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Verre cassé [PDF / Epub] ✎ Verre cassé ☂ Alain Mabanckou – Alain Mabanckou’s riotous new novel centers on the patrons of a run down bar in the Congo In a country that appears to have forgotten the importance of remembering a former schoolteacher and bar reg Alain Mabanckou’s riotous new novel centers on the patrons of a run down bar in the Congo In a country that appears to have forgotten the importance of remembering a former schoolteacher and bar regular nicknamed Broken Glass has been elected to record their stories for posterity But Broken Glass fails spectacularly at staying out of trouble as one denizen after another wants to rewrite history in an attempt at making sure his portrayal will properly reflect their exciting and dynamic lives Despondent over this apparent triumph of self delusion over self awareness Broken Glass drowns his sorrows in red wine and riffs on the great books of Africa and the West Brimming with life death and literary allusions Broken Glass is Mabanckou’s finest novel — a mocking satire of the dangers of artistic integrity.

10 thoughts on “Verre cassé

  1. Kinga Kinga says:

    When on our way back from Międzyzdroje we had to wait in an enormous ueue to buy our train tickets my sister volunteered to take first turn while the rest of us sat on benches in the shadow When my friend went to relieve her my sister acted mysteriously she insisted she didn’t mind ueuing and we could just go relax and leave her to it It was only when we were on the train when she told us that she was eavesdropping on a group of friends who were discussing dramatic events of the night before Occasionally real life with its unrestrained tales wins over literature because my sister preferred to be listening to their chattering rather than sitting on a bench and reading a book in peace Alain Mabanckou captured such free tale telling in its essence Broken Glass the narrator of the novel has been given a notebook by the owner of the bar he freuents and has been told to immortalise this drinking den for the benefit of the future generations Broken Glass is not the one to worry about the form Or punctuation Or strict plot rules He writes downs the stories as they come to him and as they are told by the man who wears Pampers the man who once lived in France or the man who the won the pissing contest In between all that we also hear Broken Glass’s own story as sad as any story of a wasted life Our narrator eventually grows impatient with the task he has been burdened with With all the stories he is told to write and with all the people and their expectations As any other writer he uestions the point of it all and would probably become an alcoholic if he hadn’t already been oneAt a first sight the narrative looks like chaotic ramblings of a drunkard but under this thin surface there lies a true treasure chest of various literary popcultural political and historical allusions It’s like a wink from the author to the reader which almost bypasses the oblivious narrator There are so many hidden marvels that an average reader will probably pick up about one third of them I noticed all the titles of Mario Vargas Llosa’s novels interwoven into Broken Glass’s stream of consciousness My friend who studied French studies right away picked up the references to the history of francophone Africa I recommend this little number I enjoyed Mabanckou’s little rebellion against what the world expects from post colonial African narrative

  2. Jenny (Reading Envy) Jenny (Reading Envy) says:

    This was a difficult book to read It is bit stream of consciousness from a man who is supposed to be recording about his life in a journal but is busier drinking It was originally on my Africa 2016 reading list because otherwise the only book I've read set in the Congo is the typical Heart of Darkness This book is the opposite of a colonial novel The technology the society the politics are all post colonial 21st century Africa and for that reason I was glad to dip into it even if I was a bit ungrounded most of the time

  3. Naim Frewat Naim Frewat says:

    This book must be read in French I read a couple of excerpts translated into English and I honestly felt the rhythm the flow of the words the repetition of expressions and most certainly the humor of the book lacked their charm Yes it feels like the book of an erudite but that's precisely what the author is; one would not deride Eco for writing the way he does At the same time I was intrigued with this blurring of the truth; can we trust the narrator? Are the heroes of his stories victims or villains? This uestioning extends to Mabanckou himself and I ask myself how much of those stories are the work of fiction and how much of them are at least inspired by true events? I highly recommend it; the humor is my style precisely because of the narrative style of the choice of words and of this morphing of verbs and adjectives and phrases to portray such a powerful image of a micro world; that of a poor neglected African uartier

  4. Jay Sandover Jay Sandover says:

    I found this book on The Guardian's recent list of The 100 Best Books of the 21st Century How lucky for me How lucky for you if you pick up a copy The book has a potent comical energy that powers the long sentences and paragraphs There's a 10 page set piece in the first half of the book that portrays some of the patrons of the Credit Gone West bar in Trois Cents competing in a literal piing contest Has to be read to be believed I won't spoil the second half It has a ton of heart It belongs on that Guardian list for sure

