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Translation into English of Amadou Koné's Traites, sous le pouvoir des Blakoros (Exploitation, under the blakoros' power)

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Translation into English of Amadou Koné's Traites, sous le pouvoir des Blakoros (Exploitation, under the blakoros' power)
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Martin, Dana Che
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Civil service ( jstor )
Coffee industry ( jstor )
Cooperatives ( jstor )
Language translation ( jstor )
Narratives ( jstor )
Novels ( jstor )
Peasant class ( jstor )
Sons ( jstor )
Villages ( jstor )
Women ( jstor )

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A TRANSLATION INTO ENGLISH
OF AMADOU KONE'S TRAITES. SOUS LE POUVOIR DES BLAKOROS
[EXPLOITATION. UNDER THE BLAKOROS' POWER]


BY

DANA CHE MARTIN


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2003
































Copyright 2003

by

Dana Che Martin
























Dedicated in loving appreciation to my father, Stephen A. Martin, Sr., my mother, Brigid
Cheri Martin, my brother, Dr. Stephen A. Martin, Jr., and my sister, Dr. Nicole Martin
Franks, for all of the moral and spiritual support, encouragement, determined optimism,
and words of wisdom that permitted the successful completion of this ambitious project.














ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

My first expression of gratitude must be directed to Dr. Bernadette Cailler,

Professor of French and Chair of my committee, who provided guidance, professional

expertise, and encouragement throughout the research and writing process. She carefully

read and patiently worked with me through the dissertation. I have greatly appreciated

and profited from her constructive criticisms and valuable suggestions. My appreciation

extends to the members of the dissertation committee: Dr. Sylvie Blum, Assistant

Professor of French, Dr. William Calin, Graduate Research Professor of French, and Dr.

Mark Reid, Professor of English. They have also provided helpful comments and

suggestions which contributed to the successful completion of this project.

I would like to thank Amadou Kone and the African Publisher, Les Nouvelles

Editions Ivoiriennes (formerly Les Nouvelles Editions Africaines) for giving me

permission to translate Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros. I also extend my sincere

thanks to Amadou Kone, my former professor at Tulane University, for granting me a

personal interview and for allowing me to contact him whenever I had additional

questions. I am grateful to the University of Florida's Department of Romance

Languages and Literatures for offering financial support through teaching assistantships,

fellowships, and tuition waivers.

Finally, I wish to thank my loved ones, friends, and colleagues for their moral

support, encouragement, and also for helping me overcome some very difficult times.















TABLE OF CONTENTS
page

ACKNO W LEDG M EN TS.............................................................................................. iv

ABSTRACT..................................................................................................................vii

CHAPTER

1 INTRODUCTION TO THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF TRAITES. SOUS
LE POUV OIR DES BLAKOROS........................................................................ 1

C6te d'Ivoire........................................................................................................ 2
Amadou Kon6's Life............................................................................................ 8
An Overview of Amadou Kon6's Writing Career............................................... 10
The Thematic Content(s) in Kone's Traites and Kourouma's Les Soleils des
Ind6pendances and their Respective Structures.......................................... 18
Literature from Kone's Generation..................................................................... 28
Kone's Use of Language in Traites, Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros..................... 37
The Task of Translating Traites into English...................................................... 43

2 INTERVIEW WITH AMADOU KONE ............................................................ 48

3 PREFA CE ......................................................................................................... 62

4 PART ONE: A DIFFICULT PATH TOWARD THE QUEST FOR
KN OW LEDGE.................................................................................................. 68

One.................................................................................................................... 68
Two................................................................................................................... 78
Three ................................................................................................................. 88
Four................................................................................................................. 102

5 PART TWO: THE PEOPLE THEY MILK...................................................... 114

One.................................................................................................................. 114
Two................................................................................................................. 127
Three ............................................................................................................... 138
Four................................................................................................................. 151
Five ................................................................................................................. 163









GLOSSARY ............................................................................................................... 169

REFERENCE LIST..................................................................................................... 173

W orks by Amadou Kon .................................................................................. 173
Scholarly and Critical W orks........................................................................... 174

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ....................................................................................... 177












































vi















Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

A TRANSLATION INTO ENGLISH
OF AMADOU KONE'S TRAITES. SOUS LE POUVOIR DES BLAKOROS
[EXPLOITATION. UNDER THE BLAKOROS' POWER]

By

Dana Che Martin

May 2003

Chair: Bernadette Cailler
Major Department: Romance Languages and Literatures

In this dissertation, the author presents a translation of Amadou Kond's novel

Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros, which is the first volume of a series published in

1980. In the novel, Kone depicts a corrupt post-independence society where certain

native Africans, otherwise known as the "blakoros," exploit their fellow Africans

mercilessly. Unlike those in the community who want to build the future on traditional

values, the blakoros function rather on the basis of new and poorly mastered values

established by Western societies. Kon6, a writer from C6te d'Ivoire, is a defender of the

oppressed and exploited masses, especially the peasant class, who have been betrayed by

their fellow citizens in independent Africa.

Chapter 1, the introduction, presents the following: an examination of some

important aspects of C6te d'Ivoire's history from the pre-colonial period to the twentieth

century; Amadou Kond's life; an overview of the author's writing career; a comparison








of some themes and structures in Traites and Ahmadou Kourouma's Les Soleils des

Independances; a study of Kon6's fiction in relation to several texts written by some

authors from his own generation; Kone's use of language in Traites; and, finally, the task

of translating Traites into English. Chapter 2 is an interview with Amadou Kon6.

Among other things, the interview covers precise questions about translation, particularly

of Traites.

Chapter 3 is the preface to Kon6's novel. Chapters 4 and 5 offer the actual

English translation of the novel. Finally, the dissertation includes a helpful glossary of all

the foreign words and their respective languages. Some critics consider Kone to be a

regional writer, which may explain why he has not yet been fully recognized as a major

writer (one as important as Bernard Dadid, Camara Laye, Mongo Beti or Ahmadou

Kourouma, for example). However, this dissertation confirms that his work merits more

attention. The author hopes that her study will widen Amadou Kon6's readership; and

will stimulate scholarly interest in Ivoirian literature in North America (and, more

generally, among English-speaking populations).














CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION TO THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF
TRAITES. SOUS LE POUVOIR DES BLAKOROS

"[...] je parole des problemes ivoiriens. Je suis done un auteur ivoirien."
(Amadou Kone, Interview 1987)

Producing fiction designed to encourage questioning and to raise consciousness

about his society, contemporary Francophone African author, Amadou Kone, stands as an

important literary figure from CMte d'Ivoire.' Certainly Kone's narrative Traites. Sous le

pouvoir des Blakoros [Exploitation. Under the Blakoros' Power], which depicts a peasant

community faced with corruption and bribery in a post-independence society, can be

placed within this category of fiction. A study of Amadou Kone's writing reveals that he

is an example of the committed African writer who is extremely sensitive to the social

and political problems of his day and is constantly coming to grips with them, hoping to

play his part in changing society for the better.

This introduction to the English translation of Traites. Sous le pouvoir des

Blakoros includes the following:

* An examination of some important aspects of C6te d'Ivoire's history from the
precolonial period to the twentieth century

* Amadou Kone's life

* An overview of the author's writing career

* A comparison of the thematic contents) in Kone's Traites and Ahmadou Kourouma's
Les Soleils des Independances and of their respective structures

' In 1986, Ivoirian government announced "C6te d'lvoire" as the official name of the country in all
languages. Robert Mundt, Historical Dictionary of the Ivory Coast (Cote d'lvoire) (Metuchen-London:
The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1987) xviii.










* A study ofKon6's fiction in relation to several texts written by some authors from his
own generation

* Kong's use of language in Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros

* The task of translating Traites into English

COte d'Ivoire

Before European colonization, important kingdoms flourished in C6te d'Ivoire.

Among these kingdoms (which were closely related linguistically and socially to the

neighboring Asante kingdom) were the Abron, Anyi, Baule, Kong, and Sanwi (Mundt 5).

The Asante, who founded the famous Asante Empire, were related to the Akan people; by

the middle of the eighteenth century, this powerful empire practically dominated all of

modem Ghana, along with parts of C6te d'Ivoire (Boahen 54). The Anyi and Baule were

also Akan peoples; these two ethnic groups migrated into the forest region of C6te

d'Ivoire. Smaller ethnic groups also inhabited Cote d'Ivoire along its coast.

France made its initial contact with C6te d'Ivoire in 1637 when missionaries

landed at Assinie near the coast of what is today Ghana (Mundt 5). However, attempts at

permanent settlement were greatly hindered by the inhospitable coastline and other

conditions such as the oppressive climate and endemic diseases. In the eighteenth

century, French and other European traders sought gold, ivory, and especially slaves,

along the coast where trading posts were established. In 1843, the French began signing

treaties with the local chiefs of the Grand-Bassam and Assinie regions, placing their

territories under a French protectorate. Soon afterward, French explorers, missionaries,

trading companies, and soldiers gradually gained control of the coastal areas and began to









move inland. French claims, however, were not matched by effective control over Cote

d'lvoire until the late nineteenth century.

Eventually, the French defined C6te d'Ivoire's borders, thereby solidifying

control over the country. They were able to carry out this mission after the capture of the
2
Muslim religious leader, Samory Tour.2 Toure, a Malinke warrior chief who often came

into conflict with French military expeditions, was against their expansion in West

Africa. With his supporters, he resisted French penetration, but was finally captured after

prolonged fighting in 1898 (Mundt 7). Six years later, Cote d'Ivoire became a

constituent territory of the Federation of French West Africa and in 1908, Governor

Gabriel Angoulvant began military occupation of the colony.

In the years to follow, Africans had to succumb to forced labor, which

subsequently led to fierce resistance. Revolts broke out as France picked thousands of

Africans from Cote d'Ivoire to serve as soldiers in World War I. However, the French

overpowered these revolts and resistance efforts; and the Africans implicated were

severely punished. By the end of the war, the French had concluded their conquest of

C6te d'Ivoire. To secure their authority during the period of conquest, they subdued the

African tribes and imposed a uniform, centralized administration. In the years between

the two world wars, economic development in COte d'Ivoire became the primary focus.

Not only was a railroad completed to help with the colony's transportation infrastructure,

but Africans also began planting cash crops, such as cocoa and coffee, for export (David

27).




2 Kond's first play was about the great leader, Samory Tour6. He titled the tragedy, Samory de
Bissandougou. Unpublished.








Thousands of C6te d'Ivoire Africans fought for the French army in World War II.

In fact, a significant number of Africans, in general, served France in the Second World

War. According to Myron Echenberg,3 "at a conservative estimate, the French recruited

in excess of 200,000 black Africans during the Second World War" (88). This time,

recruited African troops played a much more combatant role against Nazi Germany,

which had territorial ambitions in Europe and Africa. Black Africans, as well as North

Africans, made up an important part of the ranks in the French Army; altogether, they

fought vigorously to defend France (Echenberg 88).

These soldiers, no doubt, were made to expect more after the war, not only

because of the economic and social developments in the colonies, but also because of the

suffering and hardships they had endured. As one officer noted:

The man [African] at the war is being thrown in contact with Europeans in a way
as never before. The returning African cannot be quite the same. They will have
fought and lived side by side with foreigners, black and white. They received at
any rate in the Middle East, the same food, the same clothing, they drank side by
side in the canteens the same beer, they were fighting the same battle [...] they
will have seen the world sufficiently to realise that they can have improved
homes, better food, better conditions and better pay for work undertaken [...].
How are we going to keep them down on the farm after the war? (Boahen 142)

Upon their return home, Africans expected employment as well as adequate pensions and

benefits, but a good number were sorely disappointed. Of course, this proved unfair for

the returning soldiers, for "without the rank-and-file black African soldier, their [Free

French forces] victories would have been impossible" (Echenberg 104).

During World War II, C6te d'lvoire, like the rest of French West Africa, fell

under the control of France's Vichy government. Under this authoritarian political

system, numerous severe measures against the African population were established,


3 Colonial Conscripts: The Tirailleurs Snesgalais in French West Africa, 1857-1960.








oriented toward and deriving from economic exploitation and overt racism. The Vichy

regime controlled CMte d'Ivoire and, basically, French West Africa until 1943 (Yansan6

27). After the fall of the Vichy regime, CMte d'Ivoire became a territory in the Union

Franqaise. This political entity replaced the French colonial empire and inaugurated a

number of governmental reforms, including giving Africans the right to organize

politically and abolishing forced labor. In 1946, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, a politician

and physician4 born in Cote d'Ivoire, founded the Parti Democratique de la C6te d'lvoire

(P.D.C.I.). That same year, he also helped found the Rassemblement Dimocratique

Africain (R.D.A.), the leading pre-independence interterritorial political party in French

West Africa (David 32).

Cote d'Ivoire's political history is closely associated with the career of Felix

Houphouet-Boigny. For many years, he represented Cote d'Ivoire in the French National

Assembly, devoting much of his effort to interterritorial political organization and further

improvement of labor conditions for African farmers. As a minister in the French

government, Houphouet-Boigny also played a major role in drafting the 1956 Reform act,

the loi-cadre, which established universal suffrage in the overseas territories and vested a

number of powers in the elected territorial governments of French West Africa. In 1958,

CMte d'Ivoire, along with many other French territories, joined the Communaute

Francaise (formerly L 'Union Francaise) under General Charles de Gaulle's leadership.

Pressure, however, from the French colonies to achieve independence soon began to

grow within the Communauti. As a result, de Gaulle offered full independence from



4 Houphouet-Boigny graduated from the Ecole Normale William Ponty in Dakar in 1925 as a medical
doctor. He was one of the first of his ethnic group to complete the entire course of education under the
colonial system (Mundt 82).









France to the African colonies in 1960. C6te d'Ivoire achieved full independence on

August 7, 1960 and Felix Houphouet-Boigny was elected the country's first president

(Mundt 11).

Political tensions were high during those first few years after Houphouet-

Boigny's election as president. In fact, shifts in tactics and ideology by the Parti

Dimocratique de la C6te d'Ivoire (P.D.C.I.) caused tensions to explode in what became

referred to as the "events of 1963" (Mundt 12). Supposedly, a coup was in the works to

overthrow the president; plotters certainly set out to challenge his authority. But all of

their attempts failed and by the next election, Houphouet-Boigny's control was again

secure.

Of all the former French colonies in Africa, C6te d'lvoire was the only one that

had the same president for more than three decades; Houphouet-Boigny was reelected

president in 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980, 1985, and 1990.5 I asked Amadou Kone what he

thought about the country's former president. He said:

Houphouet-Boigny was not a democrat, that is, his system of government was not
like the democracy that [I am] used to. It was not even a dictatorship. It was a
personal power that had the advantage of giving a certain amount of freedom to
the people and also, of functioning economically in spite of corruption. Alas, the
governments that have followed Houphoudt have not succeeded as well.6

While other African nations focused on industrialization, Houphouet-Boigny developed

C6te d'Ivoire's cash-crop agriculture. As a result, the country became a primary exporter

of goods, principally cocoa and coffee; in 1977, it was the world's largest producer of

cocoa (Mundt xviii). Philippe David acknowledges the peasant community in C6te


5 FMix Houphouet-Boigny was born on October 18, 1905 in Yamoussoukro, Cate d'Ivoire. He was known
respectfully as "le Vieux" [the Old Man] by his compatriots. Houphouet-Boigny died in C6te d'Ivoire on
December 7, 1993. Under his leadership, C6te d'lvoire became one of the most prosperous nations in Sub-
Saharan Africa. La C6te d'Ivoire, pp. 38, 45.
6 My translation from the French. Interview with Amadou Kone, 2002.








d'lvoire for playing an instrumental role in the success of the country's agricultural

economy. According to this scholar:

[...] farmers were, and still are, an essential strength for the country ...].
Houphouat will always show, what he has admitted to calling, his "profonde
sollicitude" to all planters [of coffee and cocoa, pineapples, cotton, and sugar
cane] food-producing farmers, stockbreeders, fishermen, and rural artisans, the
backbone of a country that, on this level, has always asserted itself as certainly
different from its neighbors. Even if the "important CEOs" of Abidjan sometimes
grew more and more distant from the low-ranking planters who, nonetheless,
provide the basic essentials of their prosperity, one will see that numerous
personal and financial ties continue to unite one to the other.7

Kond's focus on Africa's peasantry is, therefore, a timely one. Undoubtedly, the

presence of this group in C6te d'Ivoire was important, especially to Houphouet-Boigny

who, along with the peasant class, made agriculture the backbone of Cte d'Ivoire's

economy (David 54, 1st ed.).

The characters, particularly in Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros, are farmers

who plant coffee and cocoa to sustain their livelihood in the village. Unfortunately, these

hard-working individuals seem to benefit the least from the fruits of their labor because

their village has been plagued with corruption:

We harvested the last bean of coffee, [...]. We dried, ground, and sold it
unenthusiastically. To make sure we earned enough to repay all the debts.8

In Traites, the new social classes of the post-independence city are made up of scheming

exploiters. They lend money to the peasants, but once the peasant's crop has been

harvested, the good-for-nothing scoundrels cash in and come out ahead every time.

Indeed, "the fruits of independence [are] ripe enough for the greedy ones to pluck" in this

Ivoirian society depicted by Kond (Snyder 12-13).



7 My translation. La C6te d'Ivoire, pp. 68-69.
a My translation. See chapter 5, Exploitation, Under the Blakoros' Power, p. 164.









Amadou Kone's Life

Amadou Kon6 was born in Tangora Banfora in the south of Burkina Faso,

formerly Upper Volta, in 1953. However, he spent most of his life in C6te d'Ivoire. As a

child growing up in C6te d'Ivoire, he led a very simple life on his parents' farm. It was

there where, often, he would anxiously wait to hear animal tales and epics with all of the

family gathered together. Indeed, oral literature such as this served as the basis for

Kon6's writing career. Of it he related: "Les premiers textes que j'ai 6crits 6taient des

contest traditionnels que j'avais entendu dire dans ma famille quand j'6tais enfant."9

Kone lived with his parents until he was old enough to leave for the school located in

another village. He followed his older brother, who was a school teacher, from one

school to the next during those early years of independence in C6te d'lvoire. Kon6

received his early education at the college in Grand-Bassam. He finished his secondary

education in Abidjan where he attended a boarding school, a very comfortable setting and

a privilege for students like him who came from a village and not a big city. He received

his baccalauriat in June of 1971.

Kone began studying literature at the Universite dAbidjan. After obtaining his

licence &s Lettres Modernes, he continued his studies in France at the Universite de Tours

where he received the Doctorat de Troisikme Cycle in 1977. From there, he returned to

Africa where he taught African and Comparative Literatures at the Universite Nationale

de C6te d'Ivoire in Abidjan until 1990. In addition to teaching, Kon6 also wrote his






9 "The first texts I wrote were traditional tales that I had heard as a child in my family." My translation.
Amadou Kone, "De la mission d'un theitre africain modeme," Lumi&res africaines (New Orleans:
University Press of the South, 1997) 116.








second major dissertation, which he defended in 1987. Kone received the Doctorat

d'Etat s Lettres in Comparative Literature from the Universitj de Limoges (France).

In 1990, Kone obtained a prestigious fellowship from the Alexander Von

Humboldt Foundation. For 2 years, he carried out research on West African literature at

the University of Bayreuth in Germany; he also lectured on literature and held seminars

on his own works. In 1992, Kone came to the United States where he accepted a position

in the Department of French and Italian at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Talking with interviewer Christian Kocani about his decision not to return to C6te

d'Ivoire at the end of his fellowship term, Kon6 remarked:

I regret leaving. I miss my students. I know that there, in my country, I had
responsibilities and I tried to carry them out for about 15 years. When I finished
my Thesis in France, I obtained a position there as Assistant Professor. So, I
could have stayed there, but I preferred to go home so that I could contribute my
time to building the country modestly, of course, in the area of Higher Education.
Then I left after fifteen years for personal reasons. But in my mind, it was not a
definitive departure and it still is not one. Furthermore, you can serve your
country wherever you live. It also depends on the diverse opportunities you have
to do it. As for myself, even in the United States, I continue to serve C6te
d'Ivoire.'0

After 5 years at Tulane, Kond and his family (a wife and four children) left New Orleans

and moved to Washington, DC. There, he joined the Georgetown University faculty in

1997. Today, Amadou Kon6 continues to teach African literature and culture south of the

Sahara at Georgetown.

The author of novels, plays, short stories, children's stories, essays, and literary

studies, Kon6 is a specialist in Francophone African literature. His teaching and research

interests center around the oral tradition of Africa and its modem written literature. More

specifically, he has focused on African tales and epics and their influence on the modem


10 My translation. Christian Kocani, "L'exil d'Amadou Kon6," L'Aora 24juillet 1998: 12.









African novel. Kone has published two books on the relationships between oral and

modem African literature: Du r6cit oral au roman: Etude sur les avatars de la tradition

heroYque dans le roman africain and Des textes oraux au roman moderne: ttude sur les

avatars de la tradition orale dans le roman ouest-africain. Both studies, which were based

on the two dissertations, were published in 1985 and 1993, respectively. Together with

Gerard D. Lezou and Joseph Mianhoro, Kone published the first anthology of literature

from C6te d'lvoire entitled Anthologie de la litterature ivoirienne (1983). This

compilation of literary pieces, which highlights the originality of the nation's literature,

includes excerpts from myths, plays, poetry, and novels. Kone has also edited a

collection of essays on African literature and cinema in Lumieres africaines: Nouveaux

propos sur la litterature et le cinema africains (1997).

An Overview of Amadou Kone's Writing Career

Amadou Kone's career as a creative writer began at an early age. In middle

school, he wrote his first play, Samory de Bissandougou. This historical drama relates

the tragedy of a son murdered by his own father, Samory Tour6, the great Muslim

emperor. Samory Toure was born in 1830 in Sanankoro, in what is now northern Guinea;

he died in exile in Gabon in 1900. A member of the Malinke people, Samory was a

gifted commander who led a band of warriors in establishing a powerful chiefdom in

Guinea. As already mentioned, the warrior chief also opposed French ambitions to build

an empire in West Africa (Yansan6 133).

In Kon6's play, Samory de Bissandougou, Samory has his son killed because the

son admires the enemy, that is, the French. Here, the emperor's love for his son comes

second to his duty to fight the French enemy. Reflecting on the time he wrote the play,

Kone said:








[...] my classmates who knew my passion for literature asked me to write a play
for the end of the school year celebration. We had just studied Le Cid by
Comrneille. So I searched for a Cornelian dilemma in African history and found
one [...]. This short play, Samory de Bissandougou, was performed with a
certain amount of success and my classmates and my professors encouraged me to
continue writing. That was in 1966.11

Although the play was never published, the experience of writing it made Kond realize

that he was better suited for writing novels; he began writing plays again much later as a

university student.

Koni's formal career as a novelist began with the publication ofJusqu'au seuil de

l'irr6el in 1976; he was only 23 years old. The plot ofJusqu'au seuil de l'irreel is

situated in colonial Africa. In the novel, the author describes the life of Karfa, a farmer,

who lost his parents as a child; and who later loses his wife at the hands of evil sorcerers.

Karfa (along with his son, Lamine) decides to leave the village to escape this past life

riddled with nothing but tragedy. However, tragedy seems to follow Karfa and Lamine

when they stumble upon the village, Soubakagnandougou, which is inhabited by evil

witch doctors; they are disguised everywhere and they certainly cause much harm to

innocent villagers. But, there are also good sorcerers present in the village, like

Fanhikroi. The good sorcerer explains this to Lamine:

But your kind-you Moslems-are not familiar with sorcerers. You must be
informed that there are different types. There are those who meet at night to eat
human souls. These blood-thirsty vampires are devoted to decimating their own
families. They amuse themselves by casting spells on those who have succeeded
and whom they envy. They are sadists. Their group is the largest [...] But there
are also good sorcerers, who risk their lives at night, protecting the innocent and
defenseless against the sadists' deeds. 12




" My translation. Lumi&es africaines, p. 116.
12 Translated from the French by Mary Lee Martin-Kond. The Threshold of the Unreal, pp. 55-56. An
unpublished translation. Used with permission from the translator.









In Jusqu'au seuil de l'irrneel, Kon6 reveals the deadly practices of sorcerers who

curse the village of Soubakagnandougou. At the same time, he also presents a traditional

group of individuals who make up an integral part of the African society in which Karfa

and the others live. Of course, Kon6 includes other traditional elements in the text that

characterize an African society. For instance, one reads about farm workers, griots who

play the kora,13 marriages, various celebrations, and funerals. These elements are a

welcome addition to an otherwise heartbreaking story dominated by tragedy and anguish.

