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Read Around the World: The Republic of Guinea


From Finland we are heading to Africa. The Republic of Guinea is the next stop in our world tour or reading! Join us as we explore some of what Guinea has to offer in terms of literature and find out which book we selected. We hope you help us to add to the list of recommended reading for Guinea!

 Fun Facts about The Republic of Guinea

  • There are 24 ethnic groups in Guinea with the Fulas comprising about 40% of the total population. There are 10,000 non-Africans living there, most are French and Lebanese.
  • The official language is French although there are more than 24 indigenous languages.
  • 85% of the population is Islamic and 10% Christians ( mostly Roman Catholic).
  • Guinea became independent on October 2nd, 1958 after six decades of colonial rule.
  • It has very large amounts of mineral and agricultural resources. 70% of the country’s exports are bauxite deposits.
  • It is home to some of the world’s last tropical dry forests.

Book SelectedL’Enfant Noir (The Dark Child) by Camara Laye
Published in: 1954
Find it here:The Dark Child: The Autobiography of an African Boy

Reason Selected: Book Worm and I are part of a reading group (formerly on Shelfari, now on Goodreads) that picked this book as the book of the month for January. L’Enfant Noir just happens to be a perfect book to represent its country. It is a memoir of one of Africa’s leading Francophone novelists and it details the author’s childhood in a village in what was known then as French Guinea. The novel highlights the struggle between tradition and modernization.

Synopsis (from Amazon): The Dark Child is a distinct and graceful memoir of Camara Laye’s youth in the village of Koroussa, French Guinea. Long regarded Africa’s preeminent Francophone novelist, Laye (1928-80) herein marvels over his mother’s supernatural powers, his father’s distinction as the village goldsmith, and his own passage into manhood, which is marked by animistic beliefs and bloody rituals of primeval origin. Eventually, he must choose between this unique place and the academic success that lures him to distant cities. More than autobiography of one boy, this is the universal story of sacred traditions struggling against the encroachment of a modern world. A passionate and deeply affecting record, The Dark Child is a classic of African literature.

Jen’s Review: 4 stars. I have used to have an obsession with African Francophone literature and I still very much enjoy African literature. In college I came close to being a double major in French thanks in no small part to a wonderful professor from Benin who taught several advanced level courses on African Francophone literature. This book was one I read in his class and I discovered my old French copy when unpacking a box of books in my basement. So I reread the book in French and discovered that my French is quite rusty but still good enough to make my way at a turtle’s pace through the book. The book is an intimate look at the author’s childhood in an African village. We follow him from childhood to adulthood. I found myself drawn in to the vivid imagery and intimate look at his village traditions. I enjoyed it.

Book Worm’s Review: 4 stars. 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 appeal to those who enjoy honest writing with an insight into other cultures.

Other recommendations for Guinean Literature:
The Dark Child is the only book that either of us have read from The Republic of Guinea. Some of the countries most famous authors include:  Jkibril Tamsir Niane, Marie Bernadette Tiendrebeogo, Williams Sassine, Roger Goto Zomou, Camara Kaba, Kiri di Bangoura, Bilguissa Diallo (French but her family is from Guinea), and Cheick Oumar Kante. Most of their works are only available in French.

Nadine Bari was a French woman who moved to Conakry with her husband, Abdoulaye Djibril Bari in 1964. Bari worked for the United Nations in Conakry. In 1972 her husband was arrested and disappeared under the regime of Sékou Touré. It took her 20 years to find out the truth about the fate of her husband and she published an autobiography about the experience titled, Grain de sable: les combats d’une femme de disparu [Grain of Sand: the Battles of a Missing Person’s Wife].

We want to hear from you. Have you read any books based in, or by authors from this country? Which books do you recommend?

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