Gregoire Nakobomayo, a petty criminal, has decided to kill his girlfriend Germaine. He's planned it for some time, but still, the act of murder requires a bit of psychological and logistical preparation.
When AFRICAN PSYCHO by Alain Mabanckou arrived in my book stack, I really wasn't sure what to expect. I've finished it now and I'm still not sure what I got. But I do remember it!
Gregoire is a neglected child - an ugly child - an anonymous child - abandoned by his parents - he's raised in an increasingly haphazard manner really by himself mostly. He vows he will be different. He will be remembered. He vows to escape his humdrum reality and commit a spectacular murder. Just like his idol - the serial killer Angoualima. Angoualima is Gregoire's guide, his mentor, his hero. He's dead, but that doesn't mean that Gregoire is separated from him, often sharing his plans when sitting on Angoualima's grave.
Told in Gregoire's own voice, AFRICAN PSYCHO is a journey into the macabre, the funny, the sad, the desperate and the disturbing. At the same time, there are great sweeping vistas of the absurd - not the least because the author uses the most bizarre names for places - "He-Who-Drinks-Water-Is-An-Idiot" is where Gregoire lives. The novel isn't set in a real place, just as Gregoire's life is somehow not quite real.
AFRICAN PSYCHO isn't a book that fits into any "category" that's for sure. It's frequently weird, it's often confusing, but at the same time it's compelling, intriguing and just a little sad. Gregoire's an unreliable narrator in some ways, not by artifice or to manipulate. He's fragile. He's very damaged. The world he lives in isn't anywhere near where the rest of us lead our lives.
It's not an easy book to read, partially because it doesn't fit into any particular pattern or mould. It's also not an easy book to read as Gregoire's somebody who despite everything, that you could very well find yourself caring about - a lot.