Waiting for the wild beasts to vote by Ahmadou Kourouma

Source – personnel copy

Translator – Frank Wynne


Earlier this year when I interview Frank Wynne the translator of this book to name his favourite translation he choose this book .By the late Ahmadou Kourouma ,he grew up in Ivory coast ,from a well-known family he spent time in the french military and studied in Lyon in france (mathematics).But after his homeland of Ivory coast gained independence from france in 1960 ,he questioned the leadership of Felix houphouet-Boigny  and was sent to prison and after that spent thirty years in exile returning in 1994 just after the death of Felix H-B .Ahmadou Kourouma died in 2003 .

So what is waiting for the wild beasts to vote about well ,it is a story of an African leader told by a Bingo a sora (a storytelling singer) told over five nights .The leader Koyoga was an orphan that became a leader of the gulf coast ( a made up african country but easily a number of countries round ivory coast )and along the way gain a huge mythology about his life and what had happen to him .we see the french involvement at the start with what are called the naked people ,then Koyoga father was the first of this tribe to wear clothes .Then we see Koyoga a solider take power in his homeland and start of with ideals and standards a friend of the west france in particular .But then his promises start to fall apart and people start to doubt him so he turns to violence and corruption to keep power .

When you recovered the Qur’an and the aerolite,you will ready yourself for democratic presidential elections . Elections based on universal suffrage supervised by an independent National commission .You will seek a new mandate secure in the knowledge that you will triumph ,that you will be re-elected .For you know ,you are certain ,that if by chance men refuse to vote for you ,the beast will come from the jungle ,will lay their hands on ballot paper and will elect you by a landslide .

The closing page and the title of the book is made clear .

Well this book is a must read for anyone ,part magic realism part african folk tale ,also a chunk of history of post colonial africa .Is Koyoga far-fetched ,well no if you’ve watch the film  the  last king of Scotland or any programme about the regimes and the leaders in Romania ,North Korea and many others to know that fact and fiction and what these people did in their lives are very blurred . Kourouma is a wonderful storyteller Bingo brings the leaders life to life through his tales .This book is also closely related to the Latin american dictator novels by Roa Bastos or Angel Asturias in the fact like them it examine the character of the people in this case post french africa ,there is some say that it was Togo president Eyedema was the main blueprint for the leader as he like Koyaga had a mythical status having being the sole survivor of a plane crash .But in my opinion it is far wider than that and yes it is based in africa but erase the names and some of the place it could be south america ,south-east asia or even post soviet states .So if you want an insight into africa ,the mind of a dictator ,how much the western world has influence in the third world .I know this is due out shortly as an E-BOOK as Frank told me when I meet him at IFFP prize .This is probably in the top ten novels about Afica for me if not top of that list .It sold over a 100,00 books in france when published .

Do you have a favorite African novel ?

Do you have a favourite dictator novel ?

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Linda1966
    Jul 27, 2011 @ 21:48:19

    Hi Stu,

    Thanks for that. Really interesting. I saw the last King of Scotland and thought it a brilliant movie. I don’t have a favourite dictator novel or African book as both are very under explored areas for me, but all the more interesting for that. I have read books set in Nazi occupied countries and found them terrifying and gripping at the same time. Most recently enjoyed 22 Britannia Road set partly in occupied Poland, and the Postmistress set partly in wartime Germany and occupied France. Currently reading my first on the booker long list, Far To Go which follows the story of a Jewish family in Czechoslovakia after Hitker annexed the Sudetenland. All very good.
    Linda x


  2. Gavin
    Jul 28, 2011 @ 16:28:55

    My library doesn’t have a copy of “Waiting for the Wild Beasts..” but it does have “Allah is not Obliged”, also translated by Frank Wynne, so I’ve added that to my TBR list. Thanks for the great review, Stu!


  3. Eva
    Aug 01, 2011 @ 11:57:23

    I’ve requested this via interlibrary loan: let’s hope I can get my hands on a copy!

    Just one African novel?! I have so many favourites. 😉 Discounting the obvious (Adichie for the win!) and assming you’re asking about sub-Saharan Africa, I would go with The Time of Angels by Patricia Schonstein (a Jewish South African writer), Tale of the Blue Bird (Ghana), Song for the Night (Nigeria), By the Sea by Abdulrazak Gurnah (Tanzania). Oh! And Seasons of Migration to the North and The Translator by Leila Aboulela (both Sudanese). I’m going to cut myself off now. 😉

    And on the nonfiction front, Notes from the Hyena’s Belly (Ethiopian memoir) and A Human Being Died that Night (South African look at the Truth & Reconciliation trials & one of main Afrikanners on trial) are both incredible, the kind of creative nonfiction writing that I see many readers loving. Dead Aid is a more specific look at international development econ by a Zambian author and v good.

    I think only one of these is actually translated though! I find it more difficult to get ahold of translated SS African fiction, and the ones that I have read I tend to have mixed feelings about. Ah well, I hope


    • winstonsdad
      Aug 03, 2011 @ 23:02:32

      as ever eva some new suggestions to me ,hope you enjoy it too ,I ve a feeling it is different translator in us editions ,sure there will be more south african fiction in the future ,all the best stu


  4. Geosi
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 15:52:55

    Interesting thoughts out there, all the best stu


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July 2011


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