Category: Mali

Maryse Condé: En attendant la montée des eaux (Waiting for the Waters to Rise)

The latest addition to my website is Maryse Condé‘s En attendant la montée des eaux (Waiting for the Waters to Rise). We follow the story of Babakar, a doctor, son of a Malian father and Guadeloupean mother. He is born in Mali, educated in Montreal, returns to Africa (a fictitious country, a neighbour of Mali) where he experiences civil war, the loss of his wife, imprisonment and lots of violence. He flees to Guadeloupe, living a fairly solitary life but (illegally) adopts a baby girl whose Haitian mother has just died in childbirth and whose partner, Movar, is committed to finding the baby’s roots. So off they go to Haiti where life is even grimmer than in Africa and everyone – Babakar, Movar, the baby’s family, various political leaders and others – are caught up in violence, corruption, hurricanes and earthquakes. It is a grim tale but Condé tells it well and we cannot help but pity the innocent caught up in all the mayhem.

Yambo Ouologuem: Le Devoir de violence (Bound to Violence)

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The latest addition to my website is Yambo Ouologuem‘s Le Devoir de violence (Bound to Violence). This novel was hailed on publication as, unlike previous African novels, it did not show pre-colonial Africa as a wonderful place but, rather, as subject to violence, brutality, slavery, cruelty, incest, pedophilia, ill-treatment of women and many other ills. However, Ouologuem was accused of plagiarising Graham Greene and others and the novel was withdrawn. Though reprinted, it is currently out of print. It tells the story of the fictitious Nakem Empire, led by the Saïf family. We start with the violence and brutality of the pre-colonial period. After the arrival of the French, the Saïf family manage to survive and retain some power, though they had initially opposed the colonisers. The Saïfs continue their cruelty and deviousness, even managing to assassinate the French governors, without attracting any blame to themselves. We now follow the fortune of the son of a former slave, Raymond Spartacus Kassoumi, who is sent to France for his education, qualifies as an architect and is called back to his country after independence, but is condemned, as a négraille, a word invented by Ouologuem for a black man trying to be white. it is an excellent book on the issues faced by the Africans, before, during and after colonialism and it is a pity that it out of print.

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