« Je ne suis un écrivain qu'à titre accessoire », aime à rappeler le Sénégalais Cheikh Hamidou Kane, auteur de deux romans. Agronome et homme politique de premier plan dans son pays, l'homme a consacré peu de temps à l'écriture. Grâce au succès phénoménal de son premier roman, il s'est rapidement imposé comme une des figures incontournables des Lettres africaines. L'Aventure ambiguë, qui raconte le drame du métissage et de la double culture, est un récit emblématique de l'expérience coloniale en Afrique. Il a marqué l'esprit de générations d'Africains qui se reconnaissent dans le parcours de son héros, Samba Diallo - des berges de la Vallée du fleuve Sénégal aux bancs de l'école française. Les cinquante ans de sa parution ont été célébrés au siège de l'Organisation internationale de la Francophonie à Paris. Dans l'interview qu'il nous a accordée, Kane parle de la portée universelle de son roman, des heurs et malheurs de l'intellectuel colonisé, de la responsabilité des élites dans la faillite du développement africain, de la « dépossession » identitaire... Et des Gardiens du temple, son deuxième livre, paru en 1995, qui poursuit la quête de ses personnages mais dans des circonstances postcoloniales.
Recently in African novels and stories Category
I don't get the chance to read in French as much as I'd like, mostly because books are expensive in Burkina. However, while I was at reading camp, I decided to take advantage of all the books surrounding me and read a few of them. I found such treasures as translations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (a personal favorite), Nancy Drew by Caroline Keene (who is known as Alice Roy in the French version) and Le Robot Qui Vivait Sa Vie (The Robot who Lived His Life) by Phillippe Ébly. I also read a book by a Burkinabè author, Susy Nikiéma, entitled L'homme à la Bagnole Rouge (The Man with the Red Car).
The book was published when Ms. Nikiéma was only 18 years old. It is the story of a high-school aged girl who lives with her grandparents, as her mother passed away and her father abandoned her when she was young. She begins spending a lot of time with an older man who drives a red car and is fairly well-off. At first she is suspicious of his intentions, but soon she learns that he truly only seeks her friendship. Eventually, he asks if he can adopt her because he has terminal cancer and he wants to share all he has with her. She struggles with the decision because she does not want to desert her grandparents. As she is about to make her decision, however, the man mysteriously dies. The girl receives a letter a few days later that the man sent before his death. In the letter, he explains that he is her biological father, and he abandoned her all those years before to live a better life in Côte d'Ivoire. He had returned to spend time with his daughter before his death. Eventually, we learn that the man was poisoned for his money, all of which he had already willed to his daughter. After proving her heritage, the girl is able to get the money left to her. L'homme à la Bagnole Rouge is an interesting read, not least because it discusses a lot of important realities of being a female high school student in Burkina. It is dramatic and suspenseful, and I would recommend it to anyone who would like to read French and learn a little bit more about life here.
Yesterday FAVL received a visit from NABIE Wabinlé, a Burkinabe author from the TUY Province. He came to present his book of fables, "La Gazelle et le Caméléon: conte bwaba du Burkina Faso." I met NABIE Wabinlé for the first time at a recent meeting held by the new Minister of Culture. His book is compiled of 11 fables, which uses animals to describe different human behaviors. This book, edited by Harmattan, is an excellent choice for the village libraries.
I loved Wife of the Gods so much I couldn't help but pre-order 4 copies of Kwei Quartey's new installment a month ago. It just came out in late July, don't know if you've had a chance to read it yet, but it's quick and I think you'd find it interesting. I didn't enjoy the plot quite as much this time (a little more predictable I thought), and I was kind of sad that the book was so "American" in style again. But, the story line touches on the poverty in Northern Ghana. Specifically, the huge numbers of street children/teens in Accra who left the North seeking a "better life" in the city. I'm shipping these copies to Sumbrungu, and if the librarians/Lucas get a chance to read them I think they will enjoy it and have a lot to say.
Le paysage littéraire burkinabè vient de s'enrichir avec la parution de la nouvelle œuvre de Lazare Tiga Sankara. « Le retour des morts » est un recueil de trois nouvelles publié aux éditions Céprodif. Après la parution de son roman « l'aventures de Patindé » aux éditions l'harmattan, Lazare Tiga Sankara revient sur la scène littéraire avec un recueil de trois nouvelles intitulé « le retour des morts ». A travers cette œuvre, l'auteur fait voyager les lecteurs dans l'univers presque indescriptibles des morts. « Le retour des morts » est elle une réplique à Birango Diop pour qui « les morts ne sont pas morts » ? Négatif.
Reading these stories reminds me of her novel Burger's Daughter, one of the really great novels of the 20th century.
