Camara Laye recalls his childhood in French Guinea with fondness. Standout memories include his father’s otherworldly kinship with a snake, the highly ceremonial art of goldsmithing, and the author’s own ritual circumcision.
Country Focus: Guinea (formerly French Guinea)
The Dark Child: The Autobiography of an African Boy
By Camara Laye (1928-1980)
Translated by James Kirkup and Ernest Jones
Introduction by Philippe Thoby-Marcelin, translated by Eva Thoby-Marcelin
Originally published in France as L’Enfant Noir, 1954.
My edition: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1994
About the author: Laye was one of the first sub-Saharan African authors to be internationally recognized. He followed The Dark Child with three other books: The Radiance of the King, A Dream of Africa, and The Guardian of the Word.
But I was hardly aware of the length of the road [to his uncle’s village], for all sorts of marvels lay along it.
I say “marvels,” for Kouroussa is actually a city and hasn’t any of those country sights which a city child always finds marvelous. As we walked along we were likely to dislodge a hare or a wild boar; birds flew away at our approach, with a great beating of wings; sometimes we would meet a crowd of monkeys. Every time something like this happened I felt a small thrill of excitement, for I was more startled than the game which had suddenly been alerted. Observing my pleasure, my uncle would throw a fistful of pebbles a long way ahead; or he would beat the tall grass with a dead branch, to dislodge birds and animals. I would imitate him, but never for very long. The afternoon sun beat fiercely on the savannah, and I would return to slip my hand into his. Once again we would go along quietly.