Bruno by Siaka Kroma


Memoirs of a Chimpanzee
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A chimpanzee who escaped captivity and returned to his native forest narrates his story for the members of his new community.

In this novel, Kroma (Manners Maketh Man, 2014, etc.) draws on a 2006 incident in which a chimpanzee escaped from the Tacugama wildlife preserve in Sierra Leone and was later observed at the heart of a group of wild chimpanzees, apparently holding forth. Kroma imagines the life history that the ape, known as Bruno, might have been telling his listeners. Bruno, born to a group of wild chimpanzees and called Wuu-aai-yiaa, is renamed after being captured by poachers. Bruno lives as a pet with several missionary families before he is sent to Tekuyama, where he collects the life stories of his fellow inmates. The accounts of these other chimpanzees—a former scientific test subject, an American house pet, a mascot for one of the groups fighting in Sierra Leone’s civil war—form much of the narrative, until Bruno decides it is time to return to the wild. He organizes an escape, and although his compatriots eventually choose to return to captivity, he becomes part of a wild chimpanzee troop and rediscovers the skills he needs to survive in the forest. Kroma weaves information about chimpanzee habits and Sierra Leone’s recent history into the narrative, depicting apes who are aware (to the extent of musing on “the homocentric view of nature promoted by Western culture”) of their subordinate position in the human world. Although the book clearly identifies its setting as Sierra Leone and connects the chimpanzees’ experiences to that country’s recent history, there are several references to generically “African” and exotic traits (“Like most humans on the African continent, we chimpanzees are named after events, attributes, or the ancestors that our births invoke”; people meeting Tekuyama’s director, an Asian man, “can be forgiven” for assuming he is a local). But on the whole, Kroma has imagined a coherent back story for Bruno that serves as a microcosm of human-primate interactions and misunderstandings.

A lucid, fictionalized account of an actual chimpanzee’s life, with strong ecological overtones.

Pub Date: Dec. 28th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-5117-4427-0
Page count: 142pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2016


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