  5. Marc Gerstein Marc Gerstein says:

    If you aren’t scared off by the first page where you realize the entire novel is written without capital letters or end of sentence punctuation and no paragraph breaks the breaks that do occur are like short chapters you’re in for a real treat To give you a preview of Mabanckou’s sense of irony the novel — verbal jumble — is presented as a journal written by one who grew up as a voracious consumer of great literature wound up an grammar teacher and responded to a letter from a government agency by spending “whole day correcting the grammatical and syntactical errors in it” And by the way there are countless literary allusions in it few of which seem likely to be caught by all readers but I expect most if not all readers to catch some of them and if you don’t — no worries; once you get them and the way they’re used you can get full enjoyment even knowing you missed some I can’t imagine anyone however missing out on the guy named Holden reding a book for which the narrator can see only part of the title in the Rye and irritating the narrator by asking where northern ducks go in the winterThe setup is that Broken Glass the narrator is asked by Stubborn Snail proprietor of the bar named Credit Gone West to write a journal to memorialize the bar and its patrons The novel is presented as the notebook Broken Glass fills The characters and stories are hilarious But this is not just a play fo laughs There are serious things here as the art the journal collides with the reality of the characters and the reality of Broken Glass himself I’m not usually a fan of artsy writing styles but here it works and is as we learn later proper and justified in the context of the story And relative to a lot of other African literature this is refreshingly human than political

  6. Emma Deplores Censorship Emma Deplores Censorship says:

    this is a novella written entirely without periods or capital letters at the beginnings of sentences because there aren’t any beginnings an entire 10 page chapter can consist entirely of one run on sentence which makes it hard to put down because you can’t find a stopping place though fortunately there are occasional line breaks like maybe once every few pagesanyway this guy Broken Glass spends all his time at the bar having drunk himself out of a job and a wife and the bar owner convinces him to write so he writes about the bar and the hard luck stories of the other patrons and eventually his own and he and the other guys seem like pretty unreliable narrators but it is engaging on the whole with a distinctive voice and exaggerated and unlikely stories and the techniue while a bit gimmicky mostly works and didn’t drive me as crazy as you might imagine because it is well written and the author has a lot of fun peppering the text with literary allusions and titles of famous booksbut then at the end view spoilerthe narrator apparently drowns himself hide spoiler

  7. Nathaniel Nathaniel says:

    Alain Mabanckou already knows most of what’s wrong with his book After a hundred and twenty odd pages of his desultory jabbering he lays out nice and clean“I’d write down words as they came to me I’d begin awkwardly and I’d finish as awkwardly as I’d begun and to hell with pure reason and method and phonetics and prose and in this shit poor language of mine things would seem clear in my head but come out wrong and the words to say it wouldn’t come easy so it would be a choice between writing or life that’s right and what I really want people to say when they read me is ‘what’s this jumble this mess this muddle this mish mash of barbarities this empire of signs this chit chat this descent to the dregs of belles lettres what’s with this barnyard prattle is this stuff for real and where does it start and where the hell does it end?’”To this Mabanckou astutely addends a well predicted complaint about his complete avoidance of full stop punctuation and other standard structuring tools In a book full of convenient page breaks and awkward run ons where full stops should have been his avoidance of conventional punctuation feels totally forced and unsuccessful; he lacks the grammar and flourish to pull it offSince I let him begin his indictment I’ll let him begin his defense‘this jumble of words is life come on come into my lair check out the rotting garbage here’s my take on life your fiction’s no than the output of old has beens designed to comfort other old has beens and until the day your characters start to see how the rest of us earn our nightly crust there’ll be no such thing as literature only intellectual masturbation with you all rubbing up against each other like donkeys”Great Are we done? I’m done I can’t handle uoting him any I’d just start compiling his ham fisted and incessant literary “references” with which he woefully oversalts this narrative and then lining up a few gross out passages full of poop or uarrelling just to make it clear how generally unpleasant the whole environment of this book manages to be Now I’ve read the bulk of what he’s referencing I’ve enjoyed works that swirl around confusing failed autistic drunks Becket; I’ve enjoyed the avoidance of punctuation in favor of punishing psychosis conjuring onslaughts of strange Bernhard; and I’ve enjoyed the literature of the African ghetto Ben Okri Dambudzo Marechera Ayi Kwei Armah—even the less well crafted streetier efforts by whoever wrote “Going Down River Road” and some of the Heinemann African series stock and trade to say nothing of the “Palm Wine Drinkard” which was lovely in its over ripe and fantastical oral tradition of story telling conventionlessness But Mabanckou doesn’t belong amongst these craftsmen these story tellers or these punters He lacks the vision the techniue the patience or the purpose When he drops a reference or twenty in a row it is as if he is just going through a list of famous book titles and figuring out the uickest easiest way to refer to them before crossing them from his list—sort of like Joyce figuring out how to include the name of every river in the world into “Finnegans Wake” only Mabanckou’s references aren’t embedded bones deep in his language while evoking meticulously choreographed and dynamic themesI don't think Mabanckou tried hard enough; the book was too angry too uninvested and too self assured Broken Glass seeks shelter and validity in its references only to sprawl around on the floor throwing feces and trying to be shocking It has nothing to do with “how the rest of us earn our nightly crust” This book is not informed by social justice or the working poor and it fails to underscore the superficiality of the cultures which it wishes to charm by slightly offending while paying constant obeisance via cultural reference Yes I grant you that somebody who has never set foot in Africa may finish this book with a small and somewhat authentic vision of what it can be like in certain places—of the local bar culture and its satellites; of how some folks uarrel and what a rant might sound like in Doula But if that was its goal the book got derailed at some point and becames something scattered and less revealing something frail and sorryI’ll read something else by Mabanckou just to be sure But if it is also hastily constructed of referential scaffolding and muck it’ll be the last And now lastly and with a charitable heart I have to rank Mabanckou well ahead of the heavy handed moralists and state sponsored legend regurgitating recidivists that fall seamlessly into heavy rotation in African lit classes and high school syllabi Go ahead and read him before you read another nationalistsymbolist piece of mindrot Definitely some young people might like him

