Jérôme Nouhouaï

Jérome

Jérôme Nouhouaï was born in 1973, in Abomey, Republic of Benin. He has taken part in the Caravane du livre, a project to promote reading in African schools, and currently works for a research institute in Benin. Nouhouaï has written two novels: Le piment des plus beaux jours (Le Serpent à Plumes, 2010), a darkly ironic portrait of student life in Benin, and La mort du lendemain (Présence Africaine, 2010), a revenge tale set against a backdrop of poverty, corruption and civil war.

Featured Reading Group Title:

Le piment des plus beaux jours

piment

 

Nelson Kangni is a second year Law student. He shares a one-bedroom flat with two other students: Jojo, an engineer, obsessed with girls and money, and Malcolm, a brooding Pan-African intellectual. Ordinarily a conscientious student, Nelson finds himself distracted by Josiane, the captivatingly beautiful daughter of a former government minister with a very watchful eye.

While Nelson makes slow progress in the business of seduction, the terrible Jojo spends all his time in bed with a rich family’s young maid, and Malcolm is consumed by darker thoughts. The Lebanese are the root of all the country’s problems, he explains to a dubious Nelson; they are greedy, racist, faithless and lawless. When a Lebanese shopkeeper is attacked, another has his business burnt to the ground, and a third is kidnapped and found dead, Nelson’s suspicions turn to Malcolm.

This funny, fiercely ironic debut offers a rare portrait of life in Benin, and a new take on racism and xenophobia.

Ruth Clarke

 More information:

  • This title features as part of our Spring 2013 French reading group.
  • Download Ruth Clarke’s sample translations: Introduction andExplosion.

3 Comments

  1. Katia Leloutre says:

    I liked it – it’s original, colourful and exotic, funny yet tragic. I liked the author’s language, intertwined with words of Beninese. The story works on two levels – that of three students, their girlfriends mainly (at least for two of them), their studies accessorily, and of course their dreams, deemed to be disappointed (at least for two of them) when the story of their individual lives meets the bigger story – that of a society struggling with the rise of racism and xenophobia, against a backdrop of poverty, corruption and intolerance that has become impossible to ignore, and overcome. Malcolm the intellectual is lost, Jojo the opportunist has a happy exit, and Nelson seems to hesitate between the two as bitterness, boredom and fatalism could lead him to a path of destruction. An interesting portrait of the Beninese society.
    And this is a biography of Jérôme Nouhouaï, who has published a second book – “La mort du lendemain”, a revenge story in a society exhausted by misery and corruption:
    http://www.etonnants-voyageurs.com/spip.php?page=invitesbamako&id_article=6855

    Reply
  2. Viviane Li says:

    Sorry I can’t attend Monday’s meeting any more, so will write a few words of comment here. I really enjoyed reading this book! It was very different, I had never previously read anything about this country, Benin. It was heartbreaking to read about the conditions in which Benin students lived. The author managed to describe them with a lot of humour and dignity. I liked his style, it was light but touching. I liked the way he constructed the story. It started off as something simple, a poor student falling in love with a rich schoolmate. The girl seemed to have gradually become attracted to him, but they couldn’t get together. Then the plot kept deviating from a conventional path and reached a happy or unhappy ending. The end of the book wasn’t the end of the story, the tension stays there until the last sentence. The rest is left to the reader’s imagination. Lots of questions were left unanswered. The end sent a chill down my spine, I find the remaining story too scary to think about… One last thing, it was written in a beautiful French. I would read anything he writes again!

    Reply
  3. Nancy Pile says:

    Of all the five books we had, I found this by far and away the best. I absolutely loved it and would willingly read anything by this author again. Compared to all the others, I thought it was written with great style, had an intriguing, original plot, engaging and believable characterisation, plus the added novelty of learning about Benin.

    Reply

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