Kone wrote Les Frasques d'Ebinto before Jusqu'au seuil de l'irreel while he was

still a student in Grand-Bassam. He finished the novel in high school in Abidjan and it

was later published in 1979. Les Frasques d'Ebinto is well known by middle and high

school students throughout C6te d'Ivoire and is considered one of the most beautiful

novels written by Kon6 (Abissiri). The story is about Ebinto, a young student, around

the same age as the author, who learns about the "facts of life" the hard way when he

must interrupt his studies and marry Monique, a childhood friend, who becomes

pregnant. The narrator-protagonist's dreams are ultimately shattered once he is faced

with this new life, a life without the education for which he so hungered. The novel is

also about love; but in the end, love is not enough to save Monique, who dies from a

horrible tragedy. With regard to Ebinto and Monique, one critic suggests the following:

There is a profound contradiction between the harshness of Ibinto turned towards
the future and the sensitivity of lbinto tied to the past. This contradiction is none
other than the severe, perhaps mutilating, conflict of tomorrow throughout

13 In his book, Epic Traditions of Africa (1999), Stephen Belcher discusses the term griot. He writes that,
"From the French, the word has come into English. The term applies to the musicians and singers of many
ethnic groups in French West Africa; their functions resemble the combined roles of minstrel and herald in
medieval Europe. Music and song are widely seen as their essential activities, but griots also fulfill other
purposes. They are widely credited with diplomatic skills (the art of the word) and may serve as
intermediaries in negotiations; in the past they were the spokesmen for royalty, protecting the majesty of
the ruler by isolating him" (8). Belcher also defines the kora as a "large stringed instrument (a harp-lute)
used by many griots in West Africa" (216).









humanity: the risk of failure, that is death, remains absolute. The Jbinto-Monique
couple is symbolic beyond the anecdote: willpower=life. 14

Essentially, Kon6's narrative traces, in the first-person, a young man's awareness of those

setbacks that can completely alter an individual's life. For Graziano Benelli, "Cette

oeuvre est bien accueillie par la critique car elle pr6sente une certain originality

d'6criture, tout en soulignant les difficulties quotidiennes auxquelles se heurte lajeunesse

de ce pays."15

Published in 1980, Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros depicts the experiences

and survival of Africa's peasantry in a post-independence society. In the novel, old

Mamadou and his family are subjected to hard times in the village of Kongodjan. The

poor peasant family is faced with setbacks, especially with the blakoros in power, and

they have to endure suffering and hardship in the hope that a better day will come

tomorrow. In the preface to the novel, Jesus Kouassi Yoboud explains the meaning of the

term "blakoro:"

In Bambara society, the blakoro is a young boy not yet circumcised. He is
therefore the young man who has not yet been initiated into real life. He does not
have the right to speak out: he is not yet a man.16

In Traites, Kond presents a family that must make sacrifices, which Mamadou does for

his children, and which Lassinan, the protagonist, ultimately does for the whole family.

The novel deals with a corrupt society where problems, which are just as

disturbing as the ones that existed in colonial Africa, are made evident through the



14 My translation. Robert Pageard addressed these words to Amadou Kon6 in a letter. The quote was taken
from the back cover of the 1980 edition of Les Frasques d'lbinto.
15 "This work has been well received by critics because it presents a kind of original writing, while at the
same time stressing the everyday problems which the youth of this country must confront." My translation.
Graziano Benelli, "Le Roman en C6te d'Ivoire," Regards sur la littdrature de C6te d'Ivoire (Anna Paolo
Mossetto. Rome: Bulzoni, 1999) 184-185.
16 My translation. See chapter 3, Exploitation, Under the Blakoros' Power, p. 64.








presentation of characters embodying traditional African values, on the one hand, and on

the other, persons who have adopted values established by Western societies. Within

Kond's fiction, the blakoros men do not embody African values and neither do certain

women in the society. They all function rather on the basis of new and poorly mastered

values. Naturally, they impose their own rules out of sheer greed, and as a result, it

becomes more and more difficult for the peasants to make an honest living. Indeed,

Yoboud sums it up best in the preface by stating that the book is "L'autopsie d'une

soci6td d6gdn6r6e dans laquelle la corruption a 6t drig6e en institution."17 Essentially, in

Traites, the reader witnesses a battle between the blakoros, eager for money and power,

and the poor peasants who want to build the future on traditional values, like honesty,

hospitality, hard work, self-respect, and respect for others.

In 1982, the second volume of Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros was published and

entitled Courses. Here the reader discovers that old Mamadou has died and that Lassinan

has continued the struggle in the village of Kongodjan against the blakoroya, that is,

those anti-values perpetuated by the blakoros who insist on exploiting the poor peasants.

The reader also learns that Abou, Lassisnan's youngest brother, has just returned home

after completing his education in France. "J'y suis all6," Abou explains, 'j'ai essay de

trouver des r6ponses aux questions europdennes qui intdressent aussi l'Afrique et qui

m'intriguaient. J'ai essays de comprendre de pros les nouveaux mythes qui s'abattent sur

nous et nous gouvernent."'8 Now, Abou's mission after coming back from Europe is to



17 "The autopsy of a degenerate society in which corruption has been institutionalized." My translation.
See chapter 3, Exploitation, Under the Blakoros' Power, p. 63.
18 "I went there. I tried to find answers to the European questions that also concern Africa and that
intrigued me. I tried to understand up close the new myths that beat down on us and control us." My
translation. Courses. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros, p. 123.








teach the others about the modem myths that are controlling them. He has every

intention of securing a teaching job at the school in the village, but surprisingly, does not

get the position for which he applied. Abou, instead, decides to accept a temporary

position at the Department for the Arts, where he feels he still might be able to do some

good for his people.

Kon6's latest novel, Les Coupeurs de tetes, was published years after the

completion of Courses. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros. In Les Coupeurs de t&tes (1997),

Kon6 describes an African society that has been afflicted with many evils. For Lilyan

Kesteloot, an expert in the field of Francophone African literature, the novel is one of

"chaos" that portrays an apocalyptic atmosphere (270). Indeed it is an apocalyptic scene

where political corruption, crime, embezzlement, prostitution, illiteracy, and poverty have

all been established as a way of life. After having spent 15 years in Europe, Kassi, the

narrator, comes home only to find the city in this state of turmoil. Kassi's destiny lies in

the social setting presented in Les Coupeurs de tetes.

Les Coupeurs de tetes has been hailed "une oeuvre plus dense et mure."'9 The

entire book is based on a metaphor; there are really no "coupeurs de tetes." It is a

metaphor used by the author in order to depict an Africa where certain people do not

want others to think. Instead, they want to remove their "tate," that is, their capacity to

think and reflect upon the problems in an attempt to come up with solutions for

themselves. Kon6 enjoyed critical acclaim to match the success of Les Coupeurs de tetes

when in 1999, he was awarded the Grand Prix Littiraire de C6te d'Ivoire by the

Association des Ecrivains de C6te d'Ivoire. The Fraterniti-Matin newspaper reported



19 "a more mature and solid work." My translation. Regards sur la littdrature de C6te d'Ivoire, p. 187.









that novels, which are bestowed the Prix Ivoire, like Les Coupeurs de tetes, are sure to

"ajouter A la dynamique du livre dans [le] pays et aider A confirmer la grandeur de la

littdrature ivoirienne."20

Although fiction-writing is the focal point of this introduction, it is also important

to mention a genre for which the author has become well known. Kon6 is also a talented

dramatist. He has written four plays: Samory de Bissandougou,21 Le Respect des morts,

De la chaire au tr6ne, and Les Canaris sont vides. Le Respect des morts and De la chaire

au tr6ne were both published in 1980, the same year as Traites. In both plays, the author

presents characters who illustrate the conflict between tradition and modernity in Africa.

Le Respect des morts depicts the construction of a dam, which will supposedly help with

the region's underdevelopment. The villagers, however, are against its construction, for

it represents the destruction of their way of life, as well as the land inhabited by their

ancestors for generations. It is up to the chiefs son, who was educated in Europe, to

convince the villagers of the good that will come from the dam's construction. In De la

chaire au tr6ne, Kon6 tells the story of a university professor who is made a prince, but

because of tradition, must be ritually put to death after twelve years of absolute power.

But when that fateful day arrives, the professor-prince refuses to give into tradition,

thereby refusing death.

De la chaire au tr6ne and Le Respect des morts have been made accessible to

audiences outside of Africa. A German translation of Le Respect des morts [Der

Staudamm] was published in 1991 and an Italian translation of De la chaire au tr6ne [La


20 "add to the dynamics of the book in [the] country and help to confirm the greatness of Cote d'lvoire
literature. "Amadou Kone, Grand Laurdat," Fraternit&-Matin 20 avril 1999: 1.
21 In middle school, Kone wrote his first play, Samory de Bissandougou, which I discussed at the beginning
of this section.









vita provisoria] was published in 1996.22 Kone's third play, Les Canaris sont vides, was

published in 1984. In this play, peasants must deal with a severe drought that has struck

their village in the Sahel region. Consequently, they must also deal with famine. These

three plays by Kon6 have been successful, earning the author awards. De la chaire au

tr6ne and Le Respect des morts won prizes at the Concours Thedtral Inter-Africain in

1972 and 1974, respectively. Les Canaris sont vides won the grand prize at the Concours

Thedtral Inter-Africain in 1976.

There are also children's books to add to Kon6's list of publications. In

collaboration with his wife, he wrote La Force de vouloir (1978). The story is about the

strong relationship between a father and son. When times get hard for Ousmane, his

young son, Birama, is there to support him and give him the confidence to fulfill his

talent despite blindness. Terre ivoirienne (1979) relates the adventures of the protagonist,

Tikilikan, in C6te d'Ivoire. Indeed, he discovers this land, its diverse regions and

inhabitants. At the same time, he also learns the history and culture of his country. As

Kone expressed in an interview with Janos Riesz:

Literature for children is something I consider an area of vital importance for
African culture. Traditional story-telling, once a basic factor in the education on
the African child, no longer exists. It has been replaced by television, the
programming of which comes from abroad, and by children's books, also from
abroad. It would seem to me to be of prime importance to develop children's
literature in Africa, to provide a literature that talks about African culture and
about the concerns of young Africans, a literature that would be a valid
replacement for traditional story-telling. Books conceived of and written locally
will be more likely to create the kind of interest that will induce children to
become habitual readers.23




22 Janos Riesz, Der Staudamm, (K61n, 1991). Paolo Maddoni, La vita provisoria (Roma: Grin sri, 1996).
23 Translated from the French by JAnos Riesz. "Amadou Kond at the University ofBayreuth," Afrika 10-
11-12(1986): 36.









Kam6lfata ou les ennemis de la traite was actually Kone's first novel written

while he was still in middle school. The novel tells the story of young Africans who

struggle against the slave trade. Although much later in the author's career, Kam616fata

was eventually published in 1987 as a children's book. Kon6 has also published a

collection of short stories that focus on the destruction of traditional African values in the

book, Les Liens (1980).

Thematic Content(s) in Kone's Traites and Kourouma's Les Soleils des
Independances and their Respective Structures

According to the Ghanaian poet, novelist, and scholar, Kofi Awoonor:

Independence brought an era of euphoria and great hopes to Africa. The dreams
of agitators and nationalists were realized when one by one new flags were
hoisted in place of colonial flags, and new tunes replaced imperial anthems [...].
In many countries there were massive jubilations, and many libations were poured
and drunk. There was a vague sense of relief among the African people, who
were only dimly aware of the nature of the changes in their fortune; everywhere
there was talk of Africa's new man: bright-eyed, armed with the righteousness of
his cause, ready to take his place in the sun, self-assured, and no longer abused.
Aggressively proud, he was to become, once and for all, the master of his own
house. (43-44)

However, this "euphoric" celebration of the arrival of independence in Africa failed to

endure. One soon discovered that after the exploitation of the people by the colonial

masters, the Africans who replaced the Europeans often ended up exploiting their fellow

Africans. Certainly, some writers came to look upon the new ruling African bourgeoisie

as being no better than the oppressive colonizer. Even with regards to Africa's economy

during independence, one critic pointed out that "d'une economic caracterisee par

l'autosubsistance et fondue sur le troc, on est passe brutalement A une economic de type









capitalist fondue sur le profit."24 Writers, like Ousmane Sembene, Camara Laye,

Ahmadou Kourouma, and Amadou Kon6 are aware of the misappropriation of the gains

of independence by rich, unconscionable employers and the corrupt ruling class in Africa.

Consequently in their novels, which were published after 1960, they choose to examine

such problems as excessive bureaucracy, bribary, corruption, neo-colonialism, and forms

of social aberration.

Amadou Kone uses his fiction to denounce the ills of the post-independence

society and try to bring about its reformation. The author discloses, particularly in

Traites, the harsh existence of C6te d'Ivoire's oppressed peasantry. He makes

interrogations and describes events and situations in the novel that relate to the closest

daily reality of the peasant class. Kone is a defender of the exploited masses who have

been betrayed by their fellow citizens in post-independence Africa.

Kon6's Traites may indeed bear some resemblance to Ahmadou Kourouma's Les

Soleils des Independances; this seems to suggest Kourouma's strong influence on Kone.

Ahmadou Kourouma, born in 1927, has now become one of the best-known Francophone

writers from C6te d'Ivoire, in fact, from all Sub-Saharan Africa. In Les Soleils des

Independances (1968), the author presents the social and political realities of the years

immediately following independence. He tells the story of a hereditary Malinke prince of

Horodougou whose entire world changes with the coming of independence. In modem

Africa, Fama, the protagonist and disinherited Doumbouya prince, is unskilled and

illiterate in the European language; he is practically a beggar. In fact, Fama is a victim of



24"from an economy characterized by self-sufficiency and built on barter, we suddenly switched to a
capitalist type economy based on profit." My translation. Bruno Gnaould-Oupoh, La litt&ature ivoirienne
(Paris-Abidjan: Karthala-CEDA, 2000) 311.









independence. He represents the group of deluded Africans lured from the village by

promises of opportunity in the capital city. Misfortune, however, is the only outcome.

Like Ahmadou Kourouma, Kond also denounces the new bourgeoisie who have adopted

European ideologies.

In addition, certain individuals in Traites and Les Soleils des Independances are

linked to one another because they share similar viewpoints concerning Africa's

independence. Fama (Les Soleils des Independances) can be linked with old Mamadou

(Traites), and the narrator (Les Soleils des Independances) can be linked with Lassinan

(Traites). Fama and old Mamadou have not adjusted to the changes that have occurred in

Africa since independence. That is because they only know their own culture, customs,

and values. It is difficult for them to see beyond tradition, especially in the independent

society where modernism prevails. Furthermore, neither Fama nor old Mamadou

understand the European language, that is, French. All these factors contribute to their

perception of the independent society. For Fama and old Mamadou, it is certainly one

where traditional values have no place. This makes it all the more difficult for them to

function, because they are blind to certain issues. Yet, the narrator of Les Soleils des

Independances understands how this new society functions. The same can be said for

Lassinan who grasps fully the situation confronting the peasant community depicted in

Traites. Both are aware of the new rules of the game, or rather, the new exploitation in

independent Africa. Kourouma's and Kond's novels are directed against the new native

rulers of post-independence. At the same time, the novels also highlight cultural

problems encountered by Africans because of contact between African and Western

civilizations.









In my opinion, Amadou Kond's narrative technique in Traites is somewhat

reminiscent ofAhmadou Kourouma's Les Soleils des Ind6pendances. First, one notices

the question-response technique used by Kourouma and Kone in their respective

narrations. Thanks to this technique, the writer is able to introduce a new element or

theme into the story, as is the case in the following example taken from The Suns of

Independence:

Balla wanted to go with them. A blind man what could he see? Nothing. An
old man with swollen aching legs when would they arrive there with him along?
Perhaps at sunset. A Kaffir whose forehead never touched the ground what
would he do there? Nothing and nothing. They thought he was joking. But no!
Balla insisted. He evoked the duty to pay a last visit to the deceased. (78-79)

Kourouma makes known to the reader the unfortunate condition facing Balla. The blind

African is surely one determined individual, but in the end, he must remain in the village.

The author also provides additional details about Balla by using the question-response

technique. He writes: "How did Balla become the greatest hunter of all Horodugu?" (84).

The question is then followed by a lengthy answer that highlights the different events,

which led to Balla becoming a great hunter. Kone uses the same kind of technique in

Traites to explain, for instance, the reason behind Akafu's "exceptionally imposing

potbelly." And as for Bakary, the reader discovers how this master tailor began to lose

his fortune:

So, what did Bakary do with his money? It would have been impolite to
ask him. In any case, they knew one thing. The great tailor was almost
suffocated by his numerous friends, his relatives who came out from the
woodwork. Each one wished him well. And to prove it to him, they would offer
him their daughter to marry [...]. But each one knows that the women who are
offered in this manner cost quite a lot.









But naforo-money-is nothing. And Bakary never knew when his
fortune began to escape him.25

Essentially, the question-response technique allows both authors to reveal more

information in the narratives about the characters in general, their achievements, as well

as their setbacks.

Another important feature of Kourouma's and Kon6's narrative technique is the

use of analepse26 or the flashback. Kourouma certainly uses an incessant number of

analepses in Les Soleils des Inddpendances. For example, he begins with an analepse in

part one of his novel, which informs the reader about how the French deprived Fama of

his inheritance as chief of all Horodougou. Another analepse makes the reader relive the

terrible experience of Salimata's excision and, then, her rape by the fetish-priest. Here,

the analepse takes the form of a remembered memory of the past. Indeed, this horrible

memory will influence the poor, young woman's entire conjugal, social, and

psychological being. In Traites, the reader learns about Adebayo's days as a successful

shopkeeper who could give credit to the peasants. The reader also gains an insight into

Bakary's life as a master tailor. In chapter one, part two of Traites, Kond discusses

Tiefi's life in the capital city of Blakorodougou:

Tiefi had left the village at quite a young age. He had headed directly for the
capital Blakorodougou without even understanding a word of French. It's true
that at that time, Dyula was spoken just about anywhere and you did not
necessarily need to understand French in order to move around in the country.
Therefore, Tiefi had left for the capital. The man's adventure began there. This
adventure immediately became a legend that Tiefi would recount by adding on
each time some new changes.27




25 My translation. See chapter 4, Exploitation. Under the Blakoros' Power, pp. 97-98.
26 This is the technical term used by Gdrard Genette in Figures III, pp. 90-105.
27 My translation. See chapter 5, Exploitation. Under the Blakoros' Power, pp. 118-119.









Kourouma and Kone shift the readers' attention to the past experiences of their

characters. In doing so, readers are given information, which they would otherwise not

have. Therefore, by using the narrative technique known as analepse, the authors are

able to provide a clear picture of the background and social circumstances surrounding

the lives of their characters.

Description is another significant element used by Kone and Kourouma. The

authors provide vivid images of events, places, and characters in their texts. These

descriptions not only support and contribute to the narration, but they also play an

integral role in the unfolding of events in the story. Kourouma describes, for example,

Fama's weak condition in prison in these terms:

Fama was not made to perform hard labour, but his health was deteriorating.
Guinea-worm swelled in his armpits and knees. He was drying up; his eyes sank
into sockets deeper than graves, his fleshless ears stood out like those of a hare on
the alert, his lips grew thin and taut, his hair scanty. (The Suns of Independence
117)

Here, Kouroumna presents a rather graphic but clear image of Fama's state of health

caused by twenty years of hard labour. Kone gives an equally clear picture of Issa's

lingering state of health in Traites:

The child, lying on a bambou mat, wrapped in a thick wool blanket, was sweating
and shivering with cold. His yellowed eyes vaguely stared at his big brother.
Souls's hand rested on the child's forehead. His body was very hot and damp
with sweat. However, Issa was cold.28

These descriptions provide detail for the reader. At the same time, in these two particular

cases, they also cause the reader to feel an overwhelming sense of despair for Fama and

Issa. The mental images obtained from these descriptions allow the reader, indeed, to

grasp the reality and severity of the situations confronting these characters.


28 My translation. See chapter 5, Exploitation, Under the Blakoros' Power, p. 158.









Space in the novel, as it relates to location, is similarly described by Kond and

Kourouma. Essentially, there are two distinct locations to consider: the village and the

city. Traites alternates from village to city; the narrative begins and ends in the village,

unlike the narrative in Les Soleils des Independances, which begins in the city and ends

in the village. The peasants, who are depicted in Kon6's Traites, dwell in the village of

Kongodjan. The poor village is considered a peaceful place, far from the tumultuous life

that exists in the city of Fagodougou, among others. For old Mamadou, it is a familiar

territory where he feels most comfortable, and where some individuals still show him

respect. As for Fama, he is still the respected prince of Horodougou, the last legitimate

Doumbouya, in the poor village of Togobala. He is neither insulted nor looked down

upon and called a beggar, which is the case in the fast-paced city whose name has not

been specified. This particular city, depicted in Les Soleils des Independances by

Kourouma, has an African quarter, which is poor and very dirty, and a European quarter,

which is clean and luxurious. In Traites, the "nouveau riche" Africans have moved into

an area of Fagodougou, which was formerly the European quarter of the city:

There only, two-storied homes stood. This quarter had remained the "Business
District," the most active Center of the city. The big market and its enormous
rusty roof, the only cinema, and the only dance hall were located there. And on
the ground floor of the two-storied homes, Syrian and Lebanese shopkeepers had
replaced the European colony.29

The description of space in the novels is precise. The reader learns that the city is,

overall, a place of desolation and scheming for the Africans in Les Soleils des

Independances; corruption is the order of the day in the city portrayed in Traites. In spite

of oppression, the villages presented in both texts offer a haven of tranquility absent from


29 My translation. See chapter 4, Exploitation. Under the Blakoros' Power, p. 93.









the city.30 Kond's Traites and Kourouma's Les Soleils des Independances do, in fact,

share similar structures which, in many cases, give additional feedback to the reader

about the characters, their surroundings, and the events, both present and past, that affect

and that have affected them.

A look at the roles of some specific characters, particularly in Traites, is

significant, for their roles foster the development of events throughout the story-line.

Kong often makes use of certain individuals in his text to expose corruption, repression,

and hypocrisy in post-independence Ivoirian society. In Traites, one can recognize the

importance of those characters who play either active or passive roles in the struggle

against all the evils-illiteracy, misery, injustice, and exploitation. Lassinan is an active

participant; he essentially takes positive steps to make a change in the environment of

which the peasant community has become a victim. On the other hand, old Mamadou

and Tiefi have passive roles in that they can only hope for a change to occur in society.

Lassinan's role in Traites is paramount. Not only is Lassinan an active

participant, but he is also the hero in the narrative. It is through his role as the hero, more

specifically the non-traditional hero, that he is able to demonstrate commitment to the

cause. One can make a distinction between Lassinan's role as the non-traditional hero

and the role of the traditional hero often found in African literature. Unlike the

traditional African hero31 who works collectively with the group to achieve a common


30 Pius Ngandu refers to villages as "les spaces naturels" and also as a "refuge" in his book, Kourouma et
le mythe, p. 75.
31 Soundjata is an example of the traditional African hero. The great African epic of Soundjata celebrates
the career of Soundjata Keita, the thirteenth-century King of Mali, the largest and most famous of African
empires in the Middle Ages. Soundjata Keita's reign lasted for twenty years during which time he served
as the military leader who defeated King Soumaoro Kante of Sosso at Krina and, in turn, established the
capital at Niani. Soundjata had numerous followers when he went to battle with Soumaoro Kante,
including his mother, Sogolon, his sister, Nana Triban, his brother, Manding Bory, and his griot, Balla
Fasseke. They all united and formed a solid group that supported and helped Soundjata, the great hero and









goal in society, the non-traditional hero takes on the challenge alone. The difference lies

primarily in the representation of the protagonist with respect to the individual struggle

and the group struggle.

In Traites, Kon6 portrays Lassinan as a studious and hard-working young man

with a mission to uncover the evils of the post-colonial society in which the peasant

community lives. Lassinan understands the exploiters' game and desperately wants to

put an end to it. His goal is to open up the villagers' eyes to the scheme; he must get

them to see Habib, Doulaye, and Akafu, to name a few, for whom they really are, that is

low down, heartless crooks. In order to do so, Lassinan must try to convince the peasants

that their village has been plagued with corruption. This will prove, however, to be a

very difficult task for the hero who, for the most part, struggles alone against the ruling

elite that is controlling the community. Through many conversations and debates, he

tries to convince the poor peasants on his own that a change is needed and that justice

must be reestablished in order to put an end to the exploitation.

In one instance, Lassinan wants to convince his father and the entire village that

their poverty is not Allah's will. But one learns that explaining this to devout Muslims is

no easy task. They are blind to the crookedness that has made its way into their society;

moreover, they assume this is the way Allah wanted it to be. In a letter to the

headmistress, Lassinan writes:

[...]. They think that it's Allah's will, if they wade in misery and if others live an
opulent life. If it were true that God guaranteed poverty for some and abundance
for others, I refuse to believe that this is God, except the god of the most
powerful. I have tried to explain all that to my village, I have explained the


warrior, save Mali from the evil clutches of the sorcerer King, Soumaoro. D.T. Niane, Soundiata ou
l'popee mandingue (Paris: Prdsence Africaine, 1960).









deception of the powerful and the mistakes of the poor. But people don't
understand that, to a certain extent, God leaves us free to assume our destiny.32

Not only does Lassinan have to make the peasants understand that they are being

exploited by their own people, but he must also teach them not to accept their condition,

which they believe has been dealt to them by Allah. They have to learn to take control of

their own lives and know that, to a certain degree, they do hold the key to their own

destiny.

It is important for the peasants to know their rights and to pull together in order to

overcome the exploiters' game. More than ever, they need to unite against the rich and

form the co-op, which Lassinan has envisioned. The hero pushes the idea, for he knows

how much a village co-op would benefit the peasant community. Interestingly, Lassinan

is trying to create a sense of solidarity amongst the peasants by organizing a co-op. He

wants them to join together in the struggle and help him eliminate the new social classes

that have taken over and corrupted their society. But this will prove to be a very difficult

task for the peasants to accomplish by themselves.

Shia is also an active participant; she supports Lassinan's cause unequivocally.

Shia is aware of the bribery and corruption that have become a way of life in the village.

As headmistress, she targets problems which she knows she can control. Indeed, gift

giving takes on a whole new meaning when it comes time for school enrollment in the

village. Shia's role is also very important because she challenges the traditional image,

as seen in the eyes of men, of the submissive woman. One now observes a female

standing up for herself and challenging the male in certain situations. She is not afraid to

question and attack the character and tactics of cruel male exploiters described in Traites.


