with facility, is enough. It’s an attempt to let the writer speak, just in my language.” ( Moses is set, as with Mabanckou’s other novels, in and around Point-Noire the Republic of the Congo / Congo-Brazzaville (NB the former French colony – not the larger Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Belgian, in which Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is based).Moses is aged 13 when the novel starts, living in an orphanage, where he was left at birth by his unknown parents. The orphanage was originally founded by European Christians, but as the novel opens at the end of the 1960s, the country has just been self-proclaimed as the Marxist-Leninist People's Republic of the Congo. The feared Director of the orphanage, Dieudonné Ngoulmoumako, takes advantage of the political situation to ban the eagerly-anticipated weekly visits to the orphans of the priest Papa Moupelo, and to fully embrace the new regime, turning his room into the centre of the National Movement of Pioneers of the Socialist Revolution of Congo, praising the new regime in the orphanage's weekly newsletter, and promoting his own family members to senior positions.As Sabine Niangui, a long-serving helper at the orphanage who goes out of her way to look after Moses, tells him, now 'orphanages are considered laboratories of the revolution.'For his first 13 years at the orphanage Moses' closest friend is Bonaventure, who arrived at the orphanage at the same time, and who is convinced his biological father will one day land in a plane and take him away. But latterly Moses becomes, almost accidentally, allied to the fearsome twins Songi-Songi and Tala-Tala (what was the use of telling them apart when they were constantly together and wore the same clothes) who rule amongst the boys and even intimidate the wardens, after he laces their food with hot pepper in relation for them terrorising Bonaventure. Far from taking revenge the twins come to respect him and adopt him as their right-hand man, rechristening him: We're calling him Little Pepper because he proved his worth with pepper. As the political pressure on the orphanage increases, the three escape to Point-Noire where they set up a street gang, displacing the previous top-dog who fancied himself as a Robin-Hood type figure. Later Little Pepper becomes friendly with a Zairian brother owner, Madame Fiat 500, and her girls. But when the political changes in the country impact first the street gangs and then Madame Fiat, Little Pepper's world disintegrates: I was at my wit's end, I'd lost all sense of time, and it was probably around then that I started to feel gaping holes in my head, hearing noises, like all those people running around inside it, echoes of voices from empty houses, voices not unlike those of Papa Moupelo and Sabine Niangui, the twins, but most of all Madame Fiat 500 and her ten girls. After that, I remembered nothing, not even who I was.To recover his sanity, Little Pepper visits first a French-trained psychiatrist and, when that fails, a traditional healer who gave me cricket's piss to drink, and green mamba blood, toad's spit, elephant hair mixed with kaolin and sparrow's turds and ends the book having come neatly full circle.While this was an enjoyable read it was also ultimately unsatisfying and one of the weaker books on the MBI longlist in my view. As Neil's review ( notes the narrative is rather unbalanced. The orphanage story takes up half the book but doesn't really get anywhere. Another quarter is taken with the stronger part, Little Pepper's adventures in Point Noire, but this is too rushed for it to get close to the character-depth, lyrical-heights and literary-references of Broken Glass. And the story of his mental disintegration isn't an at-all convincing first person account of mental difficulties (for that see e.g. the excellent The Storyteller by Kate Armstrong).If I took anything at all from the novel it was personal nuggets entirely unrelated to the main story. This line on the twins ran true to my own experience as a twin: what was the use of telling them apart when they were constantly together and wore the same clothes, and while I obviously knew that the name of my favourite food Marmite is taken from a French cooking pot (pictured on the label) I hadn't realised that the etymology of the French word came from an old term for hypocrite (the lid on the pot meaning it hides its contents while cooking):

  • Kamil
    2018-12-29 06:07

    3.5I believe that the rating would have been higher if it was the first Mabanckou’s book I've read. Black Moses is sparkling with greatest AM’s qualities - satire, dark humour, political absurdities, ability to address heavy issues with irony and wisdom, refers brilliantly to African folklore, Judaeo-Christian tradition, literature... All that is great however, after reading Tomorrow I'll be Twenty and, exquisite in my opinion, Broken Glass I want more from him than seeing again not only the same motives but almost same characters I've seen in those two books read earlier...

