Rereading Camara Laye
Camara Laye (1928–80) traveled to France from his native Guinea in 1947 on a scholarship to study automobile mechanics. While there, he was encouraged by a supporter of the French Union to record the memories of his childhood. The resulting book, L'Enfant noir, was praised for its style and its uncritical attitude toward French colonization. A year later Laye published Le Regard du roi, a Kafkaesque story of a white man in Africa, which was very different in tone, style, and content from L'Enfant noir and from any other African literature being published at the time. L'Enfant noir and Le Regard du roi became seminal works of African fiction in French and were translated into English as The African Child and The Radiance of the King.
Adele King met Camara Laye in 1978, two years before his death, and in 1980 published the principal study about him, The Writings of Camara Laye. In 1991 King set out to disprove rumors that Laye was not the author of one of his novels, Le Regard du roi. Instead she became convinced that the rumors were true and in the process unexpectedly discovered a far more interesting story about the creation of Laye as an author and public figure. Rereading Camara Laye describes King's research, which has taken more than ten years. Her inquiry involved finding those who knew Laye in Paris in the 1950s and interviewing them when possible as well as examining documents in libraries and archives in France and Belgium.
King's findings provide important insights into French publishing and colonial politics in the years following World War II. She also shows how interpretations of Laye's novels have been shaped by the assumption that they were written by an African.
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Introducing Francis Soulie
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