A review of
by Alain Mabanckou
The man who can murder as an act of vanity! As an act of self-expression! The narrator of African Psycho expresses the pathology this way: “to kill at last, crush… I was going to exist at last, that’s it, exist… I was going to be somebody.” Such a lunatic yearning is familiar in fiction, a trick that goes back at least to Dostoyevsky. Likewise familiar is the challenge before the protagonist. The drama’s in the waffling: will he or won’t he? Alain Mabanckou’s novel, the first of three of his books to appear in English this year (the Congolese author has won a number of prestigious prizes in France, including the Renaudot), discovers a fascinating new way to hang readers on those tenterhooks. African Psycho presents no gloomy Raskolnikov, nor the fixed sneer of Patrick Bateman, but a haunted burlesque.
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