In the wake of celebrations that once again a Zimbabwean author, NoViolet Bulawayo, has won the Caine Prize for African Writing, a revived Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF) will be taking place in Harare at the end of July (25th-30th). The theme of the Book Fair will be 'Books for Africa's Development'. Last week, a well-attended event at the Book Café in Harare debated the past and future for the ZIBF, and ended up discussing the question, 'what is the point of books in contemporary Zimbabwe?' The theme of this year's ZIBF gives some clues as to dominant thinking on the answer: books are for development. But what do books contribute to development, and how will books in Zimbabwe help to ensure that 'things can only get better'?
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the ZIBF was the premier book fair for all book deals within Africa - not only between Southern African publishers and the rest of the world, but also between publishers within Africa itself. At last week's meeting, Stringer stated that he does not think that it can ever regain that status - not because other states have stepped in to fill the vacuum that was created during Zimbabwe's 'difficult decade' of the 2000s, but because big trade fairs have been made obsolete by technological change. Publishers no longer need to meet in person in order to have conference meetings, to exchange contracts or to look at proofs. All of these things can be done electronically, via Skype and pdf documents emailed between negotiators. There is some truth to this observation. However, Frankfurt Book Fair is still as vibrant as ever, suggesting that publishers do still feel the need to gather together in a trade fair setting.
Nonetheless, Stinger's point about technological change was quickly picked by other commentators. One speaker suggested that the 'moment of the book' had passed; soon it would be obsolete. But Zimunya spoke lyrically about the vital importance of books in rural communities with negligible internet access, where development projects depended upon a textual support, and where more literate members of the community could easily share the material with others. Books, qua object, have practical benefits over all other forms of communicating information. And, as Brian Jones commented, 'In London there were iPads and Kindles all over, but they are still are a rare sight in Zimbabwe and I don't foresee printed books disappearing from Zimbabwe anytime soon.'
Zimbabweans display a changed attitude towards reading, after their hard decade. It is strange now to recall the days in the 1980s when Dambudzo Marechera sat in Africa Unity Square day after day, writing obsessively and magnificently, and insisting that those around him engage with 'difficult' prose. Reading still takes place, of course: this is, after all, the most literate nation in Africa. Newspapers are read avidly; twitter feeds clutter Zimbabwe's cyberspace; Wikipedia provides a quick fix of information. But reading is not given time. Even in the world of literature, short stories, such as NoViolet Bulawayo's Caine Prize-winning 'Hitting Budapest', predominate over novels.
The crisis of books is seen everywhere. Bookshops are hard to find; and when you do find them, they disappoint. An African film-maker based in Kuwadzana, a high density suburb just outside Harare, told me that he used to enjoy reading contemporary fiction and works on film criticism, which he could find in Kingston's, the state-owned bookshop and stationers. Indeed, a visit to Kingston's was once rated in the top 40 things to do in Harare by Lonely Planet travellers. But now, he said, 'There are no books; and if there are any there, they are just text books and manuals funded by NGOs.'
This point was reiterated by Irene Staunton of Weaver Press at the ZIBF event at the Book Café (a café, incidentally, that was once a book shop with a café attached, but where now, as Eugene Ulman, who made an influential film about the café, commented: 'You'd be hard pressed to find a book at the Book Café'). Staunton pointed out that publishers are struggling because people no longer expect to pay for books. Books are conceptualised as something that NGOs provide for free, to schools, communities and project participants, as part of a 'package' with an instrumentalist purpose. Books are for training, not for leisure. And they are certainly not for enhancing a society's imagination.
At every turn, an instrumentalist attitude to books and reading predominates. The novelist Zimunya's robust and moving defence of the importance of books in rural areas was describing the importance of training manuals, not of novels. Meanwhile, at the University of Zimbabwe, the world's academic journals are freely available to the undergraduates, thanks to gratis subscriptions to JSTOR and to the journals of significant publishers such as Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis. Africa Journals Online provides three free downloads per month to anyone accessing their pages with a Zimbabwe-based IP address. And yet, university lecturers complain to me that their students are simply not making use of collections such as JSTOR, even when the technical support would allow them to do so. Undergraduates - and even some teaching staff - tend to seek affirmation from canonical texts rather than to engage with a wide range of positions. Reading tends to be focused on data mining rather than tracing the development of ideas and the conversations between academics. A revolution in resource availability has not led to a revolution in academic engagement or the blossoming of ideas.
Despite the high literacy rates, people no longer seem to love books in Zimbabwe. One publisher told me that, 'Parents don't read to their children any more. Children encounter books at school and those experiences with books are often bad ones.' And, she added, in a culture that is highly oriented towards kinship, community and patronage networks, community activities are valued above the solitary and individual act of reading. Undoubtedly, the avid - often social - reading of newspapers, along with the urban ubiquity of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, maintain a text-oriented and literate culture. But book-reading is in decline.