Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



In association with Amazon.it - Italia

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

How to Make Love to a Negro
Without Getting Tired

Dany Laferrière

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired

Title: How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired
Author: Dany Laferrière
Genre: Novel
Written: 1985 (Eng. 1987)
Length: 117 pages
Original in: French
Availability: How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired - US
How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired - UK
How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired - Canada
Comment faire l'amour avec un Nègre sans se fatiguer - Canada
Comment faire l'amour avec un Nègre sans se fatiguer - France
Die Kunst, einen Schwarzen zu lieben ohne zu ermüden - Deutschland
Come far l'amore con un negro senza far fatica - Italia
  • French title: Comment faire l'amour avec un Nègre sans se fatiguer
  • The English translation was originally published as How to Make Love to a Negro
  • Translated and with an Introduction by David Homel
  • How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired was made into a film in 1989, directed by Jacques W. Benoit

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B+ : solid comic-serious mix, and neat slice of 1980s Montreal life

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Süddeutsche Zeitung A 23/11/2017 Insa Wilke
TLS . 25/1/1991 James Campbell

  From the Reviews:
  • "Die Kunst, einen Schwarzen zu lieben ohne zu ermüden ist eines der witzigsten, lässigsten, jazzigsten Bücher der Saison und auch 2017 immer noch ein Frontalangriff auf Anhängerinnen und Anhänger bequemer Schlussstrich-Mentalitäten. Es macht einen fix und fertig. (...) Laferrières Roman sagt einer Wahrnehmung den Kampf an, die Individuen nicht als solche anerkennt, sondern als Angehörige einer "Spezies" betrachtet." - Insa Wilke, Süddeutsche Zeitung

  • "Laferrière's irreverence towards sacred cows does not stem from a crude desite to offend. It is part of the strategy of a man living on his nerves as much as his wits to divest himself of all illusions, those which comfort and those which discomfit. (...) This is a funny book, fun to read and original in style and conception. If Laferrière's eternal triangle of booze, broads and books becomes dispiriting, then perhaps that is part of the story too." - James Campbell, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       The narrator of How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired is an outsider -- not least as a black man in 1980s Montreal, a time when: "On the stock market of the Western World, ebony has taken another spectacular fall". He's also a would-be writer, cultured but living in very basic conditions -- and very much outside the local literary establishment, both academic and commercial. And he has grand dreams and ambitions -- he is:

