1. Radiance of the King

    The New York Review of Books imprint has one of the highest batting averages of any publishing house out there, and they definitely bring it with The Radiance of the King. Set in a pre-World War II Africa, a sort of schlubby British guy, hard up on his luck and full of colonial entitlement, is assisted by a beggar and two rambunctious teens in making his way to offer his services to the king. He moves through an almost hallucinogenic landscape, his pretensions and assumptions ripped away from him, until he is (SPOILER ALERT) eventually sold into slavery as a member of the king’s harem. This isn’t just a classic of African Literature, it’s a Classic, period.

    —Scott Beauchamp from BookRiot chose Camara Laye’s The Radiance of the King as one of the best books he read in July. Camara Laye is most famous for his book L’Enfant Noir, which is often considered one of the first great African novels. The Radiance of the King is not far behind (L’Enfant was published 1954, Radiance 1956), and Kwame Anthony Appiah has called it “one of the greatest of the African novels of the colonial period.”

  2. 'The Radiance of the King'

    The last of our re-jacketed and re-issued series is Camara Laye’s The Radiance of the King. Laye is most famous for his autobiographical work L’Enfant Noir, but Radiance is the Guinean’s only novel, and an important work in African literature. Toni Morrison has this to say in her introduction:

    "Camara Laye not only summoned a sophisticated, wholly African imagistic vocabulary in which to launch a discursive negotiation with the West, he exploited with technical finesse the very images that have served white writers for generations. The filthy inn where Clarence, the protagonist, is living could be taken fword from word from Joyce Cary’s Mister Johnson; his susceptibility to and obsession with smells read like a play upon Elspeth Huxley’s The Flame Trees of Thikia; his European fixation with the ‘meaning’ of nakedness recalls H. Rider Haggard or Joseph Conrad or virtually all travel writing. Reworking the hobbled idioms of imperialism, colonialism, and racism, Camara Laye allows us the novel experience of both being and watching an anonymous interloper discover not a new version of himself via a country waiting for Western imagination to bring it into view, but an Africa already idea-ed, gazing upon the other.”