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The Radiance of the King
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Tour d'Afrique A-L Books 2008-12 > Laye: "The Radiance of the King | Guinea (Tour D'Afrique) first read: Nov 2011

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message 1: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Has anyone begun this book? Mine should arrive in the mail this week so I'm planning to read it this upcoming weekend.


message 2: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
omgosh! it was waiting for me when i got home from work today. :D


message 3: by Tinea, Nonfiction Logistician (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tinea (pist) | 370 comments Mod
Have it out from the library, but waiting to finish the book I'm already working on. =)


message 4: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Millicent wrote: "Have it out from the library, but waiting to finish the book I'm already working on. =)"

totally understandable! that is my new year's resolution actually: to finish more books (not just start them)!


Andrea | 660 comments Waiting for it from interlibrary loan.


message 6: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments I haven't been able to get hold of a copy yet...


Andrea | 660 comments Okay, I've started on it.


message 8: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Me too...but I've only read the intro and most of the first chapter. Does anyone else have the edition with the Toni Morrison intro?


David Heyer | 68 comments Ok, I'm doing my share in the Dutch translation from 1979 called De blik van de koning. Coincidentally I was reading 'L'enfant noir' of him......


message 10: by Friederike (new)

Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments David wrote: "Ok, I'm doing my share in the Dutch translation from 1979 called De blik van de koning. Coincidentally I was reading 'L'enfant noir' of him......"

I have L'enfant noir and will probably start with that.

I am also reading The Granta Book of African Stories and it includes one of Camara Laye' stories.


Andrea | 660 comments I've gotten a little way into it (lots of grading here:)) and I'm finding both that it's funny and that the surrealist feeling captures very well the unsettling and confusing feeling of culture shock. That feeling that "Okay, I've got this figured out. Oh, no, I have no idea what's going on!" I know we're not really supposed to identify with the main character, as he's very arrogant and obtuse, but I can't help feeling everybody maybe looks somewhat stupid when they are in a totally new culture.


message 12: by David (last edited Dec 02, 2011 12:18AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

David Heyer | 68 comments I'm not sure if I like it that much. I am half way but the surrealistic conversations are a bit annoying after a while. I can't stop thinking: where is this leading to? At the same time I'm reading Hampate Ba's 'Amkoullel' and that book is perfectly capturing the feeling of a kid in Africa. Of course different as Camara Laye's Radiance but I really need something inspiring to read next to Laye's book.....


Andrea | 660 comments I haven't read Amkoullel. Is it in English?


message 14: by David (new) - rated it 1 star

David Heyer | 68 comments Hi Andrea, yes. In English it is called: "Amkoullel, the Fula Child". The second part is called "Yes, my commander'. Totalling a 1000 pages and it is autobiographical. Absolutely a must-read!. But today Im putting my teeth in Laye again....


message 15: by Friederike (new)

Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments David wrote: "I'm not sure if I like it that much. I am half way but the surrealistic conversations are a bit annoying after a while. I can't stop thinking: where is this leading to? At the same time I'm reading..."

That is interesting to know, David. I read Amkoullel some years back and found it both engaging and informative. My friends in Mali recommended it very highly.

I am reading L'enfant noir first. So far it is good but doesn't have the same pull for me that Ba had.


message 16: by Friederike (new)

Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments David wrote: "Hi Andrea, yes. In English it is called: "Amkoullel, the Fula Child". The second part is called "Yes, my commander'. Totalling a 1000 pages and it is autobiographical. Absolutely a must-read!. Bu..."

I wonder whether there more than one title for Amkoullel in English. Marieke mentioned another title on another thread and from looking at it it sounded very much like Amkoullel... I don't think Ba has written more than one autobiographical series.


message 17: by David (new) - rated it 1 star

David Heyer | 68 comments This might be helpful from Wiki:
# Amkoullel, l'enfant peul (Amkoullel, the Fula Child, 1991, the first part of his memoir)
# Oui mon commandant! (Yes, My Commander, 1994, the second part of his memoir) were published posthumously


message 18: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
i had never heard of Ba before so when i clicked on his name from the book link in Andrea's post (#13), i found "Jaeger des Wortes," but somehow i'm unable to find it in the add book/author link. :(

Just so that we don't confuse anyone, Ba is from Mali and writes about Mali, not Guinea, correct?

