New Internationalist

African Psycho

April 2008

Alain Mabanckou’s scathing attack on greed and material values, first published in French in 2003, borrows its title and plotline from Brett Easton Ellis’s disturbing 1991 novel American Psycho. As with its predecessor, African Psycho has as its central character an amoral individual who decides, for unexplained reasons, to embark on a career as a serial killer. Grigoire, abandoned at birth by his parents, is a car mechanic and petty criminal, preying on the old and vulnerable in his provincial town in Congo-Brazzaville. However, unlike Ellis’s chillingly efficient sociopath, Grigoire is comically inept and his attacks, planned and carried out in emulation of his hero, the infamous killer Angoualima, are invariably botched and bungled.

Deciding that he may have more success closer to home, Grigoire decides to kill his girlfriend Germaine and, in graveside conversations with the now-deceased Angoualima, plots the deed in meticulous detail. Of course, this plan, like the others, comes to nought and an unexpected plot twist turns the knife in his ambitions to become a famous criminal.

Mabanckou plays up the comedy rather than the gore and African Psycho is a smart satire on the deserving targets of corrupt officialdom, complacent media and blank-eyed consumerism.


This column was published in the April 2008 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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African Psycho Fact File
Product information by Alain Mabanckou, translated from the French by Christine Schwartz Hartley
Star rating3
Product link
Product number Serpent's Tail, ISBN 9781846686320

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