Adonis Diaries

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Part 3. An excursion with French-speaking African authors (Francophone authors)

Is the African Francophone literature considered an integral part of French literature?  Many French authors disagree that African and former colonial country authors can be considered as forming the characteristics of French mentality or philosophy… Most famous African authors are generally twined to other French authors, like “The African Voltaire”, “The African Victor Hugo, Proust…”

Alain Mabanckou, an author from the Congo Brazzaville or (Rep. of Congo), and who published “Writers and birds of migration” claims that Francophone literature are encouraged for its “utilitarian angle” to counter the current pervasive English domination, and is denied esthetic autonomy… As a kid, Arthur Rimbaud must have been a black author to Alain:  his father read only Rimbaud. One of Rimbaud’s poems “Bad Blood” reads:

Yes, my eyes are shut to your light.  I am a beast and a nigger. But I can be saved.  You are (the colonial Europeans) false niggers. You are maniacal, ferocious, and stingy niggers. Merchant, you are a nigger.  Judge, you are a nigger. Military officer, an old itching wound, you are a nigger.  You all have drunk from a non-taxed liquor, manufactured by Satan…”

Alain described his meeting with many African Francophone authors.  In the two previous posts, I related the meetings with

1. Ahmadou Kourouna (Ivory Coast): “Les soleils des independance” (Suns of Independence), “En attendant le vote des betes sauvage” (Waiting for the vote of the beasts), and “Allah n’est pas oblige” (Allah has no obligation),

2. Sony Labou Tansi (Congo Brazzaville or Rep.of Congo): “La vie et demi” (The life and a half),

3. Sami Tchak from Togo: “Place des fetes” (Festivities square), “Hermina, daughter of Mexico”, “Infidel woman”, and ”The Malian Al Capone”

4. Laye Camara (1928-80) from Guinea:  “L’ Enfant Noir” (The Black kid).

This post recounts the meetings of Alain Mabanckou with late author Jean-Marie Adiaffi (Ivory Coast).

“I met Adiaffi in the 90’s at the University Paris 12.  Two comedians were to recite a few pf my poems.  Adiaffi took to the podium and said: “I hate microphone” and set it aside and delivered his talk.  At the refectory, I told Adiaffi if he would consider writing a preface for my new book of poems “The Legend of errance”.

Adiaffi almost choked on the chicken leg he was eating and replied in anger: “Prefaces are serious matters and written to acclaimed and recognized author. Beside that, you have got to know that get paid for prefaces…It is not because I had a couple of glasses of wine that you think you can abuse of me…” I was very upset with this highly arrogant African author and left the room without turning back.

A year later, we met again at Ivry-sur Seine at the residence of my friend author Paul Dakeyo. Adiaffi looked me up and said: “Another author from the Congo…I consider there are too many of them in this field.  Possibly it is because the authors from the Congo have the River and the Sea…” and he laughed.  Adiaffi discovered my newly published collection of poems on the table and turned red with anger. He said: “You asked Pius Ngandu Nkashama to preface your book, when it was I who was to do it?  Where is my copy?” I gave him the one on the table and he demanded: “Erase Dakeyo and sign my name instead…”

Adiaffi asked me to accompany him to Paris. As we stepped out of the metro, Adiaffi saw a tall black young girl in tight jeans and loudly said to me: “Have you noticed her behind? She must be from Ivory Coast”.  The girl turned around and said: “I don’t know you. How did you guess that I am from Ivory Coast?”

Adiaffi was besides himself and the girl insisted: “The only book of an African author that I have read was “The Little Prince of Belleville” by Calix of Beyala…” Adiaffi cut her off: “Are you sure you are from Ivory Coast…?”  The girl said: “My mother is French…”  Adiaffi said: “Surely your father must have read my books…” The girl was smiling and leaving.  Adiaffi ran after her and commanded her to follow him.

We stopped at a bookstore and Adiaffi bought the girl two of his books “Identity card” and Silence, we are developing”.  Adiaffi said: “Read them and write to me at this address…I know you are from the Agni tribe and you will learn some of the Agni culture when you visit Abidjean…You should visit my museum…”

Adiaffi turned to me and resumed: “See? This girl has never been comfortable with her African roots…”

Alain Mabanckou mentioned many African and “colored” Francophone authors such as the authors in north Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tuninis): Yahyia Belaski, Anouar Benmalek, Kateb Yacine, Mahmoud Mammeri, Rachid Mimouni, Mohammed Dib, Kebir Amin, Salim Bachi, Asia Djebbar, Edouard Glissant, Maryse Conde, Emmanuel Dongala…

Like Yambo Ouologuen “Le Livre de violence (The book of violence)”, Ahmadou Kourouma ”Les soleils des independance” (Suns of Independence), “En attendant le vote des betes sauvage” (Waiting for the vote of the beasts), and “Allah n’est pas oblige” (Allah has no obligation).