32 My translation. See chapter 5, Exploitation, Under the Blakoros' Power, p. 132.









Shia is not the passive observer who only hopes for a change in society. She is a

determined and outspoken woman who finds herself in the position to help the peasant

community, especially Lassinan's family. She does not sit back and watch exploiters as

they con so many villagers out of their hard-earned money. Instead, Shia plays an active

role in the fight against the injustices that prevail all around and, thus, joins the ranks of

Lassinan as a kind of champion of the oppressed masses.

Literature from Kone's Generation

Just as Amadou Kone can be linked with Ahmadou Kourouma, a writer from the

older generation, so too can he be linked with the younger generation of writers from

C6te d'Ivoire. One recognizes this new link with the younger generation by focusing on

the thematic content in their novels. Similarities to and/or differences between Kone's

writing techniques and those of such authors will not be my focal point here, although I

will be led to make some comments. Kon6 discusses various themes in his fiction, such

as sorcery, education, rural African life, cultural problems as a result of the contact

between Africa and the West, and the new obstacles to surmount in a post-independence

society. Several authors belonging to Kon6's generation33 have also dealt with most of

these themes in their fiction. In particular, I have Fatou Bolli, Tidiane Dem, Regina

Yaou, and Denis Oussou-Essui in mind.

Fatou Bolli, for example, depicts sorcery in his first novel, Djigb6, which was

published in 1977. The plot of Bolli's novel is situated in post-colonial Africa. The

characters in Djigb6, like the ones in Traites and Jusqu'au seuil de l'irrnel, are Muslim,

but they are also Catholic. In the novel, a host of sorcerers torment the Krou people, in


33 These authors have published works on or around the same time as Kond.








particular, Kope Yacinthe, the protagonist, and his family, who live in Abidjan. These

men and women, who have chosen to be evil witch doctors, threaten the everyday lives of

an innocent tribe. Kope's daughter explains it to her cousin, Saly, who is skeptical about

the entire phenomenon:

For the most part, they are sorcerers from the time of birth. A great number of
children are sorcerers without even knowing it; they only realize it once they are
grown. The question is whether they choose or choose not to be good rather than
bad and vice versa.34

Kope Yacinthe discovers later on that his eldest brother and sister-in-law are

sorcerers and are the ones guilty of attacking his own children. Their true identities are

revealed at a ritual gathering led by Mansoua, a good witch doctor. With the help of his

tam-tam35 and some magic, Mansoua is able to expose the destructive duo who have

taken, "des leur naissance, les principles vitaux des nouveau-nds" (82).36 Kond describes

a similar gathering, where the real sorcerers are revealed, in Jusqu'au seuil de l'irreel

(1976). Here, the great marabout, Bou6 Ouattara, uses his powers to disclose before all

the villagers of Soubakagnandougou the queen sorcerer who has killed Karfa's son and

the chiefs daughter.

Fatou Bolli's novel, Djigbo, includes 8 chapters and an epilogue. The author

employs the first-person narrative technique in this short novel. His style of writing is

controlled and not at all elaborate, which allows for a smooth reading of the text. The

descriptions are very poignant and, at times, quite graphic, which might disturb the

reader. Stories are also related within the main story-line by different characters; this



34 My translation. Fatou Bolli, Djigbo (Abidjan: CEDA, 1977) 10.
35African drum made from wood and used for transmining messages. The musical instrument also
accompanies dances. "Tam-Tam." Le Petit Larousse. 1994 ed.
36 "from birth, the vital organs of newborns." My translation.








structure alludes to the element of African traditional folklore. Altogether, Djigb is an

interesting novel that highlights the theme of sorcery in a post-independence society.

Sorcery is once again the main theme in Tidiane Dem's novel, Masseni, also

published in 1977. The story takes place in colonial Africa, in a village called Ganda in

C6te d'lvoire. The reader learns that Dady Konatd and his wife, Minignan, have been

unable to conceive a child after five years of marriage because of a spell cast on

Minignan by her neighbor, Nakaridia. Although skeptical, Dady and Minignan decide to

seek help from Karamoko, a well-known marabout. But after many meetings and animal

sacrifices, the couple fail to see any results. In fact, Karamoko turns out to be a fake

marabout and has disappeared with a large sum of Dady's money. Finally, with the help

of a hunter and an old woman who, in particular, holds the key ingredient for a remedy,

Minignan's sterility is cured. She and Dady soon have a baby girl and call her Masseni.

The remaining pages of Dem's novel focus on Masseni's life. She grows up to be

a beautiful and intelligent woman and many men desire her. The area chief turns out to

be the lucky man who wins Masseni's hand in marriage; she will now live in a harem

with his other wives. The first wife who, in the beginning, is a kind of mother figure for

Masseni, ultimately becomes her rival out of jealousy and attempts to do her harm with

the help of her fellow sorcerers. Every attempt fails, and the occult ways of the first wife

are discovered. After some time passes, we learn that the chief suddenly dies after being

struck down with paralysis. Masseni is overcome with grief as a result of her husband's

death, but she must go on for the sake of their daughter. In the end, Masseni accidentally

falls and, tragically, she dies as her friend, Mabrontid, remains close by her side.








Marabouts play interesting roles in Dem's and Kon's respective texts. They can

be defined as Muslim holy men, healers, and teachers believed to have supernatural

powers (Robinson 25). In the novel Masseni, Dem seems to have taken the opportunity

to attack the character of these individuals. On the one hand, the reader learns that

marabouts can help bring peace and resolution to a situation that has threatened a family;

on the other hand, they learn that marabouts can resort to trickery and steal money from

innocent people by making them believe that they only have their best interest at heart.

In the beginning, Dady Konat6 does have his suspicions, for he is well aware of how

"good" marabouts should act:

The good marabouts, those who are worthy of the name, do not ask to be paid
before carrying out a job. They only accept a reward if the work they have
carried out is a success, and if tangible and positive results come from it.
Furthermore, they do not set a price, for one cannot put a pricetag on God's name.
If the client is satisfied, he gives what he can, and the real marabout does not
complain.37

Nevertheless, Dady takes this risk for his wife's sake and trusts that the marabout,

Karamoko, will find a cure for her sterility. In doing so, he agrees with all of the

marabout's requests but, in the end, winds up being duped.

The marabout presented by Kond in Jusqu'au seuil de l'irreel (1976) is the total

opposite of the one portrayed by Tidiane Dem in Masseni. He distinguishes himself from

the good-for-nothing-scoundrel as well as the evil sorcerer:

I am not one of those wicked Moslems, one of those charlatans who, instead of
spreading the good of their religion pass their time deceiving others. I hate these
deceitful marabouts as much as I do witches. They are cast from the same mold.
They are all crooks and sometimes even assassins.38



37 My translation. Tidiane Dem, Masseni (Abidjan: NEA, 1977) 77.
38 Translated from the French by Mary Lee Martin-Kond. The Threshold of the Unreal, pp. 125-126. An
unpublished translation.








In the interview with Kone following this introduction, he comments on the behavior of

marabouts, particularly the one who turns out to be a fake in his novel Traites.39 He

acknowledges the scheming actions of these individuals who exist in the society where he

grew up. Marabout behavior is, therefore, a particular target of Kone's criticism as

evidenced in Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros.

Masseni is an easy novel to follow. It consists of a forward, an introduction, and

7 lengthy chapters, which recount a multitude of different events. The author includes

elements of oral tradition in the narrative, such as proverbs and songs. One of many

songs is revealed to the reader in the first chapter on page 14; this particular hymn is sung

by a choir of young girls to celebrate the new moon and the end of Ramadan. There are 2

stories with distinct plots in Masseni. The first 3 chapters of the novel pertain to the first

story; they focus on Dady's and Minignan's desire for a baby, and finally the birth of that

baby, named Masseni. Then, the last 4 chapters, or the second story, revolve around the

life and death of Masseni. With regards to the novel's structure, one can say that the

author proposes an interesting way of not only organizing the narrative, but also

documenting the daily adventures in a village during colonialism. Kone, however, sees

otherwise and candidly states: "Masseni est incontestablement mal construit."40 I do not

agree with Kone's point of view regarding the structure of the novel. In my opinion, I

feel that the novel's unique composition contributes to the readers' overall

comprehension of this beautiful, yet tragic story.

Regina Yaou is another Cote d'lvoire writer from Konr's generation. Her first



39 See interview question with Kone, Chapter 2, p. 58-"What is the function of Islam in the novel?"T'
40 "Beyond any shadow of a doubt, Masseni is poorly constructed." My translation. Amadou Kone,
"Roman africain et literature orale," Komparatistische Hefte 15-16 (1987): 30.








novel, Lezou Marie ou les ecueils de la vie, was published in 1982. In the novel, Yaou

depicts the trials and tribulations of the main character, Marie, whose life changes forever

once she leaves the village A... to continue her education in Abidjan. Not only does her

mother die back in the village, but Marie also discovers that her death was at the hands of

sorcerers who turn out to be family members. Again, we find sorcery as a recurrent

theme in C6te d'Ivoire literature. But, as Kond explained:

Sorcery is a part of certain African societies. It influences the everyday behaviour
of individuals that live in them. There is a need to talk about these practices and
demystify them. Writing on a matter of this kind is a means of inviting each
reader to reflect on it and, possibly, to propose solutions. (Riesz 36)

After the mother's tragic death, Marie's life takes another turn for the worse. Not

only does Marie's father stop funding her schooling, but her fiance, Jacques, also betrays

and leaves Marie with child. The baby is born, but unfortunately, he dies a while later

because Marie does not have the money needed so that he can receive the proper

healthcare. As a result, she loses her faith and resorts to all kinds of vices, among them,

prostitution, when she moves to the city for a job. Marie hides her double life from

Pierre, a journalist whom she loves very much. But when her secret is revealed, and right

before Pierre's eyes, she cannot live with herself anymore and commits suicide.

The plot of Lezou Marie ou les ecueils de la vie is situated in independent Africa,

and it unfolds mainly in the capital city. Regina Yaou primarily undertakes issues that

affect women in modem African society. Education and money, or the lack there of, is a

constant issue, as well as the events that lead her to turn to prostitution. On the whole,

Yaou deals with social problems, especially from a woman's standpoint, in a post-

independence society.








There is nothing complex about the structure of Lezou Marie ou les 6cueils de la

vie. The novel itself consists of 11 chapters. What does strike the reader is the way the

narrative unfolds in these chapters. The narration is rather abrupt and, consequently, the

story does not read very well. Be that as it may, R6ginaYaou has told a profound story.

The characters, as well as the events depicted in the novel are all plausible. And though

the author's language tends to be flat, she does inject intense feeling into the narrative,

especially when describing those moments of crisis in Marie's life.

Like Regina Yaou's novel, Les Saisons s6ches by Denis Oussou-Essui also takes

place in C6te d'Ivoire. The post-independence city with its corruption and new social

classes forms the backdrop for this novel published in 1979. Kimou Aguid, the so-called

"hero," has just returned to his country after a fifteen-year stay in France where he

received his engineering degree. He hopes to secure a job for which he is qualified in the

city, but is sadly disappointed when he is hired only temporarily at the Centre National

de Renseignements. Kimou realizes that the world is changing, but for his uncle Ahebe,

it is much worse than that:

Say rather that our world is headed for catastrophy. Watch out, my nephew. Be
careful in the city. Our independence is not the same as the Whiteman's
independence. The Whiteman's scandal is obvious. Anyone can see into it. But
we Africans, I tell you, we are black-hearted. We are always ready to step on the
next man to get by.41

In the end, Kimou does manage to write a letter to "Monsieur le President" asking

him to take action against corruption in the country before it is too late. Writing this

letter, however, will be the extent of his accomplishment in the text. In fact, one should


41 My Translation. Denis Oussou-Essui, Les Saisons s6ches (Paris: L'Harmnattan, 1979) 55.








not even consider Kimou as the main character or "hero" because he really does not

accomplish anything.

The author makes use ofanalepse at the beginning ofLes Saisons seches, which

reveals to the reader the events surrounding the death of Kimou's parents under

colonialism. In addition, he uses African traditional elements such as proverbs (p. 55)

and songs (p. 10), which highlight the oral quality of the narrative.42 Les Saisons seches

depicts a series of situations in 30 chapters. I am referring to situations because the novel

does not have a "plot," that is, in the traditional sense of the term. The author paints a

picture of the current social and political situation in independent Africa. Consequently,

the reader discovers that Africans have learned the ins and outs of the great political

game of the country, and as a result, corruption is the order of the day.

Kone's Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros, is a powerful, heartfelt story that

can easily be read at one sitting. It begins with a brief message from the author, which

helps the reader to comprehend more clearly his intentions regarding the language used in

the text. Following Kone's message is a preface written by Jesus Kouassi Yoboue. In

the preface, Yoboue briefly comments on the unfortunate turn of events about to unfold

in the story and he also pays homage to Kond. Following Yoboud's remarks is a short

prelude to the novel. It sets up the narrative and provides a backdrop of daily life in the

peasants' village.

The 96 page novel is then divided into 2 parts that are broken down into chapters.

There are 4 chapters in part 1, which is titled, Difficile Chemin vers la Quete du Savoir




42 Elements of oral literature, particularly concerning Kone's text, will be further discussed in the next
section.








[A Difficult Path toward the Quest for Knowledge]. Part 2 consists of 5 chapters and is

titled, Le Peuple qu'on trait [The People they milk]. The chapters are narratively linked

and vary in length. The narrative structure takes the form of a series of episodes that

occur in either the village or the city, and are linked by key figures like Lassinan and

Mamadou.

As far as characterization is concerned, Kone presents "types" as well as

developed characters in the novel. For example, there are the low-down, ruthless

scoundrels such as Habib, Doulaye, and Akafui; they are types of exploiters. There is

Fatouma, a mother who exemplifies the traditional role of African women. She has been

brought up to be submissive to males, especially her husband; nonetheless, she has the

important role ofcaregiver for the family. There is Bakary, a faithful friend who has not

forgotten about traditional African values, like respect, honesty, and hospitality. There

are also the fieldworkers, Mata and Drissa, and there is Mori Ba, the so-called "saintly"

marabout who is nothing but a hypocrite. As for the policemen, they are only "typical"

representations of instruments of oppression in society. The roles of characters such as

Mamadou, Tiefi, Shia, and Lassinan, are developed in the novel. In addition, Lassinan's

and Shia's roles further develop in Courses, volume two of Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros.

Now as husband and wife, they continue the struggle together in the hope that they will

be instrumental in raising the level of consciousness of the peasants, in helping them to

be fully aware of their exploitation and of the necessity to resist it.

Like Les Saisons seches, Traites is also a novel of situations; the book has no plot,

as Kone happened to say.43 Furthermore, it is a "recit-expos6" in which Kone unveils a


43 See interview question with Kone, Chapter 2, p. 56-"Can you situate your novel, Traites?"









gallery of portraits, or rather, characters. There are certainly a plethora of them in the

text and, thanks to the author's rendering of dialogue, they seem to come to life right

before the readers' eyes. Kone has told a convincing story in which he describes Africa's

peasant community and all the trials and tribulations it must endure in a corrupt society.

Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros is engaging, at times humorous, and altogether

straightforward. The story will no doubt elicit strong emotions in the reader who will

grasp the severity of the situation presented and will understand the need for a change.

The reader will, indeed, become aware of the socio-political atmosphere and economic

effects created by certain life conditions.

Kone's Use of Language in Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros

Reading Traites, one will discover that Kone does make use of a certain number

of African words and expressions; he seems to be one of those writers who are strongly

attached to their native languagess. As declared by the critic Georges N'Gal, "If one has

to look for a distinctive characteristic or feature of the African writer, it is because his

writing is shaped or enriched first of all by his mother tongue and then by other African

languages" (118). Throughout the narrative, Kone intentionally renders the exact African

words in either his mother tongue or any one of the other African languages he speaks.44

He does so because they cannot adequately be expressed in the French language. In


44 Kone speaks Senufo, his mother tongue, as well as Dyula, Malinke, Bambara, and a little Anyi. Kone
thinks in his native languages, but he also thinks and, above all, writes in French. There are references in
the text that the person behind the character is not Francophone. Old Mamadou, for instance, is one of
those characters: "He [the school director] was speaking in French and Mamadou could not understand
anything" (my translation; see chapter 4, p. 95). There are also instances where the characters speak in
French with occasional words from other languages: "He [Mamadou] said the prayer in his home. After
thefatiha, he mumbled things in Arabic that he didn't understand. Then, he finished the grievances in
Dyula" (my translation; see chapter 4, p. 90). Those characters who do speak French, such as Lassinan,
Shia, and the school director's wife, are able to communicate with the peasants in their African language.
They are even able to communicate for them in French, as is the case for Mamadou who, along with Shia,
must go to the city concerning his brother-in-law's wrongful arrest. Shia is the one who speaks to the City
Police Chief because "she understands city talk" (my translation; see chapter 5, p. 135).








addition, he chooses to translate the native words and expressions into French for the

reader. For example, on page 42 of Traites, the narrator relates: "II y avait encore le

mogoya, une grande consideration des relations humaines" [The mogoya was still there-

a great respect for human relationships]. Also in a footnote, Kone provides a definition

in French for the African word bangui, which means palm wine. The reader can

conclude that the French language does not fully communicate the African thought; the

author clearly seems to think so based on the fact that he supplies a translation or

definition in French for the African words. Kone retains the African words and simply

translates them in an effort to convey their meaning. From the examples mentioned

above, the reader acquires a meaning of two Malinke concepts known as mogoya and

bangui.45

One also finds this style of writing in other African texts written in French,

especially those written by authors from Kone's generation. For example, Tidiane Dem

(Masseni, 1977) writes the exact African words in his text. The author either translates

the word into French directly in the narrative-Matiguitie [Maitre]--or he uses a footnote

to explain what the term means-Sigisbee: cavalier servant d'une dame. Denis Oussou-

Essui (Les Saisons seches, 1979) also translates the words directly in the story-Yako!

Yako! Yako-o-o-o! [Courage! Courage! du Courage!]. Regina Yaou (Lezou Marie ou les

&cueils de la vie, 1982) uses footnotes to define certain African words in her novel-

Djantra: dame de petite vertu, jeune fille aux mceurs ldgeres. Kone and these authors






45 1 appreciate Amadou Kone's help with regards to supplying me with a reference to the specific language
(Malinke) for the African words, mogoya and bangui.








demonstrate in their respective works their ability to "Africanize" the French text by

using words from their own African languages.46

The "Africanness" ofKon6's Traites is not limited to African words. There are

various elements, for example, of oral tradition, which also reveal the "Africanness" of

his French text. The author's prose style is, indeed, reminiscent of African oral literature.

He includes elements which belong to traditional African folklore, such as proverbs,

repetition, and songs. With regards to proverbs, Ruth Finnegan, an expert on oral

literature, writes the following in her book, Oral Literature in Africa:

The exact definition of "proverb" is no easy matter. There is, however, some
general agreement as to what constitutes a proverb. It is a saying in more or less
fixed form marked by "shortness, sense, and salt" and distinguished by the
popular acceptance of the truth tersely expressed in it. (393)

The element of truth or self-evidence of proverbs enables proverbs to be believed as

truths. They have a persuasive force and, therefore, are often used to illustrate, explain or

argue a point.

In the following example taken from Traites, Mamadou uses a proverb to try and

convince the headmistress, Shia. Once Tiefi is released from prison, Mamadou explains

to Shia the family's difficult position concerning the struggle in the village. He

specifically makes use of a proverb to highlight the kind of action his son, Lassinan,

should take once he has told the truth about the evils of the post-independence society in

which his family and the other peasants live. He relates:

Lassinan always says the same thing too, but how can we fight? Yesterday, Tiefi
defended himself. He slept in jail. Without you, I don't know how many days he
would have spent there, nor how many francs I would have been forced to slip

46 Linguists call this device, "code-switching." Code-switching is "the alternating use of two or more
recognizably different language variants (varieties of the same language, or different languages) within the
same text." Sindor Hervey and Ian Higgins, Thinking Translation: A Course in Translation Method:
French to English (London; New York: Routledge, 1992) 248.








them into their hands. In the village, Lassinan has always struggled, but he
doesn't understand that the proverb says: "A sincere man buys a good horse to get
away when he has told the truth." So we always have problems. Finding him a
way out was quite a chore.47

Because of Lassinan, there are always problems. And Mamadou resorts to a proverb in

order to get this message across to Shia. Here, it is a short statement, as is the case for

most proverbs. The proverb also reflects Mamadou's inherent wisdom; indeed, the older

generation understands the importance of transferring wisdom through the use of

proverbs. But they are not the only elements found in Traites that are tied to oral

tradition. There are also several instances of repetition.

Kone repeats certain phrases or word groups in order to emphasize the importance

of some aspect in the narrative. For example, the author writes "les riches sont puissants

et ils se comprennent" [the rich are powerful and they understand each other] several

times to stress that the elite social class is in control of the present situation in which the

peasants find themselves. When Kon6 repeats "avec quelle bouche mange-t-on et avec

laquelle parle-t-on" [what mouth do we eat with and which one do we speak with], he is

trying to emphasize the importance of not speaking at the table when it comes time to eat.

In addition, one must respect both the food and those with whom the meal is taken

according to African custom. The subtitle of the book-Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros

[Under the Blakoros' Power]-is also repeated throughout the narrative. This important

word group acts as a constant reminder of the peasants' position in society; they need to

overcome the blakoro who are in power. Kon6 repeatedly calls to the peasants' attention

their social condition because he wants to create in them a desire for change. It is evident

that Kond's use of repetition helps him to enhance the oral-like qualities of the narrative.


47 My translation. See chapter 5, Exploitation. Under the Blakoros' Power, p. 138.








Songs are an additional element that reveals how the narrative strategy of Traites

arises from the rich African oral traditions. For instance, whistling or singing songs

while laboring in the fields is very common, in spite of the strenuous work conditions:

At dawn, they covered themselves with ashes or some other unsavory powder to
protect themselves from the constant bite of red ants which some coffee trees
were packed with. And with basket in hand, they gathered precious fruits while
whistling love songs or work songs.
"Beautiful girl, wait for me.
When I have plenty of money
I will give you the greatest of dowries
Be patient, beautiful girl."48

Songs help the laborers, who work collectively in the field, to forget the worries and

sufferings of everyday life in the village. "It is a common pattern," according to Ruth

Finnegan, "for stories to be interrupted from time to time by a song" (244). She goes on

further to say that "sometimes these songs amount to quite long poems, and are then often

in recitative. Short verses are also very common [...]" (244). Altogether, songs give

rhythm and melody to the narrative and thus, further emphasize the oral-like quality of

the novel. Kon6 recalls his own linguistic and cultural heritage by using such elements as

songs, repetition, and proverbs. The novel Traites is a good example of a number of

African creative texts written in French that have been influenced by African oral

tradition.

In an attempt to resolve the problem of rendering exactly his African ideas,

feelings, and thoughts in French, Kone decides to employ French words whose meanings

are contingent on the significations that these words have in his African language. In

Traites, for example, the word "soleil" appears eleven times. This is a prime illustration

of an expression that comes from an African language. When one reads the French,


41 My translation. See chapter 5, Exploitation, Under the Blakoros' Power, p. 152.








"meme sous ces soleils ofi le monde est A l'envers, "the word "soleil" obviously does not

mean "sun" here. It suggests rather the Malinke concept of "era, time, or period."

Readers of African literature are already familiar with the expression used by the C6te

d'Ivoire author, Ahmadou Kourouma, in his novel Les Soleils des Ind"pendances

(Gassama 81). On page 18 ofTraites, Kone also writes "L'ecole s'ouvre dans quinze

jours" [School opens in 15 days]. Because of the verb, one realizes that this is an

expression borrowed from an African language, particularly Dyula.49 In standard French,

one will usually see written "l'dcole commence" rather than "l'dcole s'ouvre." Kone has

obviously adopted French to the lexicon of certain African languages.

The language in Kone's text is also metaphoric. This is another element that

highlights the originality of his style. There are two particular instances in the novel

where this is evident. For example, the author writes: "le marabout avait fini lui-meme."

This is obviously the literal translation of a metaphor taken directly from one of Kone's

native languages; it signifies that the marabout has died. Another metaphor exists in

chapter 3, part 2 ofTraites. Kone writes: "Calmez-vous, intervint quelqu'un, refroidissez

vos coeurs." Here the metaphor, which has been taken from the author's African

language, makes reference to the temperament of certain individuals; they need to calm

themselves down and not get all worked up over a certain situation. Altogether, a look at

Kone's use of language in Traites reveals a distinctly African style of French prose to the

reader.


49Amadou Kond informed me of the African language from which this expression comes.








The Task of Translating Traites into English

I now discuss the choices made, as well as the problems encountered when

translating Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros. First of all, I am dealing with the

translation of a nonrelated language and culture (that is, African) with related languages

and cultures, particularly European and Anglo-American. The translation process is

certainly one of acculturation, and there are consequences to consider at all linguistic

levels, such as the translation of words, the rendering of syntax, and the coherence

between sentences. Obviously, I needed an effective approach to bring the text across in

the target language and culture.

As the translator of Amadou Kone's Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros, I am

dealing with an African author who expresses "African thoughts" in French. According

to Paul Bandia, a scholar in the field of Translation Studies, this kind of process can be

referred to as the "primary level of translation, that is, the expression of African thought

in a European language by an African writer" (61). Moreover, I had the task of

translating the author's European language into Anglo-American. This is known as the

"secondary level of translation, i.e. the 'transfer' of African thought from one European

language to another by the translator" (61). Bandia calls the entire process a "double

transposition process." My goal in following this process was, of course, to produce a

reliable translation for English-speaking readers, always keeping in mind that I was

undertaking the translation of a French text with devices reminiscent of African oral

tradition into an Anglo-American text.

In my early attempts, my English translation turned out to be too close to the

original French. In order to respect Kone's individual style of writing, I went too far in








trying to follow his French, especially his word order and sentence structure.

