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Broken Glass Paperback – 5 May 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail; Main edition (5 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846688159
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846688157
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 138,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A dizzying combination of erudition, bawdy humour and linguistic effervescence (Melissa McClements Financial Times 2009-04-25)

Broken Glass is a comic romp that releases Mabanckou's sense of humour... Although its cultural and intertextual musings could fuel innumerable doctorates, the real meat of Broken Glass is its comic brio, and Mabanckou's jokes work the whole spectrum of humour (Tibor Fischer Guardian)

Deserves the acclaim heaped upon it... self-mocking and ironic, a thought-provoking glimpse into a stricken country (Waterstone's Books Quarterly 2009-03-02)

Broken Glass proves to be an obsessive, slyly playful raconteur... the prose runs wild to weave endless sentences, their rhythm and pace attuned to the narrator's rhetorical extravagances... With his sourly comic recollections, Broken Glass makes a fine companion (Peter Carty Independent)

This bar-room yarn-spinner tells his fellow tipplers' tales in a voice that swings between broad farce and aching tragedy. His farewell performance from a perch in "Credit Gone West" abounds in scorching wit and flights of eloquence... vitriolic comedy and pugnacious irreverence. (Boyd Tonkin Independent 2010-04-16)

A book of grubby erudition... full of tall tales that can entertain readers from Brazzaville to Bognor. (James Smart Guardian 2011-05-21)

Book Description

From the winner of the Grand Prix de la Littérature 2012

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Alain Mabanckou, born in the Republic of the Congo and is now a Professor in the French Department of the University of California. He has written six novels and if Broken Glass is anything to go by, his reputation as a writer to watch in the 21st century is well-deserved.

Broken Glass, both the title of the book and its narrator (apparently a Congolese term for scrawny poultry) is set in the Credit Gone West bar. Broken Glass spends far too much time in the bar and is intimately acquainted with many of its regular customers. The owner of the bar, The Stubborn Snail, gives Broken Glass a notebook and tells him to write the tragi-comic life stories of some of the customers, such as The Printer and The Pampers Man.

We soon discover that Broken Glass has a unique writing style well-suited to describing the embarrassingly painful (but hilarious) experiences of these disreputable characters. Each one seems to have brought on themselves various types of disasters and Broken Glass does not spare their feelings in recounting their excruciatingly awful experiences.

The humour is black, but is also sprinkled with many references to French literature, for Broken Glass was a teacher before he took to drink, and his knowledge of Chateaubriand and Marivaux infects his writing throughout the book. Mabanckou teases his readers with a wide range of quotations and references which are slipped into the text almost without us noticing. Even Holden Caulfield makes an appearance and Broken Glass has a rather oblique conversation with him hinting at the pages of Catcher in the Rye.

This is a clever book, very amusing, satirical, mocking and definitely unique. I usually turn away from African books, the bleakness being almost too much to bear, but in Alain Mabanckou we have a writer who is above all funny, and while this book will entertain for a few hours, the man Broken Glass will remain in the memory as one of literatures unique personalities.
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Format: Paperback
(4.5 stars) Alain Mabanckou, a Congolese author who now teaches French literature at UCLA, writes an often hilarious, non-stop narrative full of life and excitement, a narrative which, at the same time, is also mordant in its depictions of life. His story, much like life itself, is one constantly unreeling narrative in which there are no full-stops--no periods and no capital letters, except for names and places. This stream-of-consciousness approach is so unpretentious, so natural, and so conversational, however, that the reader never has to stop to puzzle about where ideas begin and end or what the author might mean.

The main character, a Congolese alcoholic named Broken Glass, is immortalizing the sad stories of his fellow patrons at a bar called Credit Gone West in the beachfront city of Pointe Noire. A teacher, until he drunkenly bared his buttocks to his class, Broken Glass has traveled the world through books, loving the adventures of Tarzan, Tintin, and Santiago the fisherman, as a child, and then going on to study and enjoy the French classics. Ultimately he tells the "civilized" literary world that "Until the day your characters start to see how the rest of us earn our nightly crust, there'll be no such thing as literature."

Stubborn Snail, the hard-working proprietor of the bar, has convinced the sixty-four-year-old Broken Glass to record the history of Credit Gone West in his stead: " I just don't have that little bug that writers have, that you have, it shows when you talk about literature...you can invent all sorts of other lives and you're just one character in the great book of life." Neither the Stubborn Snail nor Broken Glass believes the old African saying that "when an old person dies, a library burns.
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This novel is nothing like I have ever read before, it took a while to get into it due to the writing style and absence of full stops, but once I got into the flow of it I really enjoyed it. It feels like a very intelligent book, with numerous literary references (the majority of which went over my head!), but is also a very entertaining story and a strange combination of both hilarious and tragic. Would highly recommend if you are looking for something out of the ordinary to read.
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Format: Paperback
This novel has been described in some quarters as comic. This is fair - there are comic scenes and comic characters and satirical disquisitions on contemporary Congolese politics - but the hilarity is in the mode of Céline, whose ruminative, digressive prose style Mabanckou's resembles: corrosive, scabrous, hysterical in both senses, poised continually on the brink of despair.

The narrator Broken Glass (`Verre cassé' in the original) is an alcoholic former schoolmaster who has become an habitué of a 24-hour drinking establishment, Credit Gone West (`Crédit a voyagé'), run by a more successful friend, the Stubborn Snail. The proprietor, proud of his achievement in creating and maintaining this oasis in the teeth of opposition from every conceivable faction, suggests that Broken Glass should write the story of the bar and its clients. Broken Glass, somewhat unwilling, nonetheless embarks on his task and immediately becomes a magnet for the local characters, who are determined to see their own stories recorded in the presumably deathless document.

The book falls into two roughly equal sections: First Part and Last Part. This unconventional titling gives a clue to the arc of the narrative. First Part is more conventionally comic; Last Part is much darker, as Broken Glass's own story and preoccupations begin to take over what might have seemed to that point merely a compendium of amusing anecdotes.

Broken Glass stands revealed as a man soaked in literature, clinging to the fragments of his learning like a drowning man in a sea of alcohol.
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