The whole of African history unfolds in this brilliant novel from one of the continent's major writers. The story is unified by the actions of one man, Mankunku, a 'destroyer', who is born in mysterious circumstances in a banana plantation and whose identity is as variable as that of his land. This novel traces his development along with that of his unnamed country, from the pre-colonial era, through the horrors of European subjugation, to independence and the complexities of the postcolonial nation. Along the way, charlatans and saints, workers and bureaucrats, warriors and peacemakers are introduced in a moving melange of laughter and terror. First published in France in 1987, 'The Fire of Origins' received the 1988 Prix de la Fondation de France and the Grand Prix Litteraire d'Afrique Noire, and has been translated into Spanish, Danish, Norwegian, and Japanese. Mythical, lyrical, powerful, and surreal, it is one of the most ambitious works of fiction to come out of sub-Saharan Africa.
Emmanuel Dongala worked, until 1997, as dean of Brazzaville University in the Congo Republic, a professor of chemistry, and a writer honored in France with the rank of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. Because of a violent civil war, Dongala fled Africa and with the help of his friend Philip Roth he became a professor in chemistry and Francophone African literature at Bard College in upstate New York. He is the president of Congolese PEN and the National Association of Congolese Writers, author of three award-winning novels and a collection of short stories, and recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1999. He lives in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.