Guinean writer, widely known for his first novel, The African Child. The eldest of seven children of a goldsmith, Laye was born on 1 January 1928 in Kouroussa, northern Guinea, where he had his elementary and Koranic education. He later studied engineering at the College Georges Poiret (subsequently College Technique) in Conakry and won a scholarship to study motor mechanics in Paris. After graduating he worked for sometime in a car factory in France before embarking on a literary career.
L’Enfant noir, Laye’s first novel published in 1953 (translated as The African Child in 1955), idolised his childhood in colonial Guinea, without recourse to the politics of the day. The novel received critical acclaim but was castigated by Laye’s African contemporaries for its lack of commitment to the cause of African nationalism. Of it, Présence Africaine said:
« Had this young Guinean, of my own race, really seen nothing but beautiful, peaceful and maternal Africa? Is it possible that Laye has not once witnessed a single minor extortion of the colonial authorities? »
A second novel, Le Regard du Roi, appeared in 1954 and was translated as the Radiance of the King, two years later. Though a more complex work than its predecessor, the work suffered the same fate for the repeated lack of commitment to the ideological directives of the militant nationalism of Negritude. Yet in 1955 Laye returned to Guinea, and after the country’s independence in 1958 he joined the government of Sekou Toure as director of the Ministry of Information’s Study and Research Center.
He later fell out with the government and left Guinea in 1964 for exile in Senegal where he wrote his third book, Dramouss, in 1966 (translated as A Dream of Africa in 1968. He also wrote The Guardian of the Word, originally in French Le Maître de la parole .
Laye Camara died in Dakar in February 1980.
When he died … Guinean writer Camara Laye had the reputation of being « his continent’s preeminent novelist. »
The New York Times Book Review
- L’Enfant noir
- The African Child
- A Dream of Africa
- Le Regard du roi
- The Radiance of the King
- Le Maître de la parole
- The Guardian of the Word