Broken Glass

by Alain Mabanckou

List Price: $16.95
Paperback | 5.4 x 8.2, 176 pages | ISBN 9781593763077

“A man sits in a bar, ruminating on his own failures and conversing with an ensemble of memorable characters that pass in and out of the same space. It’s archetypal stuff, but Mabanckou transforms it into a work that intimately inhabits its narrator’s mind even as it makes a host of bold literary allusions, from Paul Laurence Dunbar to Eugène Ionesco. A new introduction to this edition by Uzodinma Iweala offers varied and nuanced insights into the novel’s themes as well as the initial reception it received when it first appeared in translation.”Words Without Borders

In Republic of the Congo, in the town of Trois-Cents, in a bar called Credit Gone West, a former schoolteacher known as Broken Glass drinks red wine and records the stories of the bar and its regulars, including Stubborn Snail, the owner, who must battle church people, ex-alcoholics, tribal leaders, and thugs set on destroying him and his business; the Printer, who had his respectable life in France ruined by a white woman, his wife; Robinette, who could outdrink and outpiss any man until a skinny-legged stranger challenged her reign; and Broken Glass himself, whose own tale involves as much heartbreak, squalor, disappointment, and delusion. A brand-new edition of an irreverent, allusive, scatalogical, tragicomic masterpiece from one of our greatest living Francophone writers.

This is not cute Africa, as described by Alexander McCall Smith . . . Mabanckou is one of Africa’s liveliest and most original voices, and this novel pulses with energy and invention.

 
The Times of London
1/27

Broken Glass has a loud and living voice, an almost overwhelmingly singular style masterfully translated with dedicated consistency by Helen Stevenson, with fireworks on every page, and expertly navigates its many unapologetically human projects. It casts a bright, honest light on its subjects, and asks questions that are democratic, serious, and perilous for those in power: Whose stories are worth telling? And who gets to tell those stories? All of this even as Mabanckou beautifully, subtly, sadly, and, yes, redemptively tells the story of a narrator grieving from the bottom of a bottle. The book is profoundly literary, bouncingly readable, funny, heartbreaking, obscene, fierce, and restorative. It’s a book of love, really. Tough love. What more could you want from a masterpiece?

 
—Scott Cheshire, Los Angeles Review of Books
2/27

Set in a sad-sack Congolese bar called Credit Gone West, this ingeniously satirical novel by Congolese poet and novelist Mabanckou (African Psycho) creates a microcosm of postcolonial African experience through the tales of sodden bar patrons. . . . Literary allusions (Holden Caulfield has a cameo) and gentle ironies punctuate this wickedly entertaining novel.

 
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
3/27

It is the author’s sense of humor--and he can find humor in even the most tragic or vulgar circumstances--that makes Broken Glass a memorable and successful novel.

 
Booklist
4/27

This novel is, among other things, an idiosyncratic and raucously impertinent tour of the Western canon . . . It’s also worth noting that, unlike many authors who might be called experimental, Mabanckou is funny, and his Rabelaisian riffs are a brilliant counterpoint to the real despair and dysfunction he depicts. Important, entertaining and subtly moving.

 
Kirkus Reviews
5/27

A dizzying combination of erudition, bawdy humor and linguistic effervescence.

 
—Melissa McClements, Financial Times
6/27

A welcome reissue for anyone to trace the author’s present success. Throughout the text lie hallmarks of Mabanckou’s career, and in tandem with The Lights of Pointe-Noire, Broken Glass is one of the best jumping-off points to explore the auteur.

 
—Daniel Bokemper, World Literature Today
7/27

Mabanckou . . . positions himself at the margins, tapping the tradition founded by Celine, Genet and other subversive writers. His bursts of grandiloquent magical realism are a promising approach for a region where realism and naturalism have become blunted in the face of intractable problems. The accompanying humour, too, is welcome. With his sourly comic recollections, Broken Glass makes a fine companion.

