Bard College at Simon’s Rock continues its Book One program, which has students, faculty, and staff read the same book over the summer and invites the author to speak during the College’s Writing and Thinking Workshop as well as at First Year Seminars. This year, the Simon’s Rock community will read faculty member Emmanuel Dongala’s, Little Boys Come from the Stars (Random House, 2002).
The widely acclaimed and celebrated novel follows the story of a turbulent African nation seen through the eyes of a precocious teen dubbed Matapari (“trouble”). Though his father is a reclusive scholar, his mother a confused Catholic, and his uncle a shameless opportunist, Matapari is a regular kid who wears Reeboks, drinks Coke, and reads Japanese comics. But when his family becomes the center of the revolution, Matapari emerges as the ideal narrator–an ironically innocent voice that makes bearable and even humorous the realities it describes.
A New York Times Book Review wrote that it was “Affecting…in the tradition of post-colonial novels like Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart,” with an aspiration to “update the genre.” And the Los Angeles Times declared it “A whimsical, indeed hilarious satire out of Africa’s decidedly unfunny post-independence woes.”
Dr. Dongala is the Richard B. Fisher Chair in Natural Sciences. Prior to teaching at Simon’s Rock, Dongala taught at the Institut de Chimie in Stasbourg (France), Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie of Montpellier (France), and Université de Brazzaville (Congo), where he was appointed Chairman of the Department of Chemistry and later, dean of academic affairs. Dongala is a writer of fiction and the former president of the Congolese chapter of PEN, the international writers’ organization. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship (1999) and the Ladislas Domandi Prize for the best French novel by a non-resident of France for his first novel Un fusil dans la main, un poem dans la poch (A Gun in Hand, a Poem in the Pocket). His second novel, Le feu des origins (The Fire of Origins), won the Grand Prix Literaire d’Afrique Noire and the Grand Prix de la Fondation de France. Recently, the movie version of his book Johnny Mad Dog won the Prize of Hope at the Cannes film festival (2008) and a graduate seminar at U.C.L.A. was taught on his work.