Mohamed Mbougar Sarr: La Plus Secrète Mémoire des hommes [The Most Secret Memory of Men]

The latest addition to my website is Mohamed Mbougar Sarr‘s Plus Secrète Mémoire des hommes [The Most Secret Memory of Men]. African writers have done well with literary prizes in 2021, winning the Nobel Prize, the International Booker (a French national but of Senegalese heritage) and the Booker Prize. This novel, the longest (by far) of the four, the only one not written in English (and, at the time of writing, not available in translation) and written by the youngest of the four authors, won the Prix Goncourt.

The novel was influenced by the story of the Malian writer Yambo Ouologuem whose novel Le Devoir de violence (Bound to Violence) was hailed as a great work but then accused of plagiarism. Ouologuem disappeared to a remote village in Mali. This story is about a fictitious Senegalese writer, T C Elimane who, in 1938, published Le Labyrinthe de l’inhumain [The Labyrinth of the Inhuman], hailed as a great novel and then accused of plagiarism. He, too, disappeared and various people try to track him down culminating with the narrator, a young and not very successful Senegalese writer, Diégane Latyr Faye. He gets the back story – gradually – from a few other people and it is complicated, involving Nazis, , a Haitian woman poet, a strip club, lots of criticism of racism, a fair amount of (but not too much) sex, including at least one episode qualifying for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award, polygamy, the use of mystic, otherworldly powers, World War I and World War II, blindness, the horrors in what was Zaire and unreliable narrators. The story is superbly told and written in a beautiful French and clearly deserving of winning the Prix Goncourt. It has yet to be translated but almost certainly will be and, when it appears in English, I can highly recommend it.

2 thoughts on “Mohamed Mbougar Sarr: La Plus Secrète Mémoire des hommes [The Most Secret Memory of Men]”

Leave a comment