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Johnny Mad Dog

A Novel

Emmanuel Dongala; Translated from the French by Maria Louise Ascher

Picador

Set amid the chaos of West Africa's civil wars, Emmanuel Dongala's novel tells the story of two teenagers growing up while rival ethnic groups fight for control of their country.
 
At age sixteen, Johnny is a member of the Death Dealers, a rebel faction bent on seizing power. Even as he is drawn into the rebels' program of terror, Johnny Mad Dog, as he calls himself, retains his youthful exuberance—searching for girls, good times, and adventure. Sixteen-year-old Laokolé, for her part, dreams of finishing high school and becoming an engineer, but as rogue militias prepare to sack the city, she is forced to leave home with her mother and brother—and then finds herself alone and running from the likes of Johnny.

Acclaimed in France, Johnny Mad Dog is a coming-of-age story. Dongala's use of dual narrators makes the novel a vivid and affecting tale of the struggle to survive—and to retain one's humanity—in terrifying times.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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Chapter One
Laokolé
General Giap proclaimed a period of looting that was to last forty-eight hours.
Instantly I switched off the radio. I took the hurricane lamp and ran toward our little storage shed, to make sure the wheelbarrow was there and in working order. Yes, it was there, lying upside down. I spun its single wheel. The wheel turned smoothly but squeaked a little. I went to the kitchen to find the bit of palm oil we had left. I oiled the wheel and tested it again. It didn’t squeak anymore. Despite the rust that had begun to corrode the body, the barrow was in good repair
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REVIEWS

Praise for Johnny Mad Dog

"Terrifying . . . Emmanuel Dongala grabs us from the start with a language that is rude and raw (Mad Dog's) and lyrical (Laokolé's). . . . He continues to vividly re-create his burning piece of earth."--The New York Times Book Review
 
"The manner in which Dongala juxtaposes these two characters' experiences explains more about these wars than most news stories ever could . . . Dongala's fast-paced, irreverent style makes the novel a memorable, thoroughly enjoyable read."--The Boston Globe

"Not only does [Dongala] show the terror, he shows the absurdity, the banality, even the cruel humor, [and] takes swipes at Western relief workers, UN troops, the international media, and 'political experts' who continue to recycle the same story from Africa's war zones."--Anderson Tepper, The Washington Post Book World
 
"Stark, blackly comic . . . In Laokolé and Mad Dog, Emmanuel Dongala gives us two equally extraordinary portraits of [his characters' brains]."--Associated Press

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Emmanuel Dongala; Translated from the French by Maria Louise Ascher

  • Emmanuel Dongala was a resident from birth of Brazzaville, capital of the Congo Republic (formerly French Congo), until he left the country in 1997 during its civil war. He teaches at Simon's Rock College of Bard and lives in western Massachusetts.
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Available Formats and Book Details

Johnny Mad Dog

A Novel

Emmanuel Dongala; Translated from the French by Maria Louise Ascher

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Picador

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