Consequently, I produced a stilted English which did not reflect his tone and rhythms in

the French language. My own personal style in English was unusual since I retained too

much of the French structure. In order to capture Kone's rhythms and the orality of his

prose, I had to consider not only the "words," but also the discourse. In linguistics,

discourse serves as "the rough equivalent of speech, that is, language as actually used by

the speaker (parole), as opposed to language as a system of signs (langue)" (Makaryk

535).50 I discovered that I had to go from discourse to discourse in my English

translation and not from sign to sign, so that I could capture the nuances and rhythms of

the language articulated by Kon&. Henri Meschonnic explains the process best in his

book, Podtique du traduire:

You cannot continue to think any longer in usual terms of the sign. You do not
translate language (langue) anymore. Or in that case, you ignore discourse
(discours) and writing. You have to translate discourse and writing. Even the
banal.5]

In order to precisely render the discourse, I sought out 2 native English speakers with no

knowledge of the French language. They listened to the English text, and this exercise in

turn helped me to eliminate some of the instances where my French interfered with my

English.

There does appear to be less punctuation in Kone's text. This initially led me to

add several marks of punctuation, particularly commas, to the rather long sentences




50 The terms "langue" and "parole" were introduced by the Swiss linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure, in order
to separate two of the meanings of the word language. Roughly speaking, "langue" is the language system
of a particular language community, while "parole" is speech, the way in which members of the community
actually use the system.
" My translation. Henri Meschonnic, Podtigue du traduire (Lagrasse: Verdier, 1999) 12.








written by the author. Ultimately, I decided to eliminate these commas which did not

appear in the original text because they broke the rhythm of Kone's sentences. Also,

there are many instances where Kon6 uses stressed pronouns and their respective subject

pronouns to emphasize the spoken language in the text; this is otherwise known as mise

en relief in French. In spoken language, emphasis can be expressed by intonation, pitch,

stress and even gesture, none of which is available to written expressions. Emphasis, or

mise en relief, allows one segment of an utterance to stand out. Thus, I had to choose the

best way to emphasize, for example, "Je mange avec le Prefet, moi" in written form.

One obvious way to translate the sentence would be: "Me, I eat with the Prefect."

However, this structure would be considered grammatically incorrect in English. I

looked at English translations from the French, notably the unpublished translation of

Jusqu'au seuil de l'irr6el [The Threshold of the unreal] by Mary Lee Martin-Kon6 to see

how she handled the grammatical point. Interestingly, Martin-Kon6 does not even keep

the emphasis in her English translation: "En tout cas, lui Karfa avait t6 accablW par les

coups d'une fortune hostile [...] [In any case, Karfa had been wracked by the blows of

hostile fortune.] (9). My example, "Je mange avec le Pr6fet, moi", can be translated two

different ways: "As for me, I eat with the Prefect" or "I eat with the Prefect" (italicized

subject). The reader will notice the latter form applied primarily throughout the English

translation.

The French indefinite pronoun "on" is also used throughout the French text. For

the most part, I translated the pronoun into English as either "one, they, we, or people,"

depending on the context. In Traites, the narrator tells the story but does not appear as a

character in the text. As we know, Gerard Genette names this kind of narrator








"hitirodiigitique." In Figures III, Genette makes a distinction between two different

types of narratives:

[...] one by a narrator who is not a character in the story he is recounting [...],
the other by a narrator who is present as a character in the story he is recounting
[...]. I call the first type, for obvious reasons, hitirodiegitique, and the second
homodiegitique.52

However, in the first few sentences of the last chapter of part 2,1 felt that Kon6

wanted to introduce a narrator in the story when he used the pronoun "on." This led me

to translate the French "on" as "we" in the English text. In doing so, this collective

narrator becomes, in fact, a character like the peasants. Now, condemning the evils of the

independent African nation, the humiliations, economic exploitation, and administrative

corruption is their problem. They must pull together and work together as one group to

overcome the current aggressive capitalist system dominating their society.

I have, of course, retained all the African and Arabic words of the original text in

my English translation. The words, which have been translated into French by Kone, are

translated into standard English. For instance, "naforo, l'argent," becomes "naforo-

money" and "segues, des paniers ventrus," becomes "segues-balloon-shaped baskets."

This is also true for the names of characters and places. I do not change the orthography

of the proper names or names of places so that English readers can pronounce the words

more easily. Nor does Martin-Kon6, for that matter, in her unpublished translation of

Jusqu'au seuil de l'irrel. Adrian Adams, on the other hand, found the need to do just

that in his translation ofLes Soleils des Ind6pendances [The Suns of Independence]:

Doumbouya [Dumbuya]; Ticoura [Chekura]; le mont Tougbi [Mount Tugbe]. I want to

preserve the original words as they are, specifically because of their link to African


52 My translation. Gdrard Genette, Figures III (Paris: Seuil, 1972) 252.








culture. I have also included a helpful glossary of all the foreign words and indicated to

which languages they belong: thus balafon (Malinke), El Hadj (Arabic), to name a few.

"Traites" is perhaps the most difficult and yet most important word I had to

translate. The word itself has several meanings: trade, traffic, journey, transport,

exportation, draft, bill, milking (Larousse 1023). The word is present throughout the

narrative and is cleverly used in different contexts, which would indicate that it exploits

the different meanings. In my interview with Kon6, I expressed doubt as to whether one

could find a single translation for the word traites? He explains:

It is very ambiguous. I think you have to show all the nuances, so you cannot just
translate it with one word. You can think of it as the crop when the fruit is ripe
and ready to be sold, but it goes much further than that. It is also the exploitation
of the people or the people whom they milk, like a cow. (Interview 2002)

"Traites" appears in the story as "la traite du cafe" [coffee crop/trade]; "traire les

pauvres" [milk the poor]; and "tout d'une traite" [all in one breath]. Indeed, considering

the various meanings of the word traites, Kone's response, and the subject matter of the

novel has led me to translate the title of Amadou Kon6's narrative as Exploitation. Under

the Blakoros' Power.

Translating Amadou Kone's Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros was quite a

challenge. The process was difficult and I faced many problems. But the overall

experience was rewarding. The translation of Kon6's novel is important for me in that I

bring the sense of this source text into the new language, that being English, thereby

widening the readership of Francophone African Literature, and specifically literature

from C6te d'Ivoire. The English translation may even appeal to some potential

researchers who, otherwise, might have been hindered by the problem of language.

Therefore, both readership and scholarly interest in Kon6's novel will be expanded with






48

this translation. It is my hope that one day, Amadou Kond's Traites. Sous le pouvoir des

Blakoros will be discussed in African literature courses, especially since there are now an

increasing number of them being offered in universities throughout North America.













CHAPTER 2
INTERVIEW WITH AMADOU KONI

Martin: Mr. Kone, I would like to begin by thanking you for having this interview
with me. Can you first of all tell me about your origins, your family life,
and your religion?53

Kone: My parents belonged to the Senufo ethnic group of northern Burkina Faso.
I, however, was born in the south of Burkina Faso, which was formerly
known as Upper Volta. Then we migrated to the southern part of Cote
d'Ivoire in the forest region. My parents were planters. They worked the
land in Burkina Faso and then moved down to C6te d'Ivoire where they
produced coffee and cocoa plantations. They were peasants. I had a very
simple childhood. During the first five or six years, I basically lived on a
farm until I was old enough to go to the school in another village. As for
religion, I am a Muslim; I come from a Muslim family. I give alms and I
also practice the religion, but I am not a fanatic. I have to say that C6te
d'Ivoire was, until a certain time, an interesting country from a religious
standpoint because there were maybe a few more Muslims than Christians,
the Christians being Catholic and Protestant. I believe the relationship
between Muslims and Christians was very interesting in C6te d'Ivoire
because there was no problem; one could not care less if you were this or
that, that is, until recently with political events. It has certainly changed.
Now, there is a kind of religious exploitation and ethnic groups are also
talking politics, which is becoming very dangerous.

Martin: What is your mother tongue?

Kone: It is Senufo. The Senufo people can be found in the south of Burkina
Faso, the north of COte d'Ivoire, and also in Mali. The Senufo ethnic
group has always lived a little with the Malinke people, so generally, they
also speak Malinke. In any case, Senufo is my mother tongue; it is the
African language I speak best. I speak Dyula, like most Senufo people,
but not all Dyula people speak Senufo. I also speak Malinke, Bambara,
and a little Anyi. The Anyi people belong to the Akan group found in
parts of C6te d'Ivoire. I speak Anyi because my parents settled in an area
where the Anyi people lived, in order to plant coffee and cocoa.

53 This interview was conducted on January 25, 2002, at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. I
interviewed Amadou Kone in English. He explained that his English language expression was not perfect,
therefore, he answered my questions in French. The interview was transcribed and, then, translated into
English. While I have faithfully transcribed and translated the interview, I have had to do some minor
editing.










Martin: And what percentage of the population, would you say, speaks your
mother tongue?

Kone: French is, of course, the main language. However, if you consider those
who are in Burkina, in Mali, and in C6te d'Ivoire, there are maybe 30
million people who speak Senufo. But you have to understand that it is a
family of small languages that are quite different. For example, Tcerama
and Karaboro are distinct Senufo dialects. They have the same linguistic
structures and certain words are the same, but they are different. Senufo is
not just one language and not everyone understands it. It is a group of
dialects that resemble one another and which make up the Senufo
language.

Martin: And of course you speak French and also English. Are there any other
languages you speak?

Kone: Yes, I speak a little German and Spanish.

Martin: Where did you learn the French language? Can you talk a little about that
experience?

Kone: I began to learn French in elementary school. My brother was a teacher
and I was in his class, so it was not a shock, strictly speaking. Learning
French was quite natural for me. I studied like everyone, like all the
Africans, in middle school, high school, and at the university. And since I
loved to read, I read in French and I began to write in French.

Martin: As for your educational background, you attended middle school in
Grand-Bassam and high school in Abidjan. Can you describe your life as
a high school student during Independence?

Kone: My high school life was very simple. When I was in high school, the
conditions in Africa were good. The country was stable, socially, and
those first years of Independence were exciting. Independence had just
been attained, colonization was over, and the future seemed altogether
positive. So the young people were happy. They knew that if they
worked hard, they would have a good job later on. So there was no
problem. The environment was completely different from today's where
young people find themselves in a really terrible situation. They have no
perspective, and truly neither goals nor prospects. But high school was
about work and friends; it was quite a pleasant life, which I described in
Les Frasques d'tbinto. The Abidjan High School was a boarding school.
You might have a different image of life at a boarding school, but it was
very pleasant there. It was simple; you get up, you study, you eat, you
play sports, and you have fun. That was high school life for me.










Martin: And then you went on to study at universities in Abidjan and France. You
studied literature and, specifically, you researched West African literature
as a Humboldt Fellow. Why did you decide to teach and do research on
African literature?

Kone: That was a bit by chance. I did it only because I loved literature. I loved
to read and write ever since middle school. And then, naturally, I earned a
B.A., and later an M.A., etc. So one thing led to the next. This is actually
something I have not thought about. Maybe I regret it. I probably should
have done something else because teaching does not help me much with
my writing, and the research and literary analysis are different from
writing fiction.

Martin: Why do you write?

Kone: I began writing at an early age but at a time when the colonial problems
had been resolved, at least from a legal standpoint. From the start, I did
not write to criticize or defend anything. I wrote tales and traditional
stories that I had heard during evening gatherings. I also invented stories
which attempted to describe my "vision of the world," "my experience." I
considered literature a game where the imagination took delight in
creating a universe where the writer was in charge. Then, I realized that
writing could not be a simple game, but rather a responsibility I had
towards my readers. From then on, I had to figure out a way to bring
together traditional African values and Western industrial values. I was
also concerned about the relations between people in present-day African
society. So I write to try to clarify the rules of the game. I write to
encourage the exploited to understand these rules and refuse all kinds of
abuses. However, just as I became aware that literature could not be a
game, I also realized that I had few answers to offer my readers.
Therefore, I had to ask myself the important questions that were of interest
to my country, my continent, and my world. And I continue to write
because of the pleasure I receive from expressing myself and liberating
myself from my obsessions. I write because it allows me to think
intensely about "privileged moments." Though I do not try to fool myself
about the power of literature, I also write because I believe that literature
has always contributed to making humanity more human.

Martin: When did you realize that writing was what you wanted to do?

Kone: Well, it just so happened that I have done it because it was fun, since
middle school or high school.


Does inspiration play an important role when your write? Is it necessary?


Martin:









Kone: Yes, I think it is necessary. First of all, the word, inspiration, is difficult to
define. One can, however, consider it a force that puts you in a trance,
that is, you become inspired, you are a little outside of reality and it helps
you do things that you did not think about in reality. I think it is
important. If you do not have inspiration when writing a novel on a
certain subject, you end up writing a very dry novel. So it is necessary.

Martin: Which native languages have influenced your French, thus, your style of
writing, grammar, etc.?

Kone: Malinke and Dyula, more than Senufo.

Martin: Why is that? And why don't you write in Senufo?

Kone: Senufo is not a widely spoken language as it is only used by a small group
of people.54 I would have liked to write in Senufo because the images
would certainly be much more colorful than the ones I try to use or
express in the French language. But I do not write in my language
because I have a very small audience. As a matter of fact, the people can
read in French but are unable to read in Senufo because that is something
entirely different. They would have to be able to read and write in Senufo.
It is not easy.

Martin: What is your process when writing? Do you work with an outline or
notes, etc.?

Kone: It is very eclectic, that is, I do not have just one way of writing. It depends
on the topic. For certain topics, I do not make an outline. For example, I
get inspired and begin writing. That inspiration pushes me, one thing
leads to the next, and the story develops. And, then, I can make an outline
for other subjects, but once I begin writing, it turns out to be different from
the original. So it depends on the subject and on the moment.

Martin: Have you already thought about the kinds of characters and their roles
before you write or are your characters developed as you are writing?

Kone: I think about the main characters. That is important because they lead the
action. I generally know what a certain character symbolizes and, often,
the whole society develops around these main characters. So you do need
a minimum of such characters. As for the others, you can add them later
to enhance the protagonists.

Martin: How would you define the role of a writer, in particular one from an
African society?


54 Here, Kone is obviously referring to a small group of people in C6te d'Ivoire.








Kone: A writer has to describe his society and understand social problems. I do
not think a writer can solve the problems. However, he can at least
present them in such a way that those who are capable of solving them
may think about these problems and attempt to solve them. But when you
imagine it this way, you are led to think a little more on political
questions. Writing is a kind of fake action because, on the one hand, you
have action, and on the other, you have writing, and the two must come
together to be truly effective. In the past, I thought a writer did not have to
commit himself politically; I thought it would be enough if he simply
wrote, but now, perhaps I think differently.

Martin: Which authors do you feel have influenced you the most?

Kone: In the beginning, I read French literature practically until I got to the
university. So I was obviously influenced by this literature, the romantic
writing, and authors like Victor Hugo and Chateaubriand. I was
particularly interested in Andre Malraux when I began to read twentieth
century literature. I was drawn to his writing because of the type of
heroism he described in the Orient, which was the setting for these books.
He described an awakening of the Orient with a certain nationalism that
was developing there, which made me think a little of Africa. But,
obviously, African and Caribbean literatures have influenced me. Among
those writers, I think Aimd CUsaire has influenced me. Although I do not
share his style of writing, I think he is a very important writer. I am a
great admirer of Birago Diop and of Leopold Sedar Senghor's poetry,
which is different from CUsaire's. All of these writers have had an
influence on me in one way or another because they have shaped my
literary taste. But my taste in writing is obviously quite eclectic. I must
say though that Ahmadou Kourouma's influence is the determining factor.
I think he has succeeded at something on the level of language, but not
just the level of language. When you know African culture at the level of
expressing the culture, that is something extraordinary. Thanks to the
Africanized French language, Kourouma succeeds more than anyone in
translating African culture in the most expressive way. The one who
knows this culture and how it is expressed in African languages sees how
Kourouma plays on reality and the two languages, that is, African and
French. I am not a big fan of his latest novel, but a novel, such as Monn6.
outrages et defis, I find to be very important. So I am interested in
Kourouma's writing.

Martin: Where do you place yourself in the context of West African literature?
Where does your fiction fit in Francophone African literature?

Kone: I must say that my attitude vis-a-vis writing is a very personal and
individualistic attitude. I write about things that I enjoy and that interest
me. I am not concerned about placing myself in a movement or placing








myself here or there. And criticism has no affect on me. That is why I
write what pleases me and in a way that pleases me.

Martin: Among the literary genres, the novel and theater seem to be of more
interest to you. Why are you fascinated by these two genres?

Kone: Theater seems to be a genre that touches the audience more than the novel
because it is performed in public. The audience takes it in and there really
is not much distance between it and the stage. The ideas are immediately
conveyed to the spectators who, in a way, react together. In my opinion, it
is a method of consumption that is effective. If you want to talk about
society, theater is much more effective than the novel. I think the novel is
not as effective because it is received individually-you are alone, you
read your novel, you are happy or you are sad. It is difficult to share this
with someone else. Even if that person reads the novel, he or she will
perhaps feel something different.

Martin: What kind of reaction have you gotten regarding your books, specifically
Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros?

Kone: I think the reaction has been quite positive, but it depends on which book.
For example, Les Frasques d'Ebinto has sold very well and the book is in
high schools all over Africa, like C6te d'Ivoire, the Congo, and Guinea.
The plays have also gotten a good response. Traites and Courses won the
Senghor prize at the same time, so they were well received by the public.
Yes, it is true, there was some criticism of Traites. Critics thought the
novel was too short and that I had held back from making it much longer.
It is true, but that is what I wanted because the plan, when I wrote Traites,
was to get the people who are concerned over these problems, that is, the
peasants themselves, to read the text. If they were more or less literate,
they should be able to read these books and understand them. That is why
Traites is written the way it is written. So the fact that I wished to appeal
to a certain readership generated criticism of the novel.

Martin: What other kinds of criticism have you received in Africa?

Kone: Some say that I deal with too many social problems in the novel and that I
need to abandon or forget the problems a little and write a novel where
one can dream. The kind of criticism received will depend on the novels,
the people, and the plans. And perhaps that is the problem. I do not write
for critics. I write what I enjoy writing.

Martin: Lilyan Kesteloot considers you as one author of the "regional" novel. She
writes that this novel is "more deeply rooted in a particular locality and a
specifically rural one which aims at an in-depth exploration of the peasant
mind, and at times takes over from ethnology. Its preoccupations are








limited to the village level and it stands aloof from national or
international politics. It is written in a sober, very controlled, often
classical prose. Its object is to conjure up the 'Africa of the bush'
confronting itself."55 Do you agree with her?

Kone: Critics distinguish between the regional novel and the Parisian novel. But
what is a regional novel? If you write about a small region near Bordeaux,
are you writing a regional novel? This is not my definition; this means
nothing. I agree that the book describes a particular locality, though it is
not as specific as it could be. I think the problems described in these
books are the same for all regions where, for example, coffee is grown,
such as regions of the forest in Africa, in Cameroon, and the Congo. So
the book is not as locally defined as that. This is always the problem with
French critical expressions like "regional novel."

Martin: How do you feel about translations?

Kone: I do not have a problem with translations. For example, I have read
Russian literature, which I like, in French. In the beginning, I read
American novels in French. Therefore, it seems to me that translations are
necessary. When I was in high school, I would read tales by Edgar Allan
Poe, but in French. So I think translations are necessary to reach a wider
audience.

Martin: You have said that your wife has translated a few of your books into
English, but that they have not yet been published. Which books has she
translated? A gentleman was also in the process of translating Les
Frasques d'Ebinto. Has that translation been completed? Published?

Kone: My wife has not finished translating Les Coupeurs de tetes. It is too bad
because there were publishing houses that wanted to print the text. But so
far, she has not finished. Jusqu'au seuil de l'irreel was translated a long
time ago, but probably because of my carelessness, we did not really look
for a publisher because I would always say to myself, "no, I am going to
write better books later on." So I do not know if this was a good strategy,
but that is what I did. And as for the young man who translated Les
Frasques d'Ebinto, he did, but it has not been published yet; we have to
find a publisher. Two of my plays have also been translated into English,
but not published: De la chaire au tr6ne (Mary Lee Martin-Kond) and Les
Canaris sont vides [The Bins are empty] (Armand Falk). So we have all
these texts that are translated but not published. Perhaps we will begin
with your translation.


55 Lilyan Kesteloot, "Turning Point in the Francophone/African Novel: The Eighties to the Nineties," New
Trends and Generations in African Literature, eds. Eldred Jones and Marjorie Jones (Trenton: Africa World
Press, 1996) 10.








Martin: Have any of your books been translated into African languages?

Kone: There are no written translations of my books in African languages.
However, the play, Le Respect des morts, has been orally translated. One
year, in the Anyi village where a particular scene takes place, young
students performed the play in the village language. So all the old people
came to hear the language. It was very nice.

Martin: French is the official language of C6te d'Ivoire, but dozens of African
languages are also spoken there. I've read that Bambara, Malinke, and
Dyula are all dialects of the Mande language. How closely related are
these languages? And Malinke is often called Dyula. Is that right?

Kone: Yes, they are pretty much the same language with a few variations in tone
and accent. Dyula is the popular Malinke; it is for popular use, for
commercial use. It was the language spoken by shopkeepers all
throughout West Africa before Independence and everyone easily
understood it. Dyula is really the simplified form of Bambara and
Malinke.

Martin: This is interesting because Dyula is the particular African language you
mention in Traites. But you also include Arabic in the text. What is the
role of this language?

Kone: Dyula is often mentioned in the text because before French, that was the
language you spoke in the market place and everyone could understand
the language. Yes, there are at times Arabic words in the text that are
uniquely spontaneous expressions that we say under certain
circumstances. That does not mean that the one saying those words
understands Arabic. Maybe it is just a reflection of the society in which I
live. If someone is happy, or if someone thinks he has done something
good, I, in the text, often say, alihamdoulilahi. They are just words that
appear spontaneously. For example, if you are surprised, you say Allah
akbar, which is an exclamation; you are surprised to the point where you
say God's name.

Martin: So most of the words in Traites are in Dyula or Malinke?

Kone: Yes, like the word bangui. That is a Malinke word. "Gui" means water,
and bangui is the water from a palm tree; it is palm wine. Allahyi en d
mbN is also Malinke. It can be translated as "May Allah help us." BOlkk,
which means plantain or boiled cassava, is a Dyula word. So it is a
mixture of Malinke or Dyula. But, assalam alekoum, alekoum salam, is
Arabic.


Can you situate your novel, Traites, Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros?


Martin:









Kone: In fact, I do not think the novel has much of a plot. It is not a novel that
has a plot like Les Coupeurs de t&tes. In some ways, Traites is a novel of
scenes. What is important is the description of a situation, the different
approaches to a situation, and the behavior of key characters who are tied
to that situation, characters like Lassinan, Mamadou, etc.

Martin: Traites is set in Bambara society. Can you tell me more about this African
milieu?

Kone: I try to describe a society of peasants, and not only Bambara peasants; it is
a melange of people. It just so happens that the characters whom I talk
about are Bambara and Anyi peasants, as well as peasants from other
ethnic groups. The book is a kind of autopsy of a society of exploited
people who do not have the education to understand the workings of that
society. That is their biggest problem. And it won't help to just simply
defend this group of people. Eventually, they need to be educated and,
then, they will be able to defend themselves. Lassinan's and Shia's status
as teachers is very important. They not only have the job of teaching
children, but they also have to educate this class of peasants.

Martin: I think it is important that you have mentioned Shia, one of the women
characters in the text. How would you describe the role of women in your
books?

Kone: They have a very important role. From Les Frasques d'Ibinto to the latest
novel, women have always been important in my texts. They are not
simply spectators. They are actresses and, at times, essential ones. The
roles played by women are really important, even in Traites where few
women are present. I think women are not neglected in what I write.

Martin: Do you believe that Shia's role and the way she expresses herself, or
rather the way you make her express herself, presents the freest expression
of feminine discourse in C6te d'Ivoire literature?

Kone: I would have to say yes to that question. I do not know if it is just in
literature, but in reality, women have always been, even in the struggle for
Independence, the most aggressive pursuers of freedom. They fought,
they were not afraid of being imprisoned and, strangely enough, they are a
great expression of freedom in Africa, no matter what people say. There
are texts that portray women as the obedient ones in society, but in certain
situations, they show their capacity to be liberated and to speak freely. So
yes, I do believe that Shia's role clearly represents modem women in
Africa.








Martin: Was there any particular reason why you used different French words to
describe the same kind of woman in Traites? For example, you write:
"des filles de petite vertu, des filles de rue, des courtisanes, des femmes de
petite vertu, des filles publiques."

Kone: First of all, I must say that the word blakoro mostly represents a category
of people. The word translates into these people's total lack of education.
A blakoro is a child. He is the one who has not been initiated. He is the
one who is truly not capable of speaking before an audience and who does
not have the right to speak, for that matter. It is interesting that these
blakoro people now run the society. Such a state of affairs is backward
and that explains why we have problems. But the feminine word that
would correspond to blakoro and that would characterize this type of
woman does not exist. It does not exist in reality, and this is very
interesting, even in the African language. A blakoro is certainly a man, a
boy, but there is no word for a woman. That is why I borrow all these
French words which mean just about the same thing.

Martin: Do you express a certain opinion here of what education is all about? Can
you explain exactly what "education" means for you?

Kone: In the context of Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros, education does not just
mean attending a French school. It is also the knowledge of African
culture in which an important part of society functions. One can be very
educated without having gone to a French school. On the other hand, one
can be educated at a French school and not know African culture.

