The Heart of the Leopard Children

The Heart of the Leopard Children

The Heart of the Leopard Children

The Heart of the Leopard Children

Synopsis

A nameless young man lives in the housing projects outside of Paris. When he was a child, his parents moved with him from the Congo to France, hoping in vain to escape poverty and violence. His best friend, Drissa, is in a psychiatric hospital and now Mireille, his girlfriend, the woman with whom he has shared his childhood and hopes, has left him to reconnect with her Jewish roots in Israel. During a night out to drown the pain of his heartache, there is a fight with a policeman, the policeman dies, and the young man is arrested and taken to jail. Between police beatings and abrupt interrogations, his memory becomes his sole ally to escape from the exiguous space in which he is confined. Half-conscious and delirious, he reflects on his journey from the land of his ancestors to his life in the projects with Drissa and Mireille. In The Heart of the Leopard Children, N'Sonde explores the themes of love and pain, belonging and uprooting, desire and fear--all with an implacable and irresistible accuracy. Wilfried N'Sonde's first novel awakens the reader with an urban symphony of desire and lost love, attuned to the violence that accompanies the struggle for social ascension and a sense of belonging, and the paralyzing sentiment of betrayal that inhabits a young man caught between traditions and cultures. Awarded the Prix des Cinq Continents de la Francophonie and the Prix Senghor for the originality of his work, the author captures the sounds, rhythms and pleas of a young man who pulls on the alarm from his prison cell to warn against the multiple barriers of confinement that risk the future of certain sectors of French youth today.

Excerpt

The Heart of the Leopard Children:
Ancestral Memory and the Creative Imagination

Born in 1968 in the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville), Wilfried N’Sondé moved to France in 1973 and grew up there in an outlying urban area of Paris. the author of four novels published by Actes Sud, one of France’s most prestigious publishers, Le cœur des enfants léopards (The Heart of the Leopard Children, 2007), Le Silence des esprits (The Silence of the Spirits, 2010), Fleur de Béton (Flower in Concrete, 2012), and Berlinoise (2014), he has received considerable critical attention and been recognized with important literary awards, most notably the Prix des Cinq Continents de la Francophonie and the Prix Senghor de la création littéraire. N’Sondé also publishes short stories and essays, his work has been adapted for the stage, and he has established a reputation in Berlin, where he moved in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall and shortly before German reunification, as a pioneering musician and performer of afro-punk, rock trash, slam, and spoken-word.

N’Sondé is considered one of the shining lights of African, Afropean, and French writing. However, he is a writer who both exceeds and resists categorization, questioning the pertinence and even the validity of such mechanisms and in so doing, complicating attempts at circumscribing his work. As he contends, “The ethno-identitarian . . .

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