Jazz and Palm Wine

Jazz and Palm Wine

Emmanuel Dongala, foreword by Dominic Thomas, translated by Dominic Thomas
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 04/03/2017
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-253-02669-9
Bookmark and Share

Other formats available:

Buy from Amazon


Jazz, aliens, and witchcraft collide in this collection of short stories by renowned author Emmanuel Dongala. The influence of Kongo culture is tangible throughout, as customary beliefs clash with party conceptions of scientific and rational thought. In the first half of Jazz and Palm Wine, the characters emerge victorious from decades of colonial exploitation in the Congo only to confront the burdensome bureaucracy, oppressive legal systems, and corrupt governments of the post-colonial era. The ruling political party attempts to impose order and scientific thinking while the people struggles to deal with drought, infertility, and impossible regulations and policies; both sides mix witchcraft, diplomacy, and violence in their efforts to survive. The second half of the book is set in the United States during the turbulent civil rights struggles of the 1960s. In the title story, African and American leaders come together to save the world from extraterrestrials by serving vast quantities of palm wine and playing American jazz. The stories in Jazz and Palm Wine prompt conversations about identity, race, and co-existence, providing contextualization and a historical dimension that is often sorely lacking. Through these collisions and clashes, Dongala suggests a pathway to racial harmony, peaceful co-existence, and individual liberty through artistic creation.

Author Bio

Emmanuel Dongala is Richard B. Fisher Chair in Natural Sciences at Bard College at Simon's Rock. His novels have been awarded the Grand Prix Ladislas Dormandi, the Grand Prix Littéraire d'Afrique Noire, the Charles Oulmont Prize, and the Cezam Literary Prize.

Dominic Thomas is Madeleine L. Letessier Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. His books include Nation-Building, Propaganda, and Literature in Francophone Africa; Black France: Colonialism, Immigration, and Transnationalism; and Africa and France: Postcolonial Cultures, Migration, and Racism.


“Dongala’s striking story collection, originally published in France in 1982, includes political tales set in his native Congo and jazz-themed pieces set in America. . . . Dongala’s prose can be quite moving, and his writing full of marvelous, lyrical imagery, as when he describes the evening as 'those inchoate and fugitive hours when the daylight begins to fade and darkness gradually spreads its cloak.'”
 — Publishers Weekly

“Dongala is a leading voice among African writers.”
 — Passion des livres

“Dongala is a novelist and short story writer who has written about daily life in Central Africa, the horrors of war, and of his love for the music of John Coltrane.”
 — France Inter

“Hidden under the apparent farcical naïveté of each story, such as the one in which only the intoxicating powers of palm wine are able to temper the extra-terrestrials that have taken control over the planet, one finds some of the most beautiful words ever written about the dashed hopes of newly independent African states, summoned like a distant echo by the profound tragedy of the genius saxophonist that was Coltrane.”
 — Africultures

“A major writer.”
 — Violaine Binet, Vogue

“A major figure in the renewal of African writing.”
 — Etonnants Voyageurs

“One of the most well-known collections of short stories in francophone Africa. . . . Beyond the political dimension, it is the artist-author's liberty that comes to the surface in the collection and that allows the musicality of language to transcend territorial, ideological and generic borders, all in the relentless pursuit of the absolute.”
 — Virginie Brinker, La Plume Francophone

“"The translation feels fresh and alive, while the introductory material by Dominic Thomas gives a great sense of Dongala’s work in detailed biographical and historical contexts. The publication of an English version of Dongala’s collection would be something to celebrate in itself."”
 — AiW

Customer Reviews

There are currently no reviews
Write a review on this title.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Dominic Thomas. "Harmony and Liberty or Jazz and Palm Wine"

The Astonishing and Dialectic Downfall of Comrade Kali Tchikati
A Day in the Life of Augustine Amaya
Old Likibi’s Trial
The Man
The Ceremony
Jazz and Palm Wine
My Ghost Train
A Love Supreme

Related Titles