Despite the ridiculous (truly!) cover this novelization of the infamous Colonne Voulet-Chanoine
is worth the reading (it was also made into a film) I hope we can get copies in every library in Burkina someday. It recounts a little known but emblematic episode in the history of colonization of French West Africa. In 1898, fresh from the defeat of the Mossi kings in central Burkina Faso, Paul Voulet and his friend and companion Julien Chanoine (son of a
French general) were entrusted to lead a military mission to conquer the Lake Chad area. The French were in a race with the British to secure for themselves all the unmapped areas of Africa. With Lake Chad, the French would have control over the entire Sahel from Senegal to the border of Darfur (then an independent Sultanate as the British reconquered Sudan). Controlling the colonies below Chad (now CAR, Cameroon and Congo) the French would have an enormous bloc on the continent. But by design or misfortune, Voulet and Chanoince, once they had left the last French outpost at Say, on the Niger River, after Timbuktu, decided to pillage and terrorize their way to Chad. They "went barbarian" as the saying goes, despite the likelihood that villagers and small kingdoms would have greeted them peacefully and been happy to trade, along the way.
The book spends time on a romantic backstory of Voulet. I have no idea whether there is documentary record of the letters between himself and his prostitute wife who spurns him in the end (wow!). Would be interesting to see if true. This then forms the basis for psychologizing Voulet, while Chanoine is simply represented as a resentful sadist psychopath. Anyway, good reading. Nice description of their battle with Sarraounia
The books is available here on Amazon
. If you read French, order a copy, read, and then send to FAVL to forward to the libraries.