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 A stark, haunting tale of faith and solitude played out amidst the political turmoil of modern Africa. The second of Mudimbe's novels to be translated into English (Before the Birth of the Moon, 1988), it was awarded the Grand Prize for International Catholic Literature when first published in 1975. Narrator Pierre Landau has a penchant for conversion. Baptized by missionaries in Zaire, he leaves his family and enters a seminary in Rome, where he is ordained priest. Upon his return to Africa, however, he finds himself estranged both from his homeland andincreasinglyfrom the demands of his new religion. He joins a group of Marxist guerrillas and attempts to ``re-educate'' himself, but, lacking the blind conviction of his comrades, becomes instead an object of hatred and mistrust. An abortive marriage to an uneducated village girl causes him to wonder: If he is not a ``true African,'' what is he, andmore to the pointwhat does he want to be? In the midst of such discomfort he comes to understand his faith as an independent entitysomething not ``chosen'' or ``embraced'' so much as ``recognized''and he understands finally that his search is an interior (rather than intellectual or political) one. The resolution is neither facile nor arbitrary, and succeeds (as do all good picaresques) in drawing on every element of a rich and wide-ranging narrative. A novel of extraordinary depth and intensity. Possessing a sharpness of vision reminiscent of Mauriac, Mudimbe writes with a marvelous discursiveness, capturing the hidden significance of the most straightforward events. The translation is unobtrusive and clear, and displays none of the stiffness that French prose so often carries into English.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-671-73858-5
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1991