a Negro brimming over with unappeased fantasies, desires and dreams. Out it this way: I want America. Not one iota less.
       The novel is also about his writing of a novel -- this novel (though with the working title: Black Cruiser's Paradise) -- and the summary he offers near the end describes it pretty well:
It takes place around the Carré St. Louis. In a nutshell, it's the story of two young blacks who spend a hot summer chasing girls and complaining. One loves jazz; the other literature. One sleeps all day or listens to jazz while reciting the Koran; the other writes a novel about their day-to-day experiences.
       The narrator shares an apartment with the supremely idle Bouba -- "Superficially, Bouba spends all day doing nothing. In reality, he is purifying the universe".
       Sex plays an important role, but the narrator stumbles along rather than enjoying conquest after conquest. For one, times have changed: as a man from the Ivory Coast wistfully recalls:
     'You know something, brother, there was a time when black meant something here. We picked up girls just like that.'
       But his heart seems only to be half into the art of seduction, in any case; the narrator finds his opportunities -- or Bouba brings them along -- but often as not sabotages the possibilities: telling an obvious cat-lover that: "In my country, people eat cats !" obviously shuts down any possibilities pretty fast.
       The narrator is in a relationship of sorts, a student at McGill that he calls Miz Literature -- she's writing her PhD thesis on Christine de Pisan -- having taken him on. She's the driving force in their relationship, but he goes along with it, fascinated by it also as a sociological case study -- "So what's going on here ? You could hold a gun to her head and she wouldn't do a tenth of what she does here for a white guy" --, and for the insight into a slice of a different world (ultra-privileged, ultra-establishment) it provides. He's uncertain whether he is merely an exotic adventure for her as a (very) literate black (who, though, she is willing to point out, doesn't have many women authors on his shelves ("Yourcenar, it seems, does not get me off the hook. Too suspect")); intellectually, they're comfortably matched, but otherwise very different -- and both, it seems, fascinated by this difference.
       The sex isn't just incidental, but it's literature that is important to the narrator. He's cultured -- there's the obligatory paragraph of authors he reads, plus the repeated mention of some of particular importance to him: Henry Miller, Hemingway, Bukowski, Cendrars, Freud, among others (also: Limonov (c.f.)) -- and has grand dreams of becoming the leading black writer, outdoing Richard Wright, Chester Himes, and even Baldwin, imagining:
"With Black Cruiser's Paradise, a young Montreal writer puts James Baldwin out to pasture."
       He types on a Remington 22, bought at shop specializing in "pedigreed typewriters", the machines pitched to the kind of writer the customers hope to be. For the narrator:
The choice boiled down to Hemingway's old Underwood and the Remington 22 that belonged to Chester Himes. I took Himes.
       Working away, he dreams of what is to come, imagining the book already finished, published, and on display ("positioned between Moravia and Greene"). He even imagines an author-interview he gives -- which allows him to already confront some of the possible criticisms of the work and his approach. He addresses one obvious issue by suggesting:
Let me point out that for all intents and purposes there are no women in my novel. There are just types. Black men and white women.
       It's an excuse for the blunt treatment of characters and situations -- though also something of an exaggeration. Miz Literature, in particular, is well-developed and sympathetically presented, even as the narrator affects an observational (and emotional) detachment.
       Presented in short chapters with strong descriptive titles -- 'Must I Tell Her That a Slum Is Not a Salon ?', 'Like a Flower Blossoming at the End of My Black Rod' -- the novel concludes with a brief one titled: 'You're Not Born Black, You Get That Way', with the manuscript completed, the closing sentences:
My novel is a handsome hunk of hope. My only chance. Take it.
       The 'take it' is addressed both to himself as well as the reader, of course, and if the impact is no longer quite as powerful -- with the knowledge that Laferrière has made it, all the way to his own fauteuil at the illustrious Académie française -- it is still resonant, the point of finding a place and a role in what amounts to foreign territory. Identities -- specifically racial (the narrator is also a foreigner -- Laferrière is from Haiti --, but that barely rates a mention) but also social and cultural -- are central to the novel, but there's little wallowing in these; for all its loud, arguably at times even cartoonish simplification -- specifically in the presentation of women as 'Miz' and some attribute -- there's a subtlety to the consideration of these issues. The mix of what amounts to slapstick and high culture turns out to be effective; only at one point -- a back and forth with Miz Snob, where the narrator name-drops Marguerite Duras and claims to have met her -- does he seem to be trying too hard, in every respect (down to: "Miz Snob sprinkles cocaine on the omelette").
       Laferrière skewers with abandon -- and doesn't puff his narrator up too much --, making for a comic novel that nevertheless has considerable resonant depth. Clever and amusing, How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired is an enjoyable variation on the budding-author novel, with some interesting additional layers to it that Laferrière fortunately never lards on too thick. Perhaps most noteworthy about it is how, despite starkly pointing out the obviously outrageous in terms of treatment of race (historically and presently) and many lingering contemporary attitudes, the tone never becomes outright angry, nor are the descriptions of these simply clinical. For all the often hapless narrator's uncertainty and missteps, there's an underlying confidence to his voice -- manifesting itself also in his determination to write. Puzzling as sex, race, and identity are, ultimately he can find a hold in what he writes. And he has some pretty good stories to write.

- M.A.Orthofer, 11 November 2019

- Return to top of the page -


How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired: Reviews: How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired - the film: Other books by Dany Laferrière under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Dany Laferrière was born in Haiti in 1953, and now lives in Canada.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2019-2022 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links