Martin: Blakoroya and mogoya are two very important Malinke terms that appear
in Traites. Can you explain what they mean?

Kone: Blakoroya is the idea. It explains the behavior of a blakoro and this
behavior is not centered on human interests or values, in other words, the
mogoya. Mogoya refers to humanism. It is the act of being human. It is
the respect for all those ancestral values and blakoroya is the opposite.

Martin: Is it possible to find one translation for the word, "traites"?

Kone: It is very ambiguous. I think you have to show all the nuances, so you
cannot just translate it with one word. You can think of it as the crop
when the fruit is ripe and ready to be sold, but it goes much further than
that. It is also the exploitation of the people or the people whom they
milk, like a cow.


What is the function of Islam in the novel?


Martin:








Kone: Actually, there is not much, except that most of the people described are
Muslims. In the book, I do criticize the religious leaders, especially one
marabout who flees, but I do not criticize Islam. I criticize these people
because they have always gotten on my nerves, although I am Muslim.
These religious leaders behave in a certain way. You listen to what they
say, which is very proper, very strict, very this, very that, and then you
observe what they do which is quite often the opposite of what they say.
So, when I was a child, this contradiction and seeing these people would
always shock me. In fact, if there is one problem with Islam in the novel,
this would have to be it. There is a contradiction between the values
professed by the religious leaders, not by the people who follow them, and
then the failure of those who profess these values to respect them.

Martin: What is the significance of "Cocody, decembre 1972" found on the last
page ofTraites, Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros? You also do the same at
the end of your other novels like Jusqu'au seuil de l'irreel (Ayame, 4
septembre 1969), Les Frasques d'lbinto (Ayame, 25 aofit 1970), and
Courses. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros (Lagrasse, septembre 1975).

Kone: These novels are often written over a long period of time. This is actually
a kind of definitive date where I tell myself that I am not going to touch
that novel anymore. So I know it is finished at a certain time. If not, I
would never finish. As long as the book has not gone to the publisher, you
can always continue working on it. So these dates mark the end.

Martin: There is some confusion surrounding the third volume of your series. I
read that Fuites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros was published in 1989, but
that your latest novel, published in 1997 and entitled Les Coupeurs de
t&tes, was the third volume. Can you clarify all this for me?

Kone: In fact, Fuites has not been published, at least not under that name. I had
planned on writing the book. The first 2 volumes were to be followed by a
third called Fuites. But I did not write it. And then, later, I wrote Les
Coupeurs de tetes. But at the last minute, right up until Les Coupeurs was
published, I hesitated; I thought I could make Les Coupeurs the third
volume. In the last analysis though, it did not become the third volume.
There is a small trace in the novel that might make someone say that it is
indeed the third volume because of one character, Abou, who is the main
character in Courses. You find him in Les Coupeurs de tetes, but only a
little. You do not see him, but he is discussed. So he is really the only tie
between those two volumes.

Martin: Do you discuss your own books in the classroom, that is, are they a part
of the required reading?


No, but this semester I am going to do so.


Kone:









Martin: Which books?

Kone: The plays, because they deal with the place of tradition and modernism.
And I think the two plays, De la chaire au tr6ne and Le Respect des morts,
treat best this problem. So we are going to read them, along with other
books, of course.

Martin: Do you think it is important for a young scholar to interview the writer
whose work he or she is studying?

Kone: Yes, I think it is important. It is always important, in my opinion, when
the author is still alive to ask him or her questions. When the author is
dead, you make what you want of the texts. But if you can sit down with
the author for an interview, you can verify your hypotheses. The
interview can help you clarify certain things that you did not think about.
I do the same thing. If I write about Kourouma, I look forward to being
able to meet with him in order to ask questions. So it seems very useful to
me.

Martin: What are your plans? Do you have any works in progress?

Kone: Always. I have a novel that will be out in a short time called L'(Eufdu
monde, and L'(Eufdu monde is a myth.

Martin: Where will you publish this book?

Kone: CEDA, always. That is because my audience is in Africa. My books are
mostly read there. I have an audience, so I only publish there. And then,
after that, I am thinking about writing a novel that will be much, much
more extensive and that will be more desirable in the public's eyes. It will
probably be a story that takes place in Africa or America. Since I now live
here, I have to exploit the situation, but this is still in the beginning stages.

Martin: In conclusion, where do you see the future of Francophone African
literature?

Kon6: I think people will continue to see more and more Francophone literature.
You never know. Perhaps Africans are going to begin writing in their
languages because, obviously, French institutions had, as a goal to
extinguish African languages and force the African, as usual, to write in
French. But maybe with globalization, the French feel the weight of
American culture. Since they are struggling with that, they are becoming
more and more aware that the African must also protest French culture's
need for domination. For example, this year or next year in C6te d'Ivoire,
they are going to begin teaching African languages in school. They have








not done this in forty years, since Independence, but they are beginning
now, and if it works well, other countries will follow. Who knows?
Maybe in 10, 20 or 50 years, we will go back to a national language and
those people who will be instructed in that language will be able to read.
That is the problem now. People cannot read the African languages. They
do study the languages in institutes of linguistics, but ultimately, people
need to learn to read and write them; they need to learn to read and write
Senufo. So this is interesting. In fact, it is not too late. It is possible to
bring back these languages, at least the more prominent African
languages, but not all of them because the less prominent ones are, no
doubt, going to die out. But the more prominent languages will come
back, and maybe one day, there will truly be an African literature.56


































56 Kond is referring to Dyula (Malinke/Bambara), Akan, Senufo, and Bete as "the more prominent" African
languages in CMte d'Ivoire that will come back.









For YAHAYA, my quiet and gentle mother.

-Amadou Kon6






For some readers

Just as every theme must influence the writing of the novel, every context must
likewise determine the language used by the novelist. Of course, this problem is more
complex in Africa. At any rate, it explains the difference in tone between Exploitation
and the author's other works. The implicit narrator, not to be confused with the author,
and the characters apply here a language adopted to their setting.
The author














CHAPTER 3
KONE'S PREFACE

This book is a cry.

The cry of a blakoro who has always maintained very solid ties with the people.

It is also, and especially, an autopsy; the autopsy of a degenerate society in which

corruption has been institutionalized.

It is an acknowledgment of the failure of a liberation in which people had put too

much hope.

For the colonized, bastardized, scorned, and starving African people, the end of

the long colonial night and the coming of independence was supposed to constitute the

beginning of a new era marked by the rehabilitation of values denied until then. Alas!

Alas three times! It did not take into account that other race of abusive starvers created

by colonization and coming forth from the very womb of Africans. The hope, born on

the eve of liberation, was as great as the disappointment, afterwards, was immense.

The disappointed people assert a bitterness that Amadou Kone reveals to us. He

traces for us the people's exploitation in a manner that sometimes is meant to be lax or

casual. But, let's not be fooled. Amadou Kon6 has chosen a subject that is so delicate, so

tragic, that only a tone of voice like the one he uses can allow him to speak of it without

crying.

In fact, don't we feel like crying when we see the male nurse refusing to take care

of a child on his deathbed just because they did not "grease his palm?" What other








feeling do we have for El Had] Doulaye who, underneath his devout airs, is nothing but a

despicable exploiter? And what about Habib and Mori Ba? And...

In the presence of all these characters, I experience a disgusting shudder and a

revolting feeling. Disgusting shudder and revolting feeling born from the fact that

ancestral values, like the mogoya, that immense respect for human relations, dignity,

decency, and honesty, are scorned by the very sons of those values.

Thus, we witness in so-called modern Africa, the reign of the ones Amadou Kon6

calls blakoros. In Bambara society, the blakoro is a young boy not yet circumcised. He

is therefore the young man who has not yet been initiated into real life. He does not have

the right to speak out: he is not yet a man. Yet the disruption of colonization and

independence put power back into the hands of the blakoros. Denying traditional values

under the influence of Western rulers without having mastered, for that matter, the values

brought to them from Europe, the blakoros establish a bastardized society by the

widespread imposition of the blakoroya, which is no longer a temporary condition.

In this decaying universe that emits fetid odors, the characters of Lassinan and the

headmistress are genuine models. They are there to explain to the people the new system

of which the people are the victims. They are trying to teach them a means of resistance.

Undoubtedly, the author of this narrative knows these people. He knows their

grief. He has remained attentive to the beating pulse of these people. And he also

deserves our admiration because, despite the "decaying carcass," he believes in the Africa

of tomorrow. He believes in crushing that race of jackals who rip out the country's guts.

What a beautiful example of faith!








Amadou Kone's faith proceeds to cast a balm on my helpless heart. I was among

those who, faced with the death of our values, had lost all hope of seeing Africans play an

important role in tomorrow's world. But Kone's narrative has come in time to rescue me

from my desolation and my uneasiness. He shows, if only tacitly, that Africa can still get

back on her feet.

If you are a profiteer, an abusive starver of men, close this book immediately for

it will jostle you into your stuffed armchair, it will make you miserable. But if, like me,

you are a starved individual, read it. Perhaps it will help you, perhaps it will be of use to

you like the luminous torch of hope that had momentarily flown away.

At a time when Africa, for so long kept in the dark, submits its candidature to be a

continent of purity and salvation, it is essential that she rid herself of her shortcomings.

Especially when one knows that these shortcomings are imported goods.

That is why the African author, spokesman of his community, must face up to his

responsibilities, that is, he must denounce all forms of abuse, whoever the perpetrators

may be and whatever origin they may have.

Confronted with all this, Amadou Kon6 has not failed. His narrative denounces

and indicts those men who, uniquely for their own interests, are ready to squeeze the

people until they are bone dry. It also denounces and indicts the accomplices of all these

scoundrels.

It is this attitude that gives the author his strength and his power. Amadou Kone

is a responsible writer. He is not one of those who, owing to some morbid instinct, are

anchored in black pessimism. Nor does he belong to the race of unconscious people








swimming in blissful optimism. He is lucid, "a lucid visionary," as he happened to say

one day.

This book raises questions and tries to propose solutions. It is certainly not an

essay. Is it perhaps a poetic novel in which the author paints with emotion and sensitivity

an African milieu that he knows perfectly well because he lives in it? The author says it

is a tale. Perhaps. A tale where the French language itself has been fashioned to depict

the African reality of a country that does not need a name and whose capital is

Blakorodougou.

As for myself, I salute in Amadou Kond the African youth who, in post-

independent times, feel fully conscious and responsible. I hail him as the one who alerts

the conscience of African masses wronged, fooled, robbed, emptied of their substance.

And I admire his lucidity and his boldness.

Jesus Kouassi Yobou6.
Journalist at the R.T.I.








At dawn, even before the second cock's crow, the old muezzin would sing the

azan in front of the small, gray-walled mosque with the rusted sheet metal roof. At the

third call, confused and whitish figures in the half-light of dawn were trotting along

towards the mosque to take part in the morning prayer; the fourth call was the last and

right afterwards, the believers would stand up on their carpet or their sheepskin, turn

towards the east, and would drop their prayer beads loudly to their feet.

Then began the prayer. The singsong voice of the imam was piercing the early

silence and penetrating the meditative believers. Everyone was drawn to Allah-God. At

that moment, they could truly see that Allah was up there. They felt his presence and

totally accepted the idea that paradise was opened to all men-even to the poor-and that

here below, the men were just passing.

The imam would sing, "Allaho akbar." And together, the faithful people would

fervently resume this cry, a magic balm that used to calm the pain of the heart-in any

case for a moment: "Allaho akbar-Allah is great." Thus began the morning greeting to

the Most High.

Once thefatiha was let out, the imam would mumble in Arabic and Dyula an

entire string of wishes and blessings that counted just as much for this earthly world as

for the other: paradise. "Allahyi sini di en ma, Allahyi en di mbN, Allah ka nan en

malo!-God give us tomorrow, God help us, God protect us from shame!-Amina," the

holy people answered. Once the prayer was over, they could then greet each other. And

they returned home.

In the yards, women had been up for a long time. They had already made several








trips to the small river to draw the water of the day. They had swept the yard, washed the

children, and prepared breakfast. They ate very early, right with the sunrise and then...

And then life continued.

The men would conscientiously file their machetes, loudly whistle for their dogs,

then, by small groups, pour into the coffee and cocoa plantations. This was done in order

to remove the weeds tangled under the precious bushes or to cut them back. Or still, men

disappeared well into the forest to cut the rattan cane and the bamboo necessary for the

preparation of the mats serving to dry the coffee or the cocoa beans.

That existence, which varied only with the seasons, was a process of constant

renewal with the passing years. People, however, did not have time to be bored. They

were living under a power that old Mamadou called, "the power of the blakoros and the

girls of easy virtue." Everything seemed dissolute. Mercilessly, there reigned the civil

servants, rich city merchants, and village usurers, the prophets of little influence. And the

life of the peasants was without order, a life aimed at a little bit of happiness, but a life

riddled with complications springing up from the slightest thing. Oh! This life subjected

haphazardly to the mood of the powerful! Yes, those people were forever hoping for

better tomorrows, but the days were always disappointing them. They were living from

one coffee crop57 to the next, at the two poles of the year, with a lot of hope and certain

risks of disillusion.








57 Here, the word "traite" appears for the first time in the text; in fact, the word appears throughout the text.
See my interview with Kone for an explanation.















CHAPTER 4
PART ONE: A DIFFICULT PATH
TOWARD THE QUEST FOR KNOWLEDGE

One

Just as for any other meal, the entire family would eat breakfast together under the

shed in the middle of the yard. It was some black coffee and a little bMlkk--plantain or

cassava. Also at times, they would eat the leftovers from the evening that one had taken

care to reheat and preserve carefully. Food is a sacred thing and the one who enjoys

wasting it is an irresponsible person. Breakfast was eaten rather in silence, as were all the

other meals. Let us respect those with whom we eat, let us respect the food we eat. What

mouth do we eat with and which one do we speak with!

Even under these suns where the world was upside down, old Mamadou wanted

the meal to remain a ritual. As in the past. And old Mamadou cared about his children's

education, especially under these suns of the blakoros and prostitutes. It was not because

he was poor that he was supposed to have children as insolent as baby goats. And during

the meal, the old man would see to it that his three youngest children had, as a sign of

respect for the old, their left hand placed on the edge of the main dish. But Mamadou's

will to make real men of his children-oh, how many real men are there still in this

world!-went beyond that. Children are links. Any man who fears Allah-and one must

fear Allah-has to fulfil his duties towards them. Mamadou dedicated himself entirely to








them, even if it meant not being able to give free rein to the great dream that obsessed

him.

Breakfast was over.

"When do you leave, Lassinan?"

Old Mamadou's tone of voice was almost indifferent. Nevertheless, one could

detect there a hint of seriousness, even anguish.

"School opens in fifteen days," replied Lassinan.

"Already!" his uncle Tiefi exclaimed.

"Yes."

Lassinan was a calm boy, too calm even, people said. His self-control bordered

on indifference. But behind that placidness was a mind in constant movement. Lassinan

observed his father who, staring into space, seemed to have forgotten that he had just

asked a question. He also took a quick glance at his two younger brothers. The news of

the return to school had given Issa the chills; about ten years old, he was going into the

fourth grade. On the other hand, Abou's eyes were sparkling with joy. He was six years

old and was to go to school this year only. Two weeks from now, a good-looking khaki

suit, brand-new shoes and off to discover the wonders of school life! Abou was so

excited that he had not been able to sleep for a month. In fact, Issa thought, he truly had

no idea what school was all about.

"I'm going to lose a half month's work," old Mamadou finally sighed. "And to

think of those laborers today who can no longer bend down... They remain standing,

damage the grass and claim to having cleared the field. One has to keep an eye on them

so that the work is done correctly."








"I wanted to begin preparing the mats for the upcoming drying of the coffee

beans. But since you will be busy with the children's return to school, I will work with

the laborers," Tiefi said. "If Sould were here, that would have simplified things."

There was a hush. Old Mamadou turned towards Lassinan.

"What are we going to do about Issa?"

"There is only the third grade here in the village. I believe we'll have to send him

to the city. We have to find him a space at the city school, and also a good tutor,

someone who won't turn him into a houseboy."

"It appears that you also insist on putting Abou in school?"

"Yes, Ti6fi, he has to go to school. For him, there is no problem. We can enroll

him here."

"No problem! With our civil servants, there are always problems," old Mamadou

hollered. "Too many problems! Not even the ones we had when the white man ordered

us around. At your age, there are things that you should understand. You insist that

Abou also go to school. Agreed. But you do not seem to think about the difficulties I

have. Abou is more useful to me here than in their school."

"When I say that he has to leave for school, I am only thinking about his future."

His tone of voice was as calm as usual. He wanted to say a lot of things, explain

the situation. But solely out of respect for his father, he could accept being wrong here

whereas, with other people, he would have easily shown that he was indeed right. He

knew that a man was not supposed to behave in this manner. But his very strict Muslim

upbringing had taught him that a father did not have the right to be wrong.

"I too think about your future," continued old Mamadou. "If not, do you believe I








would kill myself at my age in the field? Well, ifyou were at home, you would be very

useful. But you have been there, at their school, for how long?"

"Eleven years."

"Eleven years! Do you realize! And besides, you are always over there, always.

And I will have to take care of your younger brothers for eleven years more before they

wind up where you are. Eleven years of a job that brings back nothing. If you had stayed

home, you would have surely plowed fields that would produce right now.

"Lassinan, the days are going by and I am tired."

He regretted that the conversation had come to that. He knew his son well-a

very sensitive boy who quickly grasped all the allusions. He was sorry for having spoken

in such a way.

"One day, I hope to be useful to you, baba," Lassinan said. "With Allah's help

and your blessings. The world is changing too quickly and one does not often have the

strength to follow its changes. That is why Abou must leave for school. We don't know

what tomorrow has in store for us and if you don't send him to school, one day he will go

to your grave to accuse you of having made him a failed man. He will accuse you and he

will accuse me as well. I simply want us to give him his chance."

"If only you had begun to help me..."

Lassinan sighed. Abou looked at him with worried eyes, imploring eyes almost.

Perhaps he grasped vaguely that his life was hanging in the balance there, that morning,

between a father crushed by financial difficulties and an older brother, lucid but

powerless... Perhaps he was simply reducing the drama to a playroom to which his

father forbade him access.








"I cannot help you, baba. Not now. One day, God willing, you will forget your

sufferings. But right now, it's not possible. They don't pay us at the lycee. We have just

a small scholarship that covers room and board."

Old Mamadou calmed down. Perhaps simply because his son was bringing Allah

into the conversation. That "God willing," was Lassinan saying it out of pure habit of

having heard it since his childhood, or did he really think that Allah was guiding him in

life? Indeed, that was a question the father often asked himself about a son who was

troubling him. What disconcerted the old man about Lassinan's character was that self-

control. These suns were the ones by which the son, hardly knowing how to wear the

pants in the family and how to read the letter "a" spoke out loud in front of his father and

insulted his mother. Lassinan had always spoken in an even tone. Never a word too

many nor too loud. He compelled respect with his level-headed and well-thought-out

attitude. This was a boy one could not help but respect.

"As you wish Lassinan," Mamadou surrendered. "Allah willing, Abou will go to

school and Allah willing, we will survive."

"The schoolmasters are going to hit his fat head," teased Tiefi.

"Do schoolmasters hit the children now? They see to it that the parents are hit in

another way. No, school is no longer like it was in the old days when the headmasters

went to the most remote areas to take the children and forced them to enroll in school.

Now, they refuse to take the children and then for that matter, what do the schoolmasters

teach them? To tell you the truth, school is not the same anymore. Only one more way

of 'milking' the poor.

"And it's not only here in the village, because over there, in Blakorodougou..."








Tiefi always spoke of Blakorodougou. The capital, Blakorodougou, had been his

life for nearly forty years. He could not say two words without comparing the capital to

the country.

"Over there," he continued, "only the rich send their children to school. The

child's registration already costs too much money. Of course, school is free, but... And

then, the tips here and there, the supplies to be bought..."

"All we have left to do now is go to the field," old Mamadou said.

"The farming civil servants are supposed to arrive today," Tiefi mentioned. "Last

time, they said they would be coming today to take a look at the young plants."

"Good, then Lassinan, you will stay home. And you will drive them to the new

cocoa tree plantation when they arrive. Oh! We must make them something; they will

have to eat when they get back from the field. But what are we going to cook for them?

These are civil servants; they cannot eat the same things as us. Where am I going to find

a fat rooster or a plump chicken'?"

"Why wouldn't they eat what we eat? Do you believe, baba, that at their home, at

their parents' home, these civil servants eat a rooster at each of meal?"

"Well, my child, that is the way we welcome them. To make sure that their work

on their plantation is better than somewhere else, some well-to-do people welcome them

even with a really fat sheep. They've gotten them used to that; and us poor people suffer

the most."

"Also in Blakorodougou," Tiefi continued, "the thing exists. So that the civil

servants will quickly fill out a form we need, it's necessary to adjossi-grease their palm.








The rich created the custom and the poor have to follow. Only the rich always have the

advantage; the poor, they lose without a doubt."

"Over there, in Blakorodougou, the blow goes far, very far. Only some things are

better left unsaid.

"Abou, call your mother for me."

Abou left and immediately came back with his mother.

"Fatouma," old Mamadou said to his wife, "you know the farming civil servants

are coming to visit the new cocoa field today."

"Yes. That's why I pounded a little rice yesterday. But, there is nothing for the

sauce. Not even the smallest fish."

"Speaking of which, I wanted you to lend me... in fact sell me your rooster. On

credit, of course. I will pay you at the end of the coffee harvest. There are a few months

remaining and tiriti is around the comer."

"Oh, no! You'll have to look elsewhere. When my children leave for school, I

will surely have to give them money. Where do you want me to find it? I want to sell

my rooster to someone who can give me some cash on the spot."

"And by the way," Tiefi interrupted, "I really don't know what's the use of your

civil servants. Do they come to work or just to eat roasted chickens?"

"Be quiet, Tiefi. You always have to joke around, even when it comes to serious

matters. So, Fatouma, are you going to humiliate me?"

The old woman kept quiet. She was not as old as one could imagine. She had

prematurely aged, that's for sure. Throughout her poor peasant woman's existence, she

had woken up very early, done very many domestic chores and also the fieldwork. She








kept having children, sacrificing herself for them, obeying her husband. All that was too

heavy a responsibility that had worn her out too early.

She still kept quiet. But Lassinan knew that she would eventually give in. It was

the same since his childhood. His father would gently con his mother. In order to take a

chicken from her and offer it to a stranger, he would talk to his wife about buying that

chicken from her. On credit of course. A debt which one would never speak of again.

Lassinan knew she was going to eventually give in, as usual. He was right.

Of course she gave in. What kind of a wife doesn't obey her husband? What

child succeeds with a mother who doesn't worship her husband? In any case, after forty

years of marriage with her husband, Fatouma had become his shadow. She knew what

could bother him or please him. And she knew that herself her children and all her hens

belonged to Mamadou. Allah wanted it that way.

"What are you doing today?" Mamadou asked his wife again.

"I'm going to prepare the farming civil servants' meal, then I'll go gather some

pepper and chop some wood because my firewood reserve is low. This afternoon, I'll go

look for some cassava for the evening meal."

"Good," Mamadou said. "As for us, we are going to the new cocoa field.

Lassinan is going to wait for the civil servants and will bring them to us when they

arrive."

The two workers, Mata and Drissa, whistled for the dogs and the small group got

under way.

Lassinan watched them leaving. His look was not at all indifferent. Rather

indefinable. He admitted it to himself; the work in the field exhausted him in a flash.








And then, those pleasures he had in the past, when he was very young, breathing in the

smell of the fields, running over fallen tree trunks, carving rifle butts, those pleasures had

disappeared. The field for a man of a certain age is far from being a playing field or an

amusement park. Lassinan understood that. Work in the field was painful, very painful.

And his father and mother lived only from this work. His father, past fifty years old, still

bent down with a machete in his hand; his mother still walked with a heavy load on her

head.

And yet at eighteen years old, Lassinan was no longer good for anything, well, he

could not yet be of any help to his parents. His father's words affected him in his heart of

hearts. His father was right. If he had lived at home, he would have already cultivated

some plantations. But what of it? He would perhaps be married, certainly have had

children and then the problems would have still been the same: poverty, increasing and

perhaps perpetual misery. But also, what was he good at with his eleven years spent at

the French school? He probably could have gotten hired somewhere and tried to help his

parents. But under these suns, how much money can a young civil servant earn with no

special skill that allows him to help his parents? Upon receiving his Secondary School

Certificate, he had thought about all these problems; he had wanted to leave school, begin

working, earn a little money. He had talked about it to one of his European teachers.

The latter had advised him to continue school because he was intelligent and destined for

the greatest prospects. To this teacher, he had opposed the family's argument to help:

"My parents are old now and still poor. It's my turn to help them. They need


me."








"Your parents have their life. You, you have your own that you must build

meticulously while you still have the time."

"My parents have always taken care of me. They have sacrificed themselves so

that I would succeed."

"That was their duty. God condemns parents who neglect their children."

"And what about children who neglect their parents'?"

"It's not the same thing. The child can in no case be considered an investment.

One day you will set up home and start your own family. You will have your own

children and you will have to take care of them and not your parents."

Lassinan had not been able to respond. Much later, he had understood that in any

society, at a certain stage of development, the child becomes a necessary asset, a

guarantee for the old days of parents who never manage to save the slightest amount of

money. Lassinan understood that especially in his social stratum, the child remained an

investment for a long time to come. The survival of old parents demanded that. And

Lassinan accepted it. But he had just finished tenth grade in the lyc6e and, a studious

boy, he had begun tasting the delights of intellectual work. He was only two years away

from the baccalaureat.