I'm going to finish the Laye book today, i hope. I'm quite enjoying it, but i've only been reading chunks on the weekend. I can see where the style could get tiresome but so far i haven't had that reaction. although sometimes i feel a bit confused. like during the scene where the Master of Ceremonies was getting whipped by the village. i don't think i quite understood what was going on there. I should go back to reread it.


message 19: by Friederike (new)

Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments Marieke wrote: "i had never heard of Ba before so when i clicked on his name from the book link in Andrea's post (#13), i found "Jaeger des Wortes," but somehow i'm unable to find it in the add book/author link. :..."

Yes, Ba is from Mali. However, he is from the Fulani ethnic group that is one of the dominant groups in Sahelian Westafrica. Just to say that the cultural traditions Ba describes reach beyond of modern Mali borders.


message 20: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I know the Fulani group reaches into Niger and Nigeria...but does it also reach Guinea? ... and YES! i just read the list of countries on wikipedia: Nigeria, Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, The Gambia. hmmm...Niger is not there. perhaps because that list i just looked at is actually a list of countries with notable Fula people. here they are mentioned as being in Niger and it mentions that Fula people make up about 40% of the population in Guinea, the only country with Fula people as one of the majority groups. i did not know that!

i guess i should also look up the groups in Guinea...i just read that Laye is Malinke and was born into a caste of blacksmiths and goldsmiths. Funny I should read about that just after reading the scene featuring Diallo. okay, so here is what wikipedia lists for groups in Guinea.


message 21: by Friederike (new)

Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments David wrote: "This might be helpful from Wiki:
# Amkoullel, l'enfant peul (Amkoullel, the Fula Child, 1991, the first part of his memoir)
# Oui mon commandant! (Yes, My Commander, 1994, the second part of his me..."


David, I just checked the German Wikipedia site and confirms that 'Amkoullel l’enfant peul' (dt.: Jäger des Wortes) has been translated as cited above.


message 22: by Friederike (new)

Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments Marieke wrote: "I know the Fulani group reaches into Niger and Nigeria...but does it also reach Guinea? ... and YES! i just read the list of countries on wikipedia: Nigeria, Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, Bu..."

Well done! Good research, Marieke. The Malinke also cross borders in that region and have been prominent on Mali for a long time.


message 23: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Friederike wrote: "David wrote: "This might be helpful from Wiki:
# Amkoullel, l'enfant peul (Amkoullel, the Fula Child, 1991, the first part of his memoir)
# Oui mon commandant! (Yes, My Commander, 1994, the second ..."


so Jaeger des Wortes is Amkoullel? i'm so happy i can read German... :D
oh, nevermind...i can still read the English translation if i'm understanding David's post correctly. Ba's works have simply not been added to Goodreads completely yet.


message 24: by David (last edited Dec 03, 2011 11:16AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

David Heyer | 68 comments Ba in Dutch and German and French. And as 'The fulani child' in english, I guess. Read it, it is awesome.


message 25: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
David wrote: "ba in Dutch and german and French. And as The fulani child in english, I guess. read it, it is awesome."

I intend to. :D
Friederike told me yesterday that Malians often name him as their favorite/most important author. apologies Friederike, i can't quite remember exactly how you stated it.


message 26: by Friederike (new)

Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments Marieke wrote: "David wrote: "ba in Dutch and german and French. And as The fulani child in english, I guess. read it, it is awesome."

I intend to. :D
Friederike told me yesterday that Malians often name him as t..."


You stated it absolutely correctly.


Andrea | 660 comments It sounds like I will need to look for "The Fulani Child." I did read "The Dark Child" many years ago and liked it. As for "The Radiance" I will admit that I ended up skimming through the last quarter to get to the end. I found the conversations frustrating to follow sometimes, but I felt it might be the writer's intent, to build up the reader's frustration along with the main character's.


message 28: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Andrea wrote: "It sounds like I will need to look for "The Fulani Child." I did read "The Dark Child" many years ago and liked it. As for "The Radiance" I will admit that I ended up skimming through the last qu..."