The authors who emulated the novel of “The black kids” are: “Climbie” by Bernard Dadie, “Kocumbo, the black student” by Ake Loba, and “Ambiguous adventure” by Cheikh Hamidou Kane, and the contemporary “All this blue, Ma” by Gaston Paul Effa.

Like Sony Labou Tansi (Cameroun) “La vie et demi” (The life and a half), Arenas Reinaldo (Cuba): “Trois tristes ” (Three sad tigers), Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Cuba) ” Pere tranquille” (Father Cool), Sami Tchak (Togo) “Place des fetes” (Festivities square), “Hermina, daughter of Mexico”, “Infidel woman”, and ”The Malian Al Capone”

Like James Baldwin (USA) “The room of Giovanni”, Gary Victor (Haiti) “13 vaudou novellas”,  “At the angel of parallel streets”

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″…

Part 2. An excursion with French-speaking African authors

(Francophone authors)

Alain Mabanckou, an author from the Congo Brazzaville or (Rep. of Congo), published “Writers and birds of migration”.  Alain described his meeting with many African Francophone authors.  In the previous I related the meetings with Ahmadou Kourouna (Ivory Coast) and Sony Labou Tansi (Congo Brazzaville or Rep.of Congo).

Here are another set of samples of the stories:

On Sami Tchak from Togo. “I discuss literature mostly with Sami Tchak from Togo. Sami is not prone to any consensus and I can always count on Sami to let me discover unknown authors. We are in constant connection and we spend time discussing the many dimensions of the imaginary: Bringing in fresh air.

Sami would grab any book left on a bench in any public park, read it all, for the entire day, sitting on the bench: Tchak reads everything!

Sami published “Place des fetes” (Fiesta square, 2001), a iconoclastic work of contemporary Sub-Sahara literature. Sami says: “A writer is above all a reader. We have too many half-cooked literate intellectuals

Tchak has spent long periods in Latin America and evoked themes of sexuality, prostitution…themes not usually covered in African literatures.  For example, Sami’s book “The Malian Al Capone” is about little people, tormented in their customs and traditions, these mobile Africans, mobile in their heart, faith, lightness of being, happiness, exaggeration, clownish behaviors…How colonial Europe is coming to term in viewing Africa and Africans, this resisting Black continent, this ancient breath of traditional waves.

Time for Europe to comprehend this “Black Soul” through a trip to the “heart of darkness”, undertaken by the main character, a magazine white reporter, Rene. Rene’s weight of errance and the stubbornness for an illicit desire.

Tchak make it his responsibility to first visit the locations of his novel, and study the social structure so to present slices of the society.  Tchak is subjugated by the novels “The man without qualities” by Robert Musil (Austria), “Three sad tigers”, and “Father Tranquille”

On Laye Camara (1928-80) from Guinea. Laye was sent to exile by dictator Sekou Toure. The first book of Camara “The Black kid” was published in 1953 and became an instant cult book, and Laye was considered the most independent minded author, and perpetually felt the “freshest” to all African generations.

It is an “initiating book”, and later, many African authors wrote their versions of the Black kid in recounting their early years. For example,  “Climbie” by Bernard Dadie, “Kocumbo, the black student” by Ake Loba, and “Ambiguous adventure” by Cheikh Hamidou Kane.  The contemporary African authors who emulated the Black kid are: “All this blue, Ma” by Gaston Paul Effa.

The preface of the Black kid contained a poem “To my mother” that is memorized and recited by almost all school children, a vibrant homage to African women, and sang by African musicians.

Laye said: “I was thinking of myself, and as I wrote the book, I realized that I was painting a portion of my High-Guinea birthplace.”  There is a serenity in Laye as he considers the Future of Africa, the book decodes a society, we enter the universe of the humble person, culture of courtesy, exchange, and dignity: Feeling happy to be African, and celebrating life… 

Alain Mabanckou mentioned many African and “colored” Francophone authors such as the authors in north Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tuninis): Yahyia Belaski, Anouar Benmalek, Kateb Yacine, Mahmoud Mammeri, Rachid Mimouni, Mohammed Dib, Kebir Amin, Salim Bachi, Asia Djebbar, Edouard Glissant, Maryse Conde, Emmanuel Dongala…

Like Yambo Ouologuen “Le Livre de violence (The book of violence)“, Ahmadou Kourouma “Les soleils des independance” (Suns of Independence), “En attendant le vote des betes sauvage” (Waiting for the vote of the beasts), and “Allah n’est pas oblige” (Allah has no obligation).

Like Sony Labou Tansi (Cameroun) “La vie et demi” (The life and a half), Arenas Reinaldo (Cuba): Trois tristes tigres (Three sad tigers), Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Cuba) ” Pere tranquille” (Father Cool), Sami Tchak (Togo) “Place des fetes” (Festivities square), “Hermina, daughter of Mexico”, “Infidel woman“, and “The Malian Al Capone”

Like James Baldwin (USA) “The room of Giovanni”, Gary Victor (Haiti) “13 vaudou novellas”,  “At the angel of parallel streets”

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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