On Mali and Dreams

Hard-boiled noir set in West Africa

Laurent Guillaume, author of White Leopard, on Mali and dreams.

What is your best memory of Mali? The strongest image to stay with you?
That is a hard question to answer. I brought back many powerful memories from my four years there. But if I really had to choose one, it was when my son broke down crying the first time he set foot on African soil, and then that same kid with tears in his eyes when it came time to leave Mali four years later. We felt at home there. It changed my views on immigration.

What is it there that inspired you to write?
Mali is a country in which adventure is still possible. I had very powerful experiences with people there. One of my colleagues often said that in Mali nothing is certain, but everything is possible. That is pretty much the definition of what a novel is. When I was there, I had to renounce my Western certainties and adapt to another world. That is the world I wanted to recount.

Yet, the book does not describe a world that is easy to live in.
In this book, I tried to convey my love for Mali, without being soft on the county. I denounce two things that are eating away at all of West Africa: treason by the elite and corruption.

What lesson did you bring back with you from Bamako?
It's a piece of advice: live your dreams and don't put limits on yourself. Like in Mali, in life nothing is certain, but everything is possible.