the guardian Tue 17 July 2012
The narrator of Black Bazaar hails, like Alain Mabanckou himself, from Congo-Brazzaville. Known to his friends as "Buttologist", thanks to his deep appreciation of female buttocks, he gives us a vivid picture of the life of African émigrés in Paris. Dressed in the finest designer suits while living in a shabby studio apartment, Buttologist presents a proud image to the world even as he struggles to come to terms with the fact that his partner has run off with a tom-tom player, taking their daughter with her. While he roams the City of Light, from the bars of Les Halles to the street markets of Château Rouge, the book conducts an ebullient debate about the legacy of white colonialism in Africa: did the whites ruin Africa or did they introduce social and cultural practices that ultimately made life better there? Mabanckou seems to be saying that Africans should stop blaming the colonists for all their ills and move forward. Packed with references to Francophone and Anglophone books and films as well as celebrating African pop, the book is a dazzling cultural catalogue.