Camara Laye

1928–1980
Guinean author

Camara Laye is one of Africa’s best-known and most respected francophone (French-speaking) authors. His first novel, L’enfant noir (The Black Infant) is also one of his most popular. Written in 1953, the book tells of Camara’s childhood in the town of Kouroussa, GUINEA. On the one hand, it is a personal account of the author’s Mande culture, including a description of secret initiation rites. On the other, it is the story of an African exiled to France who remembers the culture he was forced to abandon.

Dramouss, another work based on Camara’s personal experiences, is about his disappointment with the political regime of President Sekou TOURE. The Guinean ruler’s cruelty forced Camara into exile in SENEGAL. Camara’s last book, Le maitre de la parole, is a retelling of the Mande epic about the medieval Emperor Sunjata. Camara wrote down and translated the tale from the performance of a traditional storyteller. Another novel that appeared under Camara’s name was Le regard du roi (The Radiance of the King). Some people doubted that Camara was actually the author of the book, and shortly before his death he confirmed that the novel was written by someone else. Camara Laye died in Senegal in 1980. (See also Literature.)

Camara Laye