So long a letter by Mariama Ba

source – library

Mariama Ba is a Sengalese writer and activist for femmist roghts in here native country ,she struggle to get herself a good education as the feeling was at the time that girls could not get taught ,she later married a Member of parilment and got divorced from him end up bring there nine children up by herself .So long a letter was her debut novel and was described by the nigerian academic Abiola Irele the most deeply felt presentation of the female condition in african fiction .

So long a letter as the titles suggest is told in the forms of letters ,the letters are between two old friends Ramatoulaye a schoolteacher that had recently lost her husband and her best friend Aissatou .we discover via the letter there married life how they met and how they spent a long and happy marriage together til her lat husband decided to take a second wife  Binetou ,this upsets Ramatoulaye she struggles to cope with this in the male dominated society of Senegal .

On the third day ,the same comings and goings of friends ,relatives ,the poor ,the unknown ,The name of the deceased ,who was popular ,has a buzzing crowd ,welcomed in my house that has been stripped of all that could be stolen ,all that could be spoilt .mats of all sorts are spread out everywhere there is a space metal chairs have been hired for the occasion take on the blue hue of the sun .

Ramatoulaye describes the scene of her late husband Moudo funeral .

The insight in to everyday African life for a normal everyday African women is wonderful and terrifying at the same time ,the toughness of the islamic system they follow having to share a husband are things that we never really encounter here ,Ramatoulaye comes across as such a strong person ,some of Mariama own spirit seems to have rubbed off on this character .This is great starter for female African fiction and rightly deserves it place on the African writer series classic .It gave me an insight into the islamic world and multiple marriages in Africa .at 90 pages long it is an afternoon read or as I did a pocket read for those spare minutes of the day when you need a small book in your coat pocket to read .I enjoyed the style the book was written in the letter format is a clever way to let you into the head of the two main characters and is a under used format in fiction .The book was written in french and translated by Modupo Bodo-Thomas ,and was first published in english in 1981 and won the Noma awards .

Have you read this book ?

What should I read next from a African female writer ?

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. amymckie
    Jan 05, 2011 @ 13:32:09

    I really loved this novel, it was so fantastic. I’m glad that you enjoyed it as well. We will be discussing it later this month over at A Year of Feminist Classics if you want to join in! 🙂

    As for what to read next… what a tough decision! I have The Purple Violet of Oshaantu on my tbr and have heard that it is fantastic. Also interesting is anything by Assia Djebar from Algeria, or Ama Ata Aidoo of Ghana.


  2. Nana Fredua-Agyeman
    Jan 05, 2011 @ 14:23:55

    This is on my TBR list. I would get to it soon, that is if I lay my hands on a copy. Thanks for this


  3. reviewsbylola
    Jan 05, 2011 @ 23:00:30

    I read this book for one of my college courses and found it really powerful.


  4. parrish
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 05:17:04

    This sounds like a good place for my entry into this area of literature, and I like the written as a series of letters format.


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  6. Caroline
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 18:32:19

    Really loved this book, it is wonderful. I also liked Ken Bugul. And you might like Calixthe Beyala. All three French African. There are many more who write in English. I read many but not many were as good as Ba. I ordered The Purple Violet of Oshaantu after I saw you liked it so much. Am looking forward to it.


  7. Iris
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 19:57:18

    I am very happy to hear you enjoyed this book as I might be reading it for the Feminist Classics project!


  8. Kinna
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 20:51:21

    This is one of my favorite African novels. Thanks for the review. I recommend Sindiwe Magona’s collection of short stories. The title has escaped me for the moment.


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January 2011


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