The Noir Atlantic

BookThe Noir Atlantic

The Noir Atlantic

Chester Himes and the Birth of the Francophone African Crime Novel

Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures, 20


June 8th, 2011

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The Noir Atlantic follows the influence of African American author Chester Himes on Francophone African crime fiction. In 1953, Himes emigrated to Paris; he struggled there, just as he had in the United States. In 1957, his luck changed: the famous French Série noire brought out the first installment of his “Harlem” crime series, La reine des pommes. Suddenly, he was a household name in France. Later, he would also have a significant influence on Francophone African writers; for them, Himes’s blend of absurdist humor and violence offered an alternative to a high literary paradigm implanted during the colonial era. Likewise, his heterogeneous identity as American, black, and a writer of “French” bestsellers modeled an escape from the centripetal pull of the Métropole. Starting with Abasse Ndione’s depictions of Senegal’s marijuana-smoking subculture in La Vie en spirale (1982) and ending with Mongo Beti’s 2001 Branle-bas en noir et blanc, set in Yaoundé, Cameroon, Francophone African crime fiction rejected French criteria of literary success; it embraced a new postcolonial aesthetic that emphasized entertaining the reader while making a living. The Noir Atlantic demonstrates why turning to what this study calls a “frivolous literary” mode represented a profound shift in perspective that anticipated more recent developments such as littérature monde.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Introduction: The Frivolous Literary9
1 “Pas de littérature”: Abasse Ndione and the Rise of Crime47
2 Minor Mistranslations: Simon Njami and the Making of a Parisianist Himes77
3 Crime Pays: Achille Ngoye and the Série noire99
4 Ethnographic Erotics: Bolya and the Writing of the Other126
5 Terreur Rose: Terreur Rose: Kouty, mémoire de sang and the Gendering of Noir148
6 Going out Blazing: Mongo Beti’s Last Two Novels176