The use of the French language in Congolese literature is a dominant factor. Modern Congolese literature emerged starting in the 1950’s through the literary works of authors such as Tchikaya de Boempire (1937) and Dadet Domongo. Jean Malonga is considered as one of the deans of the Congolese literature through his book entitled,“Coeur d’Aryenne” published in 1954. His literacy works centered on the theme of “black identity” in the midst of a colonial world.
After independence, new authors inspired by the older generation of Congolese authors and new issues affecting the Republic of Congo became known to the growing literary scene. Guy Menga is remembered as one of the first Congolese playwrights who set the tone for modern Congolese literature in the 1970’s. Along his side were other creative and talented authors such as Makouta-Mboukou, Henri Lopès, Emmanuelle Dongala, Tchichelle Tchivela or Sony Labou Tansi who also achieved an international reputation. Henri Lopès, the current Ambassador of the Republic of Congo in France, is certainly known for his sophisticated writing style, pointing out the paradox of African states' independence, and activism on cultural diversity in literature. Some of his most acclaimed works include Le Pleurer-rire (The Laughing Cry,1982), Tribaliques ( Tribaliks, 1971), Sans tam tam ( Revolutions without drums, 1977) and Le Lys et le Flamboyant ( The Lys and the flamboyant tree, 1997). His recent book entitled, Un enfant de Poto-Poto (A Child from Poto-Poto, 2011) recounts the identity dilemma of the early Congolese diaspora in post-colonial Congo. In 1993, the French Academy awarded him the Grand Prix de la Francophonie. Following the publications of his literary works, he became Honorary Doctor at the University of Paris XII and University of Quebec.
The rise of female authors in the early 1970’s unveils the diversity of Congolese literature and its support for gender empowerment. In 1971, Paule Etoumba published a collection of poems known as, “Un mot fracasse un avenir" (a word shatters the future). In the 1980’s, Cecile-Ivelyse Diamoneka, Jeannette Balou-Tchichelle and Francine Laurans embark on a romantic adventure genre. While the romantic adventure genre may seem to be geared mostly towards female writers, Adèle Caby-Livannah is successful in standing out as an exceptional short fiction story writer through her novels “ Les contes de la pleine pluie,” (Tales of full rain) and “ Contes et histoire du Congo,” ( Tales and History of Congo).
Beginning in the early 2000’s, the arc of Congolese literature takes a different turn as she becomes more diasporic. Many authors are expatriated across Europe and North America. Alain Mabanckou, one of the most popular diasporic Congolese authors is known for his exuberant works, distinctive use of African oral tradition and for being a proponent of literary globalization. The publication of his first successful novel, “ Bleu-Blanc-Rouge ( Blue-White-Red) in 1999 garnered him the Grand Prix littéraire d’Afrique noire. In 2006, Alain Mabanckou won the Prix Renaudot for his novel “ Memoires de porc-epic"( memoirs of a porcupine), which is a parody of African fables. In 2002, Alain Mabanckou was appointed Assistant Professor of Francophone literature at the University of Michigan. In 2006, he was hired as a full time French Language Professor at the University of Michigan. Currently, he is a full time French Language Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
While male authors may seem to dominate contemporary Congolese literature, female Congolese authors such as Kathia Mounthault, showcase a strong voice in issues pertaining to post-conflict Congo. In her book, Le Cri d’un Fleuve (The Cry of a River), she portrays the documentary of an American CNN reporter known as Celia who travels to Congo in an attempt to picture its reconstruction. Her numerous adventures throughout the countries would open Celia’s eyes to the painful memories and struggles that continue to plague the reconstruction of Congo. Mrs. Kathia Mounthault was born to a Congolese father and a Guadeloupian mother. She was raised in the Republic of Congo and studied International Relations in France and obtained her Master’s Degree from Elliot School of International Affairs ( George Washington University) in Washington, D.C. She managed Chevron’s social development projects in Pointe-Noire ( Republic of Congo) for many years and has formerly served as an International Government Affairs Manager for Chevron in Washington, D.C.