Lassinan waited for the farming civil servants hour after hour. To kill time and

also to make himself useful, he took some cut rattan, carefully scooped out, and he started

to make a basket that would surely be used during the coffee harvest. Late in the

afternoon, the young man finished weaving the basket. The civil servants had not come.

They were no longer going to come. And that evening, when old Mamadou returned

home from the field, he learned with indifference that the civil servants had missed their








appointment. That didn't even outrage him. What's the use? Everyone knows that a

civil servant, a real civil servant, always misses his appointments when he's not late.

Why be surprised? Going back regularly on his word was in keeping with these suns.

Why be surprised since the widespread triumph of the blakoroya was all around?

Tiefi explained that once in Blakorodougou, they had waited for someone like a

deputy-in any case an important civil servant-for seven hours long, and were still

standing. Only to applaud him on his way.

Be quiet, Ti6fi, some things are better left unsaid.

Two

The former headmaster had been assigned elsewhere, but he had not spread the

news before the school had closed its doors. And now, just a few days before school

started, he hastily came to announce the news and packed up on the double. He left,

leaving behind the ill-suppressed insults of the villagers and the debts he promised to

come back to pay.

Oh, that director-one could now say it out loud-that director, for sure, was only

a good for nothing! And a drunkard, always drunk like the insect conogoli that gets

drunk all day long on bangui produced from the palm tree. And besides, he loved women

too much-a weakness shared by many civil servants. And therefore, since the money he

earned was used to pay for alcohol or girls, he owed as much money to Adebayo, the

shopkeeper, as to the village women who sold him pepper, bananas, and cassava. Above

all, the man was irreverent like the rump of a donkey. He had strength on his side and he

was right. They were forced to respect his strength. Before, it wasn't like that.

Before, things were not done in this way. Today, the world was spinning round

too quickly and one didn't have enough breath to follow its rhythm. And the more things








evolved, the stronger old Mamadou's conviction. He would repeat in an assured tone but

without passion: "We are witnessing the end of the world. It's true, the world is ending."

His conviction was strong because he was a pious Muslim who lent an attentive ear to the

marabouts-those good marabouts of the past who understood Allah's language. One of

his old friends, a venerated marabout, had told him: "When you see the son answering

his father out loud, when you see him screaming at his mother, then don't ask yourself

anymore questions; when you see three-legged lambs and tailless dogs, don't ask anyone

anymore: the world will be at its end. The world will end with the blakoros in power. It

will come. It will surely happen. It is written." But as the saying goes: when a prophet

predicts the end of the world, he predicts his own end. And later, the marabout himself

had died. But his words seemed to be confirmed...

Of course now and before, it was like the wrong and the right sides. Before it was

better. Before before, it was a lot better. There was no possible error. The world was

coming to its end. Did real men still exist? This ridiculous world that no longer tolerated

real men could not last. Nevertheless, it was curiously well organized. Solid even.

Certainly, the useless headmaster had left. But another would come, same as the

one before... or worse even. For the new school year, the same acrobatics would start

up again with renewed vigor. Those who had kids to enroll were already displaying a

feverish activity. They had started selecting their best yam tubercles, their best

developed bunch of bananas, the largest fish from their catch, the biggest game from their

hunt. And they were storing all that to offer it to the headmaster and enter into his good

graces.








Old Mamadou explained to Lassinan that there were too many children to recruit

and not enough spaces for all of them. To make sure that one's child would be enrolled,

it was necessary to be in the headmaster's good graces. And each one did what he could.

And this was exactly the reason why the poor man's son had fewer and fewer chances of

going to school and becoming, later on, an important man.

Lassinan understood the problems, but actually, he perceived them in a rather

unclear way. Since his childhood, he had devoted himself solely to his studies. He had

been asked to succeed, that is to say to always be first in his class, to accumulate

diplomas and to one day become an important civil servant. And he had gotten down to

work, confirming all the hopes that his parents had placed on him. He kept himself busy

always being the first in his class, but he dedicated little time to thinking about the

concrete problems of life. It was no doubt because he had always been treated like a

grown child. Yes, an exceptional child, quite different from the other boys of his age but

all the same a grown boy who only had to deal with his endless reading. Nevertheless,

time and again already, the young lyc6en had wanted to speak in the village as a man.

Some years earlier, it was he indeed who had spread the idea of a modem ton-the co-op.

At that time he had conceived the thing down to its smallest details and it was not his

fault if the thing had fallen through.

Still this morning, he wanted to take some responsibilities.

"I will go enroll Abou myself," he told his father.

"I will accompany you," the old man suggested. "Only I don't know what to give

the new headmaster. He will perhaps bring in a new style. The other one, the last one, it








was alcohol and women; the new one, it will be women and something else. Oh, what a

life!"

"No, I will go alone with Abou. But before, you will give this new headmaster

neither baby goats nor yams."

"If the new one is like the former, your younger brother will not be enrolled. It's

very simple. Because first of all, they look at the parents' face before enrolling the

children. 'Well, so and so's son? No problem. No, but this is so and so? Then the child

is too young or too old.' Oh, the power of the blakoros!"

"I will go with Abou and his birth certificate. That will do," Lassinan calmly

asserted.

"I hope that before then, your older brother Soule will be back from his in-laws'.

We cannot put Abou in school without his consent. As for your mother, I talked to her

about it and since you want it, she can only approve."

"I have heard that the new headmaster will be here tomorrow."

"Yes. The village chief says he met him the day before yesterday in Fagodougou.

I don't even know if he's telling the truth because he says it's a woman. A headmistress!

If that is true.., no, but the marabouts are right. The world is upside down and

approaching its end."

"Because a woman is headmistress?"

"Do you believe that a woman like that one listens to her husband's words? Do

you believe she has the time to cook meals?"

"Maybe she should take on a houseboy-cook."








"A houseboy! You, if you were married, would you and your wife eat a meal

cooked by a houseboy?"

"If my wife works, we won't have any other choice."

"But Lassinan, your mother works and she cooks. But Lassinan..."

He was choking:

"But son, eating the meal cooked by a boy, all your life! Do you realize! This

kind of meal does not give strength. With such food, you will never be a real man, a

strong man. First of all, a woman's lot is to cook the meal, then to take care of the

children. The rest comes afterwards."

The new headmistress-she was really a woman-arrived two days after the date

anticipated for her arrival. That day, Lassinan had gone to the new cocoa plantation. He

had accompanied the farming civil servants who had finally come to do their work. And

in the evening, when Lassinan came back to the village, the comments about the woman

prodigy were unlimited.

"Allah, she is so beautiful! But a woman like that, who would dare speak to her

as one speaks to a woman'?"

"Times are changing too quickly and are changing men at the same time. But, a

woman is a woman."

"Oh, those civil servants are truly lucky! Money, beautiful women: my son must

become an important civil servant to avenge me."

"And her husband, has he come too?"

"Who said she has a husband?"








"In any case, she came alone. What if she doesn't have a husband? The other

schoolmasters..."

Lassinan had the chance to see the headmistress closer. Indeed, she arranged a

meeting the very following evening at the school. It was the first meeting with the

notables, but she wanted the presence of some well-read young people of the village.

That had an unpleasant effect on the village chief because he knew Lassinan would no

doubt come to that meeting. And he had noticed since the business with the co-op that

Lassinan was becoming rather dangerous for certain interests.

Lassinan came to the meeting. First, he listened. The headmistress-she was

truly beautiful-claimed that she was there to try to do some good work among "her

relatives and younger brothers" and that she was anxious to hear about the present

situation. She would have had Lassinan's approval right away if she had not had the

unpleasant habit of rolling the r's in order to speak like a white woman.

In the name of the notables, the chief got up and spoke. According to him, the

situation was excellent. The villagers liked the school and loved their children. And they

had always appreciated the masters' excellent, unselfish work. Everything was for the

best in the best of worlds. And the chief sat down again, happy. Then, since no notable

wanted to speak, Lassinan got up and said the chief seemed to have spoken for himself

alone, because the problems were endless. First of all, the peasants were poor. And the

first days of school were always expensive. Buying new khaki suits, bags, and books for

the children before the coffee crop was very difficult for a lot of families. Therefore, they

had to wait, one or two months, before sending the children back home. And then,

Lassinan alluded to a curious, growing custom, the one that consists in giving a lot of








gifts to the state civil servants in order to get what one wants. Some old men coughed; a

cough of approval or disapproval depending on whether they were poor, or rich...

Finally, the headmistress said she had taken note of everything and the meeting

ended. It was totally dark.

Lassinan and old Mamadou returned to their concession. After the meal, they

rolled out the mats around the fire and they sat down to talk as usual. In the past, when

Lassinan was little, those evening gatherings were eagerly awaited moments. It was then

when one used to tell tales, taking the audience out of reality to transport it into the

kingdom of animals where the powerful lion, the panther, the silly hyena or the hare, the

most intelligent animal, reigned. Also in those days, one would create with a dazzling

intensity the marvelous kingdoms of handsome, courageous princes, beautiful princesses

the likes of whom Lassinan had not yet succeeded in meeting. There also, one would

consider the problems of the village from all angles, although it did not really seem that

way. Now, no one any longer told tales. The old people had too many worries and

everyone knows worries drive away tales because they trouble the mind. And then the

children of these new suns no longer appreciated tales as they had in the past. It's also

true that these children, from their first cries, believe they know more about the world

than their parents. Without initiation, they already think they know everything. And the

blakoros also had the floor. So what's the use of tales? When an old man happens to tell

a story to teach a lesson, the children of independence begin by asking for the date and

the places of the story, photos: well, some proof

No, around the fire nowadays, one could only talk about current events and then

curse the power of the blakoros.








"Again you made enemies at the meeting this evening," old Mamadou said.

"Yes I know," Lassinan calmly answered.

"That could cost us a lot. The rich are powerful and understand each other."

"Yes. But if we must wait until we are strong to call things by their real name, we

will die before. In poverty for sure."

"Lassinan is right," Tiefi stressed. "Oh! If you were not afraid of your rights...

"In any case, I will go have Abou enrolled. And without a gilt"

"If you manage to have him enrolled like that, it will be a real feat. Because I

know that, as we are speaking, many people supposedly went to greet the new

headmistress. With a pile of gifts, obviously. That would be very nice if it was without

an ulterior motive. But each one of these visitors, before leaving the young woman, will

have subtly made it clear to her that he has a child to put in school. We must do that

too."

"No. I will manage."

After a pause, the conversation resumed but still with the same problems about

the new school year and Tiefi was speaking about the private schools. Oh, the private

schools, "it was shit there"! One learned nothing there, absolutely nothing at all!

Besides, the teachers in these establishments spent most of their time in the skirts of their

female students who could find no better way to get good grades than to sleep with their

teachers. As for Tiefi, he would never dream of sending a child to these private schools.

Particularly for the girls, these establishments were a waste of time and money. And

besides, they did not issue any diploma to the girls but a baby, a small bastard what's

more!








"When I think that at first, students were fed, clothed and housed in the schools, I

can't believe we must now pay an entrance fee. This is beyond me," old Mamadou

confessed.

"At the rate things are going, all schools will charge a fee. In Blakorodougou,

there are primary schools that are not for free. And here in the village, this way of

corrupting the headmaster, what does that mean?"

At the yard entrance, a voice called out the traditional assalam alikoum.

"Alikoum salam," old Mamadou answered.

It was Salia, Mamadou's old friend. The two men often liked to chat together. If

they did not reminisce about the good old days, they were just cursing these days when

one does not show any respect for age and wisdom.

"I come from the headmistress's home," Salia said. "I sent her a rooster. I'm not

even sure that will be enough to ensure a place for my son. I thought you too would send

Abou to school this year..."

"Yes, I plan on sending him this year."

"So what are you saving for the headmistressT'?"

"Lassinan is taking it upon himself to have his younger brother enrolled without

giving the smallest gift to the schoolmasters."

"Oh really?"

"Yes."

"We can trust Lassinan. This boy has his head on his shoulders. But the rich are

powerful and they understand each other."

"Therefore, the poor need to understand each other better."








He wanted to talk about the co-op that had failed as much because of the rich

man's plots as because of the poor man's failure to take responsibility. But he preferred

to keep quiet.

"What did you think of the woman?" Mamadou asked.

"Which woman?"

"The headmistress."

"Actually, she seems kind. In any case, she is respectful. But one never knows,

that could be a facade at this point."

Then the two old men talked about the coffee trade that was supposed to begin in

two months; they also mentioned Ramadan that was inevitably approaching. All the

problems occurred at the same time and always at the most critical moment of the year.

On his mat, Lassinan kept quiet. He did not even listen anymore. He reflected on

what old Salia had said. He knew they trusted him. Yes, he had to make sure, at all

costs, that his little brother would be enrolled. He could no longer fail. He knew that if

he failed, he would come out belittled.

Such was Lassinan's life: a legend that was weighing more and more heavily on

him. Since childhood, he had stuck stubbornly to the legend of the studious and hard-

working boy. And he had always fulfilled his promises. At one time, he had understood

that he needed to free the child that was in him, to play without thinking, to make

mistakes also. But he could no longer take it. He was a prisoner of his legend. His

behavior compelled respect, but he was also forced to be a man ahead of his age. Above

all, he was the boy whom one would watch to see if he would make mistakes or fail, and

that is the reason why he continued to keep the legend intact.









He was going to have his little brother enrolled. He was going to even do better.

His stubbornness had become a kind of wager. Everyone was impatiently waiting for the

outcome.

Three

That night, old Mamadou was restless. Even more, he was worried. Of course!

He planned to go to Fagodougou the next day because ofl Issa. He had to try to find him a

place at the regional school and then a tutor also. All that was worrying him. He knew it

would be difficult to find a place at the city public school. He also knew it would not be

easy to find a good tutor for Issa. The city was no longer the village where, by entrusting

his son to you, a man would honor you with his trust. City men had forgotten the

meaning of hospitality that their ancestors had. They did not have the time to take care of

others. Mamadou's only hope in Fagodougou was Bakary, the master tailor. Bakary had

perhaps not forgotten the manners of his ancestors, but he was too poor and he could

refuse to take in Issa.

That night, while thinking about his trip for the following day, old Mamadou slept

very badly or, to be honest-Allah says that the truth alone is good-the old man could

not sleep a wink all night.

It was always the same on the eve of the new school year. Problems were piling

up: lots of things to do and without a cent. And yet, only money could help solve

problems. But where was he to find money? No, it's not that he wanted to "fill his

pockets." He wanted a little money, only enough to be able to take care of his family.

Oh, each year, to be able to nourish his family properly, dress it decently, send the

children to school without having to tell about his misery to the wealthy! But where

could he find the money, just enough to avoid certain humiliations? Where could he find








the money? When he was young, he thought working was enough. He had worked the

land because he loved the land. Who had exerted oneself more than he? His dream had

been grand and honest: a dikisse dream-a strong-blooded dream. He had ruined his

health staying in the field from morning until night in order to create a large plantation:

work that honors all men. His wife, Fatouma, had courageously followed him. But the

birth of their first child, instead of encouraging them to work even harder, had

disappointed them. The child, who was called Soul6, was lazy like an anteater and at the

age of twelve, Mamadou knew he was not good for working the land. They sent him to

learn how to use a sewing machine. He didn't shine at that either. And since his

departure, he had been unable to purchase his own sewing machine. Mamadou meant to

buy him one after each coffee crop, but every time, more urgent problems would arise.

And his money only ended up in ninguin ninguin-stories not at all clear, mandatory tips

to civil servants.

He had not slept, the old man. He had thought about all these problems and had

not even had enough strength to examine his greatest obsession. Having given up his

former dream of making a fortune, now he simply wanted to take care of his family. But

another important project was challenging: going to the Holy City. The world was racing

to its end and it was necessary to ensure better tomorrows for oneself Going to Makan-

Mecca. That was his obsession. But that is a project of which one never speaks except

when going to carry it out.

Very early in the morning, Mamadou got up, washed himself, but did not go to

the mosque. He said the prayer in his home. After thefatiha, he mumbled things in

Arabic that he didn't understand. Then, he finished the grievances in Dyula. "Allah yi en








d& mbW!-Allah help us, Allah make the day good for us, Allah give us a long life, Allah

give us tomorrow, Allah accept our prayers!-Amina."

Allah help us under the power of the blakoros! More than ever, we need his help

to survive. And just think, we had been promised tranquility-the gnansouman! Of

course, the gnansouman existed under these suns, but for others, for the blakoros.

Allah yi en de mbj!

Mamadou wanted to get on the old bus. But it was full. No more seats and a lot

of luggage between the seats! The old man scrutinized the passengers, imploring a child

who might get up to make room for him. There were some young people, but not a single

one made a gesture. Only a woman, an old woman, made room for him, a tiny space.

But Mamadou's full boubou restricted him and had latched on to an old bowl full of fresh

fish. Mamadou fought to free himself and reach his seat. It was just at that moment that

the novice blakoro yelled out a ringing "that's it" and the bus bounced. Mamadou,

unable to help himself, dove his nose into the bowl of fresh fish while cries and laughs

were also bursting out from everywhere. The driver braked and the old man got back up

while some people were laughing from the ridiculous dive and others were hurling rude

language at the driver. But the frail apprentice replied that only those old men and their

full boubous were looking for trouble. They could not go anywhere unnoticed. When

they took it upon themselves to travel, there were always problems on the bus.

"Allah ka nan en malo," old Mamadou softly whispered. "May Allah not hold us

in contempt; Allah protect us from shame! Amina."

He reached the small space, sat down without looking at his entourage, without

uttering a single word. He only had one look of gratitude for the old woman who had








made room for him. His boubou was probably torn, but he didn't even examine it. He

smelled of fresh fish and he didn't even care about it.

The whole trip, he thought it was little to say that the world was changing. The

world was upside down. When he was young, what young man would have allowed

himself to be seated when an old man was standing? Who would have dared to laugh at

an old man in a situation similar to the one in which he had found himself a while ago? It

was not for nothing that young people, nowadays, didn't succeed at anything honest.

Because they had forgotten that respect for age can offer a greater strength. The sight of

Fagodougou ended the old man's sad thoughts. The vehicle stopped at the station.

Everyone got off.

Mamadou also got off. He took the street that led to the school. Fagodougou

stretched in front, behind, to the left, to the right...

Ahead was the school. An old school built by the Whites shortly after they had

settled in the area. Its roofs of gray tile and its massive pillars revealed the colonial style.

Nearby was the hospital. It had to be just as old as the school. These two places, one

right next to the other, expressions of a civilization that had proclaimed loudly its

superiority, were no longer seen as the thing of others. They were integrated. But now,

ruling in there were the all-powerful blakoros who made the heart to those who needed

them beat.

Behind, there had been the former offices of the administration, offices that had

witnessed otherwise violent judgements, like the language of the horsewhip: bad

memories! At the same spot was now standing the imposing court house where

judgements took another form: oh, the hypocrisy of the blakoros! Further, on that same




Full Text
65
Amadou Kons faith proceeds to cast a balm on my helpless heart. I was among
those who, faced with the death of our values, had lost all hope of seeing Africans play an
important role in tomorrows world. But Kons narrative has come in time to rescue me
from my desolation and my uneasiness. He shows, if only tacitly, that Africa can still get
back on her feet.
If you are a profiteer, an abusive starver of men, close this book immediately for
it will jostle you into your stuffed armchair, it will make you miserable. But if, like me,
you are a starved individual, read it. Perhaps it will help you, perhaps it will be of use to
you like the luminous torch of hope that had momentarily flown away.
At a time when Africa, for so long kept in the dark, submits its candidature to be a
continent of purity and salvation, it is essential that she rid herself of her shortcomings.
Especially when one knows that these shortcomings are imported goods.
That is why the African author, spokesman of his community, must face up to his
responsibilities, that is, he must denounce all forms of abuse, whoever the perpetrators
may be and whatever origin they may have.
Confronted with all this, Amadou Kon has not failed. His narrative denounces
and indicts those men who, uniquely for their own interests, are ready to squeeze the
people until they are bone dry. It also denounces and indicts the accomplices of all these
scoundrels.
It is this attitude that gives the author his strength and his power. Amadou Kon
is a responsible writer. He is not one of those who, owing to some morbid instinct, are
anchored in black pessimism. Nor does he belong to the race of unconscious people


108
had looked at Mamadou with an ironic and malicious eye. They seemed to tell him that it
was not proper to disturb good-hearted people so early in the morning. Planted in the
middle of the enormous yard, Mamadou had babbled some excuses. And he had
explained that he would come back. That was simply to say something.
So that afternoonit was a little after two oclockMamadou was on his way
back to see El Hadj Doulaye for the third time. Of course he could complain about the
sun that was beating down on him; he could also complain about his worn-out sandals,
but the thought of complaining about Doulaye or his wives had never crossed his mind.
Thinking about the way he was welcomed, and how those well-dressed and perfumed
women watched him, he could only complain to Allah. He is the one who has weaved
each mans destiny. A Muslim family, Muslim women who welcomed guests like that!
They had not even offered him a seat where he could sit down, nor had they asked him if
there was anything new as is customary. Besides, they knew why he had come and it was
precisely for that reason that they were giving him this kind of welcome.
Who said that naforo is nothing!
Nevertheless, he had not come to beg for charity. At the very most a favor, if one
may say so. Every year, on the day before the childrens return to school, Mamadou
would come to see Doulaye. Because Doulaye was a rich man. Mamadou would come
to request a little money for the children. Of course, he reimbursed that money after the
coffee crop. For both of them, it was convenient. For Doulaye, it was more worthwhile.
This way, Mamadou could afford to send his children away. As for Doulaye, after the
crop, he received more than he had given. Because for three thousand francs given, he
would receive a pra load of thirty kilograms of coffee. But one knows the price of a


93
side, an old bridge stretched across the river and led to a part of the city hidden behind a
small wooded area: the new quarter for the nouveau riche.
To the left, what had been the European quarter under colonization. There only,
two-storied homes stood. This quarter had remained the Business District, the most
active Center of the city. The big market and its enormous rusty roof, the only cinema,
and the only dance hall were located there. And on the ground floor of the two-storied
homes, Syrian and Lebanese shopkeepers had replaced the European colony.
To the right, the working-class quarter, Dioulabougou, the Dyula quarter, as it
was calledas if it only housed Dyulaswas only alive at night. It cleared out during
the day because its inhabitants worked in the Business District or elsewhere. But at
night, however, there was the heart of the city. The small shopkeepers would set up their
stalls and turn on the storm lamp, the abokis would sell hot coffee and buttered bread or
grilled meat. In the good old days, Dioulabougou, at night, made you want to live in the
city. Memories!
Mamadou did not like Fagodougou because, curiously, he recognized himself in
it. Which old man wouldnt recognize himself in this dying city! Before, it was a city
whose name had certainly spread far and wide. Maybe it could not compare to Grand-
Bassam, Dakar, Bobo-Dioulasso or Bamako, but it was alive and its name was known in
those cities. But Independence seemed to have been fatal to it. Because, while the young
cities were growing with arrogant children, Fagodougou was dying, desperately trying to
regain some strength. Instead of expanding, the city was shriveling up day by day.
Fagodougou was being eaten away by those lingering diseases about which marabouts
themselves could do nothing. But a city under these suns had no right to die. Besides, if


88
He wanted to talk about the co-op that had failed as much because of the rich
mans plots as because of the poor mans failure to take responsibility. But he preferred
to keep quiet.
What did you think of the woman? Mamadou asked.
Which woman?
The headmistress.
Actually, she seems kind. In any case, she is respectful. But one never knows,
that could be a facade at this point.
Then the two old men talked about the coffee trade that was supposed to begin in
two months; they also mentioned Ramadan that was inevitably approaching. All the
problems occurred at the same time and always at the most critical moment of the year.
On his mat, Lassinan kept quiet. He did not even listen anymore. He reflected on
what old Salia had said. He knew they trusted him. Yes, he had to make sure, at all
costs, that his little brother would be enrolled. He could no longer fail. He knew that if
he failed, he would come out belittled.
Such was Lassinans life: a legend that was weighing more and more heavily on
him. Since childhood, he had stuck stubbornly to the legend of the studious and hard
working boy. And he had always fulfilled his promises. At one time, he had understood
that he needed to free the child that was in him, to play without thinking, to make
mistakes also. But he could no longer take it. He was a prisoner of his legend. His
behavior compelled respect, but he was also forced to be a man ahead of his age. Above
all, he was the boy whom one would watch to see if he would make mistakes or fail, and
that is the reason why he continued to keep the legend intact.


