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L'Enfant noir

3.61  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,003 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews
The Focus Student Editions are designed for French language courses in literature and culture. Prepared with non-native French speakers in mind, these editions include an introduction (in French), the complete work, and linguistic and cultural notes in French, a current bibliography and study questions.

A masterwork of modern francophone African literature, L’enfant noir ha
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Paperback, 232 pages
Published July 1st 2005 by Focus (first published January 1st 1954)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,720)
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Beth
Recently I’ve found myself reading a number of memoirs by authors who grew up in various parts of Africa. This one stands out as unique, mostly because it is so unremarkable. There’s no civil war, no violence, no rape. The only bloody scenes are those describing ritual circumcision, and even these showed a communal event of initiation and coming-of-age rather than an act of brutality (as in other books that address the subject). Injustice in society never came forward as a theme. To be honest, i ...more
Andrew
Dec 11, 2010 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fairly short and simple autobiographical account of a boy growing up in Guinea in the 1930s and 40s. Camara Laye wrote it in 1954 while studying in France, and you can feel the nostalgia for his homeland. Although the writing style is quite understated, the emotion is communicated quite effectively, and it’s very moving in places.

As the title suggests, the book only deals with his childhood, and it is faithful to a child’s outlook on the world. At the start, his entire world is the ver
...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Not much happens in this gentle, sentimental little book, but it’s a pleasant read all the same. There seems to be some disagreement about whether The Dark Child is a memoir or an autobiographical novel; my library shelves it as nonfiction, though given the abundant dialogue, the author clearly took some creative license.

Either way, it’s a nicely-written coming-of-age story of a boy from in a traditional village in Guinea in the 1930s and 40s. There are no atrocities, no violence (except from bu
...more
farah  Smidi
Jun 17, 2015 farah Smidi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
the best <3
Elena De temmerman
Fuck this fucking shit bruh
Book Wormy
Jan 16, 2016 Book Wormy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Dark Child Camara Laye


This is the autobiographical account of the authors experience growing up in a village in French Guinea. Laye shares his childhood with the reader in an open and frank way, he lets us into his family, into his village and into his way of life. Layes childhood is an interesting mix of spiritual traditions and formal religion mixed together in a way that works and that doesn't appear disjointed.

An almost poetical story of one boy's childhood this is a read that would app
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Anita Pomerantz
This memoir is an enjoyable read that is a picturesque coming of age story set in Africa. It's simply told without artifice or tremendous elaboration. We follow Laye's story as he is raised by his loving parents, attends primary school, falls for his first love, and finally becomes a man through a ritual circumcision. Unfortunately, the book ends on a bittersweet note and left me wanting more. Nicely rendered, but not likely to be memorable.
Susan Denney
Nov 18, 2011 Susan Denney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: French speakers interested in African culture.
I used several chapters of this book in my 4AP French classes. I have read the book many times. The book has an outlook which is unique. Camara Laye has a foot in two worlds. We see him as a boy in the villages of his father and grandmother. He opens a window for us into a world where spirits reside in every living thing and where a snake can speak and share knowledge with the leader of a clan.

He also shows us his introduction to European science-based culture. And even though the two worlds see
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Moses Kilolo
Apr 06, 2012 Moses Kilolo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have always heard of Camara Laye, but never really got to read any of his writing till now. I'm glad I did. This book, detailing the earlier part of his life in the French Gambia is simply amazing. Its writing is brilliant, and there is no doubt it is a book to last. So sad that I still don't know much about what happened from the time he went to France for further education, but Im going to find out. Its similarity to Ngugi's book is that education is given a focal point in his dreams and des ...more
Patrick Robitaille
***

A coming-of-age novel, outlining how it was to grow up as a boy in Guinea back in the 30s and 40s. There were several little interesting aspects to this novel, such as the combination of traditional rites within an Islamic environment. But in terms of novels addressing the passage from a colonial/tribal state to the integration into a "civilized"/occidental society, I think that Achebe and Dangaremgba were much better. Cute, but not really exciting.
Jen
This is a wonderful little book. Why it is on the 1001 books to read list is a mystery to me - I thought that was meant to be a list of novels but this is clearly a childhood memoir.

