Camara Laye is an African writer born on January 1, 1928 in Kouroussa, French Guinea. After graduating from a Qurʾānic school, he attended the Poiret School in Conakry. Despite his future career as a novelist, he was very intrigued by mechanics and thus took many engineering courses. Laye was one of the first authors of his African region to achieve such worldwide acclaim.
The Dark Child is Laye’s debut novel, a French-language autobiography that documents his childhood growing up in Guinea. He details the close relationships he had with family members and the love he received from his local community. He also describes how religion and participation in spiritual gatherings were major parts of his adolescence. The memoir ends with Laye moving to Paris to pursue a higher education, thereby leaving the family and friends who supported him the most.
The Dark Child was met with great acclaim upon its publication and it ultimately won the 1954 Prix Charles Veillon Award. Author Andrew Blackman said of the novel that “the mixture of pain and excitement at each stage of growing up is beautifully rendered. [Camara] wants to be part of his family, to follow his father as a blacksmith or his uncle as a farmer, but always knows that his success in school is moving him further away from that. He is being marked out for a different future, his family are sacrificing to give him something better, and he wants that, but also wants to stay where he is. His parents, too, are caught in this conflict of wanting him to succeed but knowing that his success means his departure from their lives.” It is a moving, timeless story of leaving behind loved ones in order to achieve higher goals.
Laye published four books in his lifetime, the rest being The Radiance of the King, Dramouss, and The Guardian of the Word. His literary career was unfortunately shortened due to a kidney failure. He died on February 4, 1980 at only 52 years-old.