The turbulent Cameroonian writer Mongo Beti is back in the news, not just because his latest book is due out this month (Editions Julliard), but also because he founded SOS Libertés et Nature on 13 November in Yaoundé, an association aimed at bringing the exploitation of natural resources into line with the promotion and respect of basic freedoms. Ecologists in the French Green Party are planning to back this initiative. The Cameroonian novelist, playwright and poet Alain-Patrice Nganang (La Promesse des Fleurs, L’Harmattan) met him in Yaoundé in October 1997.
“In the place of primitive people locked in tradition and stagnating, I substituted colonized subjects reacting against a foreign order; in the place of societies posited outside history, societies grappling with their contradictions and their problems (…). I apparently deprived ethnology of its object by effacing its images of the savage and “traditional man”.”
(G. Balandier, 1977, p. 248).
Mongo Beti provoked the same kind of upheaval in African literary circles in the Fifties as Georges Balandier did in the field of African studies at the same time when he reclassed Africa in the sociology domain. Unlike Bakary Diallo and Paul Hazoumé, whose works fell into the colonial literary genre, Mongo Beti introduced a discourse of rupture: he no longer described an Africa rigid with tradition, but placed the accent on the continent’s social tensions between colonized and colonizer, young and old, man and woman, etc. At the same time, he elaborated a critical discourse that deconstructed the clichés of exoticism and colonial literature.
Mongo Beti’s eminently political work has evolved in accordance with the socio-historic context in which it was written (cf. B. Mouralis, 1981). Whilst Ville cruelle (1954), and Le...