Ahmadou Kourouma: an atypical path

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Ahmadou Kourouma did not immediately choose to take colonialism to task in his work in spite of the fact that he was born in 1927, the heyday of the colonial era, and even though he served in the French colonial forces.
In Les Soleils des Indépendances (1968), he preferred to denounce the disillusionment political independence triggered in Africa. Twenty years later, in Monné outrages et défis (1990), he decided to attack colonization just when the question appeared outmoded in African literature, which in fact enabled him to tackle it more lucidly. Indeed, colonization is not dealt with romantically in Kourouma’s novel: gone are the White baddies and the good Blacks.
His latest novel, En attendant le vote des bêtes sauvages, revives contemporary African History, telling the story of the dictator Koyaga whose regime is inextricably tied up with witchcraft and magic.
An ex-infantryman in the colonial forces, Koyaga comes to power in a coup d’Etat after he strangles his predecessor. The choice of dictatorship as a theme after Sony Labou Tansi seems suicidal, however, and Kourouma comes dangerously close to that suicide. Indeed, Koyaga’s political style reeks of déjà vu for Labou Tansi readers. Especially as Koyaga’s heros include Bokassa and Mobutu, two tyrants whose regimes are well beyond the realms of Kourouma’s fiction.
Kourouma’s novel is not stylistically innovative either. But its originality lies in the narrative strategy used to ridicule Koyaga. Distanced from the reigns of power by the wind of national conferences, Koyaga has his donsomana (a gesture) recited to him by a griot and his responder. Together they compare him to Samory, Sunjata, etc., but as the litany unfolds, the praises become fewer and far between, turning into an indictment of his tyranny. An indictment in which irony and pastiche blend with satirical proverbs.
Ultimately, all of Kourouma’s strong points can be found in this novel: his fascination for the epic genre, a complex narrative structure (since Monné…), the cult of insolence which is incontestably an invitation to indocility, to coin Achille Mbembe’s phrase. With this latest novel, Kourouma completes a trilogy covering over a century of West African History.

Ahmadou Kourouma, En attendant le vote des bêtes sauvages. Editions du Seuil, 1998. 130 FF.///Article N° : 5320

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