Ha! I also had trouble towards the end, but I did the opposite...I reread several passages but I'm afraid I still didn't end up understanding.

But I was intrigued by the manatees...I had no idea they existed outside Florida waters...oops.


message 29: by Nina (last edited Dec 06, 2011 12:14PM) (new) - added it

Nina Chachu | 205 comments A recent review of "The radiance of the king" http://www.themillions.com/2011/12/a-...


message 30: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Nina wrote: "A recent review of "The radiance of the king" http://www.themillions.com/2011/12/a-..."

i totally agree with her about the language...despite not understanding everything and occasionally feeling frustrated, i was always a bit in awe of the language. can i show my ignoramus side? um...what happened to Clarence (view spoiler), is that something that really could have happened or was that just wishful thinking on the part of Laye?


message 31: by Tinea, Nonfiction Logistician (last edited Dec 13, 2011 01:27PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tinea (pist) | 370 comments Mod
So it was kind of a slapstick spoof on the colonial adventure narrative, and I have to credit the the Toni Morrison intro/contextualization to really appreciate it:

The cliched journey into African darkness either to bring light or to find it is reimagined here. In fresh metaphorical and symbolic language, storybook Africa, as a site of therapeutic exploits or of sentimental initiations leading toward life's diploma, is reinvented. Employing the idiom of the conqueror, using exactly and precisely the terminology of the dominant discourse on Africa, this extraordinary Guinean author plucked at the Western eye to prepare it to meet the "regard," the "look," the "gaze" of the African king.

... the abyss looks also into you...

Marieke- I think the plot point you ask about is fiction, a play on orientalist notions of indigenous sexuality & the use of women as sex objects with no subjectivity. (view spoiler)


message 32: by Tinea, Nonfiction Logistician (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tinea (pist) | 370 comments Mod
Toni Morrison's intro is online here: http://www.nybooks.com/shop/product-f...


message 33: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (last edited Dec 13, 2011 02:05PM) (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Wow, Millicent , your thoughts really helped me. I think this is a book I'll keep coming back to as I learn more and more about Africa and its literatures. For instance, I never knew about the book art you mentioned in your spoiler...

ETA: I Had assumed it was a book, wrote my comment, then clicked the link you provided. Silly me.


message 34: by David (last edited Dec 15, 2011 10:08AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

David Heyer | 68 comments This might all be true, the 'cliched journey', etc and the metaphorical stuff but it is still not a pleasent book to read and the converstaions are highly irritating. I say: 1 star.


message 35: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
David wrote: "This might all be true, the 'cliched journey', etc and the metaphorical stuff but it is still not a pleasent book to read and the converstaions are highly irritating. I say: 1 star."

oof! David's a tough grader! :D

just out of curiosity--did you read it in French or English?


message 36: by David (new) - rated it 1 star

David Heyer | 68 comments Hi Marieke,

I read it in Dutch....


Andrea | 660 comments I always find it hard to decide on stars for books when I think they are interesting but I didn't enjoy reading them. I have to say I found this book interesting in parts but overall "irritating" is a pretty apt description.


message 38: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
David wrote: "Hi Marieke,

I read it in Dutch...."


oh, right! oops...i think you said that above and i totally forgot.

andrea...i think that is basically what i said in my own "review"...that i didn't have a clue how to rate the book.


message 39: by David (new) - rated it 1 star

David Heyer | 68 comments No problem, I still haven't read it till the end as I have this huge pile of interesting books to read, so I don't feel entitled to give the Final Judgement! Marieke have we done anything on Algeria? That country has a very extensive list of great writers....


message 40: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
David wrote: "No problem, I still haven't read it till the end as I have this huge pile of interesting books to read, so I don't feel entitled to give the Final Judgement! Marieke have we done anything on Algeri..."

Well...since you don't seem to enjoy it and since it seemed to only get more irritating to those of us that did enjoy it to some degree...I'm not sure you need to finish it. :)

Algeria was the first country on the tour and we read The Last Summer of Reason: A Novel. I need to get on a real computer and then I can link to those threads as well as the thread where I'm supposed to keep a list of all the places we have been and what we read (I need to update it).


