Killer stories: ‘globalizing’ the grotesque in Alain Mabanckou’s African Psycho and Leïla Slimani’s Chanson douce

Sarah Arens

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Focusing on Leïla Slimani's Chanson douce (2016) and Alain Mabanckou's African Psycho (2003), this article traces a grotesque aesthetics that draws on other globally circulated texts, such as North American crime fiction, the literary trope of the serial killer and the 'evil mother', as well as on the recognition value of the city of Paris to appeal to a global, and in particular Western readership. While this new aesthetics is clearly informed by previous generations of African literature, such as the texts that have served to illustrate Achille Mbembe's articulation of the grotesque, the 'commandement' in Slimani and Mabanckou's novels is exercised by less tangible dynamics of transnational capitalism, class differentiation, gender stereotypes, and social marginalisation. The article considers the ways in which both Slimani and Mabanckou's narratives place a new importance on, and instrumentalize the role of the audience — as readership — by making them a central element of their representation of the grotesque. The writers' public performance of their identities as celebrity literary authors then serves to better understand how their re-configuration of the grotesque as a 'globalized' aesthetic extends to a re-thinking of what African literature in French and its authors are today on the world literary market.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-172
JournalIrish Journal of French Studies
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Crime fiction
  • Globalisation
  • Grotesque
  • Mabanckou
  • Slimani
  • Word literature


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