African Psycho by Alain Mabanckou

Read: 29 January, 2013

Gregoire Nakobomayo is an aspiring serial killer. He idolizes Angoualima, a particularly brutal serial killer who had been on the prowl in Gregoire’s youth, and he has promised to Angoualima that he will be a good disciple, that he will kill.

The story is set in a first person rambling style, allowing Gregoire to take us through his life (a “pick-up child,” he was abandoned at birth and raised in a series of foster homes), his “petty” criminal activities, and, ultimately, his plans to murder Germaine – a prostitute he has convinced to live with him.

The book reads like a really long joke, with a macabre (but hilarious – though I’m rather ashamed to admit it, given the subject matter) punch line at the end. It reminds me of a lot of 19th century horror/gothic short stories with their twist endings in which everyone gets their comeuppance.

I found the narrative voice to be very compelling. Gregoire bounces back and forth between feelings of inadequacy and narcissism, impotence and power, and a very misplaced sense of purpose. I found his thought-processes to be both uncomfortably familiar and distinctly Other.

It’s an easy read and, at only 145pages, a quick one as well. The translation wasn’t too bad and, while I did feel that I was missing a lot of the local-specific jokes and references, it’s still reasonably accessible to an international audience.

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