Dark Heart of the Night
by Léonora Miano
Translated by Tamsin Black
(University of Nebraska Press, 2010)
What is Africa’s own “heart of darkness”? It is what confronts Ayané when, after three years abroad, she returns to the Central African village of her birth. Now an “outsider” with foreign ways distrusted by her fellow villagers, she must face alone the customs and superstitions that bind this clan of men and women. When invading militia organize a horrific ceremony that they claim will help reunite Africa, Ayané is forced to confront the monstrosity of the act that follows, as well as the responsibility that all the villagers must bear for silently accepting evil done in their name.
Through Ayané’s unwilling witness, Léonora Miano probes the themes of submission and responsibility and questions the role of Africans in the suffering of their fellows. Also exploring African identity, Dark Heart of the Night is a profoundly disturbing novel in its evocation of the darkest side of people driven by their instinct to survive.
Léonora Miano was born in Cameroon in 1973 and lived there until moving to France in 1991. She has published three novels including L’interieur de la nuit. In 2006 she received the Montalembert Prize for a first novel by a female writer. Tamsin Black has translated Pascale Kramer’s The Living and Marie NDiaye’sRosie Carpe, both available in Bison Books editions.
Praise for the original French edition of Dark Heart of the Night:
“[Miano] has written a novel that has the powerful dignity of the Greek tragedies.”—Thierry Gandillot, L’Express
“In a style that is beautifully controlled and shows no trace of exoticism, Léonora Miano plunges her readers agonizingly into the mysteries of Africa: rebellions, coups d’état, archaic sacrifices, and battles between clans. Her observations are merciless and uncompromising.”—Josyane Savigneau, Le Monde des Livres
“Avoiding the fine talking of humanitarians and self-satisfied claptrap of nationalist Africans, [Miano] takes readers on an unforgettable journey to the heart of the shadows.”—Marie Claire
“Léonora Miano has produced a superb novel out of love for her native country but which is also a vigorous critique of its inhabitants. . . . This horrific tale starts by hypnotizing readers, before scorching, then chilling them. It is the kind you don’t forget.”—Les Echos weekend
“Léonora Miano reveals a ferocious mind and a fiery pen. Combining depth of thought with a style of steely beauty, she achieves a rare degree of perspicacity in her analysis of African society, denouncing insalubrious poverty, the ignorance of its peoples, necrophiliac behaviour, witchcraft, rituals, and the supreme power of patriarchs and excision. A revelation.”—Sandrine Fillipetti, Rolling Stone
“In Dark Heart of the Night, Léonora Miano draws an unhinging portrait of Africa. Is this just fiction, or is it fictionalized fact? Her invitation au voyage leads to a distant universe that she nevertheless succeeds in making seem oddly close. It comes as a surprise to find, in the heart of such unfamiliar territory, a sense of familiarity. The description is restrained, seductively simple and rigorous.”—Jeanne Garcin, Elle
A French Voices selection of the PEN American Center and French Embassy for quality translation of important contemporary French literature.