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.

Advertisements

A grain of wheat by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

20150918_192513

A grain of wheat by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Kenyan fiction

Source – Personnel copy

Exodus: Movement of Jah people! Oh-oh-oh, yea-eah!
…….
Men and people will fight ya down (Tell me why!)
When ya see Jah light. (Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!)
Let me tell you if you’re not wrong; (Then, why?)
Everything is all right.
So we gonna walk – all right! – through de roads of creation:
We the generation (Tell me why!)
(Trod through great tribulation) trod through great tribulation.

Exodus, all right! Movement of Jah people!
Oh, yeah! O-oo, yeah! All right!
Exodus: Movement of Jah people! Oh, yeah!

I choose Exdous a Marley sung about freedom this lyric is influenced by a biblical text as is the title of the book .

 

I add a second from the list of names in the nobel Betting for this years Lit prize the Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o  has been high on the betting the last few years .He studied in Both Kenya , Uganda and Leeds in the uk,which is where he wrote this book in 1967.He is an active campaigner for maintaining African languages and has written a number of books in his own Gikuyu language .

Mugo felt nervous .He was lying on his back and looking at the roof .Sooty locks hung from the fern and grass thatch and all pointed at his heart .A clear drop of water was delicately suspended above .The drop fattened and grew dirtier as it absorbed grains of soot ,Then started drawing towards him.He tried to shut his eyes.The would not close .

The opening sets the scene so well .

A grain of wheat is set in the time just before,during and after the independence of Kenya . WE see the story of how Kenya gained independence  in a series of flashback stories as we are in the present with Mugo ,a lonely man in his village as the prepared to celebrate Independence day .Add to this a revenge for a traitor that is to be dealt with on this day or as it is called by the villagers Uhuru day (freedom day ) . Mugo sold people out to the brits but he wasn’t the only one Karanja did as well where as others in the village fought with the rebels and killed a brutal police man  and were capture and sent to prison whilst the wives were left behind with men like Karanja need I say more,add to this a Brit ex pat that is in one man all that was wrong with Brits in Africa John Thomson is that man .All this in one small african village the whole country in a group of a few men each showing a side of the conflict and how it effect each one of them .

Kenya Regained her Uhuru from the British on 12 December 1963 .A minute before midnight , lights were put out at Nairobi stadium so that people from all over the country and the world who gathered there for the midnight ceremony were swallowed by darkness .In the dark ,the Union Jack was quickly lowered .When next the lights came o the new Kenya flag was flying and fluttering and waving,in the air .The police band played the new National Anthem

Near the end we see the Freedom regained for Kenya .

What we see here is one of the books that is considered the main books in the cannon of African fiction a book that breaks away in style somewhat of earlier novels .The feel is of using the oral tradition in the village in the way the story of them all getting to Uhuru are woven into a complex novel  that shows how Britain was in Africa , how Kenya found freedom  is a blueprint for a number of other countries that found freedom afterwards  .This book is still as powerful as when it was written .I have had him as nobel winner for a few years it just the look of the draw who will win next week .

Have you read Thiong’o ?

King Lazarus by Mongo Beti

King Lazarus

King Lazarus by Mongo Beti

Cameroon fiction

Translator – Peter Green

Source personnel copy

As I said yesterday I was shocked when in Alain Mabanckou in his book ,Black Bazaar, they were discussing early French language fiction from Africa and Mongo Beti was mentioned ,it served to remind me I hadn’t reviewed this book that I had read last year .So too  Mongo Beti ,was out spoken as a kid about religion and colonialism in africa .He was expelled from his missionary school but did manage to get to university in France where he studied literature , first at Aix-en-Provence he then went to the prestigious Sorbonne in Paris ,before returning to Cameroon ,where he wrote journalism ,including a scathing piece on the writer Camara Laye for what he saw as a book pandering to western tastes ,not African tastes.He then choose to write novels himself ,writing a number of books a number of which appeared in the ealry collection of the African writer series  .He did end up spending a lot of his life in exile .

The same day the reverend father mustered all his determination and will-power and sought audience with the chief .What took place no-one discovered .Directly Le Guen left ,the chief summoned his brother ,telling him to send away all the palace wives .

“Except the one and only wife to whom I shall be married in the eyes of god ”

“And which one might that be ? ” Mekenda enquired cautiously .

The Chief makes his choices .

After reading up on Mongo Beti his motivation for writing this book became clear ,this book is a vision of how he saw Cameroon ,missionaries and tribal life in his homeland .The book centres on The chief of the Essazam ,who has decide to embrace the catholic faith .Now this is where the problems start for him ,because he has a number of wives 23 in all .The church has been pushing him to choose just one of the women so he choose the youngest of his wives to be his only bride in the eyes of god .Now this isn’t the simplest thing for him to do because the other 22 wives don’t want to lose the position or lose face within the tribe ,thus setting up a trick situation .On top of this the chief is being pushed into this by Le Guen the priest ,as Le Guen in turn is facing pressure from his bishop to make the chief convert as they see him converting as a powerful figure for the church in the country .

At the time of the events this story describe ,the girl was barely fifteen .An impetuous ,passionate  creature, la bell ,Medzo ,her opulent Bosom the more striking for the bird-fine  adolescent body .Already the most attractive women in the place .

WHat happens to Medzo ?

Well as you see this is very much tribal world and way of life clashing with the incoming Christian religion  .The title is a spin on the old tale because instead of everything turning to gold as the priest and his bishop hopes ,it in fact has the opposite effect for the Chief .Given that Beti was critical of Laye ,you can see that this book which he wrote after that is very much a book that appeals to Africans in the post colonial world at the time it was written 1958 France and both the UK were starting to withdraw from Africa ,in fact Cameroon became independent just two years after this book was published .Satire is the way Beti choose to show the world of the chief and the priest ,to show the madness of the two worlds clashing the Christian world and it values and the Tribal world .The Pressure on Le Guen to make him decide to become a Catholic ,without seeing the bigger picture .Beti has written here a sharply observed  book capturing a shifting world in time that world of older values and western messing with these values .This book seems out of print which is a shame but old African writer copies seem easily available online .This book shows yet again how in the early years of this series the Late Chinua Achebe ,who sadly passed away last week ,made some great choices for this series by picking strong voices out of Africa.

Have you read any books from Cameroon ?

The purple violet of Oshaantu by Neshani Andreas

the purple violet

notes-This is another one of Heinemanns wonderful african writer series ,it is the debut novel from Neshani Andreas a Namibian ,she is trained as a teacher and currently works in the education field in Namibia ,she is working on her second novel .she was born in Wavis bay but her family originates from the northern area of Namibia that this novel is set.she also worked for five years as a teacher in this rural area of Namibia .

The book-The book is about a young married girl Kauna and told in the whole from the perspective of her best friend and confidant Mee Ali a slightly older married girl in the village they live .The book starts with Kauna seeing the one of the elder ladies in the village and telling her about her abusive relationship with her husband Shange ,she is told in no uncertain terms this is the way things are and to grin and bare it ,this discussion was meant to be private but soon becomes common knowledge in the village ,shortly after this Shange unexpectionally dies .At first people are reassuring to Mee kanua but over a period of time she becomes suspect of being a witch and causing Shanges death ,she ends up with nothing as all Shanges property reverts to his family ,Mee Ali tries to help her friend the best she can as she sees her world fall apart .

It is that time of year again .The season when our village Oshaantu ,camouflage its self in a rich green carpet and provides a breathtaking sight ,especially from our homestead,which is built on an incline .I wish time would stand still .We had goo rains this year and are promised plenty to eat .

the opening lines of the purple violet of Oshaantu .

My view – I really wanted to read this book when i saw it at the library ,as i sometime work with a relief member of staff at work that originally comes from Namibia , this book has a number of levels it a story of a close friendship between to women ,an insight into village life ,an example of how females fit into Namibian society ,which is quite low by the novel .It slotted in nicely after reading Damon Galgut book set in Namibia ,that was about city life were as this book is about rural life .

link-

An interview with Neshani Andreas

Question-

Have you read any other Namibian writers ?

September 2019
M T W T F S S
« Aug    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  

Archives

%d bloggers like this: