The Republic of Congo often gets obscured by the cultural and political exploits of its larger namesake and neighbour and by the other francophone nations of West Africa. Nonetheless, the literature of this nation deserves acclaim in its own right, as these five writers prove.
1. Jadelin Mabiala Gangbo
Jadelin Mabiala Gangbo is a writer, born in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, in 1976. He lived between Imola and Bologna since he was four years old. He recently moved to London, where he now lives.
Gangbo has published several short stories and novels in Italian as Verso la Notte Bakonga (Toward the Bakonga Night), and Rometta and Giulieo. Verso la notte Bakonga is a portrait of Italian society and culture through a construction of a different identity and influences. In fact, Gangbo narrates a story of a young man from Bakongo, born in Brazzaville but raised in Italy.
His last creation Due volte, is a novel about the adventures of twins in a religious institute, waiting the release father’s from prison. Meanwhile, the brothers grow up and are confronted with two cultures: the Congolese origin and the Italian in which they are in contact. While one of the two, David, is drawn to the Catholic philosophy and the promise of eternal life, Daniel loves Agatha, a girl who was raped by her uncle. Around them, moves a world of characters who reflected the ills and hopes in Italy in the 1980s: Pasquale, a young racketeer, Giò Giò the complainer, single mothers, Gypsies, sisters and teachers. Gangbo is the winner of a literary award for migrant writer, Eks&Tra.
2. Alain Mabanckou
An essayist, poet and novelist, Mabanckou – a French citizen who now lives and works in the USA – remains one of the most prominent contemporary African writers in France. Born in Brazzaville in 1966, Mabanckou grew up in the coastal city of Pointe-Noire. Initially studying English Literature in his hometown, he took an about-turn at the wishes of his family and went on to study Law, first in Brazzaville, then, after gaining a scholarship, in Paris. Yet he continued to harbour ambitions as a writer, and after a decade of working for an energy supply company, he was awarded the Grand Prix Littéraire d’Afrique Noire in 1999 for his first novel Blue-White-Red (Bleu-Blanc-Rouge).
Works such as Broken Glass (Verre Cassée), depict the society and people of West Africa with a satirical – and at times slapstick – eye, subverting the more conventional representation of the area. In 2010, he was awarded the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur by the President of the French Republic, and in 2012 the Académie Française awarded him the Grand Prize for Literature Henri Gal.
In January 2013 his latest work, Lumières de Pointe-Noire, was published by Editions du Seuil in France. An autobiographical work, the book looks at his return visit to Republic of Congo, 23 years after he had last visited his home country. Since his departure, both his mother and stepfather had died, and the places of his childhood and adolescence had dramatically changed. Lumières de Pointe-Noire, then, is an account of his travels back to the Republic of Congo, but also a mourning for both the people and the childhood he has lost. Other works include African Psycho and Memoirs of a Porcupine. Since 2007, Mabanckou has taught literature at UCLA in California.
3. Lassy Mbouity
Lassy Mbouity better known under his pen name Lassy Bouity was born 15 October 1988 in Brazzaville, Congo. He participated in several renowned events, such as the Prix du livre politique, organized since 1991 by association Lire la société at the National Assembly.
Lassy Mbouity was one of the most popular community leaders in Africa and Congo for organizing campaigns for young people across Africa, in order to educate the new generation. After publishing the book Africa after Asia in 2009, this Congolese writer has indeed stored behind the Europeen Economical strategy. In June 2008, Mbouity was appointed as the General Secretary of the Congolese Student Association in West Africa (Association des élèves et étudiants Congolais), and claimed to be economically free by promising to keep defending the interests of the Congolese people in his books, but also those of young, which remains one of the mainstays. Mbouity makes regular visits to the French president François Hollande and American political leaders such as Rand Paul.
Mbouity, through its accompanying program of youth education, attempts to provide boys and girls with the essential knowledge to become informed educators. The latter will be able to ensure the education of future generations and offer Africa a promising future.
Through his organization, Lassy Mbouity tried to demonstrate why the revolution of education is very important in Africa. He said during an interview in Benin that from the time when African traditions are giving way to civilization through colonization that has been very positive and less negative for Africans, the transmission of knowledge is the most important for the future of Africa
Mbouity Lassy is an active member of the Congolese Party of Labour, founded in 1969 by former President Marien Ngouabi. In his book African Engaged or Disaged he stated that: African presidents in general should make an effort to invest in the next generation of young African leaders. One of my peculiarities is to transfer life skills to young Africans so that they can change their present and get a better future.
4. Sony Lab’ou Tansi
A prolific novelist, playwright and poet who also won the Grand Prix Liittéraire d’Afrique Noire, Sony Lab’ou Tansi was a practitioner of the ‘New African Writing’ who also became a leading left wing politician in the Congo before his tragic early death. Born in 1947 in the former Belgian Congo, thus – perhaps surprisingly, for a Francophone writer – only began to learn French at the age of 12, when his family moved to the Republic of Congo. After studying literature, he began teaching French and English in Kindauba whilst writing his first plays under the penname Sony Lab’ou Tansi.
He went on to work in government office, before becoming involved in the Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development. His strong political bent was intrinsic to his writing, too, such as his first play,Conscience de Tracteur. An allegorical fable of an epidemic that strikes a small town in the tropics, it was an exploration of corrupt politics that was a continued vein throughout his oeuvre. An allegorical fable of an epidemic that strikes a small town in the tropics, it was an exploration of corrupt politics that was a continued vein throughout his oeuvre.
His first novel, Life and a Half, was a response to the death of his close friends as a result of military strife in Congo; a lucid representation of the potential consequences of the political chaos and violence which have blighted the region in the decades since the end of the colonial period. In 1995, Sony Lab’ou Tansi died aged 47 of AIDS, 14 days after the same disease had killed his wife. His death tragically cut short his burgeoning literary career, but his work remains a potent symbol of the suffering of ordinary Africans. In 1995, Sony Lab’ou Tansi died aged 47 of AIDS, 14 days after the same disease had killed his wife. His death tragically cut short his burgeoning literary career, but his work remains a potent symbol of the suffering of ordinary Africans.
5. Emmanuel Dongala
Holding a number of diverse career titles, Emmanuel Dongalais a chemist, novelist, poet and playwright. Born in 1941 in the Congo, he studied Chemistry in the USA, then gained a PhD in Organic Chemistry in France. He returned to his native country to fill the post of Dean ofMarien Ngouabi University, yet in the late 1990s the violence in the Republic of Congo forced him to flee the country, and he was offered refuge and a teaching position in Bard College, New York.
Writing in French, he has published four novels, a play, and a collection of short stories. Additionally, his essays and articles have appeared in a number of newspapers and journals including Le Monde and The New York Times. His writing tends to interrogate the violence within his home country through the lens of the traditions and myths of the Congo, looking scathingly of the consequences of European subjugation and the various failures of postcolonial Africa. The novel The Fire of Origins (Le Feu des Origines) follows this pattern and won Dongala the Grand Prix Liittéraire d’Afrique Noire and the Prix de la Fondation de France. His latest novel,Johnny Mad Dog (Johnny Chien Méchant), is a coming-of-age tale about a sixteen year old member of a rebel faction in Republic of Congo. A film adaptation of the book by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire was released in 2008.