  • Jill
    2018-12-25 07:24

    Black Moses may not be for everybody. If unwieldy character names put you off, for example, you’ll be put off right from the start with this one: Tokumisa Nzambe po Mose yamoyindo abotami namboka ya Bakoko, or, in shorthand “Moses.” If you’re not familiar with the repressive politics of the Congo and feel that you’re missing out, you may want to brush up on it first (and even then, you won’t truly catch every reference).Have I frightened you off yet? Hopefully not, because this is a surprisingly accessible book. Our feisty protagonist, Moses, left at an orphanage age 13, when he sets out with the twin “bad boys”, Songi-Songi and Tali-Tali, is sort of a coming-of-age story and sort of a romp through Congo-Brazzaville and Zaire upheavals. Throughout this romp, colorful characters emerge: the octogenarian embalmer, for example, whose proclivities are a little…ummm…slanted, the secretive cleaning woman with a Cuban solider father and a surprising past, the madam of a house of ill repute, the kindly orphanage priest who vanishes one day, and, of course, scores of corrupt politicians.There is laughter here, overlaying years of grief and disillusionment, and there is courage that emerges from so much loss – of fathers and mothers, father and mother substitutes, friendships, and temporary sanctuaries. My lack of historical knowledge of the region meant that certain allusions sailed over my head, but having said that, the book stands on its own, a Dickens-like tale of an orphan and the adventures that none of us should ever be forced to endure.

  • Neil
    2018-12-18 05:04

    There is something strange about the balance of this book. If you read the blurb here on Goodreads, it gives you a break down of the initial plot and then says "What follows is...". This suggests an introduction followed by a longer tale that expands on "what follows". However, the actual book is in two parts of almost exactly equal length. I didn't read that blurb until I reached the end of part one, but I turned to it then because I genuinely felt that I had spent half a book reading the introduction and was wondering when then real story was going to start. The issue for me is that the "real story" that starts in part two then feels rushed. I think I would have felt more comfortable with a part one that was one quarter the length it is and a part two that was 2-3 times longer than it is.There is also a significant change in style between the two halves with part two being much wilder and weirder, whereas part one is pretty much a standard story.That said, this is an interesting story about a boy growing up in People's Republic of Congo in the 1970s. Part one tells us about his time in an orphanage and part two about his time in Pointe-Noire. As I've already said, to me part one felt like scene setting even though it was actually half of the book. Then, in part two, the author really goes to town with a bizarre, larger-than-life tale that I won't spoil by relating any of here. It's a book about identity and about who we are versus who we make ourselves.I enjoyed reading this, but I can't give it more than 3 stars because, to me at least, it felt so unbalanced.

  • Lulu
    2018-12-26 03:10

    I could not connect with this story at all. The last 50 pages or so were the most interesting. I felt like this was the writer's outline to the real story.

  • Vanessa
    2019-01-12 05:08

    2.5 stars.Black Moses was yet another of my Man Booker International Prize 2017 Longlist reads, and I can quite understand why this didn't make the shortlist. Although it is an enjoyable and easy read for the most part, there were issues I had with it and overall it didn't really leave much of a mark on me.It follows young Moses (whose full name is far too long to type), as he tries to get by in the orphanage he's grown up in as it's taken over by an overtly political director, before making his escape to join a gang of young boys on the streets of the Congolese port town Pointe-Noire.I don't really have much to say about this book to be fair. If I attempted to go into detail about this book, I would be at risk of spoiling it, and I don't like to do that as you all probably know. What I will say is that I found the pacing of this book very odd, and actually detrimental to my enjoyment of it overall. The book is only 199 pages, and the first 100 pages are solely focused on Moses's time at the orphanage. After that, the rest of his story (and life essentially up until the age of 40) are crammed into the remaining pages. I found I couldn't keep up with the passage of time, and felt like this made the story feel very rushed and confusing at points. I also found that a lot of Moses's character was lost in the second half of the book, and that he became less clear in his motivations and less likeable.Overall I wouldn't say this was a bad read, it was entertaining and quick to get through, but I wouldn't pick it up again and I wouldn't rave about it by any means.

