Broken Glass is a Congolese riff on European classics from the most notable Francophone African writer of Alain Mabanckou was born in in the Congo . Broken Glass, By Alain Mabanckou. Magical tales from a bar in Africa. Peter Carty; Thursday 9 April 0 comments. Best known for his novel African Psycho, the Congelese novelist and poet Alain Mabanckou likes to write playfully about his country’s more.

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Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. In a country that appears to have forgotten the importance of remembering, a former schoolteacher and bar regular nicknamed Broken Glass has been elected to record their stories for posterity. But Broken Glass fails spectacularly at staying out of trouble as one denizen after another wants to rewrite history in an attempt at making sure his portrayal will properly reflect their exciting and dynamic lives.

Despondent over this apparent triumph of self-delusion over self-awareness, Broken Glass drowns his sorrows in red wine and riffs on the great books of Africa and the West. Mass Market Paperbackpages. Published June 16th by Points first published January 7th To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. An online search came up with only partial lists of the references.

Lists with This Book. It was only when we were on the train when she told us that she was eavesdropping on a group of friends who were discussing dramatic events of the night before. Occasionally real life with its unrestrained tales wins over literature because my sister preferred to be listening mabanckouu their chattering rather than sitting on a bench and nroken a book in peace. Alain Mabanckou captured such free tale-telling in its essence.

Broken Glass, the alan of the novel, has been given a notebook by the owner of the bar he frequents and has been told to immortalise this drinking den for the benefit of the future generations. Broken Glass is not the one to worry about the form. Or strict plot rules. He writes mabanckkou the stories as they come to him and as they are told apain the man who wears Pampers, the man who once lived in France or the man who the won the pissing contest.

Our narrator eventually grows impatient with the task he has been burdened with. With all the stories he is told to write and with all the people and their expectations. At a first sight the narrative looks like chaotic ramblings of a drunkard but under this thin surface there lies a true treasure chest of various literary, popcultural, political and historical allusions.

There are so many hidden marvels that an average reader will probably pick up about one third of them.

Broken Glass ‹ Soft Skull Press

My friend, who studied French studies alainn away picked up the references to the history of francophone Africa. I recommend this little number. This was a alaiin book to read! It is bit stream-of-consciousness from a man who is supposed to be recording about his life in a journal but is busier drinking.

It was originally on my Africa reading list because otherwise, the only book I’ve read set in the Congo is the typical Heart of Darkness. This book is the opposite of a colonial novel. The technology, the society, the politics, are all post-colonial, 21st century Africa, and for that reason I was glad to dip into it, even if Alaln wa This was a difficult book to read!

The technology, the society, the politics, are all post-colonial, 21st century Africa, and for that reason I was glad to dip into it, even if I was a bit ungrounded most of the time. Apr 16, Nino Frewat rated it it was amazing Shelves: This book must be read in French.


I read a couple of excerpts translated into English, and I honestly felt the rhythm, the flow of the words, the repetition of expressions, and most certainly the humor of the book lacked their charm. Yes, it feels like the book of an erudite, but that’s precisely what the author is; one would not deride Eco for writing the way he does. At the same time, I was intrigued with this blurring of the truth; can we trust the narrator?

Are the “heroes” of his stories vi This book must be read in French. Are the “heroes” groken his stories victims or villains? This questioning extends to Mabanckou himself, and I ask myself how much of those stories are the work of fiction and how much of them are, at least, inspired by true events?

I highly recommend it; the humor is my style, precisely because of aain narrative style, of the choice of words, and of this morphing of verbs and adjectives and phrases to portray such a powerful image of a micro-world; that of a poor, neglected African “quartier”. The setup is that Broken Glass, the narrator, is asked by Stubborn Snail, proprietor of the bar named Credit Gone West, to write a journal to memorialize the a,ain and its patrons. The novel is presented as the notebook Broken Glass fills.

The characters brokrn stories are hilarious. But this alan not just a play fo laughs. There are serious things here as the art the journal collides with the reality of the characters and the reality of Broken Glass himself.

And relative to a lot of other African literature, this is, refreshingly, more human than political After a hundred and twenty odd pages mabanxkou his broke jabbering he lays out, nice and clean: In a book full of convenient page breaks and awkward run-ons where full stops should have been, his avoidance of conventional punctuation feels totally forced and unsuccessful; he lacks bbroken grammar and flourish to pull it off.

He lacks the vision, the technique, the patience or the purpose. I don’t think Mabaanckou tried hard enough; the book was too angry, too uninvested and too self-assured.

