Leonora Miano's first novel, about the questions of identity and responsibility that arise from an act of monstrosity because of an unwillingness to question authority or tradition
Leonora 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's Rosie Carpe, both available in Bison Books editions. Terese Svoboda translated songs from the Nuer, a Sudanese people, in Cleaned the Crocodile's Teeth, and is the author of Tin God (Nebraska 2006) and Trailer Girl and Other Stories, available in a Bison Books edition.
Leaden prose and unimaginative detail weigh down this straightforward story of ritualistic atrocity in a fictionalized Cameroon. As a young woman, Ayane, the daughter of parents ostracized from their impoverished village, returns home for a visit from France just as a rebel army occupies the village. There, in the name of national unity, Isilo, the drug-addled rebel commander, has a village elder murdered, humiliates the men, and presses the children into his army. The atrocity bottoms out when he forces the villagers to eat the flesh of one of their own. Miano's plot has the makings of a rich morality tale, but the surprises are trotted out with the plodding pomp of a coronation. The story's effectiveness is also hindered by a cast of thinly drawn characters whose familiarity fails to add needed depth. Though there are occasional stretches that show Miano as a writer of talent, this first novel is marked more by its good intentions than its literary quality. (Apr.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
Praise for the original French edition (L'Interieur de la nuit) 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, Leonora Miano plunges her readers agonizingly into the mysteries of Africa: rebellions, coups d'etat, 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