Adonis Diaries

An excursion with French-speaking African authors (Francophone authors). Part 1

Posted on: January 8, 2012

Part 1. An excursion with French-speaking African authors (Francophone authors)

Alain Mabanckou, an author from the Congo Brazzaville called Rep. of Congo, published “writers and birds of migration“.  Alain described his meeting with many African Francophone authors.  Here are samples of the stories.

On Ahmadou Kourouma (The African Voltaire?) from Ivory Coast: In early 1990’s, Ahmadou visited Paris for the Salon of book. He was a tall old man, wearing dark suit and thick eye glasses and moving swiftly amid the crowd. Ahmadou seemed kind of disoriented and approached my stand to buy my book of poems. I refused to take the money on account that he is a Classic African author. Ahmadou laughed and said: “The youth are constantly “mommifying” the elder authors” and he quickly left the salon.

Two years later, I met Ahmadou in Abidjan and handed him my latest “Blue White and Red” and he sent me a letter that I kept as a trophy. For many years it was complete silence: I was under the impression that Ahmadou will be known for his only two books: “The suns of independence” and “Money, outrage and defiance“. As Cheikh Hamidou Khane is known for his “Ambiguous Adventure“, or Yambo Ouologuen for his “The duty of violence”…

By the end of the 90’s, I met Ahmadou in another salon of the book in Charente-Maritime: He was the main invitee. We were lodged in a medieval house along with my friend Pius Ngandu Nkashama. Kourouma would have loved to be assigned in the main floor: He had difficulty climbing the stairs. Kourouma was writing a new novel and he told us at breakfast: “I am a dying volcano: I may eject the remaining of my lava in my new book…It might be titled “Waiting for the vote of the wild beasts”.

This book would launch Kourouma as a successful author, and the next book “Allah is not obligated” will consecrate him in the  summit of the Francophone authors and received the Renaudot Prize.

On Sony Labou Tansi (The equivalent to the French Rabelais) from Congo Brazzaville:  Sony published his first book “The life and a half” in 1979 and it became a cult book and Sony was compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I waited two years before I made the short journey to his hometown of Makelekele. I was attending Law School and I had no difficulty locating his residence: Everybody in town knew him. Sony was engaged in a game of volley ball in the wild field by his house.

At the first break, Sony invited me to his run-down wood house: I had to part wild branches in this small tropical forest. The door was never locked. Two huge posters of Che Guevara and Bob Marley were hung.  There was no typewriter, and no bibliotheque. Two candles illuminated a page that Sony was handwriting. He said: “I am trying to finish “The seven solitudes of Lorsa Lopez“.

I discovered just two books: The Illuminations by Rimbaud and “Chronicle of an announced death”by Marquez. Sony sat on the ground and I said:

Frankly, I write occasionally, but it is not real literature. I write poems…” Sony replied: “It is not easy to publish books of poetry. I also wrote poems in the beginning and they were refused, although I wrote prefaces to famous poets.  It is as if there could be no valid poets in Africa after Senghor and Cesaire. You have to keep trying: You might be luckier than me.  Do not limit your reading to French and African poets.  Open up to Neruda, Octavio Paz, Giacomo Leopardi, Pouchkine…You’ll find copies in the French Cultural Center.  Read a lot before trying to write. This is the only secret to writing well. For the time being, give priority to novels.”

Sony retrieved a dusty manuscript of his “The life and a half” and handed it to me. And he returned to his volleyball game saying: “Consider this house as yours”. I kept the manuscript for an entire year before leaving to France: The handwriting was straight, willing, and very few corrections…

Two years later, Sony was invited at a TV show of Cavada “The March of the century“. I retrieved Sony’s manuscript to return as I see him. Sony was surprised to see me before the show and said: “Let’s meet after the show”. He asked me: “What have you published since then?” I replied: “No editor would publish me…”  Sony said: “Proust also was refused…”  I gave him his manuscript and he exclaimed: “I have been calling all my friends to return it, and searched the house as I never did before…” (To be continued)

Alain Mabanckou revealed that the ten books he would take to an isolated island would be:

1.  Le Livre de ma mere (The book of mother) by the Swiss Albert Cohen

2.  L’Enfant Noir(The black kid): Camara Laye from Guinea

3.  L’Ivrogne dans la brousse (The drunk in the bushland): Amos Tutuola

4.  Le Tunnel (The Tunnel): Late Ernesto Sabato (Argentina)

5.  Le Tambour (The drum):  Gunter Grass

6.  Pays sans chapeau ( Countries without hat): Dany Laferriere (Haiti)

7.  Of mice and man: John Steinbeck

8.  The music: Yukio Mishima

9. The contemplations: The French Victor Hugo

10.  Death on credit: The French Louis-Ferdinand Celine

Note: Alain Mabanckou is born in the Rep. of Congo (a Francophone State) in 1966.  He is professor of Francophone literature in UCLA.  He published “Broken Glass”, “Black Bazar”, letter to Jimmy (James Baldwin)”, and “Tomorrow I’ll be 20″…

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adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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