The storytelling is unapologetically sentimental and extremely touching. It is refreshing to read an account of an African childhood not defined by war, the slave trade, famine, or other atrocities. This is a story of family love, deeply entrenched culture and custom, and the pull of a shrinking world in the early /
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Janelle Bouman
First book I've read entirely in French, which I'm pretty proud of. It was an easy enough read for someone with 3-4 years of language experience.
Eadie
This was a fascinating memoir of the author's youth growing up in the village of Koroussa, French Guinea. It shows the simple life of a dark child living in the great plain of Guinea. It is a very readable account as his words are rich with sincerity which flows through his language. He wrote this account while attending school in Paris and it is very evident that he was missing his homeland very much. I would recommend this book highly as I found his detailed account of the 'ceremony of the lio ...more
Elise
This book, which I read in one sitting, will always be close to my heart. I identified so much with Camara Laye because of my own firsthand experience of leaving my childhood home post-Katrina, during the time of the New Orleans diaspora. His detailed, slice of life account of the enchanting lives of Muslims in the village of Kouroussa(Guinea--French Africa) was very moving. I can't wait to discuss it in my "Literature of the African Diaspora" class!
Sushicat
Feb 02, 2016 Sushicat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Camara Laye tells us about the highlights of his childhood in Upper Guinea and later in the capital of Conakry. In so doing he introduces us to the people and culture of his home country. This is a fascinating account of growing up in a tight knit community with strong familial ties, based on a foundation that combines islamic belief with more shamanistic elements. As he lives mostly in town but also visits his mother's family in a more rural area, we get a broader view on the difference between ...more
Kristel

This is a good book, a memoir, Camara Laye tells us about his youth in Guinea. He shares with us the culture, family structure, spirituality of his people and his trip towards his own destiny. He wrote this book when he was in his twenties and studying engineering in France. He died in Senegal in 1980.
Maryann
Jun 25, 2014 Maryann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001
This is a memoir of a boy growing into a man in a small village in Guinea. It is simply told and recounts some of the superstition and ritual that those of us who know nothing more than what we saw in National Geographic magazine when we were children think of as "African". Laye tells his story with dignity and grace, but reserved emotion. At just under 200 pages, it's a short book and easy to read. I don't feel that I gained much from reading it, however.

Food: goat stew over rice. It's tasty e
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Aurelie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Beverly
The Dark Child by Camara Laye
5 stars

I really enjoyed this lovely quick read. Being autobiographical just made all the emotions of this young man's journey to adulthood that much more poignant. As a reader I could just feel Camara's terror as he and the other boys heard the lions roaring at them during the ceremony for the society of the uninitiated and the frenzied exhaustion of the long days of dancing prior to their entrance into manhood. I felt as if his coming of age story really occurred in
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J
Oct 28, 2015 J rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, africa
An easy read. Dense in meaning, bittersweet and wonderfully genuine. So much African writing is obsessed with the 'White man'. There's some of that in this memoir, but it's so much more concerned with the real life of Africans who live a lifestyle hundreds of years old. And the pain of modernisation. The pain of growing up is a culturally universal experience; the love we have for our place of birth and the people who populate it is a universal experience. I so enjoyed learning and hearing about ...more
Elham
Jul 24, 2015 Elham rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
I did have hopes for this book. I thought it would be enlightening in some ways about African historical and political issues. But it wasn't like that. Instead it concentrated on some traditional costumes that to tell you the truth I wasn't much interested in them. Mainly the traditions revolving around men: Genital circumcision rituals, celebrations and dances and how boys should avoid women, even their mothers, during those days and how after that they become real 'men'! And considering that i ...more
Nina Chachu
A student returned this book - she's one of our really consistent borrowers - and I realized that I had never read this classic autobiographical account of a childhood in Guinea. It was a quick read, helped by having time during my car-less commute. It is a bit idyllic, but then that is to be expected, as it is looking back from adult-hood. But it does bring up the most important events for one child. Although it is now more than sixty years since it was first published, it is deservedly known a ...more
Frumenty
Oct 17, 2014 Frumenty rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french
This autobiographical novel went out into the world (in 1953) like an ambassador to the French for a francophone African colony. It presents Guinean culture with dignity and affection, and much colourful detail. Laye is at pains to make his readers see beyond apparently strange customs and beliefs and appreciate a shared humanity. This he does well. The book could justly be called a work of propaganda, but worth reading (and quite short) for all that. Such has been its success that it has been a ...more
Andrew
Dec 04, 2013 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fairly short and simple autobiographical account of a boy growing up in Guinea in the 1930s and 40s. Camara Laye wrote it in 1954 while studying in France, and you can feel the nostalgia for his homeland. Although the writing style is quite understated, the emotion is communicated quite effectively, and it's very moving in places.

