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Monday, 20 August 2012

Book Review: Alain Mabanckou's 'African Psycho' (Translated by Christine Schwartz Hartley)


I’m just going to say it - Gregoire Nakobomayo is quite possibly the worst serial killer ever. But I’m getting ahead of my self - a bit about African Psycho first.

First published in French in 2003, and translated into English in 2007, African Psycho tells the story of Gregorie Nakobomayo – a wanna-be-serial killer who lives in “He-Who-Drinks-Water-Is-An-Idiot”. When the novel starts, we learn that Gregorie has decided to kill his girlfriend, Germaine – and so starts our journey into the mind of an African Psycho.

Gregorie, a "picked-up" child, who  now works as a car mechanic, has planned to commit this crime for a while now. But murder isn't easy and takes a lot of psychological, mental and logistical preparation, as well as practice-crimes. Luckily, he has his idol and Great Master, Angoualima to guide him. It doesn't matter that Angoualima (the greatest serial killer in their district) is dead.This doesn’t stop Gregoire from having long conversations with him at his grave at the cemetery of “The-Dead-Who-Are-Not-Allowed-To-Sleep”. There's only one problem with Gregorie's dream of becoming a great serial killer  – he is terrible!

African Psycho was quite disturbing, and getting into the mind of a psycho is not something I would usually jump at. While serial killing isn’t a funny thing and shouldn't be taken lightly, it's hard not to end up laughing at Gregorie's failed attempts at killing and robbing. Additionally, Alain Mabanckou finds a way for you not to despise a character that normally you should despise – he is after all trying to murder someone. And the names Gregorie used to describe places. Why call a place a bar when you can say you just left “Take And Drink, This Is The Cup Of My Blood” or that you frequent other bars like “Drinking Makes You Hard”, “Take And Drink”, “You Break Your Glass  You Buy It”, “Even The President Drinks” and more. There was also a point in the book where Gregorie has a non-stop narrative. Embarassing fact – I was so into the novel, I didn't realize until a few pages of this 9-page non-stop narrative that I hadn’t experienced one actual end of a sentence. 

African Psycho is not an easy book to read and it actually is quite disturbing to go into the mind of a psycho - even if he is possibly the worst would-be serial killer ever. A thoroughly enjoyable, if slightly disturbing, read.

3.75 out of 5 stars.

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