 
—Peter Carty, The Independent
8/27

The formal technique Mabanckou has [the narrator] employ is at once simple and daring: the notebook unspools as a single sentence, punctuated only by commas and white space. Despite the lack of signposts, the prose is entirely lucid, a river of speech given shape by the rhythmic alternation of clauses. It’s a remarkably flexible instrument, vulgar, expansive, bawdy and occasionally lyric. Mabanckou shifts registers between Rabelaisian excess and the elevated simplicity of a folktale, while sustaining a constant current of manic loquacity.

 
Bookslut
9/27

A man sits in a bar, ruminating on his own failures and conversing with an ensemble of memorable characters that pass in and out of the same space. It’s archetypal stuff, but Mabanckou transforms it into a work that intimately inhabits its narrator’s mind even as it makes a host of bold literary allusions, from Paul Laurence Dunbar to Eugène Ionesco. A new introduction to this edition by Uzodinma Iweala offers varied and nuanced insights into the novel’s themes as well as the initial reception it received when it first appeared in translation.

 
Words Without Borders
10/27

One of the most entertaining reads of the year . . . another unemployed regular at Credit Gone West, who never once uses a full stop to record these sad but hilarious raw and gritty stories, but who does so in the most readable, enjoyable way that you’re quite bummed when the book ends. Great voice; great reading.

 
Barcelona Review
11/27

His voice is original and penetrating, his language irreverent and precise . . . His inventive wordplays, his love of books and his desire to break down clichéd perceptions of African and European literatures and cultures create a world in which every reader will find a home. Broken Glass is an exuberant comic novel, the perfect antidote for those still looking for Africa’s burning libraries.

 
—Laila Lamali, The National
12/27

Broken Glass is, essentially, about a voiceless community’s struggle to reclaim itself through the printed word . . . Mabanckou is not the only one writing with verve and bite about Africa now . . . but he is certainly one of the most wildly inventive and entertaining." --Words Without Borders "Witty, silly, funny and vivid, it is an insouciant novel in the very best sense.

 
—Jason Weaver, Spike Magazine
13/27

Broken Glass is about a disillusioned alcoholic with a gift for prose, who is writing the story of Credit Gone West, a rundown bar in a shabby Congolese town. The whole book is devoid of punctuation and capitalisation, giving readers the impression they are having a conversation with the main character, rather than reading his journal.

 
—Aya Iskandarani, The National
14/27

Mature, shocking, hilarious, innovative.

 
Magazine Littéraire
15/27

A wind of change inspires this funny, ironic text stuffed with literary references.

 
Le Figaro
16/27

A lively and malicious homage to the world, devilishly spicy . . . A treat, make no mistake about it.

 
Télérama
17/27

This is Taxi Driver for Africa’s blank generation . . . a deftly ironic Grand Guignol, a pulp fiction vision of Frantz Fanon’s "wretched of the earth" that somehow manages to be both frightening and self-mocking at the same time.

 
Time Out New York
18/27

Disturbing--and disturbingly funny.

 
New Yorker
19/27

Mabanckou manages to write playfully about an alarming subject.

 
Financial Times
20/27

A macabre but comical take on a would-be serial killer.

 
Vanity Fair
21/27

African Psycho, first published in French in 2003, is the auspicious North American debut from a francophone author who most certainly deserves to be discovered. It is smart, stylish and plenty ’literary’ . . . The French have already called [Mabanckou] a young writer to watch. After this debut, I certainly concur.

 
Globe and Mail
22/27

Mabanckou’s novel . . . discovers a fascinating new way to hang readers on those tenterhooks . . . African Psycho presents no gloomy Raskolnikov, nor the fixed sneer of Patrick Bateman, but a haunted burlesque.

 
The Believer
23/27

Backly funny . . . this is a distinctive contribution to the slum-fiction genre.

 
The New Statesman
24/27

Taut . . . Dark and darkly comic . . . brings into sharp relief the life of an outsider, an anti-hero.

 
The National
25/27

Alain Mabanckou is like this tree he has evoked in his poetry: Tall, graceful, peaceful, yet a powerhouse of ideas. One of the foremost voices in Francophone literature, this poet-novelist from Congo Brazzaville has always drawn from his African roots.

 
The Hindu
26/27

[A] very compelling (and very well-translated) exercise in literary voice.

 
Publishers Weekly
27/27

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