  • Anya
    2018-12-21 04:30

    “Petit piment” or “Black Moses”, as per the English translation, is a novel by famed African writer Alain Mabanckou.The novel follows the life of a young Congolese orphan by the name of Moses who tries, like all of the other characters in the novel incidentally, to find a better life for himself in a corrupt, dangerous and unjust world.Moses’ childhood years are spent undergoing terrible abuse and deprivation in an orphanage. He later runs away to the big city, where things are just as hard, if not worse…The colorful cast of supporting characters in “Black Moses” includes ‘evil’ twins, prostitutes, petty bandits, seedy politicians, quacks and sorcerers…I think the ultimate point of the novel may be a grim reflection on the fact that there is no way out of the circle of misery and oppression in modern day Congo. However, the the tone of the novel itself could also be characterized as light, often mischievous…There were things that I liked about this novel (e.g., the last few pages), however, I found many sections lacking originality. For example, the parts about the orphans and bandits seemed a poorer cousin to Amado’s brilliant “Captains of the Sand”, and I had read better narratives about ‘the habits of the morgue employee’ in other literature.

  • Calzean
    2018-12-23 05:31

    A little book that is quite inventive in it's structure and style.The first half is about life in an Congolese orphanage at Loango. The narrator is 13 years old and things are changing in the country. The teaching moves from the religious to the government slogans of socialism.Moses escapes with two fellow orphans and they reach Pointe Noire where they run a local gang. Moses meets a local madam and lives with her for a while before moving into a job on the wharves.He then suffers from some sort of mental illness before, at the age of 40, returning to Loango which is now a prison for the criminally insane.The book has humour and grief in tons as it covers the lose of friends/peers/mentors, the need to reinvent yourself to survive in a land of corruption and nepotism, and the fate of those who cannot escape.

  • Simona
    2018-12-17 02:34

    It is a coming-of-age story, where are political circumstances (corruption, nepotism, arbitrariness) shown with the satirical elements and the story is set in the time from the mid 60s until the 90s. The time period is not explicitly mentioned, but it can be seen from the story (the disappearance of a priest, the mention of Cuban soldiers - consultants, the mention of Brussels, Congolese Party of Labor...) and from sequence of event. We follow the life of Moses, at first in an orphanage and later as a member of the gang in the city and how these political circumstances / changes affect his life. The author exposes many problems (prostitution, poverty, propaganda, slavery, dispute between tribes ...) but he doesn't deal with them critical - issues are introduced as fact, as an everyday reality and this reality is seasoned with irony.The story is interesting, some passages are painfully alive and beautiful ... but unfortunately, I didn't feel the book as a whole, especially the third part (the story is divided into four parts) which is a crucial for the story development, seems very weak and unconvincing. But the last part is simply brilliant.The author is unknown to me, but I am interested in his previous works.

  • Eugénie
    2019-01-11 07:25

    Si la lecture de Petit Piment était relativement agréable, il me semble que justement, c'est de piment que ce livre semble manquer. Le narratif de l'enfant des rues africain, il me semble, a été travaillé avec beaucoup plus de puissance chez d'autres auteurs (Monémembo, Kourouma). Je pourrais cependant comprendre comment ce livre offre une vision d'un pays d'Afrique qui n'est pas plongé dans un bain de sang, contrairement à Allah n'est pas obligé et L'aîné des orphelins. Néanmoins, il est difficile de ne pas faire de rapprochements entre Petit Piment et Chronique des sept misères, bien que ce dernier soit un roman antillais plutôt qu'africain. Tous deux racontent la vie d'un enfant du marché qui jardine et finit par développer une certaine démence. Un goût de déjà-vu reste sous la langue pendant la lecture, et les caractéristiques formelles des Chroniques étaient bien plus intéressantes. En effet, pas de mots africains, pas d'oralité, mais plutôt un français international standard, même dans la bouche de la petite racaille du marché de Pointe-Noire, et un récit qui se déroule de façon très linéaire, très conventionnelle. Je ne pense pas que les auteurs francophones africains doivent absolument mettre une dose massive de folklore dans chacune de leurs phrases, mais ce récit manquant d'originalité aurait peut-être bénéficié d'un peu plus d'audace formelle.