  8. Alan Alan says:

    An ex teacher denizen of Credit Gone West a seedy bar in the Congo is asked by the landlord to write down the stories of its patrons He does so filling a notebook with pen portraits and accounts of their various adventures It is scatological in the extreme one of the regulars wears pampers because of the damage done to him in prison the protagonist has flies following him after an unfortunate shitting incident a woman challenges a man to a pissing contest and there is a relish in the telling Sex usually cuckoldry features largely too Along the way acute observations are made on racism colonialism marriage class and poverty All this is interlaced with literary references particularly but not confined to French literature the novel is translated from the French Many titles are interwoven in the sentences and Holden Caulfield makes an appearance towards the end asking where do ducks go in winter I liked the first half funny high powered writing no full stops just part sentences btw but the second part where the focus turns to the narrator lost my interest a bit 35 stars rounded up

  9. Calzean Calzean says:

    Maybe something was lost in the translation but a could have been great book became an OK one Broken Glass spends his time drinking red wine in a bar everyday for years The owner of the bar asks him to write down his observations of the people and surroundsThere starts a book with no capitals or full stops some humorous episodes and reflections of Broken Glass's world It started well but petered out when BG started to talk about the process of writing

  10. Paul Fulcher Paul Fulcher says:

    When I asked why he was so set on this notebook he said he didn’t want Credit Gone West just to vanish one day and added that people in this country have no sense of the importance of memory that the days when grandmothers reminisced from their deathbeds was gone now this is the age of the written word that’s all that’s left the spoken word’s just black smoke wild cat’s piss the boss of Credit Gone West doesn’t like ready made phrases like ‘in Africa when an old person dies a library burns’ every time he hears that worn out cliché he gets mad he’ll say ‘depends which old person don’t talk crap I only trust what’s written down’ Broken Glass a former schoolteacher is now a drunk and one of the most loyal customers of the Credit Gone West bar whose owner The Stubborn Snail asks him to write a notebook of his own story and that of the other unfortunates that pass through the barThe story that unfolds is written in unbroken prose as the Stubborn Snail observes when he reads the notebook sighing'it's a real mess this book there are no full stops only commas and commas sometimes speech marks when someone's talking that's not right I think you should tidy it up a bit don't you how am I supposed to read all that if it's all run together like that you need to leave some spaces a few breathing places some pauses'In fact the novel is highly readable perhaps because Broken Glass or Mabanckou or even his editor has taken mercy on the reader and broken the capital letter and full stop less text into paragraphs and chaptersBroken Glass boasts that as a schoolteacher he encouraged his pupils to treat the French language as something to be brokenI swear too that I loved teaching them their past participles conjugated with avoir and whether you have to make them agree or not depending on the time of day and the weather and the poor little things dazed confused sometimes even angry would ask me why the past participle does agree today at four o’clock but didn’t yesterday at midday just before lunch break and I would tell them that what mattered in the French language was not the rules but the exceptions to the rules I would tell them that if they could understand and memorize all the exceptions in this language which was as changeable as the weather then the rules would automatically become apparent they would be obvious from first principles and when they were grown up they could forget all about the rules and the sentence structure because by then they would see that the French language isn’t a long uiet river but rather a river to be diverted Mabanckou has made similar claims for his writing but to be this didn't come across in Helen Stephenson's otherwise excellent translation simply because English is in any case a flexible and less refined language than French ie the contrast to usual novels is less markedBroken Glass's story is crude sexual and scatological Rabelaisian is perhaps the best term not least because despite the crudity of the story Broken Glass is widely versed in world literature I'll travelled one might say through literature each time I've opened a book the pages echoed with a noise like the dip of a paddle in midstream and throughout the odyssey I never crossed a single border and so never had to produce a passport I'd just pick a destination at random setting my prejudices firmly to one side and be welcomed with open arms in places swarming with weird and wonderful characters And the text is littered with passing literary references sometimes direct most often buried in the text someone accused of abusing his children responds Do you see me nipping buds shooting at a child after the Kenzaburo Oe novel Vargas Llosa's Feast of the Goat is a national festival Broken Glass laments how he is approaching my final autumn as a patriach Garcia Maruez and even a bizarre cameo appearance from Holden Caulfield still asking anyone who will listen what happens to the ducks in that leave in the winter The publisher notes on the back that the book contains the title of 170 classics of international literature I didn't spot anywhere near that many and indeed it would be nice to see a list so one can play a literary game of i spy as I did with Vargas Llosa and Garcia Maruez titles once I noticed them appearingOverall an odd book to judge At face value a rather simple and crude bar room tale but there is a lot of literary merit going on underneath not all obvious to the reader particularly in translation

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