Camara Laye was an African writer from Guinea. He was the author of The African Child, a novel based loosely on his own childhood, and The Radiance of the King. Both novels are among the earliest major works in Francophone African literature.
Laye was born in Kouroussa, a town in what was then the colony of French Guinea. His family were Malinke (a Mandé-speaking ethnicity), and he was born into a caste that traditionally worked as blacksmiths and goldsmiths. His mother was from the village of Tindican, and his immediate childhood surroundings were not predominantly influenced by French culture.
He attended both Koranic and French elementary schools in Kouroussa. At the age of 15, he went to Conakry, the colonial capital, to continue his education. He attended vocational studies in motor mechanics. In 1947, he travelled to Paris to continue studying mechanics. There he worked and took further courses in engineering and worked towards a degree.
Camara Laye published his first novel in 1953, the autobiographical L’Enfant noir (The African Child, also published under the title The Dark Child). It follows his own journey from childhood in Kouroussa, his education in Conakry, and eventual departure for France. The book won the Prix Charles Veillon in 1954
In 1956 Camara Laye returned to Africa, first to Dahomey, then the Gold Coast, and finally to newly independent Guinea, where he held several government posts. He left Guinea for Senegal in 1965 because of political issues, never returning to his home country. Camara Laye diedd on February 4, 1980.