Adonis Diaries

On the road to discovering the living: Who is Alain Mabanckou?

Posted on: December 11, 2011

On the road to discovering the living: Who is Alain Mabanckou?

There are many on the road, these migrating birds, in search of human diversities, of connecting and communicating emotions…A few become authors, of words or audio-visual narrators, they collect and recollect from their memories, diaries, and personal archieves, people they met, friends they entertained, books they loved reading, movies that touched them, experiences that marked thir life, music that haunted them…Things and people that constitute our life, the sustenance of the living…

Having these sorts of recollections into “prints” open-up wide doors into internal kingdoms, kingdom we never suspected existed, kingdom rich with experiences, emotions, feeling…the fabric of true living. The French publishing house “Chemin faisant” (on the road) specialized in these types of books. Author Alain Mabanckou is one of the authors (see note), and here are a few excerpts in his French book “Writer and migrating birds”:

“I had a tiny span view of the ocean, and I used to watch migrating birds.  A few birds were still in a hurry, many more had the flight heavy under their wings.  Migrating birds passed over me, very high-up, and a few would rest on a branch, eyes riveted to the far horizon over the ocean. The kid in me wanted so badly to join these birds: I ended-up a writer, a puny compensation, but my multitude of trips overseas were opportunities to meet and link-up with people of all kinds, and I read books of the local authors wherever I settled for a while.  Countries I visited were not for touring stones and historical monuments…I was mainly interested in talking with the local people and learning their literature and their languages… ”

“I was the unique kid of my parents, and my four aunts assumed that I was a fragile-type of kids.  My aunts felt they had to protect me and took me with them on their frequent outing to shopping…I could hear their heated and animated conversation, trailing behind them, forgotten. I was capturing and inhaling  the meaning of life, through my aunts adult chatting and their frank laughter…

Aunts are the pillars of every extended family: They are the mothers when they feel the mother is overwhelmed and subjugated to care for the kids…Aunts accord us wonderful days, with full attention that mother frequently refuses us…Aunts are supposed not to show their anger against us or harass us…Once aunts start imitating mothers, shouting at us and working on changing our behaviour…there is no ways of distinguishing who is the real biological mother…”

“I visited New Orleans.  Under a building on Carondelet Street, an Afro-American homeless is covered under a blanket on the side-street.  I didn’t even speak and the homeless pretended I have an accent. “Are you from this neighborhood?” the homeless asked me. I said: “I am from the Congo”.  He jumped up like a kangaroo and said: “I am not stupid. I know there is the French Congo and the Belgian one.  You speak French!”

This homeless person claimed that he is a direct descendant from Haitian families and delivered the complete speech of Toussaint Louverure who harangued his troops in 1800 saying: “Join my revolution and let us uproot the tree of slavery…”  He insisted that his dad made him memorize the speech, as did his father, and so on since 1800. He asked for change and I had only Euros.  The homeless would not accept Euro on account that only the currency with George Washington’s picture on is the only true money…

I told him that I’ll be away for 5 minutes and will come back with US currency. The homeless treated for liar, as all the people who promised him to come back and never did…I tuned my back and strolled away, followed by curses…As I walked, I remembered my best friend Bertin Miyalou, who resembled physically the homeless person and who hanged himself two days after I left the Congo…I got the US changes on Canal Street and returned to give the change to the homeless saying: “Take, it is for you Bertin…”

The homeless cried and thanked me.  As I was leaving, I overheard the homeless shouting: “Who is this fucking Bertin…?”

Note: Alain Mabanckou is born in the Rep. of Congo (a Francophone State) in 1966.  He is professor of Francophone literature in UCLA.  He published “Broken Glass”, “Black Bazar”, letter to Jimmy (James Baldwin)”, and “Tomorrow I’ll be 20″…

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December 2011

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