The Black Child by Camara Laye

 
 

L’Enfant noir by Camara Laye

This book is based on Laye’s own childhood growing up in Guinea, and takes the format of several episodic stories, each of which discuss a certain aspect of his childhood and adolescence, leaving off just as he heads into adulthood. If you are, as I am, someone who has more or less no knowledge of daily life in Guinea, you will find yourself, because of Laye’s honest, direct prose, accepting facts of childhood that would otherwise seem fanciful—such as the mystical powers of the child’s mother—as absolute fact.  This popular African classic was adpted into a a motion picture in 1995.

 

THE MOVIE

This unique French-Guinean drama is adapted from the 1953 autobiographical novel by Guinean author Camara Laye and features in its cast actual members of the author’s family. It is set in French-ruled Guinea and centers on the adolescent Baba who lives with his family on the banks of the Niger River. But for Baba’s tendency to get in trouble with his mother, Kouda, for hanging out with his friends after dark, he and his family are close and very happy. Wanting for his son to have a better life, Baba’s father, Madou, decides to send the youth to boarding school; Baba is nervous about the prospect, but dutifully goes to the coastal city, Conakry where he is alternately exhilarated and bewildered by city life. The prospect of learning French and other lessons is at first daunting, but with the help of his middle-class uncle Moussa and his family, Baba learns to adjust. After experiencing the highs and lows of his new life for a year, Baba finally returns to his village a mature young man. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi