The Perfect nine by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

The Perfect Nine by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Kenyan fiction

Original title – Kenda Muiyuru

Translator – The writer himself

Source – personal copy

Now I reach the writer that on the man booker list that was the biggest name on the list Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’ is one of the best known and most respected African writers of his generation. He is often mentioned as a future Nobel winner in the last few years he has been high in the betting each year.  He was one of the first writers to break through and also one of the first writers to question the colonial times and what happened. I reviewed his 1967 novel a grain of wheat a number of years ago that was his best-known book he wrote in English initially before in later years he has written in his native language Gikuyu which he wrote in originally and then translated into English. Which I feel was a great idea as he has kept what must be the rhythm the book had in its original language as this is a novel in verse that has a nod towards greek classics.

Peace! May all glory be to thee, Giver Supreme, peace! May all glory be to the, giver supreme.

In some parts of africa, they call it Mulungu, but it is the same Giver.

The Zulu call himUnkulunkulu, nut he is the same giver.

Others call it Nyassi, Jok, Oldumare, Chukwu, or Ngai, but each id the same giver.

The Hebrews call upon Yahweh or Jehovah, and he is the same giver.

Mohammedans call him Allah, and he is the same Giver

The second chapter connects the story of the giver to both Islam and christian traditions

The story is the story of his own tribe a writing down of the oral history of the story of the Perfect nine the nine daughters of Gikuyu and Mumbi have had nine perfect and beautiful daughters and well there is a tenth daughter. So the news of these daughters has spread so when 99 suitors appear for them.  they are sent on quests ad challenges of strength and skill along the road to find the best set by the parents to the mountain and lands to discover, The last challenge for those that are left is to find the cure to help Wariga the tenth daughter who has been injured and needs a cure that is held by an Orge king so the suitor’s team up each with daughter and then set out this is the origins of the tribe as each daughter settles with them suitor these are all told in little verse in the book that tells of them settling such as Wantjiru, the matriarch of the3 Anjiru clan Wanmbui, Wanjiku and so on these are all the matriarchs of the clans that make up the tribe.

Wanjira, Matriarch of the Anjiru Clan

Of the Perfect nine, she is the oldest.

It is saqid she once put a curse on a hyena

But she had simply put a curse on greed.

Her face exudes empathy and goodness, and

She does not falter when fighting for peace;

She swears by her clan as she calls for conflicts to cease.

When visitors decend upon her from anywhere,

She says, “Don’t ask hunger questions. First give it food”

Her beauty makes men fight to walk beside her.

One of the clan stories of the nine and how they staert the clans.

 

This is a poetic book that has a nod toward the greek epic verses. That is also told in verse poems like Aeneid.  But there is  also the oral tradition of the storyteller around the fire. This is the history of a tribe that had been passed down from generation to generation. It is an origin story that has echoes of other origin stories from around the world. Gikuyu and Mumbi cold be adam and eve and their descendants. But also a nod to tribal histories I remember Michael Palin visit a tribe and being shown a similar history to this. It follows also follows a classic quest story a sort of quest to find something like The lord of the ring’s journey that sees the daughter’s show strength but also sees the suitors fall to one side a survival of the fittest. Myth and reality blur as the epic tells of the start of the tribe. It is very different from his earlier work but also an interesting work that embodies a tribal and vocal history that in these fast-changing times is disappearing like Hunter school which I read earlier this year tribal history is fast disappearing in this modern age where we all want to be connected and the world is shrinking but individual tribes are disappearing and histories are. So that is the tenth book I have reviewed from this year’s longlist three left!

Winstons score – B+

 

 

waiting by Goretti Kyomuhendo

Waiting by Goretti Kyomuhendo

Ugandan fiction

Source – personal copy

It has been a while since I add a new country to the list of place I have read from you get to a point where the countries become harder to find I have always had a couple put to one side for an emergency and still have three other countries on my shelves to read but this has been on my list to read for a while it was highlighted on a post for the best books from Africa this one jumped out at me as I hadn’t read a title from Uganda. Goretti Kyomuhendo has written a number of novels and a couple of children’s books. But uin recent years she has been involved with the African writer’s trust and has published a handbook on how to be a creative African writer. This was the last novel she has published in 2007.

We had learned about the details of the war a month before, when Father returned from thje city where he had worked at the Main Post Office as a clerk. He told us that President Idi Amin was about to be overthrown by a combined force of Ugandans who lived in exile and the Tanzanian soldiers who were assisting them. The soldiers were advancoing quickly, heading for Kampala from the southwestern border that Uganda shared with Tanzania. The districts along that route were already in the hands of the Liberators.

Alin’s soldiers were looting shops, hospitals, banks and private homes in the city. They wanted to seize as much as they could before the Liberators arrived, Some were fleeing towards the West Nile and Notrthern Ugandan regions, their home areas. People had vacuated the city in fear of both the advancing liberators and the fleeing soldiers. No one knew what each group was likely to do to civilians

THe first details hit the village from her father.

This follows the wars that raged in the seventies in Uganda that tore the country apart. Where the Liberators are trying to unseat the tyrant Idi Amin or as he was calling himself at the time the Last King of Scotland as his troops go through the country trying to kill all the rebels and those that had helped them. This is all seen through the eyes of a young teen Alinda who because her mother is drawn-out labour has become the main mother figure for the family that is in the village extend family as they all try to avoid the Amin troops. One brother is set on to draw the liberators her mother is trying to give birth but is panicking about getting caught. We are also told how things got so bad the background to the Indians getting sent away from the country. An uncle he then takes on four wives. When he converts to Islam this was due to them getting those businesses that had been left by the Indians when they left all this after he had spent time before that selling black market items to get by. We also see the beliefs and superstitions that drift through the locals as they try their best to avoid the looting and violence that follows Amin troops. Will they get through is there hope outside Uganda.

Mother was gasping, and calling out softly for help. I saw a cushion of blood, and heard a baby crying. Mother told me to find a small bundle under her pillow, which contained a razor blade and some cotton, wool and gauze.

“Cut,” she commanded, when I told her I’d found it

“Cut what?”

“The umbilical cord.”

My hand trembled, and I could not hold the razor blade steady. I could not see the cord. I feared to look at the jellied blood next to the baby. I thought I might vomit and tried hard to contain myself. Then I saw something like a felshy string coiling out of the bloody mess and winding its way to the baby’s stomach

She helps give birth to her baby brother as the war rages outside the village.

Powerful is the word for this book we get to see the last embers of the war as Amin troops try and control the local road. Alina and her family are trying to get by her mother struggling to give birth with all this going on all around. Alinda voice comes through so well in this book as the does the village life the comes and going of the extended family as they all try to keep away from the war but also the spirit of a world that is maybe gone with the use of herbs and nature maybe helping the villagers get through. I have been a fan of books set in Villages as they always show how similar we can be the uncle is a typical figure a black market man that when he sees the chance to get an Indian business comes his way by changing his religion he seizes it with two hands. Will they all survive will they find a way out?

The Sand child by Tahar Ben Jelloun

The Sand Child by Tahar Ben Jelloun

Morrocan fiction

Original title – L’Enfant de Sable

Translator – Alan Sheridan

Source – Personal copy

Well, I move to North Africa and an older modern classic from that country that has been sat on the shelves for a while to read. The last book I reviewed from Morroco had a link to this writer as it was also set in the Tazamamart prison which featured also in Ben Jelloun’s best-known book This blinding absence of light. He is often mentioned as a future Nobel winner he has written in French although Arabic is his first language. He has written twenty or more novels and has won a number of big book prizes over the years including the Prix Goncourt.

The father had had no luck. He was convinced that some distant, heavy curse weighed on his life; out of seven births, he had seven daughters, the mother, aunt Ayshaa, and Malika, the old servan woman. The curse was spread over tim. The father thought that one daughter would have been enough. Seven was too many; tragic, even. How often he remembered the story of the Arabs before the advent of Islan wo buried their daughter alive! Since he could not get tid of them, he treated them not with hate but indifference.

Hajji has had a run of daughter so when he has had seven that is enough he makes a plan for number 8

The book starts with Hajji telling of the fact that he had seven daughters to his wife and no matter what his next baby was going to be a Son no matter what happened. So he knew his money would pass through the family as the daughter in Islamic law at the time is only able to get a third of the estate from the Father. Which his brothers knew and had pointed out that they would end up with his money if he hadn’t given birth to a son. So when they are expecting an eighth baby he decides no matter what the babe will be a boy and passes on so much to the elderly midwife Lalla his plan to make even a daughter into a son Lalla ios elderly and sees the benefit of the idea. So when his wife finally gives birth and it is a daughter the secret of that is known by just two people Hajji and the midwife. as the child, who is called Mohamed Ahmed grows they talk about having their chest tied up which is to stop her breast from developing. HE is married to a sickly daughter of a relative the story is told in the form of a storyteller and the young Mohamed writing to a friend but what will happen will Mohamed gather she is actually a woman? there are telltale hints here and there throughout the book and how the father always seemed to have the answer then later are storyteller end up blind and this is a nod to Borges of course.

The truth goes intoo exile. I have only to speak and the truth moves away, is forgotten; I become its gravedigger and disniterer. That is how the voice is: it does not betray me. And even if I wanted to betray it, reveal it in all its nakedness, I could not. I would knt know how. I know its requirement: avoid anger, avoid tenderness, do not shoutm do not whisper- in short, be ordinary. I am ordinary. And I trample underfoot the image that is unbearable to me. God, how heavy that truth wieghs upon me! I am the afchitect and the house, the tree and the sap, a man and a woman. No detail must disturb the harshness of my task, whether from the outside or from the bottom of the grave. Not even blood.

Later his decison wieghs heavy on him and this is just as the  young Mohamed has her first period !

I have the absence of blinding light by him as well but this one jumped out of me as the story seemed one I would enjoy the tale of a down on his luck husband that keeps wish for a son to only have daughters then he decides to sacrifice his youngest and let her grow up a boy in this age of people being able to be more gender fluid this tale of a deliberate swapping of gender seems horrific as it highlights the pain the child had to undertake to be passed as a boy. But also shows how religion can affect people it also highlights the prevailing system at the time in Morroco run by its elderly King. The novel uses the storyteller to tell the story within the story of the book it has nods later on towards Borges not only with the story becoming blind but also when later on the book its has a few Magic realism and Borges touches to the story. This book can easily be read in a day as it is under two hundred pages and each chapter moves the story as we move through various gates. Have you read any books from Tahar Ben Jelloun?

At Night All Blood is Black By David Diop

At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop

French fiction

Original title – Frère d’âme

Translator – Anna Moschovakis

Source – review copy

Today I move on to world war one and a view of the war from a different angle with the tale of two Senegalese soldiers on the front line in the trenches.  It was written by the French writer David Diop Born in Paris but spent a lot of time in his youth in Senegal. He returned to France to finish his studies, where he has since taught literature at the University of Pau. He wrote a couple of books before this one, but this was his debut novel. The book was shortlisted for Ten major French book prizes when it came out winning the Prix Goncourt des Lyceens the one chosen by High school pupils.

in the trench. I lived like the others , I drank, I ate like the others. Sometimes I sang, like the others. I sing off-key and everyone laughed when I sang ” They would say, “You Ndiayes, you can’t sing” . They made fun of me, a little, but they respected me. They didn’t know what I thoiught od them, I found them Foolish, I found them idotic, becauuse they didn’t think about anything. Soldiers, black or white, who always say “Yes”.  When commanded to leave their shelterof their trench to attack the enemy, defencelesss, it’s yes “When told to play the savage, to scare of the enemy.

A view of how they are viewed in the army says a lot for these tough men.

This is the story of one man and his dead friend Alfa Ndiaye is said to be the son of the old, old man is at the western front fighting for France. He is on the line with his friend  Mademba Diop or as Alfa calls him my more-than-brother. The book opens as Mademba is fatally wound and ask his friend to end his life but he can’t an act he regrets and maybe sets forth the later event in the story?  as he is bleeding from a mortal wound in his stomach. Before he dies Alfa asks who had done the task the dying man can only tell his friend as he is dying that it was a blond blue-eyed german that did the task. He drags his friend from the battlefield back to the French trenches. This is where the story takes a dark turn as Alfa sets about revenge and vengeance for his dead friend so goes over the trench with his machete and returns with hands of dead blonde soldiers every night. as he seeks retribution for his more than a brother. As he does this his fellow soldiers start to fear him. He is offered the military cross for his actions to try and calm Alfa from his mission of revenge but also find out what is driving him to do it.  As he shows how brutal war is but also how badly the Chocolat soldiers were treated this is a dark story.

Gad’s truth, I was inhuman. I didn’t listen to my friend, Iistened to my enemy, So when I capoture the enemy from the other side, when I read in his blue eyes the screams his mouth can’t sling into the skies of war, when his open belly had become nothing more than a pulp of raw flesh, I turn back the clock , I finish off the enemy. As soon as he’s made a second plea with his eyes, I slit his throat like a sacrified lamb. What I didn’t do for Mademba Dioop , I do for my blue eyed enemy.Out of my reclaimed humanity

This is a dark book as we see one man driven by revenge to bring to justice the man that killed his friend as every night he heads out to get another hand off a dead man to add to his collection when he has too many he start to worry his comrades as he describes there is only one other soldier got why he did it and he has since died. I was reminded of the film the patriot where the main character sees his son killed by a callous officer from the other side and sets off on a killing spree with some fellow soldiers here it is one mans revenge. The man he has known since a child died in front of him asked him to put him out of his misery this is heartwrenching as the story becomes just one man’s tale of the war and not even the war but his path of revenge. It shows how guilt can drive someone to do the most horrific acts as a source of comfort for their loss but also we see an often-overlooked corner of the war those Chocolat soldiers as it says in the book those many soldiers that fought in world war one from Africa and Asia that have to often been whitewashed out of history so it is easy to see why this book would do so well oin schools telling an unknown story. Have you read this book?

Home and Exile by Chinua Achebe

Home and Exile by Chinua Achebe

Nigerian Non-Fiction

Source – personal copy

I said I want to try and focus a bit more this year on African and Arabic literature over the next year. I did use cover a lot more when I first started the blog I have always been a fan of the African writer series. Chinua Achebe was the editor of that series in the early days with the first wave of post-colonial African fiction.I had thought I had covered him before on the blog but I haven’t so when I found this the over week. I choose this as my first read as it dealt with African fiction as it was a collection of three essays that he gave as speeches lat on in his life.

My problem with Joyce Cary’s book was not simply his infuriating principal character, Johnson. More importantly, there is a certain undertow of uncharitableness just below the surface on which his narrative moves and from where, at the slightest chance, a contagion of dostaste, hatred and mockery breaks through to poison his tale. Here is a short expcerpt from his description of a fairly innocent party given by Johnson to his friends,”the demonic appearance of the naked dancers, grinning, shrieking, scowling, or with faces whioch seemed entirely dislocated, senseless and unhuman, like twisted bags if lardm or burst bladders” Haven’t I encountered this crowd before? Perhaps, in Heart of Darkness, in the Congo. But Cary is writing about my home Nigeria, isn’t he ?

HIs problems with Cary’s book Mister Johnson.From the first essay My home under Imperial fire

The three essays are interlocking the first deals with his childhood the nation he grew up in the Igbo people and the fact they are distinctive in themselves. Then the fact that when he first went to school and then university. The books he was given to read were all European in nature and there wasn’t many African books and then the one book that deals with his own country by the Anglo-Irish writer Joyce Cary. He said it didn’t cover the country in a real way Cary had served in Nigeria but didn’t portray the country and this is what drove Achebe to write his first novel to give a truer picture. The second essay deals with those early years that he was an editor of the African writer series. When Dylan Thomas put his weight behind one of the early success Palm wine Drunkard. elsewhere he mentions Camara Laye, Mongo Beti and Cheikh Hamidou Kane as among those that first made inroads with eh post-colonial voices of African literature I choose those three as they are covered here. The last essay deals with the modern African literature and post-colonial scene and literature about Africa. He talks about a change in language from Conrad times to modern-day.

The Launching of Heinemann’s African Writer Series was like the umpire’s signal for which African writers had been waiting on the starting line. In one short genration an immense library of new writing had sprung into being from all over the continent and , for the first time in history, Africa’s future genration of readers and writers – youngsters in schools and colleges – begn to read not only David copperfield and other engliush classics That I and my genration had read but also works by their own writers about their own people

The series which he edited for many years in the second essay The Empire fights back !

It was an inspiring collection of essays from a writer who was always passionate about his work and the influence of African fiction. Here he shows how the African continent was misportrayed in English literature here he starts to mention Conrad a subject he often wrote about. The terms he used in the heart of darkness, but as he pointed out it still has changed but not much he mentions V S Naipaul use of Bush in his novel Bend in the river as a small change from Conrad’s day. A slim collection but worth looking out if you are a fan of African literature as it has some interesting points about fiction about Africa and post-colonial African fiction. Have you read this collection?

Red Dog by Willem Anker

Red Dog by Willem Anker

Red Dog by Willem Anker

South African fiction

Original title – Buys

Translator – Michiel Heyns

source – review copy

This is the first title to be translated into English by the prize-winning Afrikaans writer Willem Anker. This book won four prizes. He studied Lit at the University of Stellenbosch his final dissertation sounds very interesting and also in a way links to this book. The nomadic self: schisoanalytical views on character subjectivity in the prose work of Alexander Strachan and Breyten Breytenbach. He is also now a teacher of creative writing at the same university. This book has been re-title in English its original title was Buys a border novel. 

With my father’s inheritance, I buy two cows and a dozen sheep. David Dimwit lets them graze on his part of the farm and they multiply. At eleven I am taller than my brother-in-law; at thirteen I’ll be more than six feet tall. During the day I herd cattle with Saterdog a bushman child, perhaps a year or so older than I, but younger of body, named, for no particular reason, for the sixth day of the week.

The early years of Buys life.

The book is the retelling of the life of Coenraad de Buys a real-life character that was an advisor to Xhosa chief and also friends to the missionary Johannes Theodorus van der Kemp. This is a story of a man that saw his father die when he was eight years old leaving him very little. He sets forth and the boy grows into a man. He is a trekker and man of the veldt. He spends time with his wives and various mix of children from his three wives over the years. There are little passaged that shows his world growing. He is a man of the wild veldts this is the late 18th and early 19th century and his home is under winds of change. This man married three times but over the years his farm grows and his power swells. He is one of these untamable wilds as they years go we see his life swing one way to another then in the later 1790 the English take over the land he lives on and declare him an outlaw he then spends time wandering the borders between English and  the colonies he grew up in that are shrinking the forty years covered in this book saw five small wars break out all this told in a brutal world that shows the harshness of the new world as it still was then. He pays the price with wives and time with his kids but this man is happiest in the middle of nowhere with the wild dogs at his feet hence the English title.

A man vomits and his friends laugh and gob. Somebody bumps into me and I look around into the beggars face and looks away.

The Baboon grabs the nearest dog and brings the animal’s faceup to its own, Bo they know how much they look like each other? With the revishing jaws that decorate many a farmhouse, it tears off the face of the fighting dog, who until recently resembled the protp wolf from hich all dogs are descended.

I rub my thumbs and index fingers together until I can feel a static crackling. The remaining dog keeps tugging at the guts.The baboon curls up against the carcase next to him and there is a tremor in one hand and something like a yawn and I see something in his eyes and then he is dead

The brutal world is wonderfully summed up in these few passages of the book.

This is one of those books that draws the reader into a world gone the veldt of the late 1790s and early 1800s. this shows the world and borders for one man shrinking a man that is one of those larger than life figures a raconteur, swindler, and ladies man he is a mix of robin hood and Kevin Costner’s character in dances with wolves. A wild man of the veldt large than life in a world that is violent from his early days and the death of his father violence is always just below the surface as is the harsh world he lives in. He is compared the great American writer Cormac McCarthy and yes I have read a coup,e of his books decades ago it has that same sense of wild untamed lives and worlds. But for me, the writer I was most reminded of was Patrick White the way he described the outback and a harsh world that mix indigenous and colonial worlds especially his book the tree of man I reviewed a few years ago. As I said the main title character is like one of the characters he must have written about in his dissertation a nomadic self!!

Tropic of Violence by Nathacha Appanah

Tropic_of_Violence.jpg

Tropic of Violence by Nathacha Appanah

Mauritian fiction

Original title – Tropique de la violence

Translator – Geoffrey Strachan

Source – review copy

I often wonder when I review a book from one of the more unusual places around the world if I will ever review another book by the same writer. That was what I wondered over the years when I reviewed Nathacha first book to be translated into English The last brother that was eight years ago , I had seen a copy of another of her books had come out in the US last year which I had been looking at getting so when this dropped through my letterbox I was excited to be reading her writing again. This is set on another French colony of Mayotte which at the time I wrote the review of The last brother she was living of the island of Mayotte this is from her experiences of this distant island.

She points to one of the baby’s eyes. I don’t understand, i can see nothing , the baby’s asleep. ashe becomes impatient, she points to her two eyes, then to mine, then to those of the baby. Oh, is your baby blind ? She shakes her head vigorously ad suddenly the baby begins to wriggle, smacks its lips once or twicce, as if it is searching for the nipple and the young woman holds it out to me as you might do with something theat both frightens you and disgusts you. I don’t know why I take this baby that’s being handed to me and the infant stretches out in my arms and this warm little body snuggling up to me is wonderful, The child opens its eyes. the mother shriks back against the bed.

His mum is scared of him due to his eye colour but what happened to this young woman.

This is the tale of a sons journey to discover who he really is the story opens with Marie she is a nurse the books opens with her story of a failed marriage and her not having her child with her husband this is how she ended up in Mayotte working as a nurse in the frontline of the city so when one day a Baby that has one green and one dark eye that his teen mother feels has the curse of the Jinn on it Marie adopts this baby. She calls him Moise for the first few years of his live everything is great he is in a private school a dog called Bosco after his adoptive Mums favorite writer Henri Bosco. But he is a teen and being raised in this all-white world in a way he knows he is different he questions his background. Then the worst happens his world falls apart when Marie dies so the young boy takes his mom backpack and the boy and the river and sets of to Gaza the large Slum near the capital of Mayotte this brings him into conflict with the head of a local gang Bruce he also meets a policeman Called Oliver and a volunteer called Stephane as the young man tries to discover his past but also tries to survive in the present as Bruce sees him as bad as the white people that come to the  slum to help out.

La Teigne told me about you, he told me he’d met a Black Muzungu but he thought you were African, a proper negro, one of them who wears shirts and trousers and speaks Frenc, not one of them dying in the gutter in rwanda, the Congo or Somalia. He said you followed him everywhere like a dog, that you put your hand into your pocket without a second thought and you were  called Mo and had a weird eye. Weird that’s the word he used, the dumb bastard.

Bruce in Gaza the Slum when Mo first goes there and is seen in a certain way by them.

This has some similar traits to the earlier books a boy struggling for identity which was a thread in the earlier book The last brother. Another common theme is that of identity her it another boy struggling with his childhood and being different. This has been a theme of many books of the years. There is something Dickens at times the story of Moise fits neatly into a Dickens-like story adoption having a good life the losing it could almost be Great Expectations. There is also something a bit Magic realist to this as well the sense of Moise journey that reminded me at times of Marquez writing that sense of viewing the world the way he did is something that we see with Moise.Also the thread of the book by Henri Bosco a writer I haven’t read yet but will be doing at some point.  There is something of a commentary on the place itself Mayotte. This distant colony has struggled with its large refugee population slums which have led to riots on this far-flung piece of France. This won a  big prize for female writing in France the Prix Femina Des Lyceens a prize for Female fiction which is chosen from a shortlist of ten by high school kids.

The Radiance of the king by Camara Laye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Radiance of the King by Camara Laye

Guinea Fiction

Original title – Le Regard du roi

Translator – James Kirkup

Source – personal copy

I said with the post the other day I had felt the variety of place I had blogged from had narrowed in recent years from the early years when I would have a number more African title in the mix. So I have had this on my shelf for a few years I like to keep a few titles from places I haven’t read from in reserve for the day I really struggle to find somewhere new. Camara Laye was born into a family caste that was traditionally Blacksmiths and Goldsmiths. He studied Mechanics and became an engineer via his studies. He like many Guinean males of the time was circumcised this form the story of his debut novel the African child. This was his second novel and unlike the debut is an allegorical novel.

“What right?” asked the beggar, as if the word had startled him.

“Wasn’t that mor or less what you told me? Wasn’t that  what you were hinting at, at least ?

Clarence was now speaking with great bitterness

“I spoke only of “Favour” “said the beggar “You are quite wrong to think I said anything about “rights” of any kind. As far as I’m concerned, I have nevered claimed any kind of “rights” I have always resticted myself to soliciting favours.I’ll say no more than that I expect these favours tobe granted.

They have just meet and the Beggar is a strange man .

This novel tell the strange tales of Clarence he is a penniless white man who has got stuck in an unnamed African country with no money and no one apart from the locals to help him.We see over the three parts of the book as Clarence tries to get to see the King get him to help to get home. A job with the king would help him get home. He has lost everything to a game shortly after he arrives. He has been helped initially by a beggar. This beggar is a strange character as he says he has a way for Clarence to get to the King. They do at one point see the King but then learn he has headed south for a while. Then we meet another strange pair a couple of Naoga and Noaga whom with the beggar set of to a village in the south. They get drunk on the arrival in the Village and the beggar has a strange look at Clarence then leaves the village on a donkey !! THen Clarence ends up in a cycle of drinking and getting stuck into village life feeling a lazy way of life coming over him and the king coming seeming more distant as he tries to get the answer to when the king is coming! while he escapes returning home? Will he meet the King?

They were made aware if its proximity by an odur which ought to be described, not merely because Clarence was especially sensitive to smells, and very curiously affected by them, but also, and above all, because this odur was particularly representative of the whole character of the south

The odour was a subtle combination of flower perfumes and the exhalations of vegetable moulds, It was certainly a strange and even suspect fragrance, not disagreeable, or not overwhelmingly so, but strange, and suspect, a little like the turbid odour of a hot-house full of decay blooms

The fragrence as they head south has a almost mad=gic realist description about it !

This is an unusual novel as it has a white man turning African and not an African becoming western. Clarence gets drawn into village life. He is also a man that has to face challenges this is like the temptations of the flesh and mind. From the off were he loses his money, then the temptations of the women of becoming lazy all challenge him in meeting the King as he sees others around him trying like the blacksmith does in the village to make the perfect axe for the King. Clarence also is like a Kafka character, the book starts with the Kafka quote and there is a sense to a similar dream world in Clarences being stuck in the village in the middle part of the book. This is another early work of Franco African literature coming out in 1954 for the first time. I hope to try African child at some point by Laye. My copy was a Fontana modern from the early seventies with as you see a rather old-fashioned cover

Ambiguous Adventure by Cheikh Hamidou Kane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ambiguous Adventure by Cheikh Hamidou Kane

Senegalese fiction

Original title – L’Aventure ambiguë

Translator – Katherine Woods

Source – personal copy

I enjoyed the early years of the blog when I didn’t get sent as many books as I do know as it meant I had search books from the library or what I found in these early post on the blog one of the areas I  covered more than I do now is  African literature. I have long been a fan of the African writer series and still have a number on the shelf unread. So as I am trying to cheer myself up I looked back on what this blog means and discovered I have been missing those chance finds and books that set me apart in the past. So this by one of the most widely regarded early postcolonial African writers this book won the Grand Prix d’ literature d’ Afrique Noire a prize for the best French-language work from Syb Saharan Africa this was the second ever winner in 1962.

“The peace of God be upon this house. the poor disciple is in quest of his daily pittance.”

The sentences, plaintively spoken in a quavering voice by Samba Diallo, were repeated by his three companions. The four youths, shivering in their thin rags of clothing under the blast of the fresh morning wind, stood at the door of the Diallobe chief’s spacious dwelling.

“Men of god, reflect upon your approaching death. Awake, oh awake! Azreal, andel of death, is already breaking the earth for you. Itis about to rise up at your feet. Men of god, death is not that sly creature it is believed to be, which comes when it is not expected, and conceals itself so well that when it has come there is no longer anyone there.”

The boy enters his fathers hut a mixture of Islam and tribal words early on in the book.

I said yesterday I loved books that feature culture clashes and this is one such book. It is set in those early post-colonial years when places like Senegal were finding their feet but still some of the locals looked to France as the center of their world. This is the story of one Boys journey to manhood in those years. Sambo Diallo the boy and the main character of this take is the next in line to be Chief of his people the Diallobes. We see him as he is being taught by his teacher in a hut by the fire the Koran off by heart. This teaches him what the text means to him and also in the wider sense of the tribe. His father did the same as a child and is all for this being his only education. But his Aunt The grand royal his father sisters think the boy will be better for spending time in France. In the end, the boy is sent to Paris and studies Philosophy among other things. He loses his homeland and his strict Islamic identity but also is never treat as French and is always viewed as that African when in the company of others. He struggles to find his place in his two worlds together.

Like Paul Lacroi, he did not express this thought aloud. He said, instead:

“I believe that you understand very well what I want to say to you. I do not contest the auality of the truth which science discloses. But it is a partial truth; and insofar as there will be a future, all truth will be partial. Truth takes its place at the end of history. But \I see that we are setting out on the deceptive road of metaphysics”

Samba much changed in tone after some time in France when he speaks but also a sense of no trust in the world he is in here.

This is a classic tale of a boy journey to manhood it has classic eye-opening scenes like when he sees the bigger world when he arrives in France. But he also struggles to fit in the struggle of who he is now he has seen the wider world leaves him questioning the world he grew up in.  This is one of the reasons I started the blog to discover about the past and present around the world those grinding of our western world . up with the traditional world tribal lives that were still evident in the 60’s. I was pleased to see the other month that the ebook catalog of the African writer series had been brought for academic use it seems I tried to find the piece but haven’t. It is nice see people get the chance to look back at some of these works ok times have changed but these books are as important as English and American novels people regard highly from the same time. This is a great insight into traditional Islamic culture in Senegal and that clashing with arriving in sixties Paris.

So the path does not die by Pede Hollist

So the path does not die by Pede Hollist

Sierra Leone fiction

Source – review copy

One of the things I promised myself this year I would try and read a few more titles from around Africa, I have been buying and have been sent over the last few years. Pede Hollist is now based in the US as a professor of English at Tampa University. He is originally from Sierra Leone and has been shortlisted in the past for Caine prize and he has been included in a number of collections of Sierra Leone stories. His work focus on African Migration.

The shouts, wails, and curses heaped on her, her father , and her family ascend into the air.Finaba had heard them in the leaves and had seen them arrayed in the moonlight sky when she and Amadu emerged from the forest; and now, as she lay on the bare metal table of a disinfectant-laden examination roomin the chiefdom health clinic, they echoed in her head.

Just after the attempted FGM , she is already nearly an outcast because of it ina was called Finaba then.

This is an age-old story of the Journey from Africa to the US. We follow Fina a young woman, as we follow her life from her home in a village, where we see her just about to have an FGM, when she is taken away by her family and isn’t given the procedure, because of this she is stunned by the other people within her village. So they decide to move to the capital of Freetown Were she settles, but with the curse and past still in her mind.She soldiers on and manages to go to university and this enables another path to the US and a hope of a new life. She arrives and is successful but struggles to fit in again as she finds the world she lives in divide into Afro Americans, people from the Caribbean and then her group of people from Africa. She then begins to want to return home.She hs a finance but life is still strained for her.

For another few minutes neither spoke.Then, in a softer, less accusatory tone, Fina began again.”After college, I wamted so badly to get out of Sierra Leone to come and live here, where it wouldn’t ,atter what ethnic group i belonged to, whether I was a foster child, or that I was a woman”

She paused .Edna saind nothing

“Boy did I get that wrong! O just replaced the circles on my back tith ones that say Black, Afrcian and Foreign- no alien . Black and alen. Is this what life is all baout? running away from place to place trying to fit in, to belong

Fina struggles as her american dream crumbles as it is still about groups!!

This is an interesting insight into the story of being a fish out of the water all your life. from not having the brutal FGM procedure in her village that leads to being pushed out. To grow up in the capital with questions as to why they are there!  Then arriving and seeing the dark side of the American dream the way people divide themselves into where they are from still. Then we have the questions around FGM and how it is still acceptable in some villages and girls that opt not to have this awful procedure can be pushed out of their home and their own community and we see how this one act has a lasting effect on Fina and her life where she is a square peg trying to squeeze into the round hole. This has a feel of writers like Chinua Ahcibe especially the first part in the village has a similar feel to his writing. The cover for this hardback is very tactical.

 

 

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