Black Moses (Hardcover)

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By Alain Mabanckou, Helen Stevenson (Translator)
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Staff Reviews

Abandoned as an infant, a boy known as Moses is noticing some changes as Congo-Brazzaville's socialist revolution takes hold. Among them, his orphanage's kindhearted priest, who gave him a long and unpronounceable name, has disappeared. Alone in the world, the young boy must take his destiny into his own hands. Mabanckou shows us what follows directly through Moses's eyes; his journey from the orphanage to the streets of Pointe-Noire reads like a diary with a wide cast of madcap characters. In the end, perhaps our protagonist's own consciousness is as torn as the political landscape he must endure. -Tony

— From Summer Booknotes 2017


Nominated for the 2018 Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award (Fiction)

One of The New York Times 10 French Novels to Read Now

Longlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize

Longlisted for the PEN America Translation Prize

Shortlisted for the Albertine Prize

Included in World Literature Today's "75 Notable Translations of 2017"

"The story's unflinching tone and sly humor belie the tragedy of Moses's situation, as well as the cruelty of the people he meets."
--The New Yorker

"An orphan story with biting humor. . . as pointed as it is funny."
--Los Angeles Times

" Black Moses] rings with a beautiful poetry."
--Wall Street Journal

A rollicking new novel described as "Oliver Twist in 1970s Africa" (Les Inrockuptibles) by the finalist for the Man Booker International Prize.

It'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, Dieudonn 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.

About the Author

Regarded as Francophone Africa's leading voice, novelist, poet, and essayist Alain Mabanckou was born in Congo and currently lives in Los Angeles, where he teaches literature at UCLA. He is the author of African Psycho, Broken Glass, Black Bazaar, Tomorrow I Will Be Twenty, and The Lights of Pointe-Noire (The New Press). In 2015 he was a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize and the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens. Helen Stevenson is a piano teacher, writer, and translator who lives in Somerset, England. Her translation of Mabanckou's The Lights of Pointe-Noire won the Grand Prix, 2015 French Voices Award.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781620972939
ISBN-10: 162097293X
Publisher: New Press
Publication Date: June 6th, 2017
Pages: 208
Language: English