The Lieutenant of Kouta is the first novel in Massa Makan Diabaté’s award-winning trilogy. Featuring an introduction by leading Diabaté scholar Cheick M. Chérif Keïta and Shane Auerbach, it tells the story, part tragicomic and part hagiographic, of an African lieutenant in the French Army who returns as a decorated hero from the battlefields of Europe to Kouta, a fictionalized version of the author’s own birthplace, the Malian town of Kita. Upon his return, Siriman Keita finds it difficult to adjust to village life as he navigates traditional customs in his attempts to create his place in the predominantly Muslim Kouta. The novel offers a rich and nuanced representation of Mali on the brink of independence; it is a tapestry of traditional Mandinka society and the French colonial apparatus, illustrating the dynamic interplay between the two. This text is, ultimately, a story of one man’s transformation coinciding with that of his country.
The Lieutenant of Kouta
“A tragicomic classic rippling with insights into colonialism, masculinity, and the intricate weave of daily life in one Muslim village in Mali, Diabaté’s work appears here in a crisp and clean translation that is true to the original and a joy to read.”
—Gregory Mann, Professor of History, Columbia University, and author of Native Sons: West African Veterans and France in the Twentieth Century