  • Aurélie
    2018-12-20 10:05

    Le romancier franco-congolais Alain Mabanckou raconte dans son nouveau roman « Petit Piment » la vie d'un orphelin de Pointe-Noire, capitale économique du Congo. L'enfant a été prénommé par un prêtre « Rendons grâce à Dieu, le Moïse noir est né sur la terre des ancêtres », mais il est appelé Moïse et surnommé Petit Piment par les jumeaux, terreurs de l'orphelinat. Nous suivons avec beaucoup de plaisir et le sourire aux lèvres les aventures du jeune garçon au sein de l' orphelinat religieux de Loango, dans les rues de Pointe-Noire, puis auprès de « Maman Fiat 500 » maquerelle au grand cœur. En arrière-plan, l'auteur évoque les bouleversements politiques du Congo dans les années 1970 et aborde les questions qui secouent le pays.Le roman est émaillé de portraits savoureux, les personnages sont plus attachants les uns que les autres. Il y a à la fois beaucoup de simplicité et de charme dans ce roman. Le tout est servi par une langue inventive et truculente, pleine de poésie et de drôlerie.Alain Mabanckou prouve une fois de plus avec « Petit Piment » quel talentueux conteur il est.

  • Isabella
    2019-01-10 06:07

    Meine MeinungIch kannte weder den Autor (Anscheinend mehrfach preisgekrönt) noch diesen Roman, bevor ich das Buch zufällig in der Bibliothek entdeckt habe. Cover und Klappentext haben jedoch sofort mein Interesse geweckt. Der Kongo ist ein Land, über das ich nur sehr wenig weiß, daher fand ich es besonders spannend, mehr über diese Nation und ihre Geschichte zu erfahren. Am Anfang musste ich mich ein bisschen an die Namen gewöhnen, das hat sich dann aber schnell gegeben. Der Autor stellt das politische Geschehen damals, in den 1970er Jahren, schön verständlich dar, sodass man den Roman auch ohne historische Vorkenntnisse lesen kann. Die Beschreibungen sind nicht allzu ausführlich, trotzdem konnte ich mir die Schauplätze gut vorstellen. Das Buch hat im Grunde zwei Teile, die auch fast gleich lang ist: Im ersten Abschnitt geht es um Moses‘ Heranwachsen in einem Waisenheim, während sich der zweite um sein Erwachsenenleben in einer nahe gelegenen Stadt dreht. Der erste Teil hat mir wirklich gut gefallen: Für mich war es sehr interessant, eine Einblick in den Mikrokosmos Waisenheim mit seiner klaren Hierarchie, der despotischen Herrschaft des Heimleiters und den ständigen Zankereien der Mitarbeiter (untereinander und mit den Kinder). Spannend fand ich auch, wie sich die Abläufe im Heim während der sozialistischen Revolution im Kongo verändern. Denn der Leiter ist ein gnadenloser Opportunist, der für mehr Macht bereit ist, auf jeden politischen Zug aufzuspringen.Nach diesen vielversprechenden 100 Seiten konnte mich die zweite Hälfte, nach Moses‘ Flucht aus dem Waisenhaus, leider gar nicht überzeugen. Ohne echten Spannungsbogen dümpelt die Story vor sich hin, während der Protagonist sich durchs Leben treiben lässt. Manchmal war mir zudem nicht klar, wie viel Zeit eigentlich gerade vergangen ist: Tage, Monate oder sogar Jahre? Am Ende wird der Roman dann völlig wirr und absurd, wobei ich mich mit Moses auch überhaupt nicht mehr identifizieren konnte. Der Schluss hat mir leider ebenfalls nicht gefallen.FazitFängt in der ersten Hälfte sehr vielversprechend an, lässt dann aber stark nach. Schade!

