The Radiance of the King

The Radiance of the King

by Camara Laye

But in the end Clarences bewildering journey is the occasion of a revelation, as he discovers the image, both shameful and beautiful, of his own humanity in the alien splendor of the king.Camara Laye published his first novel in 1953, the autobiographical L'Enfant noir (The African Child, also published under the title The Dark Child).

It follows his own journey from childhood in Kouroussa, his education in Conakry, and eventual departure for France.

L'Enfant noir was followed the next year by Le Regard du roi (The Radiance of the King).

  • Language: English
  • Category: Cultural
  • Rating: 3.82
  • Pages: 288
  • Publish Date: May 31st 2001 by NYRB Classics
  • Isbn10: 0940322587
  • Isbn13: 9780940322585

What People Think about "The Radiance of the King"

We are never far from the musings of Clarence, the destitute white man. The phantasmagoria here reminds me of Ben Okris fabulous Booker Prize Winning The Famished Road, and the idea of a white man adrift among Africans of Saul Bellows funny and moving Henderson the Rain King. Clarence is the down and out white man being escorted to the South (where he believes he will be granted a post by the king) by the obstreperous beggar and the two mischievous boys, Noaga and Nagoa. Naturally Clarence has no conception of the sheer malice of the forest, of its mythic sentience.

The point is quite clear, and quite terrifying for the white reader: Clarence is simply incapable of experiencing or understanding the (unnamed) West African country he finds himself in. To take just one small example, "an unnamed West African country" is already a whopping cliche. And yet Camara sticks to it, not because he doesn't want to set it in, e.g., Guinea, but because people like Clarence really do experience Africa as if it were one place, and so the names of nations/peoples/geographies are unimportant to them (us). Camara allows us to experience the women in the novel as sexual objects or housemaids, not because that's what he thinks women are, but because, again, that how people like Clarence (us) experience African women.

This is very like Kafka, absurd satire-parable, although its energy seemed to me very much heartier and less desperate than Kafka's.

One knew quite well that one had no right to anything but indifference and that in fact on deserved to be treated with repugnance: but all this did not make that indifference less chill, or less cruel, or less desolating Much as this statement rings of the white supremacist patriarchy, I don't trust my own reactions to it because of how easy it is to fall into the simple dichotomy. I came for what I had heard of as reverse Heart of Darkness and found a continuation of the literary tradition of Guinea and a whole lot of other complex things I'm not familiar with at all. Things I didn't get: forests, mazes, wings, dancing, View of the Female (that's my western feminism for you), snakes, the South, and WHAT THE FUCK WAS UP WITH THE MANATEES. "I've still got the right," he told himself, "but I no longer have the means to put my anger into effect."...The means! Those I am happy to have sit in their own corner while I go and not think about it for the time being.

At first i enjoyed Clarence, but the farther along i got, the more his arrogance began to grate--I was hoping to have a better understanding of what exactly was happening as i reached the conclusion of the book, but that didn't happen.

This is world class writing, incorporating the best from Africa, from Europe and cascading into intellectual apogee.

First, however, he winds up with a crafty old beggar and two African boys who talk him into traveling to the south of the country.

His novel The Radiance of the King (Le Regard du roi) is considered to be one of his most important works. In 1953, he published his first novel, L'Enfant noir (The African Child, 1954, also published under the title The Dark Child), an autobiographical story, which narrates in the first person a journey from childhood in Kouroussa, through challenges in Conakry, to France. These two novels are among the very earliest major works in francophone African literature.The Radiance of the King was described by Kwame Anthony Appiah as "One of the greatest of the African novels of the colonial period." In 1956, Camara returned to Africa, first to Dahomey (now Benin), then Gold Coast (now Ghana) and then to newly independent Guinea, where he held government posts.