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As far as the 14-year-old hero of this delightful, satirical African novel is concerned, his small Congolese town is the center of the universe. Precocious and mischievous Matapari--a nickname that means "problem child"--comes of age in a time of tumultuous change, witnessing the uneven results of governmental programs (rigged agricultural fairs, ceremonies and speeches) as well as experiencing the joys of childhood and adolescence (Coca-Cola, his first crush). Young Matapari's father, the village teacher, is a distracted man more interested in reading scholarly journals than in day-to-day issues; his mother's brother, Uncle Boula Boula, is a Party flack who rises through the ranks in the postcolonial years. Matapari's often hilarious first-person narrative affords an honest look at the maneuverings and corruption of adults--revealed particularly through their conversations with children. About halfway through, the book veers onto an extended political track, when the government erupts into turmoil: Boula Boula is arrested and subjected to a lengthy sham trial, and Matapari's father leads an uprising for democracy. A wiser Matapari begins to understand the contradictions of the adult world when new, "democratic" candidates campaign in his town. Though Dongala sometimes wedges historical information and family asides into improbable spots, Matapari is an independent, intelligent and enterprising guide who effectively links a country's coming-of-age with his own. His keen and comic voice is refreshing and will appeal to readers interested in a youthful and contemporary African point of view. (Mar.)Forecast: Dongala, a distinguished novelist from the Congo Republic, was evacuated from his war-torn native country and settled in the U.S. with the help of an international group of writers, including Philip Roth. His dramatic history and the dynamism of this novel should garner lively review attention.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Along with The Fire of Origins, recently published by Lawrence Hill, this novel marks the English-language debut of Congolese writer Dongala. Set against the tumultuous political activity of the Congo Republic over the past 20 years, the story describes the coming of age of a boy named Michel, whose nickname, Matapari, literally means "trouble." Over the course of the loosely structured narrative, we watch Matapari and his country undergo the growing pains of independence while we are also made privy to Dongala's satirical take on the ambition, corruption, violence, and downright idiocy of politics and politicians. This is familiar territory, however. In the tradition of Grass and RushdieDparticularly Midnight's Children, to which this bears a conspicuous resemblanceDDongala aims to swallow and then encapsulate the recent history of his beleaguered nation in the life of a young boy. Yet aside from a few brief moments of lyricism and humor, the writing is dull and the plot not that compelling. In addition, the overly pronounced political criticism may seem patronizing to some readers. Recommended only for African literature collections. [Formerly dean of Brazzaville University in the Congo Republic, Dongala fled his country in 1997 and currently lives and teaches in Massachusetts.DEd.]DHeath Madom, "Library Journal.
-DHeath Madom, "Library Journal"
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.