This book is not informed by social justice or the working poor and it fails to underscore glasx superficiality of the cultures which it wishes to charm by slightly offending while paying constant obeisance via cultural reference. Yes, I grant you, that somebody who has never set foot in Africa may finish this book with a small and somewhat authentic vision of what it can be like in certain places—of the local bar culture and its satellites; of how some folks quarrel and what a rant might sound like in Doula.

But if that was its goal, the book got derailed at some point and becames something more scattered and less revealing, something frail and sorry.

And now, lastly and with a charitable heart, I have to rank Mabanckou well ahead of the heavy-handed moralists and state-sponsored, legend-regurgitating recidivists that fall seamlessly into heavy-rotation in African lit classes and high gpass syllabi. Definitely, some young people might like him. Jan 03, Mona M. Maybe something was lost in the translation but a could have been great book became an OK one.

Broken Glass

Broken Glass spends his time drinking red wine in a bar, everyday for years. The owner of the bar asks him to write rboken his observations of the people and surrounds. There starts a book with no glas or full stops, some humorous episodes and reflections of Broken Glass’s world. It started well bgoken petered out when BG started to talk about the process of writing.

The story that unfolds is written in unbroken prose, as the Stubborn Snail observes when he reads the notebook, sighing: Broken Glass boasts that, as a schoolteacher, he encouraged his pupils to treat the French language as alxin to be broken: Mabanvkou Glass’s story is crude, sexual and scatological, Rabelaisian is perhaps the best term not least because despite the crudity of the story Broken Glaws is widely versed in world literature: The publisher notes on the back that the book contains the title of classics of international literature – I didn’t spot anywhere near glqss many, and indeed it would be nice to see a list so one can play a literary game of i-spy as I did with Vargas Llosa and Garcia Marquez titles once I noticed them appearing.


Overall, an odd book to judge. At face value a rather simple and crude bar-room tale, but there is a lot of literary merit going on underneath, not all obvious to the reader, particularly in translation. This is a quirky book with lots of clever pivots to literature, arts, politics, popular culture, religion, etc. In fact the best parts of the mabankou are when Mabanckou goes off broen a jazz like riff where he ties in unrelated things in clever ways.

Hitchcock was a real life-size character, a talented man, a guy who could make your spine shiver just with a few birds, or a rear window, he could turn you into a psycho with a single characteristic little trick…. The bar owner, Stubborn Snail, asks Broken to create a chronicle of the other inhabitants. Only names and glaass start with capitals.

Sadness repeats itself and never ends. This was a difficult book to enjoy though it was clever and insightful and for all I know, in my ignorance, indicative of Africa. Rather uninteresting book about literary drunkenness in a congolese bar and just consider the missed potential in that sentence!

Though it might alaib a hit among young male students of literature with an admiration for Bukowski, and the likes. Oh and for the literary student there’s a running game of “Spot the title” Holden even shows up at the end asking about the ducks! Stylisticly it’s a strange creature: This book has no full stops, it just runs on and on, with the pointless tales of the brkoen men and the women they blame for their misfortune and where that trick makes me fly through the pages in mabanckouu Saramago book, here it’s just an annoying mess maybe there’s a linguistic beauty to some of the rambling on in the french original, I wouldn’t know, if so it didn’t really translate.

It may shine through in my description, that I’m not really amused. And while I appreciate the attempt to stick to the premise of this being the scribblings of a drunken disgraced former school teacher, I just don’t see glasw point. So if you’re looking for a story revolving around the life in a congolese bar who isn’t? Please read Tram 83 in stead!

I finished working through Broken Glass with students in my Francophone Literacy Narratives course yesterday. This is a wonderful translation, and my students were completely taken with the story and Broken Glass’s voice. I’d be happy to share discussion questions if anyone is interested – let me know!

Wonderful quotidian stories of daily life in Kinshasa, mahanckou that just hint at the poverty and violent history that provide a negated foundation and setting. It was the last part of the book I found more compelling, however, because it is there that Broken Glass begins to write about himself.

The reader learns that he is sixty-four years old, and that he was once married. His appetite for red wine, brokken, has cost him his marriage. He used to be a teacher, a calling that he loved, but his alcoholism led him to do many unacceptable things in the classroom until he was finally fired.

He is a mostly self-educated man, with a curiosity about people and places. The author of Broken Glass, Alain Mabanckou, has taken many liberties with punctuation and capitalization in this book, giving it an almost stream-of-consciousness feeling. I was afraid I would find this style of writing distracting, but the book held my interest throughout.

After a few big, dour, historical reads, it was good to get into a Fiction Book — and a novella to boot, clocking in at barely over pages, so it’s not too intimidating.