Black Moses

A Novel

The “heart-breaking” (New York Times Book Review), rollicking, award-winning novel that has been described as “Oliver Twist in 1970s Africa” (Les Inrockuptibles)

“One of the most compelling books you’ll read in any language this year.” —Rolling Stone

Winner of the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award

Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize

Shortlisted for the Albertine Prize

Shortlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize

Longlisted for the PEN Translation Prize

Greeted with wildly enthusiastic reviews on hardcover publication, Alain Mabanckou’s riotous novel was the winner of the Hurston-Wright Prize and a finalist for too many other prizes to mention. It begins in an orphanage in 1970s Congo-Brazzaville run by a malicious political stooge who makes the life of our hero, Tokumisa Nzambe po Mose yamoyindo abotami namboka ya Bakoko—his name means “Let us thank God, the black Moses is born on the lands of the ancestors,” but most people just call him Moses—very difficult.

Moses is also terrorized by his two fellow orphans—the twins Songi-Songi and Tala-Tala—but after Moses exacts revenge on the twins by lacing their food with hot pepper, the twins take Moses under their wing, escape the orphanage, and move to the bustling port town of Pointe-Noire, where they form a gang that survives on petty theft. What follows is a “pointed” (Los Angeles Times), “vivid and funny” (New York), larger-than-life tale that chronicles Moses’s ultimately tragic journey through the Pointe-Noire underworld and the politically repressive reality of Congo-Brazzaville in the 1970s and ’80s.

“Ringing with beautiful poetry” (Wall Street Journal), Black Moses is a vital new extension of Mabanckou’s cycle of Pointe-Noire novels that stand out as one of the grandest, funniest, fictional projects of our time.



“Funny and sharply satiric . . . over several books . . . Mabanckou has created a vibrant world in which Pointe-Noir has taken on the stature of an African Yoknapatawpha County.”
“Alain Mabanckou addresses the reader with exuberant inventiveness in novels that are brilliantly imaginative in their forms of storytelling. His voice is vividly colloquial, mischievous and often outrageous as he explores, from multiple angles, the country where he grew up, drawing on its political conflicts and compromises, disappointments and hopes. He acts the jester, but with serious intent and lacerating effect.”
—Man Booker International Prize 2015, judges’ citation
“A delicious and delicate novel.”
Le Monde
“Tasty but light to begin with, then quickly built and powerful, ultimately shattering.”
“A wonderful urban tale.”
Le Magazine Littéraire
“Heartbreaking . . . 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
“Vivid and funny.”
New York magazine
“One of O’s Top 20 books to read this summer.”
O, The Oprah Magazine
“Ribald, acerbic, and poignant. . . . This tightly contained, densely packed story issues a challenge that never loses its urgency: how does a person cling to a sense of autonomy when it’s under siege by so many powerful forces?”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Black Moses exhibits all the charm, warmth and verbal brio that have won the author of Broken Glass and African Psycho so many admirers—and the informal title of Africa’s Samuel Beckett. Helen Stevenson, his translator, again shakes Mr Mabanckou’s cocktail of sophistication and simplicity into richly idiomatic English.”
The Economist
“A rip-roaring ride from innocence to experience.”
The Observer
“A picaresque tour-de-force.”
The Guardian
“From the first sentence there is an ease and spirit, and you know instantly that this story is authentic. Alain Mabanckou has a gift.”
Le Figaro Littéraire
“An orphan story with biting humor . . . as pointed as it is funny.”
Los Angeles Times
“[Black Moses] rings with a beautiful poetry.”
The Wall Street Journal
“An offbeat bildungsroman.”
Chicago Tribune
“This mythic, beguiling novel is a journey to discover what is hard-wired in us and what we make up about ourselves.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

News and Reviews

The Lights of Pointe-Noire and The New Press Win the French Voices Grand Prize

On February 29, 2016, Alain Mabanckou’s The Lights of Pointe-Noire: A Memoi

Books by Alain Mabanckou

The Death of Comrade President
A Novel

Alain Mabanckou

The Lights of Pointe-Noire
A Memoir

Alain Mabanckou

Goodreads Reviews