The Lights of Pointe-Noire

A Memoir

A dazzling meditation on homecoming and belonging from the Man Booker International Prize finalist, called one of “Africa’s greatest writers” by The Guardian

“This is a beautiful book, the past hauntingly reentered, the present truthfully faced, and the translation rises gorgeously to the challenge.” —Salman Rushdie

Grand Prize Winner, 2015 French Voices Award

Alain Mabanckou left Congo in 1989, at the age of twenty-two, not to return until a quarter of a century later. When he finally came back to Pointe-Noire, a bustling port town on Congo’s southeastern coast, he found a country that in some ways had changed beyond recognition: the cinema where, as a child, Mabanckou gorged on glamorous American culture had become a Pentecostal temple, and his secondary school has been renamed in honor of a previously despised colonial ruler.

But many things remain unchanged, not least the swirling mythology of Congolese culture that still informs everyday life in Pointe-Noire. Now a decorated writer and an esteemed professor at UCLA, Mabanckou finds he can only look on as an outsider in the place where he grew up. As he delves into his childhood, into the life of his departed mother, and into the strange mix of belonging and absence that informs his return to Congo, his work recalls the writing of V.S. Naipaul and André Aciman, offering a startlingly fresh perspective on the pain of exile, the ghosts of memory, and the paths we take back home.



“An unusually generous memoir. The book invites the readers in, allowing us to accompany the writer at every stage of his trip home. Snapshots of the people and places in the book make Pointe-Noire seem close and familiar by the time the memoir ends. Indeed, by the end of the book . . . it is hard to say good-bye.”
—Words Without Borders
“This is a beautiful book, the past hauntingly re-entered, the present truthfully faced, and the translation rises gorgeously to the challenge.”
—Salman Rushdie
“A tender, poetic chronicle of an exile’s return.”
Kirkus Reviews
“Alain Mabanckou’s joyous, vivid narrative style brings to life a frank, tender memoir.”
The Independent
“Sparklingly translated, this compact and artful memoir illustrates the universality of the maxim: you really can’t go home again.”
Financial Times
The Lights of Pointe-Noire is a thoughtful, lyrical meditation on homecoming that artfully explores the paradoxes of a narrator torn between his new life and the roots of his childhood—and a worthy addition to a rewarding body of work.”
New Statesman
“The author’s real achievement is to capture a universal experience, one ever more common in the age of mass migration: what it means to come home after a long absence. . . . Few books about Africa will find it easier to attract readers far away.”
The Economist

News and Reviews

Literary Hub

Literary Hub chooses The Lights of Pointe-Noire for their "25 New Books by African Writers You Should Read" list

The Guardian

Read an excerpt from The Lights of Pointe-Noire in The Guardian

Literary Hub

Read an excerpt from The Lights of Pointe-Noire on Literary Hub

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

Black Moses
A Novel

Alain Mabanckou

Goodreads Reviews