Camara Laye

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Camara Laye
BornJanuary 1, 1928
Kouroussa, French Guinea
DiedFebruary 4, 1980 (aged 52)
Dakar, Senegal
Notable worksL'Enfant noir
Le Regard du roi
Notable awardsPrix Charles Veillon

Camara Laye (January 1, 1928 – February 4, 1980) was an African writer from Guinea. He was the author of The African Child (L'Enfant noir), a novel based loosely on his own childhood, and The Radiance of the King (Le Regard du roi). Both novels are among the earliest major works in Francophone African literature. Camara Laye later worked for the government of newly independent Guinea, but went into voluntary exile over political issues.

Early life[edit]

Camara Laye was born in Kouroussa, a town in what was then the colony of French Guinea, his family were Malinke (a Mandé-speaking ethnicity), and he was born into a caste that traditionally worked as blacksmiths and goldsmiths. His mother was from the village of Tindican, and his immediate childhood surroundings were not predominantly influenced by French culture.

He attended both Quranic and French elementary schools in Kouroussa. At the age of 15 he went to Conakry, the colonial capital, to continue his education, he attended vocational studies in motor mechanics. In 1947, he travelled to Paris to continue studying mechanics. There he worked and took further courses in engineering and worked towards the baccalauréat.

Writing career[edit]

Camara Laye published his first novel in 1953, the autobiographical L'Enfant noir (The African Child, also published under the title The Dark Child), it follows his own journey from childhood in Kouroussa, his education in Conakry, and eventual departure for France. The book won the Prix Charles Veillon in 1954. L'Enfant noir was followed the next year by Le Regard du roi (The Radiance of the King). The Radiance of the King was described by Kwame Anthony Appiah as "one of the greatest of the African novels of the colonial period."[1]

In 1956 Camara Laye returned to Africa, first to Dahomey, then the Gold Coast, and finally to newly independent Guinea, where he held several government posts, he left Guinea for Senegal in 1965 because of political issues, never returning to his home country. In 1966 Camara Laye's third novel, Dramouss (A Dream of Africa), was published. In 1978 his fourth and final work, Le Maître de la parole – Kouma Lafôlô Kouma (The Guardian of the Word), was published; the novel was based on a Malian epic told by the griot Babou Condé about Sundiata Keita, the 13th-century founder of the Mali Empire.

Authorship controversy[edit]

Camara Laye's authorship of Le Regard du roi was questioned by literary scholar Adele King in her book Rereading Camara Laye,[2] she claimed that he had considerable help in writing L'Enfant noir and did not write any part of Le Regard du roi. Scholar F. Abiola Irele, in an article called "In Search of Camara Laye", asserts that the claims are not "sufficiently grounded" to adequately justify that Laye did not author the mentioned work.[3] Christopher L. Miller explores the ramifications of this controversy in his book Impostors: Literary Hoaxes and Cultural Authenticity. Miller discusses the role played by Toni Morrison, whose laudatory preface is included in a new edition of the translated Radiance of the King, published by The New York Review of Books Classics.[4]


Camara Laye died in 1980 in Dakar of a kidney infection.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Radiance of the King". Archived from the original on April 21, 2007. Retrieved February 8, 2010.
  2. ^ African Studies Review, Vol. 46, No. 3 (December 2003), pp. 170–172.
  3. ^ Irele, F. Abiola (Spring 2006). "In Search of Camara Laye". Research in African Literatures. 27 (1): 110–127. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  4. ^ Miller, Christopher L. (2018). Impostors: Literary Hoaxes and Cultural Authenticity; the University of Chicago Press. p. 272. ISBN 9780226590950.
  5. ^ Kevin Hodder (November 22, 2011). "Camara Laye (1928-1980)". Retrieved March 4, 2019.

Further reading[edit]