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The peculiar and moving story of a Congolese boy's coming-of-age amid the political strife of postcolonial Congo"It is even said-but I admit that it's difficult to believe, even though I got this from my uncle-that when Papa was born, you couldn't follow the World Cup or the Olympics live and that Coca-Cola had yet to spread the selling of soft drinks to our village. Michael Jackson had yet to become famous . . . If all this was really true, I wonder how men managed to fill up the twenty-four hours of the day, three hundred sixty-five days a year."His nickname is Matapari, which means "trouble." He is an African child of the '90s-brilliant, mischievous, postcolonial, postmodern-caught in the crossfire of a chaotically liberated African country. Matapari grows up in a world of talking drums, the Internet, and satellite TV, a world of dictators who remake themselves as democrats overnight. His uncle is a stooge for the dictator; his father is a scholarly recluse obsessed with proving that blacks played key roles in Western history. Matapari is a young man in the middle-but the shrewdness and wit with which he tells his often riotously funny story set him apart from his relatives and countrymen. Emmanuel Dongala uses the ingenious viewpoint of a child to show up the telltale world of adults-and to show how one preserves one's independence in a corrupt and violent society.

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