106
was. And so, he had spoken about the co-op. Many poor villagers received that idea as
the word of God. But the rich tried to choke the chick in the egg. Once the egg was
broken, the chick came out anyway. It did not have time to grow up. It was choked
dead. Lassinan was not there. He was studying in Blakorodougou. Nevertheless, he felt
the failure as his own. He considered it, however, a step or an experience. He was young
and the future was his. He had hope. The headmistresss arrival seemed to increase that
hope. He met with the young woman several times. And before his departure for
Blakorodougou, he told his father to go and see her every time he had problems with the
civil servants or when he had a letter to write.
Have his letter written by the headmistress! For sure, Mamadou would not dare.
One must try to avoid humiliation whenever possible. Yes, they were beginning to grasp
clearly the recruitment rules in the village that year. They had quickly understood that
the headmistress had not played the game. And some people were furious. The
headmistress had accepted the gifts but had not seemed to notice those who had made
them. She had recruited by considering only the kids ability to begin their schooling.
Thus, Sahas youngest son had been rejected despite the big rooster. The child was too
little and too frail. He would have to wait until the following year.
The young headmistress had altered the game. That pleased the poor and
offended the rich. God has not put men on an equal footing; why then was a young
teacher making it her business to do so? The village chief, who had not swallowed the
scandal, spread the rumor that Lassinan was behind the young womans behavior. And
lets be honest, Lassinan was not a master. He certainly could have been one, but he was
not. Why the devil get involved in these things?


of some themes and structures in Traites and Ahmadou Kouroumas Les Soleils des
Indpendances; a study of Kons fiction in relation to several texts written by some
authors from his own generation; Kons use of language in Traites; and, finally, the task
of translating Traites into English. Chapter 2 is an interview with Amadou Kon.
Among other things, the interview covers precise questions about translation, particularly
of Traites.
Chapter 3 is the preface to Kons novel. Chapters 4 and 5 offer the actual
English translation of the novel. Finally, the dissertation includes a helpful glossary of all
the foreign words and their respective languages. Some critics consider Kon to be a
regional writer, which may explain why he has not yet been fully recognized as a major
writer (one as important as Bernard Dadi, Camara Laye, Mongo Beti or Ahmadou
Kourouma, for example). However, this dissertation confirms that his work merits more
attention. The author hopes that her study will widen Amadou Kons readership; and
will stimulate scholarly interest in Ivoirian literature in North America (and, more
generally, among English-speaking populations).
viii


84
In any case, she came alone. What if she doesnt have a husband? The other
schoolmasters..
Lassinan had the chance to see the headmistress closer. Indeed, she arranged a
meeting the very following evening at the school. It was the first meeting with the
notables, but she wanted the presence of some well-read young people of the village.
That had an unpleasant effect on the village chief because he knew Lassinan would no
doubt come to that meeting. And he had noticed since the business with the co-op that
Lassinan was becoming rather dangerous for certain interests.
Lassinan came to the meeting. First, he listened. The headmistressshe was
truly beautifulclaimed that she was there to try to do some good work among her
relatives and younger brothers and that she was anxious to hear about the present
situation. She would have had Lassinans approval right away if she had not had the
unpleasant habit of rolling the rs in order to speak like a white woman.
In the name of the notables, the chief got up and spoke. According to him, the
situation was excellent. The villagers liked the school and loved their children. And they
had always appreciated the masters excellent, unselfish work. Everything was for the
best in the best of worlds. And the chief sat down again, happy. Then, since no notable
wanted to speak, Lassinan got up and said the chief seemed to have spoken for himself
alone, because the problems were endless. First of all, the peasants were poor. And the
first days of school were always expensive. Buying new khaki suits, bags, and books for
the children before the coffee crop was very difficult for a lot of families. Therefore, they
had to wait, one or two months, before sending the children back home. And then,
Lassinan alluded to a curious, growing custom, the one that consists in giving a lot of


50
Martin:
Kon:
Martin:
Kon:
Martin:
Kon:
Martin:
Kon:
And what percentage of the population, would you say, speaks your
mother tongue?
French is, of course, the main language. However, if you consider those
who are in Burkina, in Mali, and in Cote dIvoire, there are maybe 30
million people who speak Senufo. But you have to understand that it is a
family of small languages that are quite different. For example, Tcerama
and Karaboro are distinct Senufo dialects. They have the same linguistic
structures and certain words are the same, but they are different. Senufo is
not just one language and not everyone understands it. It is a group of
dialects that resemble one another and which make up the Senufo
language.
And of course you speak French and also English. Are there any other
languages you speak?
Yes, I speak a little German and Spanish.
Where did you learn the French language? Can you talk a little about that
experience?
I began to learn French in elementary school. My brother was a teacher
and I was in his class, so it was not a shock, strictly speaking. Learning
French was quite natural for me. I studied like everyone, like all the
Africans, in middle school, high school, and at the university. And since I
loved to read, I read in French and I began to write in French.
As for your educational background, you attended middle school in
Grand-Bassam and high school in Abidjan. Can you describe your life as
a high school student during Independence?
My high school life was very simple. When I was in high school, the
conditions in Africa were good. The country was stable, socially, and
those first years of Independence were exciting. Independence had just
been attained, colonization was over, and the future seemed altogether
positive. So the young people were happy. They knew that if they
worked hard, they would have a good job later on. So there was no
problem. The environment was completely different from todays where
young people find themselves in a really terrible situation. They have no
perspective, and truly neither goals nor prospects. But high school was
about work and friends; it was quite a pleasant life, which I described in
Les Frasques dbinto. The Abidjan High School was a boarding school.
You might have a different image of life at a boarding school, but it was
very pleasant there. It was simple; you get up, you study, you eat, you
play sports, and you have fun. That was high school life for me.


48
this translation. It is my hope that one day, Amadou Kons Traites. Sous le pouvoir des
Blakoros will be discussed in African literature courses, especially since there are now an
increasing number of them being offered in universities throughout North America.


61
not done this in forty years, since Independence, but they are beginning
now, and if it works well, other countries will follow. Who knows?
Maybe in 10, 20 or 50 years, we will go back to a national language and
those people who will be instructed in that language will be able to read.
That is the problem now. People cannot read the African languages. They
do study the languages in institutes of linguistics, but ultimately, people
need to learn to read and write them; they need to learn to read and write
Senufo. So this is interesting. In fact, it is not too late. It is possible to
bring back these languages, at least the more prominent African
languages, but not all of them because the less prominent ones are, no
doubt, going to die out. But the more prominent languages will come
back, and maybe one day, there will truly be an African literature.36
56 Kon is referring to Dyula (Malinke/Bambara), Akan, Senufo, and Bt as the more prominent African
languages in Cote dIvoire that will come back.


18
Kamlfata ou les ennemis de la traite was actually Kons first novel written
while he was still in middle school. The novel tells the story of young Africans who
struggle against the slave trade. Although much later in the authors career, Kamlfata
was eventually published in 1987 as a childrens book. Kon has also published a
collection of short stories that focus on the destruction of traditional African values in the
book, Les Liens (1980).
Thematic Content(s) in Kons Traites and Kouroumas Les Soleils des
Indpendances and their Respective Structures
According to the Ghanaian poet, novelist, and scholar, Kofi Awoonor:
Independence brought an era of euphoria and great hopes to Africa. The dreams
of agitators and nationalists were realized when one by one new flags were
hoisted in place of colonial flags, and new tunes replaced imperial anthems [...].
In many countries there were massive jubilations, and many libations were poured
and drunk. There was a vague sense of relief among the African people, who
were only dimly aware of the nature of the changes in their fortune; everywhere
there was talk of Africas new man: bright-eyed, armed with the righteousness of
his cause, ready to take his place in the sun, self-assured, and no longer abused.
Aggressively proud, he was to become, once and for all, the master of his own
house. (43-44)
However, this euphoric celebration of the arrival of independence in Africa failed to
endure. One soon discovered that after the exploitation of the people by the colonial
masters, the Africans who replaced the Europeans often ended up exploiting their fellow
Africans. Certainly, some writers came to look upon the new ruling African bourgeoisie
as being no better than the oppressive colonizer. Even with regards to Africas economy
during independence, one critic pointed out that dune conomie caractrise par
lautosubsistance et fonde sur le troc, on est pass brutalement une conomie de type


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION TO THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF
TRAITES. SOUS LE POUVOIR DES BLAKOROS
[ ] Je parle des problmes ivoiriens. Je suis done un auteur ivoirien.
(Amadou Kon, Interview 1987)
Producing fiction designed to encourage questioning and to raise consciousness
about his society, contemporary Francophone African author, Amadou Kon, stands as an
important literary figure from Cote dIvoire.1 Certainly Kons narrative Traites. Sous le
pouvoir des Blakoros [Exploitation. Under the Blakoros Power], which depicts a peasant
community faced with corruption and bribery in a post-independence society, can be
placed within this category of fiction. A study of Amadou Kons writing reveals that he
is an example of the committed African writer who is extremely sensitive to the social
and political problems of his day and is constantly coming to grips with them, hoping to
play his part in changing society for the better.
This introduction to the English translation of Traites. Sous le pouvoir des
Blakoros includes the following:
An examination of some important aspects of Cote dIvoires history from the
precolonial period to the twentieth century
Amadou Kons life
An overview of the authors writing career
A comparison of the thematic content(s) in Kons Traites and Ahmadou Kouroumas
Les Soleils des Indpendances and of their respective structures
1 In 1986, Ivoirian government announced Cote dIvoire as the official name of the country in all
languages. Robert Mundt, Historical Dictionary of the Ivory Coast (Cote dIvoire) (Metuchen-London:
The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1987) xviii.
1


28
Shia is not the passive observer who only hopes for a change in society. She is a
determined and outspoken woman who finds herself in the position to help the peasant
community, especially Lassinans family. She does not sit back and watch exploiters as
they con so many villagers out of their hard-earned money. Instead, Shia plays an active
role in the fight against the injustices that prevail all around and, thus, joins the ranks of
Lassinan as a kind of champion of the oppressed masses.
Literature from Kons Generation
Just as Amadou Kon can be linked with Ahmadou Kourouma, a writer from the
older generation, so too can he be linked with the younger generation of writers from
Cote dIvoire. One recognizes this new link with the younger generation by focusing on
the thematic content in their novels. Similarities to and/or differences between Kons
writing techniques and those of such authors will not be my focal point here, although I
will be led to make some comments. Kon discusses various themes in his fiction, such
as sorcery, education, rural African life, cultural problems as a result of the contact
between Africa and the West, and the new obstacles to surmount in a post-independence
society. Several authors belonging to Kons generation33 have also dealt with most of
these themes in their fiction. In particular, I have Fatou Bolli, Tidiane Dem, Rgina
Yaou, and Denis Oussou-Essui in mind.
Fatou Bolli, for example, depicts sorcery in his first novel, Djigbo. which was
published in 1977. The plot of Bollis novel is situated in post-colonial Africa. The
characters in Djigbo, like the ones in Traites and Jusquau seuil de lirrel. are Muslim,
but they are also Catholic. In the novel, a host of sorcerers torment the Krou people, in
33 These authors have published works on or around the same time as Kon.


40
them into their hands. In the village, Lassinan has always struggled, but he
doesnt understand that the proverb says: A sincere man buys a good horse to get
away when he has told the truth. So we always have problems. Finding him a
way out was quite a chore.47
Because of Lassinan, there are always problems. And Mamadou resorts to a proverb in
order to get this message across to Shia. Here, it is a short statement, as is the case for
most proverbs. The proverb also reflects Mamadous inherent wisdom; indeed, the older
generation understands the importance of transferring wisdom through the use of
proverbs. But they are not the only elements found in Traites that are tied to oral
tradition. There are also several instances of repetition.
Kon repeats certain phrases or word groups in order to emphasize the importance
of some aspect in the narrative. For example, the author writes les riches sont puissants
et ils se comprennent [the rich are powerful and they understand each other] several
times to stress that the elite social class is in control of the present situation in which the
peasants find themselves. When Kon repeats avec quelle bouche mange-t-on et avec
laquelle parle-t-on [what mouth do we eat with and which one do we speak with], he is
trying to emphasize the importance of not speaking at the table when it comes time to eat.
In addition, one must respect both the food and those with whom the meal is taken
according to African custom. The subtitle of the bookSous le pouvoir des Blakoros
[Under the Blakoros Power]is also repeated throughout the narrative. This important
word group acts as a constant reminder of the peasants position in society; they need to
overcome the blakoro who are in power. Kon repeatedly calls to the peasants attention
their social condition because he wants to create in them a desire for change. It is evident
that Kons use of repetition helps him to enhance the oral-like qualities of the narrative.
47 My translation. See chapter 5, Exploitation. Under the Blakoros Power, p. 138.


57
Kon:
Martin:
Kon:
Martin:
Kon:
Martin:
Kon:
In fact, I do not think the novel has much of a plot. It is not a novel that
has a plot like Les Coupeurs de tetes. In some ways, Traites is a novel of
scenes. What is important is the description of a situation, the different
approaches to a situation, and the behavior of key characters who are tied
to that situation, characters like Lassinan, Mamadou, etc.
Traites is set in Bambara society. Can you tell me more about this African
milieu?
I try to describe a society of peasants, and not only Bambara peasants; it is
a melange of people. It just so happens that the characters whom I talk
about are Bambara and Anyi peasants, as well as peasants from other
ethnic groups. The book is a kind of autopsy of a society of exploited
people who do not have the education to understand the workings of that
society. That is their biggest problem. And it wont help to just simply
defend this group of people. Eventually, they need to be educated and,
then, they will be able to defend themselves. Lassinans and Shias status
as teachers is very important. They not only have the job of teaching
children, but they also have to educate this class of peasants.
I think it is important that you have mentioned Shia, one of the women
characters in the text. How would you describe the role of women in your
books?
They have a very important role. From Les Frasques dbinto to the latest
novel, women have always been important in my texts. They are not
simply spectators. They are actresses and, at times, essential ones. The
roles played by women are really important, even in Traites where few
women are present. I think women are not neglected in what I write.
Do you believe that Shias role and the way she expresses herself, or
rather the way you make her express herself, presents the freest expression
of feminine discourse in Cote dIvoire literature?
I would have to say yes to that question. I do not know if it is just in
literature, but in reality, women have always been, even in the struggle for
Independence, the most aggressive pursuers of freedom. They fought,
they were not afraid of being imprisoned and, strangely enough, they are a
great expression of freedom in Africa, no matter what people say. There
are texts that portray women as the obedient ones in society, but in certain
situations, they show their capacity to be liberated and to speak freely. So
yes, I do believe that Shias role clearly represents modern women in
Africa.


119
legend that Tifi would recount by adding on each time some new changes. If the whole
story is that he was a houseboy-cook, the first version specified that he was in the first
place a houseboy and that it was because he washed the sheets and the underpants so well
that his master appointed him cook. According to the second version, he never washed
underclothes and, occasionally, he told the bosss lady that at home, custom forbade a
boy to wash a womans underwear. So, they assigned him to the kitchen where he
developed his exceptional kitchen boy talents. What did it matter! Indeed at one point,
life began to smile at Tifi. A prostitute clung to him outright. They spent some really
pleasant nights together. Unfortunately, the lady was insatiable: fashionable dresses,
luxury jewelry, large bottles of perfume, a sewing machine too and all that on a houseboy
salary. Tifi began to have some really bad nights. The lady too no doubt, for she
disappeared without warning. In fact, upon returning home one evening from his job,
Tifi noticed that the beauty had made off with all that she had ... earned.
Tifi began to drink. This allowed him to discover the real world. He realized
that his boss was taking him for a fool simply because he was obedient. Furthermore, he
understood that he had played too much the role of the fool from all sides and from then
on, he did not allow anyone to take advantage of him. He said out loud that he was fed
up with the white bosses, the prostitutes and all the little black men who, having had the
chance to go to school, liked to think they were gods. His boss dared to say to him that
he was drunk. He lived to regret it! The insult earned him a knocked out tooth and a
black eye. Tifi never said a word about the immediate consequences of his actions. But
he got a great deal of pride from it all. He had dared to beat down the white man at a
time when white was a sacred color. He had nothing to fear anymore. Does one die


151
All the peasants knew Tifi was right. But who had followed him? The rich are
powerful and are right.
This had been the last co-op meeting. Surely, that very evening, those who had
been a little too talkative and had offended the treasurer or Doulaye, had secretly sent
them a little gift and had begged them not to hold it against them later. Only idiots bring
together the powerful against them for the public good.
The co-op died in the making. They didnt even talk about the rest of the funds
or the money that some people had to reimburse.
Later on, a good while after the letter to his father, Lassinan had come back on
vacation and had spoken about the co-op. He had felt the failure of the enterprise as his
own failure. And he hadnt been able to agree with his father.
The poor are bom to fail, old Mamadou had said.
No, Lassinan had responded. The poor are bom to get out of their condition
and to also get all the poor people out of poverty. Do away with poverty. That is what
they must want with all their heart and soul.
Allah has to want it as well.
Allah wants it. He could not have created man to make of him a damned soul.
And besides, if man needs to believe in something, why not believe in happiness
through hard work, rather than in his own damnation?
Old Mamadou had said nothing in response.
Four
Money earned from the coffee harvest is brand new, very crisp, very white.
Banknotes have a soothing music that comforts and helps to forget the suffering of which


86
Again you made enemies at the meeting this evening, old Mamadou said.
Yes I know, Lassinan calmly answered.
That could cost us a lot. The rich are powerful and understand each other.
Yes. But if we must wait until we are strong to call things by their real name, we
will die before. In poverty for sure.
Lassinan is right, Tifi stressed. Oh! If you were not afraid of your rights ...
In any case, I will go have Abou enrolled. And without a gift.
If you manage to have him enrolled like that, it will be a real feat. Because I
know that, as we are speaking, many people supposedly went to greet the new
headmistress. With a pile of gifts, obviously. That would be very nice if it was without
an ulterior motive. But each one of these visitors, before leaving the young woman, will
have subtly made it clear to her that he has a child to put in school. We must do that
too.
No. I will manage.
After a pause, the conversation resumed but still with the same problems about
the new school year and Tifi was speaking about the private schools. Oh, the private
schools, it was shit there! One learned nothing there, absolutely nothing at all!
Besides, the teachers in these establishments spent most of their time in the skirts of their
female students who could find no better way to get good grades than to sleep with their
teachers. As for Tifi, he would never dream of sending a child to these private schools.
Particularly for the girls, these establishments were a waste of time and money. And
besides, they did not issue any diploma to the girls but a baby, a small bastard whats
more!


76
kept having children, sacrificing herself for them, obeying her husband. All that was too
heavy a responsibility that had worn her out too early.
She still kept quiet. But Lassinan knew that she would eventually give in. It was
the same since his childhood. His father would gently con his mother. In order to take a
chicken from her and offer it to a stranger, he would talk to his wife about buying that
chicken from her. On credit of course. A debt which one would never speak of again.
Lassinan knew she was going to eventually give in, as usual. He was right.
Of course she gave in. What kind of a wife doesnt obey her husband? What
child succeeds with a mother who doesnt worship her husband? In any case, after forty
years of marriage with her husband, Fatouma had become his shadow. She knew what
could bother him or please him. And she knew that herself, her children and all her hens
belonged to Mamadou. Allah wanted it that way.
What are you doing today? Mamadou asked his wife again.
Im going to prepare the farming civil servants meal, then Ill go gather some
pepper and chop some wood because my firewood reserve is low. This afternoon, Ill go
look for some cassava for the evening meal.
Good, Mamadou said. As for us, we are going to the new cocoa field.
Lassinan is going to wait for the civil servants and will bring them to us when they
arrive.
The two workers, Mata and Drissa, whistled for the dogs and the small group got
under way.
Lassinan watched them leaving. His look was not at all indifferent. Rather
indefinable. He admitted it to himself; the work in the field exhausted him in a flash.


19
capitaliste fonde sur le profit.24 Writers, like Ousmane Sembne, Camara Laye,
Ahmadou Kourouma, and Amadou Kon are aware of the misappropriation of the gains
of independence by rich, unconscionable employers and the corrupt ruling class in Africa.
Consequently in their novels, which were published after 1960, they choose to examine
such problems as excessive bureaucracy, bribary, corruption, neo-colonialism, and forms
of social aberration.
Amadou Kon uses his fiction to denounce the ills of the post-independence
society and try to bring about its reformation. The author discloses, particularly in
Traites, the harsh existence of Cote dIvoires oppressed peasantry. He makes
interrogations and describes events and situations in the novel that relate to the closest
daily reality of the peasant class. Kon is a defender of the exploited masses who have
been betrayed by their fellow citizens in post-independence Africa.
Kons Traites may indeed bear some resemblance to Ahmadou Kouroumas Les
Soleils des Indpendances; this seems to suggest Kouroumas strong influence on Kon.
Ahmadou Kourouma, bom in 1927, has now become one of the best-known Francophone
writers from Cote dIvoire, in fact, from all Sub-Saharan Africa. In Les Soleils des
Indpendances (1968), the author presents the social and political realities of the years
immediately following independence. He tells the story of a hereditary Malinke prince of
Horodougou whose entire world changes with the coming of independence. In modem
Africa, Fama, the protagonist and disinherited Doumbouya prince, is unskilled and
illiterate in the European language; he is practically a beggar. In fact, Fama is a victim of
4 from an economy characterized by self-sufficiency and built on barter, we suddenly switched to a
capitalist type economy based on profit. My translation. Bruno Gnaoul-Oupoh, La littrature ivoirienne
(Paris-Abidjan: Karthala-CEDA, 2000) 311.


14
presentation of characters embodying traditional African values, on the one hand, and on
the other, persons who have adopted values established by Western societies. Within
Kons fiction, the blakoros men do not embody African values and neither do certain
women in the society. They all function rather on the basis of new and poorly mastered
values. Naturally, they impose their own rules out of sheer greed, and as a result, it
becomes more and more difficult for the peasants to make an honest living. Indeed,
Yobou sums it up best in the preface by stating that the book is Lautopsie dune
socit dgnre dans laquelle la corruption a t rige en institution. Essentially, in
Traites, the reader witnesses a battle between the blakoros, eager for money and power,
and the poor peasants who want to build the future on traditional values, like honesty,
hospitality, hard work, self-respect, and respect for others.
In 1982, the second volume of Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros was published and
entitled Courses. Here the reader discovers that old Mamadou has died and that Lassinan
has continued the struggle in the village of Kongodjan against the blakoroya, that is,
those anti-values perpetuated by the blakoros who insist on exploiting the poor peasants.
The reader also learns that Abou, Lassisnans youngest brother, has just returned home
after completing his education in France. Jy suis ali, Abou explains, jai essay de
trouver des rponses aux questions europennes qui intressent aussi lAfrique et qui
mintriguaient. Jai essay de comprendre de prs les nouveaux mythes qui sabattent sur
nous et nous gouvement.18 Now, Abous mission after coming back from Europe is to
17 The autopsy of a degenerate society in which corruption has been institutionalized. My translation.
See chapter 3, Exploitation. Under the Blakoros Power, p. 63.
18 I went there. 1 tried to find answers to the European questions that also concern Africa and that
intrigued me. I tried to understand up close the new myths that beat down on us and control us. My
translation. Courses. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros. p. 123.


116
In any case, Adebayo and his shop were prospering and he could even sell his
goods on credit. The informer says that during the coffee and cocoa trade, Adebayo
would grow richer than the peasants. Perhaps it was true because Adebayo had managed
to go to his faraway country and come back. But Adebayo had come back very angry.
He explained his anger to Soul.
Three months before the departure for his country, he had sent some money to his
father. Two hundred thousand francs to be exact. First, he had sent twenty thousand
francs and then he had sent another money order in the amount of one hundred eighty
thousand francs. But, once at home, he had been surprised to see that the second money
order, the most important one, had reached its destination while inexplicably, the first
money order had arrived nowhere. Immediately upon his return, Adebayo had gone to
Fagodougous post office where the phlegmatic civil servant, after having searched
through his papers, claimed to have sent the money order. But Adebayo was not bom
yesterday. He was not easily taken in. He assured the little postal worker that he had
understood the scheme. He accused him of having spent the twenty thousand francs
while waiting for better times to send them off. The wretched civil servant protested
feebly. Adebayo knocked him out saying that he had just returned from his country and
that there was no reason for the second money order to have arrived before the first. The
civil servant became flustered, smiled and ended up saying that he would reimburse the
money at the end of the month.
Soul simply understood that the civil servants, at all levels, could be dangerous.
But Soul was not worried about Adebayo who would know how to defend himself


127
the gaping onlookers remarks. Still followed by Tigbi, he headed towards
Kongodjans bus-station.
At that moment, the short policeman stopped him.
Are you the one who is walking in the middle of the road?
I decided to cross and I didnt pay attention.
Say rather that you are drunk, that will be more true.
I spoke the truth and I beg you to tone down your language. Even in
Blakorodougou, policemen speak to people with respect.
Ah, the gentleman comes from Blakorodougou! Well then, know that I can deal
with the drunkard good-for-nothings that Blakorodougou rejects.
The onlookers had gathered around them. Tifi kept quiet. In the past, in
Blakorodougou, he would have simply crushed this skinny cop like one crumples paper.
But there is a time for everything. Every age has its reason. Tifi decided to leave.
Where are you going? the young policeman bellowed. Give me your identity
card.
Tifi plunged his hand into his pocket and got his wallet out again. He opened it
and tried to remove the identity card. It wasnt there.
So, do you have it? The policeman was growing impatient.
Tifi remembered.
I don't see it. I got it out a moment ago at Habibs home. I must have dropped it
over there. Lets go there. Im sure Im going to find it.
Youre making fun of me? If you dont have it, youd better give me two
thousand francs immediately.


