Democratic Republic of the Congo

READ THE WORLD – Democratic Republic of the Congo: Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou

It’s 1970, and in the People’s Republic of Congo, a Marxist-Leninist revolution is heralding a new age. But in the orphanage where Moses has grown up, they have terror and corruption in the form of the orphanage’s director. When Moses makes his escape, he finds a new home in busy Pointe-Noire with petty thieves and Z airian prostitutes. His new life is thrown into chaos when he authorities want to remove the city’s underbelly, and as they do so, Moses starts to lose grip on reality.

Black Moses is a captivating and well-written read. The language used paints a vivid picture of Moses and his life, growing up from child orphan to teenage thief and to an adult who has his own family unit. The interesting thing is that Moses’ life is so often shaped by political turmoil but it’s something that neither he nor the book really comments on, events happen and sometimes Moses doesn’t even really notice them.

There are a lot of references to various political leaders and the repressive politics of the Congo, having an understanding of that may have made the book more enjoyable, but it was still an accessible read. It has a lot of themes you can connect to, regardless of your knowledge of what life was like in 1970s Congo. There’s themes of loss, family, friendship and being forced to grow up fast.

The story is a quick read and there’s many funny moments. Whether that’s the situations Moses finds himself in, especially his antics in the orphanage, or through the dialogue between characters. The dialogue is quick, sharp and witty and is a great indicator as to what these characters and like and what they value.

Black Moses is an enjoyable read. At just under 200 pages the story speeds along as you follow Moses through his childhood to adulthood, leaning more about him and those he loves and loses along the way. 4/5.

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