  • Tracy Rowan
    2019-01-16 08:26

    So I'm starting 2018 with a book I didn't care for.  That doesn't bode well, does it?  It's an ARC I've been working on for months, and couldn't seem to force myself through, so I finally decided that I'd had enough, and called it finished at about the 50% mark.The original title of this book is "Little Pepper," referring to the nickname given to Moses after he gets revenge for his best friend with a dose of very hot pepper.  He is a little pepper; sharp, hot, taking no shit.  Don't really know why the title was changed, and I don't think it did the book any favors since "Black Moses" sets up very different expectations.It begins in an orphanage in Pointe-Noir in the Congo on the eve of the country's rebranding as The People's Republic of the Congo, and it follows Moses' adventures in this new world.  I wish I could say it intrigued me, it didn't.  I wish I could say it held my interest, but I'd be lying because I had to read virtually every page at least twice.  Maybe this is a failing on my part, but I never connected with the narrative.When a book makes me mutter "I really don't care." or "I have no idea what I just read." over a period of months (This book should have taken me a couple of hours to read.) I know there's no point in pushing myself.  Your mileage may vary.

  • SarahP
    2018-12-25 04:31

    God I miss Africa!Petit Piment sonne très Mabanckou, et pour ceux qui ont lu «Demain j'aurai vingt ans», les 100 premières pages du livre auraient pu très bien faire partie de cet autre ouvrage du même auteur. On y revoit un petit garçon, surnommé Petit Piment, dans un orphelinat, vivre et observer le monde et le commenter tel un plus grand. Petit Piment vivra tout au long de sa vie divers abandon ce qui l'affectera plus tard. Il aurait pu être le petit de DJVA qui écoutait sa radio et les notices politiques, et comprenait et commentait le monde naïvement et justement. Est-ce que Mabanckou s'écrit lui-même, dans ces jeunes garçons?La seconde moitié du livre, lorsque Petit Piment est jeune adulte ou adulte, est la plus intéressante, mais la plus maladroitement précipitée. Le contexte africain mets en place tous les compléments circonstancielsnécessaires au déroulement et au dénouement de l'histoire, sans tomber dans le pathos politique et de violence que d'autres ouvrages peuvent apporter, mais j'aurais tellement aimé que Mabanckou passe plus de temps à décrire l'endroit. Par pur plaisir personnel, parce que parfois, l'Afrique me manque.

  • Atharv G.
    2018-12-19 04:23

    2.5 Stars This book started off interesting. I felt more connected to Moses in the first half of the book, and I really liked the descriptions of Congolese history that we got. However, the second half of the book lost me. The story seemed to fall apart and I felt that Moses's health issues could have been much better represented. At times they felt like a gimmick, for humor's sake, lacking the seriousness they should have carried. Additionally, the story itself felt rushed and the ending was extremely abrupt. I didn't understand what the point of the story ended up being. Although I did enjoy the humor at times and the historical aspects, the story itself was not nearly as cohesive as I had hoped it would be.

  • Robert B
    2019-01-03 04:20

    Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2017. This short novel about a Congolese boy (Moses) who escapes a corruptly-run orphanage and lives on the streets takes place in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the Republic of Congo was transitioning to a hard-core communist state. Much of the mordant humor targets the corruption of the country, and Moses can be seen as an “everyman” character, trying to survive in such a world. Unfortunately, the novel is too short to adequately explore in detail the topics raised. In addition, many of the characters – the lovable priest, the sadistic twin orphans, the corrupt head of the orphanage, the gang members, the pretend Robin Hood, the benevolent madame, the kindly ex-boxer — are entertaining, but they are also stereotypes.

  • Laura
    2018-12-31 05:13

    Lukumaratonin innoittamana luin tämän pienoisromaanin alle vuorokaudessa, ja se olikin varsin mainio lukukokemus. Ei nyt ehkä mikään päätähuimaavan hieno, mutten siitä varsinaisesti mitään moitittavaakaan löytänyt. Sujuva ja veijarimainen satiiriseikkailu Kongon sosialistisen vallankumouksen keskellä, josta olisi ehkä saanut vieläkin enemmän irti, jos aihepiiri olisi ollut tutumpi.

  • Mike
    2019-01-06 02:13

    This just never quite clicked with me. There's some parts that are real good, but in general I didn't feel like it came together. Like the ending didn't really fit the beginning and didn't get there in a way that felt like it justified half the book being about the orphanage.