As the title suggests, the book only deals with his childhood, and it is faithful to a child's outlook on the world. At the start, his entire world is the ver
...more
Briana
Laye's brevity and elusiveness on the day to day affairs of his childhood were the biggest failures of the memoir. Written as an explanatory presentation of life in Guinea for the French reader, Laye stresses the humanity his people, the Malinke, to refute the continuing portrayal of Africans as savages during the last decades of colonialism. Even understanding all of this, Laye does not engage the reader to get inside of his head as a child. Throughout, we are given intimations that he somehow ...more
Jonathan Widell
Apr 08, 2013 Jonathan Widell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this novel, the author takes us to the African village of his childhood. Ever since (I don't know when) people in the west or north have used some relatively primitive society to reflect their own society. Sometimes, those "alien" societies are populated by noble savages, such as in Rousseau's romantic view of the noble savage. Sometimes that fairly simple formula is broken by more challenging approaches, such as in William Golding's The Lord of the Flies, where British boys turned into savag ...more
Nathaniel
Jul 08, 2011 Nathaniel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In the first 90 pages of this book, the great drama involves influential parents intervening to stop schoolyard bullying and in the second 90 pages of this book, the great drama involves the foreskin being chopped from the author's penis. ("Later on, I went through an ordeal much more frightening than Konden Diara, a really dangerous ordeal, and no game: circumcision." Oh my god!!)

And in case you were worried that your pulse might slow in the dying chapters of the "novel," in the last fifteen p
...more
Faith Weldon

The author gives wonderful descriptions of his Malinké culture, the sense of community, the living conditions, the religions (Islam),the customs and the roles of dance and music in everyday life. it is also a testimony of a child to leave his mother, and the safety of his culture and venture into the wider world, something every human being must eventually do. The translation was pleasant to read and captured the sensitivity and the grace of the author's spirit.
Gary Sudeth
Nov 19, 2014 Gary Sudeth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in learning about life in an African village in the 30's and 40's
Recommended to Gary by: Footnote in "The Discovery of the Individual 1050-1200" by Colin Morris
An easy read written about a young man from Kourassa, Guinea, who grew up in the late 30's and 40's, describing the cultural experiences of the inland peoples of Guinea, his place, and departure in his early 20's for the world outside.

This is regarded as a good example of African writing. What this points out is the dearth of quality literature emanating from Africa. While it is reasonably well-written, and the author is a likeable sort, it is not great literature.
Rojo
Nov 14, 2013 Rojo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The only thing that I have to say about this book is that Camara Laye and I have the same mother (maybe it's just an African mom thing, though).

That's actually not all I have to say. This book is...something else. It reads fairly quickly and all the questions that Laye asks himself in text just makes it so much more personal rather than all the other autobiographies that I've read where there no feeling or story. This was a story, and a great one at that. I have never related to an author so muc
...more
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During his time at college he wrote The African Child (L'Enfant noir), a novel based loosely on his own childhood. He would later become a writer of many essays and was a foe of the government of Guinea. His novel The Radiance of the King (Le Regard du roi) is considered to be one of his most important works.

He was born Malinke (a Mandé speaking ethnicity) into a caste that traditionally worked as
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