A history of (talking about) violence — African Psycho
Mabanckou satirizes much: the novel's ne'er-do-well country, its talk-too-much protagonist, and the protagonist's neighborhood, He-Who-Drinks-Water-Is-An-Idiot. The unnamed country's pontificating and sensationalistic media come in for some jabs, too, though Mabanckou is too wide-ranging a satirist to fall into the easy and fashionable media bashing so prevalent in America these days. He has just as much fun at the expense of credulous folks who crave the attention of those very same media.
Foremost among those attention seekers is the novel's protagonist and narrator, Grégoire Nakobomayo. African Psycho narrates Grégoire's plan to commit a murder that will elevate him to the stature of Great Master Angoulaima. That killer and rapist could, according to the legends that encrust his name, change his shape at will, among other supernatural properties, and Grégoire worships him, visiting the Great Master's grave to seek inspiration and to commune with his spirit. That spirit is unafraid to chide Grégoire for his feckless dawdling, and these ghostly, graveside scoldings provide several funny passages.
Grégoire settles upon a prostitute as his target, working his way up to the act with a hammer attack on a corrupt notary and real estate dealer and a sexual assault on a nurse. Both are described in some detail, and the latter especially may disturb some readers.
That's where the novel's title comes in. It plays off that of Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho, vilified for its affectless depictions of horrific violence. The culmination of African Psycho raises the question of whether such vilification is misplaced, whether it confuses literary depiction and legendary accounts of violent act with the acts themselves.
© Peter Rozovsky 2007