  • Yasmina
    2018-12-22 10:14

    On suit les traces de Moise alias Petit Piment au cours de ses aventures à l'orphelinat ou il y reste jusqu'à ses treize ans, puis à Pointe-Noire lorsqu'il décide de s'enfuir pour s'affranchir des règles et mener une vie de vagabond avec ses amis.C'est raconté avec délice, avec drôlerie avec candeur même parfois mais tous les travers d'un pays menés par la dictature, la corruption & la violence sont des ingrédients qui font bien partie intégrante du récit & qui tissent la toile de fond de la vie de ce(s) personnage(s).Je ne peux m'empêcher de faire le parallèle avec le roman de Fiston Mwanza Mujila intitulé Tram 83 qui décrit avec violence & avec un certain réalisme le quotidien de la classe populaire dans cette ville cosmopolite qu'est Pointe-Noire ; j'ai pu aisément imaginé les tribulations de Moise dans en ce lieu grâce à certains rappels.Et puis la magie opère forcément car tous les personnages qui bien que dépeints pour la plupart dans des expériences de vie dramatiques sont tous attachants.Et que dire du style de l'auteur ? J'ai été conquise par les tournures de phrases, par le choisx des mots qui donnent le ton juste, par ses expressions typiques qui contribuent largement à donner le ton (humoristique, sarcastique !). Cela a été un bon moment de lecture que je recommande chaudement :)

  • Bob Lopez
    2018-12-18 06:26

    Solid book about growing up in a Congolese orphanage. First third of the novel concerns Moses and his day to day; second third is about Moses after he and the twins escape, and his relationship with the women in brothel (mostly maternal); the final third of the novel concerns Moses's deteriorating mental health due to malnutrition. I wish the book, rather than going into that final third, had expanded the first two sections because they were so rich and illuminating and interesting, and the last part of the book...wasn't.

  • Joslyn Allen
    2018-12-21 02:21

    Review published: https://chronicbibliophilia.wordpress...“[Papa Moupelo] was our moral compass, the spiritual father of all us children who’d never known their biological father, and whose only example of paternal authority came at best from the priest, and at worst from the Director of the orphanage. Papa Moupelo stood for tolerance, absolution and redemption, while Dieudonné Ngoulmoumako was the embodiment of malice and disrespect. The affection we showed our priest came from the bottom of our hearts, and we looked for nothing in return except the kindness in his eyes, which gave us strength, while the Director’s sullen mien served only to remind us we were children to whom life’s normal course had sadly been denied. The way people looked at us said it all: to the Pontenegrins, ‘orphanage’ meant ‘prison’, and you went to prison for committing a serious offence, or maybe even a crime . . . “In a bleak orphanage (is there any other kind in literature?) outside Point-Noire, Congo in the 1970s, Tokumisa Nzambe po Mose yamoyindo abotami namboka ya Bakako struggles against a bullied present and a dreary future. Moses, as most people call him, gets swept up by two of the orphanage’s twin terrors and eventually runs away with them to Pointe-Noire, where he and his cohorts join the city’s seedy underbelly, surviving through petty theft and felonious violence.Moses eventually gets taken in by a brothel full of women who mother him in exchange for errand-running and heartfelt devotion. Moses, whose life has been neither easy nor innocent, is exposed to political corruption and the unrest which grips Congo. He sees first hand the hypocritical leaders who frequent the brothel under cloak of night, then persecute them in light of day, all for political gain.Mabanckou seemingly has created Moses as the personification of his country. Orphaned and vulnerable, both Moses and Congo are drawn at a young age to the white man’s religion and influence.“When the Whites arrived in Africa, we had land and they had the Bible. They taught us to pray with our eyes closed: when we opened them again, we found the Whites had the land and we had the Bible.” As they age, they are both tugged and pulled as vying groups fight for power and control. They are privy to the underhanded dealings and nefarious ambitions of so many men in their country. And as the country seems in danger of devolving, Moses himself degenerates into total madness.“Black Moses” is a sardonic, metaphorical glimpse into the life of a country ill at ease and struggling for stability and identity. It is a rare look at a central African country with which I, at least, am unfamiliar; a land little discussed and poorly understood by many of us in the “Western World”. Mabanckou’s writing is magical, fairy tale like in its extremes, its wit, and its ability to weave lore into a modern story.Many thanks to The New Press for providing a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  • Mish Middelmann
    2019-01-11 10:12

