The Death of King Tsongor
This story of bizarre family relations purports to be set in an African kingdom, but the story reads more like medieval myth. King Tsongor’s preparations for the wedding of his daughter Samilia are interrupted by the appearance of a playmate from her childhood who claims the right to marry her, setting off a war between the father-approved suitor Kouame, Prince of the Salt Lands, and the old claimant Sango Kerim. Faced with this dilemma, the king sends his youngest son off to build a series of tombs, then slashes his own wrists and depends on an old retainer to finish the job. After the king is dead and placed in his coffin, he makes several more appearances.
One of Kouame’s armies contains a division of khat chewers and another regiment of transvestites. At a key point in the battle, a troop of Amazons led by his mother makes its appearance. The king’s children fight among themselves while the kingdom is destroyed, a piece of illogical behavior that matches well with many events in actual history.
The cover of this novel advertises it as the winner of the Prix Goncourt, but closer inspection reveals that it is the winner of the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens, a contest with voting done by secondary school students. Perhaps this novella works best for juvenile readers.