"Broken Glass" by Alain Mabanckou

Credit Gone Away is the name of a squalid bar in Congo that plays host to a very interesting set of customers.  Broken Glass, one of the most loyal, has been given a notebook by the bar owner, Stubborn Snail, and asked to write down an account of the many people who frequent the bar.  

Broken Glass himself has a story of love and loss.  An alcoholic and disgraced teacher, he is haunted by the drowning death of his mother.  His wife has left him and he has lost all respect in the community.  And so he takes on the task of writing about the patrons of Credit Gone Away as a farewell of sorts.

Broken Glass, by Alain Mabanckou is a fascinating and funny story of a colourful cast of characters.  Full of heartache, laughter, love and loss, and full of literary and pop culture allusions, this is a captivating book. 

I first picked this book up after reading an article online discussing contemporary African authors that should be read by everyone and Mabanckou’s name was one that I was unfamiliar with (I really wish I could remember where the article was from.)  After looking through a list of his books, this is the one that interested me the most.

So when I opened the book to the first page and discovered that Mabanckou writes in a style that I’m really not a fan of, I hesitated.  This style is one that does not include a period anywhere in the book, and has very little punctuation otherwise.  I’ve tried to read books like this before, but the lack of a sentence stopper anywhere on a page seriously annoys me.

However, I began reading the book and before I knew it I was halfway through and this device was not bothering me (very much, I’d be lying if I said completely.)  The stories in this book are so intriguing.  Some of them had me laughing, some of them brought sadness.  The book is written as though you are reading the notebook written by Broken Glass and gives readers unique observations on the history, culture, and politics that make up life in Congo.

Reading this book I often thought, “I don’t understand how people say they can’t relate to a book so I won’t read it.”  This squalid bar is far from the world I live in but at the heart of this book is the stories of people living out each day they have on this earth.  No matter where we are in the world,  we live, we laugh, we struggle, we love.  And we learn from each other.  The next time you find yourself ready to dismiss a book because you don’t think you will relate to it, pick up the book for that reason alone.


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