    Alain Mabanckou brings an extraordinary positive energy, good humour and a wide-eyed honesty to everything he touches. What an amazing way to talk about the unbearable cruelty of life for a boy abandoned by his parents into an orphanage in the Congo - only to have the few scraps of caring in the institution blown away by political manoeuvring in the wake of the "People's Revolution." Somehow the story avoids melodrama as our Black Moses escapes the orphanage and joins a street gang in Pointe Noire, enduring and passing on all kinds of cruelty, and ends up losing a substantial chunk of his mind.I felt completely immersed in the life of Black Moses, experiencing hardship as "normal" in the way he does (it's all he ever knew) and celebrating his ebullience, ability to build relationships, and have fun in spite of everything. And yet the awful reality of the inhumanity of disconnected people in power, and of dire poverty, and of a lot of empty political rhetoric - that reality is not glossed over or "normalised."Thanks to the wonderful African Flavour Books in Braamfontein for turning me onto yet another wonderful book by a wonderful author from this continent.

  • Elliott Turner
    2019-01-05 03:13

    Okay so the chaptering, prose, and section breaks were great. Moses is an orphan at an orphanage in rural Congo during the 1970's - Marxists take over the state in part, so the orphanage changes suddenly from religiously-themed to a "factory of communist ideals." This first part is pretty solid, and I like the Don Quixote "story within stories" where Moses talks with the older caretakers and hears about their lives. The second part is pretty forgettable - he runs away to the nearby city, roams with a street gang, becomes friends with the ladies at a bordello, and then some "tough on crime" politico tries to run off streetchildren and prostitutes. The last part is fun again - Moses slowly loses his mind and gets obsessed with gardening, then visits a faith healer just to mooch free meals every day, and finally tries to turn into Little John/Robin Hood so he can kill the Mayor of the city with a knife. I won't spoil how it ends, but it ends in a super tidy way that I respected both as a wordsmith and a reader.

  • Jenn
    2018-12-17 02:29

    “You tell yourself, you may debase your body tonight, but tomorrow you’ll wash it clean, and restore its purity. So you was it once with bleach, you wash it twice with alcohol, then you stop washing altogether, you accept your acts as your own, because no water on earth ever gave anyone back their purity. If it could, surely with all the streams and rivers and seas and oceans there are on earth, all men and women here below would be pure and innocent.” – p 127Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou follows Moses, also known as Little Pepper, as he navigates life during and after the Marxist-Leninist revolution in the People’s Republic of Congo in the 1970s.After some time away from Black Moses, I really appreciate Mabanckou’s writing style, especially given what is revealed towards the end of the story. However, the style also made me feel disconnected from the main character and his journey, which was disconcerting considering some of the disturbing aspects of the book, though I believe this was intentional.This is a book I wish I could read in its original language, French. I felt like there were subtleties I missed because I couldn’t as well as the fact that I’m not as familiar with the revolution in the Congo as I’d like to be.Still, I liked that I was able to read a story about a country and a time that I’m not familiar with and being able to open my eyes to a different reality (one of the many reasons I love books so much!)tl;dr3.5/5 I enjoyed Black Moses’ story and its method of storytelling. I felt a bit disconnected from the story, while I believe this was partly intentional, I think a large portion was due to the fact that I read a translation and am not familiar with Congolese history. A quick and very interesting read.

  • Jennifer
    2019-01-08 09:22

    Wonderful prose and very witty. A coming-of-age story, set at the start of the 1970s, about a Congolese boy, named 'Moses' in the beginning which became 'Little Pepper' after a retribution stunt against a set of twins, growing up in an orphanage in Loango, Congo; his escape from the corrupt orphanage director's hold; and his life on the streets of Pointe-Noire's Cote Sauvage. He doesn't come to a very happy end, but his peace of mind returns. I really enjoyed the authenticity of the author's story. The author, who is Congolese, dedicated the book to the wanderers he encountered on the Cote Sauvage in Pointe-Noire who told him pieces of their life stories, and there was a real 'Little Pepper', though the book is not his story, but a creation of the amalgam of stories.

