At the beginning of this masterpiece of African literature, Clarence, a white man, has been shipwrecked on the coast of Africa. Flush with self-importance, he demands to see the king, but the king has just left for the south of his realm. Traveling through an increasingly phantasmagoric landscape in the company of a beggar and two roguish boys, Clarence is gradually stripped of his pretensions, until he is sold to the royal harem as a slave. But in the end Clarence’s bewildering journey is the occasion of a revelation, as he discovers the image, both shameful and beautiful, of his own humanity in the alien splendor of the king.
“A classic work of modernism—a signal work in the African canon and one that every lover of literature will admire and enjoy.” —Henry Louis Gates Jr.
“One of the greatest of the African novels of the colonial period, Camara Laye’s The Radiance of the King has delighted and puzzled generations of readers inside and outside the continent. The delight is in the humor and elegance of the language and narrative. The puzzle lies in the book’s wonderfully unsettling end, which calls on us all to respond with an interpretation of our own.” —Kwame Anthony Appiah
“Allegorical, Kafkaesque and African in a unique way; it is a powerful and disturbing exploration of exile, quest and reconciliation with a power greater than logic or reason.” —The New York Times Book Review
The Radiance of the King by Camara Laye, Translated by James Kirkup, Introduction by Toni Morrison