Broken Glass

Alain Mabanckou (Author) Helen Stevenson (Translator)
& 1 more


"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.

Product Details

$16.95  $15.59
Soft Skull Press
Publish Date
October 09, 2018
5.4 X 0.6 X 8.2 inches | 0.45 pounds
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Alain Mabanckou is a novelist, journalist, poet, and academic. A French citizen born in Republic of the Congo, he currently lives in Los Angeles, where he teaches literature and creative writing at UCLA. His books include African Psycho, Letter to Jimmy, Black Bazaar, Tomorrow I'll Be Twenty, The Lights of Pointe-Noire, and Black Moses. Mabanckou has twice been a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize, in 2015 and 2017.


Praise for Broken Glass

The Guardian, 1 of 100 Best Books of the 21st Century

"Whatever else might be in short supply in the Congo depicted by Alain Mabanckou, imagination and wit aren't . . . Broken Glass is a whistlestop tour of French literature and civilization, and if you don't know your Marivaux, your Chateaubriand, your ENAs and Weston shoes you'll miss a lot of the gags ("a quarrel of Brest," anyone?)--but don't worry, there are still plenty left. It's not just French writers who make an appearance. That arch navel-gazer Holden Caulfield . . . has a walk-on part, and Broken Glass ends "we'll meet again, in the other world, Holden, we'll have a drink together . . . I'll tell you what they do with the poor little ducks in cold countries during winter time." Although its cultural and intertextual musings could fuel innumerable doctorates, the real meat of Broken Glass is its comic brio, and Mabanckou's jokes work the whole spectrum of humour . . . Much of the writing from Africa (or at least most of the stuff we get to see) is of an earnest or grim character, and it makes a pleasant change to encounter a writer who isn't afraid of a laugh." --Tibor Fischer, The Guardian

"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

"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

"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)

"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

"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

"A dizzying combination of erudition, bawdy humor and linguistic effervescence." --Melissa McClements, Financial Times

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

Praise for Black Moses

"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

Praise for Memoirs of a Porcupine

"Mature, shocking, hilarious, innovative." --Magazine Littéraire

"A wind of change inspires this funny, ironic text stuffed with literary references." --Le Figaro

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

Praise for African Psycho

"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

"Disturbing--and disturbingly funny." --New Yorker

"Mabanckou manages to write playfully about an alarming subject." -- Financial Times

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

"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

"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

"Backly funny . . . this is a distinctive contribution to the slum-fiction genre." --The New Statesman

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

"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

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