Sharon (goodreadscombookslinger1) | 47 comments Okay Guinea travelers,
Here is the review I wrote for >iRadiance of the King. Like I say in last line, it's no fun to read alone. Post your insights!========================

"Pretty preposterous giving this book three stars just because I didn't get it. I thought it would never end, this dream goes on and on. The main character Clarence falls asleep standing up and never seems to know what's going on. I like the reviews that call it "Kafka-esque." (I don't get him either.) I wish I had read The Radiance of the King in a class because every line seems to mean something heavy. But what? I read and re-read Toni Morrison's introduction. Personally, I think she's on the wrong track. I don't think this book is about Africa, colonialism or about race. I think it's just about life and grace and the journey and redemption. Maybe Clarence just happens to be a white man. Ah, what do I know.

The cryptic passages slay me...Like when the king's helpers have to hold his arms up because the gold bracelets weigh too much. The gold drags the king down. And the old fortune teller lady having sex with serpents? Why? Every sentence is like that. It would take a whole class of comparative lit students an entire semester to figure this novel out. It's not fun to read alone."


message 42: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Ha! Sharon, I also totally felt that way. But I really had a soft spot for the two boys, Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum...I think without them I wouldn't have made it through this book. This was one of the most difficult books for me to rate because on the one hand I seriously thought much of the language and imagery was amazing but on the other hand, things got tiresome ad confusing. Also I had zero sympathy for Clarence, which made it harder and harder for me to read to the end.

Hey--I'm wondering, does anyone have plans to read The King of Kahel? I have a borrowed copy and I'm anxious to read it. But December is almost over and we have Guinea-Bissau up next, and also Agaat for the contemporary lit featured book in January. I'm not sure how realistic it is for me to read King of Kahel before January, but I'll make an extra effort if others are game.


message 43: by Tinea, Nonfiction Logistician (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tinea (pist) | 370 comments Mod
The cryptic passages slay me. ... It would take a whole class of comparative lit students an entire semester to figure this novel out.

I totally agree! I wish there was a Cliffs Notes handy with an answer guide to explain all the confusing metaphors.


Elizabeth (elizabethinzambia) | 73 comments David wrote: "This might all be true, the 'cliched journey', etc and the metaphorical stuff but it is still not a pleasent book to read and the converstaions are highly irritating. I say: 1 star."

I totally agree with David- though I am only about a third of the way through, and I usually do push myself to finish a book, even if I don't like it, I am not sure I will finish this one- there are just too many other books to read that I will actually enjoy!


message 45: by David (new) - rated it 1 star

David Heyer | 68 comments me too! I hate not to finish a book but this one is hard....


Andrea | 660 comments I did read somewhere that some West African kings did (and do?) have to wear so much gold for ceremonial occasions that they can't stand up and they can't move their arms very well. So that part, surprisingly, might be based on life.


message 47: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Andrea wrote: "I did read somewhere that some West African kings did (and do?) have to wear so much gold for ceremonial occasions that they can't stand up and they can't move their arms very well. So that part, ..."

this is definitely one of my dilemmas with the book...i simply don't know enough about cultural things to know what comes from real life and what doesn't and where exactly the satire is, when there is satire.

one thing that made me chuckle just because the imagery was funny, but for which i was completely unable to determine the significance (if there was any), was all the arguments over white versus green boubous. thoughts? anyone?


Elizabeth (elizabethinzambia) | 73 comments Okay, well, I pushed myself to finish this book, after nearly quitting a few times in the beginning and I must admit, but the end, I had trouble putting it down- once I got over how annoying all the characters were and how little actually happened, I was able to appreciate the texture of the book and I really appreciated the translation. I read it in English, so I don't know what the original writing was like, but I thought the translation was excellent, in terms of the translators use of words and idioms.

Would I recommend this book to anyone else, probably not, and I still have a lot of unanswered questions, but I am definitely glad I finished it.


message 49: by David (new) - rated it 1 star

David Heyer | 68 comments RESPECT!


message 50: by Ruthmarie (new)

Ruthmarie | 92 comments Agreed with Elizabeth about Radiance of the King, but The Dark Child remains an all-time favorite. Definitely "of its time," but in many ways meditative, like Ambiguous Adventure.


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