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Every Sunday in summer, The World Africa asked a writer from the continent what works marked his best. This week, the question was asked by the Franco-Djiboutian writer Abdourahman A. Waberi. Novelist and short story writer, he also teaches French and Francophone literature at George-Washington University, in the United States. His eighth novel, Tell me for whom do I exist? will be published on August 24 in the JC Lattès edition.
black child, said Camara Laye
Because the tenderness that comes from it. “This famous novel, which tells the story of a little boy’s progress from his childhood in Guinea to his early years of adulthood, has long been one of the school assignments for me to consider It was only recently, when I started writing autobiographical novels, that I began to appreciate it.
“We know that Camara Laye had a whole course of life after his education in Africa: he went to France, worked in mechanics as a laborer, became a technician… trying to live again at that time in Guinea. I was touched by the trajectory of this man who was able, despite time and distance, to revive not only his young age but the entire region. That’s what I’m trying to do too: put Djibouti , my whole country, in words, with my pen and… my weak shoulders!
“By re-reading The Black Child, I also discovered it to be very well written. In addition, I studied it at university and I was amazed every time to see everything that my students translated there, from magic to initiation secrets, from mother photography to romantic relationships and even if the narrator arrives in France… the refinement of this Africa that does not exist – or no longer exists. It’s a really gentle, timeless work, which makes me happy. »
Life and Teachings of Tierno Bokar, by Amadou Hampâté Bâ
For the importance of transmission. “I am part of a generation of writers, like Kossi Efoui, Alain Mabanckou, Fatou Diome or Florent Couao-Zotti, children of post-colonies and failed independences, who no longer want to hear about the great ones old man in African literature. We came to write in the 1990s, the question of darkness is far from us, we are determined to write something else. Amadou Hampâté Bâ represents the Africa of papa and even grandfather, a figure that is a foil for us. One can still understand the angry and mocking Africa of Williams Sassine, Sony Labou Tansi, Ahmadou Kourouma, but the eternal Africa of Hampaté Bâ, no, that is too much. He is even more angry with us because he is favored by the critics, publishers, booksellers, readers… Everyone admired through him an Africa that we don’t like, supposedly “not long ago”, “full of wisdom”, “profound”, “immortal”, and so on.
“However, we want to do something more, like some amazing authors before us – Simon Njami, Blaise N’Djehoya – have intuition. Their “Black Parisian” feathers express a black African presence in France… American style, in a way.I had to grow up a bit to finally rediscover Hampâté Bâ. Life and Teachings of Tierno Bokar, in particular, talking to the teacher that I am. I found there the text of a man who did not speak about himself but returned to the life of another and worshiped him. In other words, this famous Hampâté Bâ who has concentrated so much my anger is not the author but the humble bearer of the teachings of his religious master, Tierno Bokar. The iconoclast I am restored thanks to this book with the idea of a transmission of tradition. Now, I always teach at Hampâté Bâ. It pushed me to self-criticism and marked my entry into adulthood. »
Day of silence in Tangier, by Tahar Ben Jelloun
For its temporary suspension. “Tahar Ben Jelloun is the prolix author of a long and deep work that I admire as much for poetry as for romantic fiction and… graphic production – because we don’t know, but he is also a painter. He also worked as a sociologist, especially among the chibanis, the ancient emigrants from the Maghreb. I pointed out the wonderful book that resulted from it, The Highest Solitude, where we see chibanis living in the only country where they really belong: the land of imagination. I also teach The Sand Child and The Sacred Nighta diptych that won him the Goncourt.
“All these books are his great organs. But I really like this little sonata – I should say this nocturne – which is Day of silence in Tangier. This book tells the last days of an old man’s existence, his prayers, his silence, his meditation, the suspended time. Everything depends on this relationship between a person – the author – and this father who is dying … I like this novel that does not move mechanically, on the border of the story; this is a book where not much happens and where there is great tenderness. »
African lion, by Amin Maalouf
For the dimension it gives the continent. “Amin Maalouf is a Lebanese writer who has long been a journalist in Young Africa. In my opinion, by being a novelist, he kept the sense of topicality and the rhythm useful in the narrative, as well as, in the background, the ever-burning landscape that is the Middle East. In all this, he adds the center of the story and this is how he writes African lion, a kind of “good historical report”. I like that he is interested in dramaturgy: for him, writing is not limited to aesthetic research, he wants to reach his reader’s heart. And he achieved it as a great craftsman.
“His Leon the African is a Berber from Andalusia with a romantic life to perfection. He is at the same time a surveyor, a discoverer, an adventurer larger than life, in short, he totally charms us . I know that this novel expands the idea that we have of Africa: it is not only a physical continent, population and a diaspora, but a world without borders, an imaginary where the adventure, the movement, the picaresque, a continent full. with a thousand and one stories and marked by a lot of history. »