5 December 07 | Chad W. Post

Now that Michael Orthofer’s discussion of Mandarins has ended, it’s time for the next Words Without Borders/Reading the World book club to start.

This month Laila Lalami will be discussing Camara Laye’s The Radiance of the King (NYRB). Her first post is now online and offers an overview of Laye’s life.

A year later, in 1954, Camara published his second novel, Le Regard du roi (translated as The Radiance of the King). This book was starkly different from the first in terms of subject matter and style. Indeed, its protagonist was not a Guinean child but a white man, shipwrecked on an unnamed coast of Africa, and the writing no longer held any nostalgia but was rather sharp in its observations of colonial attitude toward indigenous people. The differences between Camara’s first two books and the very short period of time between their publications, gave rise to questions about the true authorship of The Radiance of the King. But more on this later.

Intriguing . . .

More info about the book can be found on the NYRB website, including this description:

At the beginning of this masterpiece of African literature, Clarence, a white man, has been shipwrecked on the coast of Africa. Flush with self-importance, he demands to see the king, but the king has just left for the south of his realm. Traveling through an increasingly phantasmagoric landscape in the company of a beggar and two roguish boys, Clarence is gradually stripped of his pretensions, until he is sold to the royal harem as a slave. But in the end Clarence’s bewildering journey is the occasion of a revelation, as he discovers the image, both shameful and beautiful, of his own humanity in the alien splendor of the king.


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