Title Pick: The Wounded Soul of a Black Elephant & A Prayer to the Ancestors by Gabriel Mwene Okoundji

The Wounded Soul of a Black Elephant & A Prayer to the Ancestors by Gabriel Mwènè Okoundji is a bilingual edition of the poems of the prize-winning Congolese poet Gabriel Mwènè Okoundji translated into English by Peter Figueroa. “I spent my childhood, like most children brought up in the Congolese bush, among women. Their talk, their songs, their lullabies, their tales, their tears and even their quarrels sprinkled with parables, were all imbued with poetry.” For Gabriel Okoundji this childhood was the source of his inspiration – and this fine translation conveys his sense of wonder at the stars, the rain, the wind, the relationship of Man and the natural world. He sees his poetry as an interpretation, an adaptation of the oral poetry which exists naturally in many African societies. “The harmonious integration of Man in the world is my raw material.”

This book contains two series of poems, some short, some longer, all rich in imagery and imbued with the atmosphere of rural Africa. It also contains a fascinating account of Gabriel’s contact with Peter and how this translation and publication came about.

The Wounded Soul of a Black Elephant & A Prayer to the Ancestors
Gabriel Mwènè Okoundji
Translated from the French by Peter Figueroa
2013, Books of Africa
ISBN: 978-0-9566380-7-6

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