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Black Moses

Publish date: 07 August 2017
Issue Number: 737
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: General

Black Moses

By Alain Mabanckou

Serpent's Tail. R247


The cliché that comes to mind after reading Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses is 'better late than never', because I had previously never heard of him or his works. The novel, which made the Man Booker longlist, is a delicious read – even if its premise is a tragic one. The Black Moses of the title is a boy who was named by a priest, Papa Moupelo, when he was a child in an oppressive orphanage. His full name is actually a sentence: Tokumisa Nzambe po Mose yamoyindo abotami namboka ya Bakoko, or 'Thanks be to God, the black Moses is born on the earth of our ancestors.' While this name might seem almost ridiculous, Moses tries to live up to its meaning – as someone who will lead the lost out of the proverbial desert. But after Papa Moupelo is plucked from his life and a Marxist-Leninist revolution erupts in 1970s Democratic Republic of Congo, Moses joins a street gang and reinvents himself.

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