Four LARB-selected books + access to conversation on each book with LARB editors + all the perks of the print membership. Save $40 when you subscribe for a whole year!

New memberships may take up to 48 hours to activate.

Black Moses

by Alain Mabanckou

Translated by Helen Stevenson

“An orphan story with biting humor … as pointed as it is funny.”—Los Angeles Times

“Heart-breaking…Black Moses abounds with moments of black humor but the levity is balanced by Mabanckou’s portrait of a dysfunctional society rent by corruption.” —The New York Times Book Review


Award-winning novelist, poet, and essayist Alain Mabanckou returns with the Man Booker Prize-nominated BLACK MOSES, an exciting novel described as “Oliver Twist in 1970s Africa” (Les Inrockuptibles). Set against the backdrop of the politically repressive regime in Congo-Brazzaville, the narrative follows a young orphan who, along with two companions, escapes an orphanage run by political stooges to join a gang in the busy port city of Pointe-Noire and subsist on petty theft.

Our narrator, Tokumisa Nzambe po Mose yamoyindo abotami namboka ya Bakoko, or Moses for short, was given his name by an eccentric priest named Papa Moupelo who was a regular visitor at his orphanage. He wonders about the significance of his name, which means “Let us thank God, the black Moses is born on the lands of the ancestors,” and whether he was the only boy to whom Papa Moupelo gave that name. He plans to ask the priest on his next visit, but the Congolese Workers’ Party seizes control of the orphanage and halts Papa Moupelo’s visits, setting off a chain of events that drives the rest of Moses’s journey.

BLACK MOSES combines the larger-than-life characters of the Pointe-Noire underworld with a moving depiction of Moses’s mental collapse to create a stunning fictional project that is both funny and tragic.

About the AUTHOR

Alain Mabanckou was born in Congo in 1966. An award-winning novelist, poet, and essayist, Mabanckou currently lives in Los Angeles, where he teaches literature at UCLA. He is the author of African Psycho, Broken Glass, Black Bazaar, and Tomorrow I’ll Be Twenty, as well as The Lights of Pointe-Noire, and Black Moses (both published by The New Press). In 2015, Mabanckou was a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize. Photo credit: Caroline Blache


Feed Your HeadSubscribe to LARB's FREE Newsletter