Blue White Red: A Novel

Blue White Red: A Novel

Blue White Red: A Novel

Blue White Red: A Novel

Synopsis

This tale of wild adventure reveals the dashed hopes of Africans living between worlds. When Moki returns to his village from France wearing designer clothes and affecting all the manners of a Frenchman, Massala-Massala, who lives the life of a humble peanut farmer after giving up his studies, begins to dream of following in Moki's footsteps. Together, the two take wing for Paris, where Massala-Massala finds himself a part of an underworld of out-of-work undocumented immigrants. After a botched attempt to sell metro passes purchased with a stolen checkbook, he winds up in jail and is deported. Blue White Red is a novel of postcolonial Africa where young people born into poverty dream of making it big in the cities of their former colonial masters. Alain Mabanckou's searing commentary on the lives of Africans in France is cut with the parody of African villagers who boast of a son in the country of Digol.

Excerpt

Alain Mabanckou's writing is like a Chinese line drawing. His economy of words is a brushstroke that reveals a subject’s inner and outward character and an aching longing for place. Moki is a village hero in Blue White Red because he becomes a “Parisian,” the title conferred on those who “make it” in Paris. His presence there transforms a village father, who now holds forth in the proper French French of Guy de Maupassant, as befits a man whose son is in the country of Digol. Moki chastises his wannabes for speaking in French but not French and cautions those who dream of emulating his leap from the former colony to the métropole: Paris is a big boy. Not for kids.

In Alain Mabanckou’s text, it is apparent when people break into French for affect to emphasize their class status and distance themselves from the miserable economic and political circumstances of postcolonial Africa. French French is generally italicized in the original novel. in an English translation of the book, I wrestled with how to convey the complex nesting of languages, French bursting out in conversations in African languages and vice versa, without flattening the contours of the text in English. I experimented with leaving the italicized French in French, followed by an English translation. That device, however, proved too heavy to carry over the course of the whole novel and drew attention to the translation instead of the originality of Alain Mabanckou’s book.

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