  • Taru Luojola
    2019-01-06 10:16

    Tästä kirjasta oli jossain määrin vaikea saada otetta. Kyseessä on Pikku Pippurin nimelläkin kutsuttavan päähenkilön elämäntarina, alkaen orpokotilapsuudesta ja päätyen suhteellisen dramaattisiin tapahtumiin, joita en tässä spoilaa, mutta lapsuutta taustoitetaan ehkä vähän turhankin paljon kokonaisuuden jälkeen, sillä orpokotiaika päättyy vasta kirjan puolivälissä ja sen jälkeiset tapahtumat menevät vähän pikakelauksella. Ei siinä, mutta kun kirja on kirjoitettu muistelmamuodossa ja etenkin lapsuusmuistot tuntuvat siinä määrin etäisiltä, että kirjasta puuttuu sellainen tietynlainen välittömyyden tuntu, joka saisi imeytymään mukaan tapahtumiin.Mutta noin muuten tämä on kiinnostava kurkistus kongolaiseen elämänmenoon, siltä suunnalta saapuvia kirjoja kun ei kovin usein kohtaa.

  • Ian Mond
    2018-12-29 06:06

    Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou opens in the 1970s in an orphanage on the outskirts of Pointe-Noire a port city in the Republic of Congo. Our young protagonist with an incredibly long name but known as Moses (for short) is surprised when Papa Moupelo, a kindly ‘pocket-sized’ priest in elevator heels abruptly disappears. This absence coincides with regime change in the country as the Republic of Congo becomes the People’s Republic of Congo. The introduction of communism and the removal of those people who had an ounce of compassion compels Moses to escape the orphanage. On the streets of Pointe-Noire he joins a gang, helps out the Zairian prostitutes of the Trois-Cents quarter and attempts to evade the authorities out to clean the streets. Struggling to deal with the abuse of power he sees everyday he wears a green hood in honour of his hero Robin Hood. A clear sign of his principles and philosophy but also a possible indication that Moses might be going mad.The strongest parts of the book have less to do with Moses and his misadventures and more to do with the Congo. In particular the ways communism becomes a handy crutch for those seeking influence and power and the deep rooted mistrust and tensions between the varied ethnic groups of the Congo. Where the novel left me cold was in its depiction of Moses, especially post orphanage, and his descent into madness. The fact that Moses is narrating his story from within an insane asylum – which is located on the same grounds as the orphanage he escaped - should be a tragic, shattering revelation. And yet it felt on the nose, partly because there's never much doubt that Moses has a slippery handle of reality. And while I felt some of the anger simmering under the surface, - especially in regard to the daily abuses Moses witnesses - and I noted the pitch-black tone of the humour - there are some funny moments in the orphanage, especially how Moses deals with a pair of bullies - so much of the short novel just slid off me. Which isn't particularly insightful but as profound as this review is likely to get.This is my first taste of Mabanckou’s work – who I note has been writing for over twenty years and is much respected and praised* – so I have no idea if it's indicative of his wider oeuvre. My thoughts about this novel aside I'm still interested in reading further fiction by him and I suspect that Mabanckou's 2003 novel African Psycho might be more up my alley.*While I may not have loved the book I still thank Serpents Tail for translating Mabanckou's work.

  • Seyi Onabanjo
    2018-12-30 04:08

    Enjoyable writing, ok characters, so-so plot line and the over all experience of a buffet meal at your local Hilton where you realize at the end you ate exactly the same things you had last time you were there. Plot and characters do not attain the dizzy heights of those met (and never forgotten) in this writer's phenomenal "Broken Glass" or even his "Black Bazaar". Story plods along somewhat, with a plot nothing as original as with his "Memoirs of a Porcupine". Kept me laughing and nodding on both legs of round trip flight and I would still recommend it but would not be top of my list

  • Lori
    2019-01-16 09:06

    I think high school teens will relate to the young protagonist who grows up in an orphanage and is subjected to absurd indoctrination, privations, and difficulties. In fact, the absurdity of the world around Moses becomes apparent in many of the scenes and characters he interacts with. The story was choppy to me and left many things unresolved, however, it is an ultimately interesting book which will interest those who want to expand their scope outside of Western literature.