GLOSSARY
SR
A ma k djougou many (Dyula): Its nothing serious.
abokis (Hausa): coffee salesmen. They are often of Nigerian nationality.
adjossi (Dyula): grease their palm.
Alihamdoulilahi (Arabic): Thank God.
Allah (Arabic): God. He is the supreme being worshipped by the Muslims.54
Allah ka nan en malo (Arabic): May Allah not hold us in contempt; Allah protect us
from shame.
Allah yi en d mb (Malinke): May God help us.
Allah yi here k eny (Dyula): May God shower us with his blessings.
Allah yi hinan d nan (Dyula): May Allah grant rest to the child.
allahdjougou (Dyula): Allahs enemy.
Allaho akbar (Arabic): God is most great.
Amina (Arabic): Amen.
Assalam alkoum (Arabic): Peace be upon you. The Muslim greeting of peace.
Alkoum salam is the response.
azan (Arabic): prayer call.
581 wish to acknowledge the friendly assistance of Amadou Kon with the glossary. He helped by
supplying me with definitions for additional foreign words found in the text. In addition, he also supplied
me with a reference to the different languages for the foreign words in the glossary. Definitions for certain
Arabic words such as Allah, El Hadj,fatiha, Islam, marabout, Mecca, muezzin, Ramadan, and sura, were
taken form Neal Robinsons Islam (Richmond: Curzon, 1999).
59 Etymologically, the name Allah is an abbreviation of the Arabic al-ilah, which simply means, the
God. According to Neal Robinson, the Koran declares that He is One and has neither associates nor
offspring. The various names which the Quran ascribes to Allah stress not only His unity, but also His
eternity (First, Last, Heir, Living); His perfection (Self-sufficient, Worthy of all praise); His
omnipotence (All-mighty, All-powerful); His omniscience (All-knowing, All-wise, All-seeing,
All-hearing, Totally-aware); His reliability (Patron, Trustee); His beneficence (All-merciful, All-
pitying, Benevolent); and His indulgence (All-forgiving, Oft-relenting) (76).
169


16
that novels, which are bestowed the Prix Ivoire, like Les Coupeurs de tetes, are sure to
ajouter la dynamique du livre dans [le] pays et aider confirmer la grandeur de la
littrature ivoirienne.20
Although fiction-writing is the focal point of this introduction, it is also important
to mention a genre for which the author has become well known. Kon is also a talented
dramatist. He has written four plays: Samory de Bissandougou. Le Respect des morts.
De la chaire au tron, and Les Canaris sont vides. Le Respect des morts and De la chaire
au tron were both published in 1980, the same year as Traites. In both plays, the author
presents characters who illustrate the conflict between tradition and modernity in Africa.
Le Respect des morts depicts the construction of a dam, which will supposedly help with
the regions underdevelopment. The villagers, however, are against its construction, for
it represents the destruction of their way of life, as well as the land inhabited by their
ancestors for generations. It is up to the chiefs son, who was educated in Europe, to
convince the villagers of the good that will come from the dams construction. In De la
chaire au tron. Kon tells the story of a university professor who is made a prince, but
because of tradition, must be ritually put to death after twelve years of absolute power.
But when that fateful day arrives, the professor-prince refuses to give into tradition,
thereby refusing death.
De la chaire au tron and Le Respect des morts have been made accessible to
audiences outside of Africa. A German translation of Le Respect des morts [Per
Staudamm] was published in 1991 and an Italian translation of De la chaire au tron [La
20 add to the dynamics of the book in [the] country and help to confirm the greatness of Cote dIvoire
literature. Amadou Kon, Grand Laurat, Fratemit-Matin 20 avril 1999: 1.
21 In middle school, Kon wrote his first play, Samory de Bissandougou. which 1 discussed at the beginning
of this section.


60
Martin:
Which books?
Kon:
The plays, because they deal with the place of tradition and modernism.
And I think the two plavs, De la chaire au tron and Le Respect des morts,
treat best this problem. So we are going to read them, along with other
books, of course.
Martin:
Do you think it is important for a young scholar to interview the writer
whose work he or she is studying?
Kon:
Yes, I think it is important. It is always important, in my opinion, when
the author is still alive to ask him or her questions. When the author is
dead, you make what you want of the texts. But if you can sit down with
the author for an interview, you can verify your hypotheses. The
interview can help you clarify certain things that you did not think about.
I do the same thing. If I write about Kourouma, I look forward to being
able to meet with him in order to ask questions. So it seems very useful to
me.
Martin:
What are your plans? Do you have any works in progress?
Kon:
Alwavs. I have a novel that will be out in a short time called LCEuf du
monde, and LCEuf du monde is a mvth.
Martin:
Where will you publish this book?
Kon:
CEDA, always. That is because my audience is in Africa. My books are
mostly read there. I have an audience, so I only publish there. And then,
after that, I am thinking about writing a novel that will be much, much
more extensive and that will be more desirable in the publics eyes. It will
probably be a story that takes place in Africa or America. Since I now live
here, I have to exploit the situation, but this is still in the beginning stages.
Martin:
In conclusion, where do you see the future of Francophone African
literature?
Kon:
I think people will continue to see more and more Francophone literature.
You never know. Perhaps Africans are going to begin writing in their
languages because, obviously, French institutions had, as a goal to
extinguish African languages and force the African, as usual, to write in
French. But maybe with globalization, the French feel the weight of
American culture. Since they are struggling with that, they are becoming
more and more aware that the African must also protest French cultures
need for domination. For example, this year or next year in Cote dIvoire,
they are going to begin teaching African languages in school. They have


131
rereading the long letter. She is looking for the hidden power behind each word, she
wants to understand this message that is giving new importance to her life.
... To be honest, I mistrusted you without even knowing you. Its sad to say
that we will always mistrust our young state civil servants. And then, I saw you. I
watched you during the first meeting with the villagers and also on the childrens
recruitment day. I spoke to you and I knew that you could be my partner in this life
where it seems I have chosen the most likely path to lose my way.
You know, Shiaallow me to call you by this name which is already familiar to
mesome old people have often told me that we dont choose our religion at twenty
without running the risk of shutting ourselves off. Theyre probably right, but I also
believe that at twenty, there are religions we know well never choose. That is why
already, I struggle, I fight in my way against the paths that I believe are bad.
In fact, my religion forces me to believe in fate. This idea has been firmly fixed
in my mind far too early and if Im not yet able to reject it systematically, at least Im
certain that everything doesnt amount to divine fatality. That is why I cannot accept the
explanation that its Gods sole will that some people be rich and others be poor. I accept
rather a fate explaining itself by the quasi-scientific exploitation, at any rate organized
one by another. Its this fate that we must fight and not divine providence. The two sides
are certainly linked, but we can believe in one and fight the other; we can refuse to live in
poverty without necessarily being an atheist. Oh, if God amounts only to the acceptance
of pain and hardship, and then to the infinite waiting for a happiness so unattainable, I
refuse to believe that therein only lies God! Oh, if we had to confuse humility with fear, I
refuse to believe that this is Gods will!


26
goal in society, the non-traditional hero takes on the challenge alone. The difference lies
primarily in the representation of the protagonist with respect to the individual struggle
and the group struggle.
In Traites. Kon portrays Lassinan as a studious and hard-working young man
with a mission to uncover the evils of the post-colonial society in which the peasant
community lives. Lassinan understands the exploiters game and desperately wants to
put an end to it. His goal is to open up the villagers eyes to the scheme; he must get
them to see Habib, Doulaye, and Akafii, to name a few, for whom they really are, that is
low down, heartless crooks. In order to do so, Lassinan must try to convince the peasants
that their village has been plagued with corruption. This will prove, however, to be a
very difficult task for the hero who, for the most part, struggles alone against the ruling
elite that is controlling the community. Through many conversations and debates, he
tries to convince the poor peasants on his own that a change is needed and that justice
must be reestablished in order to put an end to the exploitation.
In one instance, Lassinan wants to convince his father and the entire village that
their poverty is not Allahs will. But one learns that explaining this to devout Muslims is
no easy task. They are blind to the crookedness that has made its way into their society;
moreover, they assume this is the way Allah wanted it to be. In a letter to the
headmistress, Lassinan writes:
[...]. They think that its Allahs will, if they wade in misery and if others live an
opulent life. If it were true that God guaranteed poverty for some and abundance
for others, I refuse to believe that this is God, except the god of the most
powerful. I have tried to explain all that to my village, I have explained the
warrior, save Mali from the evil clutches of the sorcerer King, Soumaoro. D.T. Niane, Soundiata ou
lpope mandingue (Paris: Presence Africaine, 1960).


10
African novel. Kon has published two books on the relationships between oral and
modern African literature: Du rcit oral au roman: Etude sur les avatars de la tradition
hroique dans le roman africain and Des textes oraux au roman modeme: Etude sur les
avatars de la tradition rale dans le roman ouest-africain. Both studies, which were based
on the two dissertations, were published in 1985 and 1993, respectively. Together with
Grard D. Lezou and Joseph Mlanhoro, Kon published the first anthology of literature
from Cote dIvoire entitled Anthologie de la littrature ivoirienne (1983). This
compilation of literary pieces, which highlights the originality of the nations literature,
includes excerpts from myths, plays, poetry, and novels. Kon has also edited a
collection of essays on African literature and cinema in Lumieres africaines: Nouveaux
propos sur la littrature et le cinma afficains (1997).
An Overview of Amadou Kons Writing Career
Amadou Kons career as a creative writer began at an early age. In middle
school, he wrote his first play, Samory de Bissandougou. This historical drama relates
the tragedy of a son murdered by his own father, Samory Tour, the great Muslim
emperor. Samory Tour was bom in 1830 in Sanankoro, in what is now northern Guinea;
he died in exile in Gabon in 1900. A member of the Malinke people, Samory was a
gifted commander who led a band of warriors in establishing a powerful chiefdom in
Guinea. As already mentioned, the warrior chief also opposed French ambitions to build
an empire in West Africa (Yansan 133).
In Kons play, Samory de Bissandougou. Samory has his son killed because the
son admires the enemy, that is, the French. Here, the emperors love for his son comes
second to his duty to fight the French enemy. Reflecting on the time he wrote the play,
Kon said:


33
novel, Lezou Marie ou les cueils de la vie, was published in 1982. In the novel, Yaou
depicts the trials and tribulations of the main character, Marie, whose life changes forever
once she leaves the village A... to continue her education in Abidjan. Not only does her
mother die back in the village, but Marie also discovers that her death was at the hands of
sorcerers who turn out to be family members. Again, we find sorcery as a recurrent
theme in Cote dIvoire literature. But, as Kon explained:
Sorcery is a part of certain African societies. It influences the everyday behaviour
of individuals that live in them. There is a need to talk about these practices and
demystify them. Writing on a matter of this kind is a means of inviting each
reader to reflect on it and, possibly, to propose solutions. (Riesz 36)
After the mothers tragic death, Maries life takes another turn for the worse. Not
only does Maries father stop funding her schooling, but her fiance, Jacques, also betrays
and leaves Marie with child. The baby is bom, but unfortunately, he dies a while later
because Marie does not have the money needed so that he can receive the proper
healthcare. As a result, she loses her faith and resorts to all kinds of vices, among them,
prostitution, when she moves to the city for a job. Marie hides her double life from
Pierre, a journalist whom she loves very much. But when her secret is revealed, and right
before Pierres eyes, she cannot live with herself anymore and commits suicide.
The plot of Lezou Marie ou les cueils de la vie is situated in independent Africa,
and it unfolds mainly in the capital city. Regina Yaou primarily undertakes issues that
affect women in modern African society. Education and money, or the lack there of, is a
constant issue, as well as the events that lead her to turn to prostitution. On the whole,
Yaou deals with social problems, especially from a womans standpoint, in a post
independence society.


107
The young headmistress seemed to have chosen the poor, but tell me, Muslim
souls, was that reason enough for Mamadou to have his letters written at her home? Let
the poor man disown his defender and kiss up to the powerful, that is where some chance
for salvation lies. Lassinans bold move was likely to cause problems for the family.
The rich get along. Especially under the power of the blakoros and of the girls of easy
virtue.
Mamadou had become helpless confronted with Lassinans behavior which he
judged quite imprudent. It is difficult to tell the truth nowadays, it is difficult to behave
well nowadays, not that speaking the truth has vanished away in the haze of this chaotic
world, not that good has become indiscernible in this world of evil, but because truth and
good acts bring so many problems ... Used to blows, old Mamadou was waiting for
reprisals. He knew they were bound to happen. Only, he tried to figure out where they
would come from. And going to El Hadj Doulayes home for the third time, he
wondered if the blow would not come from there.
In any case!
He was on his way to Doulayes home for the third time. The first time, just two
days ago, he had not been allowed to enter the mans living room. As soon as he had
entered the yard, they had looked at him suspiciously while making him understand that
they knew what he wanted. They had simply told him that Doulaye had been traveling.
But Mamadou could have sworn that he had heard Hadj's loud voice.
Mamadou had said thank you and left.
Again this morning, he had come to Doulayes home. The first child who had
seen him had explained to him that his baba had returned but was tired. Doulayes wives


160
Three thousand francs, Bakary said, is little in comparison with a persons life.
However, for people like us, its a lot. Where can we get that amount right away?
In any event, youll have to manage on your own, the nurse said. 7 only
wanted to do you some good. But I cant risk my job for nothing.
Give the medication, Soul said. Pardon me, take care of the child. I still have
seven hundred francs. I will return to the village immediately. Tomorrow, I will send
you the rest, five thousand francs if you want. In the name of Allah, tomorrow I will
come back with five thousand francs.
No, the nurse interrupted. Go instead to the pharmacy and you will see if they
will give you the medicine on credit.
Souls look went from the nurse to the bed where Issa was lying. The child was
gasping for air, rambling. His entire little body was raking with tremors which the wool
blanket revealed.
God, save this little human being who lies on this bed. The black nurse, calm and
serene at this little boys bedside, thinks only about three thousand francs that he will
perhaps give to a streetwalker. Oh, these terrible times!
Money is nothing, my son, Bakary resumed addressing the nurse. I am a tailor
in town, you know me ... Take care of the child and if by tomorrow, we dont pay,
report me to the police. In the name of Allah, we will pay. But we dont have any cash
on hand. Look at Allah, my son, and give us the medication.
The man said nothing, but his eyes wandered over towards the two men, rigid.
Then a female nurse came in and began to talk to him:
The doctor is looking for you, Paul. Good Lord, what are you doing here?


38
addition, he chooses to translate the native words and expressions into French for the
reader. For example, on page 42 of Traites, the narrator relates: II y avait encore le
mogoya, une grande considration des relations humaines [The mogoya was still there
a great respect for human relationships]. Also in a footnote, Kon provides a definition
in French for the African word bangui, which means palm wine. The reader can
conclude that the French language does not fully communicate the African thought; the
author clearly seems to think so based on the fact that he supplies a translation or
definition in French for the African words. Kon retains the African words and simply
translates them in an effort to convey their meaning. From the examples mentioned
above, the reader acquires a meaning of two Malinke concepts known as mogoya and
bangui.45
One also finds this style of writing in other African texts written in French,
especially those written by authors from Kons generation. For example, Tidiane Dem
(Masseni, 1977) writes the exact African words in his text. The author either translates
the word into French directly in the narrativeMatiguiti [Maitre]or he uses a footnote
to explain what the term meansSigisbe: cavalier servant dune dame. Denis Oussou-
Essui (Les Saisons seches. 1979) also translates the words directly in the storyYakol
Yako\ Yako-o-o-o\ [Courage! Courage! du Courage!]. Rgina Yaou (Lezou Marie ou les
cueils de la vie. 1982) uses footnotes to define certain African words in her novel
Djantra: dame de petite vertu, jeune filie aux moeurs lgres. Kon and these authors
451 appreciate Amadou Kons help with regards to supplying me with a reference to the specific language
(Malinke) for the African words, mogoya and bangui.


121
the marks, and the marks that life has left on me? Are they invisible? I should not have
come back; I should have stayed over there, died over there.
Tigbi?
Yes?
Lets go into this bar!
What for?
I think Im going to have a glass of beer. Yes, Im going to have a drink before
going to Habibs.
But how about seeing him first? Thats the most important thing. We see him,
we take the goods we have to put in the car, and after that you have your drink.
A glass of beer, that hardly takes any time. But perhaps you are right. Lets go
see Habib.
They walked on the sidewalk and passed in front of the bar. Tifi heard a familiar
voice calling him.
Well, is that you, Tiba?
Yes, come wash your face; I am doing my ablutions.
This languagethat was the good old days, the crazy days when Tifi and Tiba
were regulars of the shabby Blakorodougou bars. They had developed a language worthy
of their lifestyle. Men without laws, religion seemed as distant as the village and at
times, they didnt hesitate to use holy words to talk about their drinking binge.
Im coming at once, Tifi answered. Im going to see Habib for an errand.
Tifi, I too am busy. Someone is waiting for me. Come on, were going to
begin the bath together.


123
In the old days, it was madness. Yes, the madness of youth. Often, we
understand too late. Then, its an intolerable situation. I shouldnt have returned to the
village. I should have stayed over there until the end; I should have had a death that
would have resembled my life.
Tiba emptied his glass and made a face that ended with a sigh of satisfaction.
Its true, we understood too late. With the little money we were earning and
considering what things used to cost in Blakorodougou in the old days, we could have
built houses over there, even carried out some business ... Now, we should try not to
think. Wine can help. Lets drink. By the way, why are you here in Fagodougou?
To buy whats needed for the fasting month, well, to get credit until the coffee
crop.
You too are going to fast?
I started it. Well, Im trying. I cant fast the whole month, but Im trying.
/ cant even try. One day without wine, I really cant. Allah will understand.
Tiefi emptied his glass and got up.
Thank you for the drink. Now, I have to go see Habib.
Pass by when you come to Fagodougou. I am the head-worker, or rather, the
guard at the jail. Always ask over there. Someone will take you to me.
Tiefi and Tigbi left the bar and walked towards Habibs shop. The man was on
his porch, his flat and wide buttocks on his long chair, his potbelly as imposing as
Akafus, catching a breath of air in a simple white sweater. And Habib was smiling, with
a shrewd smile that was all too unique. Habib was always pleased with himself. Thats
hardly surprising. Habib was a force made to conquer, solely to crush. He owned three


155
You think, Mata said, that if I work hard, I will not be able to do all that? I
hope the money I will have will be enough.
Old Mamadou said nothing. However, he was also thinking of the money from
the crop. An illusion, simply! One had always spent it all before putting it in ones
pocket. So that it immediately passed on to other hands. Then all projects were put on
hold for another year. And that silent obsession tormented Mamadou. Going to the holy
city, to Makan, seeking salvation for his entire family. Not assuming a pompous title like
El Hadj and with an Arab veil, but leaving with all his sincerity to ask the Most High to
open the doors of paradise to each member of his family. Yes, for this world, it was over.
He could no longer wait for happiness in a world that had become terribly hostile, a
world where honesty had become nonsense and where of necessity you had to drown
someone to get out of it. Certainly, he tried to follow as accurately as possible the
commandments of Islam. He conscientiously said his prayer although he only knew very
few suras of the holy Coran. He gave alms as much as his means allowed him. He also
fasted. But the most serious problem had to do with the holy city. How would he get
there! By foot, it would take years. And who would take care of the family? He
absolutely needed money. My goodness, if going to heaven also required money, that
would be the end of all hope. Paradise too, opened solely to the rich. Allah cant accept
that. He is great and just and merciful. And he knows. May Allah forgive us and help
us! Amina.
I hope you can fulfill your dreams, Mata. I really hope so, Tifi said in a tone
of voice that made you wonder.
And you, Soul, what will you do after the crop?


168
are powerful and they understand each other. But when you have understood, you too,
that you are not made to live in poverty, that your misery does not only come from Allah,
then you will understand your strength. It will be hard, but I will have your blessings,
and also Shias support and her gentleness.
She has a good heart, this girl.
Yes. And we will fight together. Against the corrupt civil servants who have no
ethics, against the wealthy who exploit you.
You are going to make many enemies, Lassinan. And then those for whom you
are going to sacrifice yourself will not show you any gratitude.
Its true, baba. But this is nothing. We dont want their gratitude. We are going
to start by reorganizing the co-op.
'''Allah yi a d mb\ May Allah help you!
Amina
Cocody, December 1972


77
And then, those pleasures he had in the past, when he was very young, breathing in the
smell of the fields, running over fallen tree trunks, carving rifle butts, those pleasures had
disappeared. The field for a man of a certain age is far from being a playing field or an
amusement park. Lassinan understood that. Work in the field was painful, very painful.
And his father and mother lived only from this work. His father, past fifty years old, still
bent down with a machete in his hand; his mother still walked with a heavy load on her
head.
And yet at eighteen years old, Lassinan was no longer good for anything, well, he
could not yet be of any help to his parents. His fathers words affected him in his heart of
hearts. His father was right. If he had lived at home, he would have already cultivated
some plantations. But what of it? He would perhaps be married, certainly have had
children and then the problems would have still been the same: poverty, increasing and
perhaps perpetual misery. But also, what was he good at with his eleven years spent at
the French school? He probably could have gotten hired somewhere and tried to help his
parents. But under these suns, how much money can a young civil servant earn with no
special skill that allows him to help his parents? Upon receiving his Secondary School
Certificate, he had thought about all these problems; he had wanted to leave school, begin
working, earn a little money. He had talked about it to one of his European teachers.
The latter had advised him to continue school because he was intelligent and destined for
the greatest prospects. To this teacher, he had opposed the familys argument to help:
My parents are old now and still poor. Its my turn to help them. They need
99
me.


27
deception of the powerful and the mistakes of the poor. But people dont
understand that, to a certain extent, God leaves us free to assume our destiny.32
Not only does Lassinan have to make the peasants understand that they are being
exploited by their own people, but he must also teach them not to accept their condition,
which they believe has been dealt to them by Allah. They have to learn to take control of
their own lives and know that, to a certain degree, they do hold the key to their own
destiny.
It is important for the peasants to know their rights and to pull together in order to
overcome the exploiters game. More than ever, they need to unite against the rich and
form the co-op, which Lassinan has envisioned. The hero pushes the idea, for he knows
how much a village co-op would benefit the peasant community. Interestingly, Lassinan
is trying to create a sense of solidarity amongst the peasants by organizing a co-op. He
wants them to join together in the struggle and help him eliminate the new social classes
that have taken over and corrupted their society. But this will prove to be a very difficult
task for the peasants to accomplish by themselves.
Shia is also an active participant; she supports Lassinans cause unequivocally.
Shia is aware of the bribery and corruption that have become a way of life in the village.
As headmistress, she targets problems which she knows she can control. Indeed, gift
giving takes on a whole new meaning when it comes time for school enrollment in the
village. Shias role is also very important because she challenges the traditional image,
as seen in the eyes of men, of the submissive woman. One now observes a female
standing up for herself and challenging the male in certain situations. She is not afraid to
question and attack the character and tactics of cruel male exploiters described in Traites.
2 My translation. See chapter 5, Exploitation. Under the Blakoros Power, p. 132.


87
When I think that at first, students were fed, clothed and housed in the schools, I
cant believe we must now pay an entrance fee. This is beyond me, old Mamadou
confessed.
At the rate things are going, all schools will charge a fee. In Blakorodougou,
there are primary schools that are not for free. And here in the village, this way of
corrupting the headmaster, what does that mean?
At the yard entrance, a voice called out the traditional assalam alkoum.
Alkoum salami old Mamadou answered.
It was Salia, Mamadous old friend. The two men often liked to chat together. If
they did not reminisce about the good old days, they were just cursing these days when
one does not show any respect for age and wisdom.
I come from the headmistresss home, Salia said. I sent her a rooster. I'm not
even sure that will be enough to ensure a place for my son. I thought you too would send
Abou to school this year ...
Yes, I plan on sending him this year.
So what are you saving for the headmistress?
Lassinan is taking it upon himself to have his younger brother enrolled without
giving the smallest gift to the schoolmasters.
Oh really?
Yes.
We can trust Lassinan. This boy has his head on his shoulders. But the rich are
powerful and they understand each other.
Therefore, the poor need to understand each other better.


73
I cannot help you, baba. Not now. One day, God willing, you will forget your
sufferings. But right now, its not possible. They dont pay us at the lyce. We have just
a small scholarship that covers room and board.
Old Mamadou calmed down. Perhaps simply because his son was bringing Allah
into the conversation. That God willing, was Lassinan saying it out of pure habit of
having heard it since his childhood, or did he really think that Allah was guiding him in
life? Indeed, that was a question the father often asked himself about a son who was
troubling him. What disconcerted the old man about Lassinans character was that self-
control. These suns were the ones by which the son, hardly knowing how to wear the
pants in the family and how to read the letter a spoke out loud in front of his father and
insulted his mother. Lassinan had always spoken in an even tone. Never a word too
many nor too loud. He compelled respect with his level-headed and well-thought-out
attitude. This was a boy one could not help but respect.
As you wish Lassinan, Mamadou surrendered. Allah willing, Abou will go to
school and Allah willing, we will survive.
The schoolmasters are going to hit his fat head, teased Tifi.
Do schoolmasters hit the children now? They see to it that the parents are hit in
another way. No, school is no longer like it was in the old days when the headmasters
went to the most remote areas to take the children and forced them to enroll in school.
Now, they refuse to take the children and then for that matter, what do the schoolmasters
teach them? To tell you the truth, school is not the same anymore. Only one more way
ofmilking the poor.
And its not only here in the village, because over there, in Blakorodougou ...


CHAPTER 5
PART TWO: THE PEOPLE THEY MILK
One
Soul and his wife returned from their trip just one week after Lassinans and
Issas departure. They had been unable to come back earlier because Souls father-in-
law was sick and they had to wait until his condition improved before asking for the way.
To tell the truth, Soul was not wild about the news of Abous departure to
school. It again meant the beginning of endless expenses. There was a chance his
sewing machine might never be bought. But Soul had a happy nature and he thought
that, surely, Lassinan could soon buy him a machine. And besides, in any case, Soul
was happy to be reunited with his friend Adebayo who had also just returned from a trip.
Adebayo had returned from his country.
Adebayo was a Nago, in other words a tradesman: a small shopkeeper.
Adebayos early days in the business were not well known, but you couldnt say they
went unnoticed. People said that Adebayo had started out by going from village to
village with his tray on his head, and on the tray were some combs, unhealthy ointments,
thread rolls, small dirty mirrors, candy bags and pocket knives that were occasionally
rusty. If you believe those who were witnesses to these early days, the secondhand goods
dealer often sold at a loss. His tray was nevertheless getting wider from day to day.
After some months of this business, Adebayo got a shop! The shop had the same lay out
as the tray. The shelves, at first empty, slowly began to overflow with stuff, cheap junk,
cans of food and sugar.
115


120
twice? He stayed a long time in Blakorodougou and nearly grew old in a tumultuous life.
Tired, practically good for nothing, he came back to Kongodjan.
And Tiefi would give each one of them a piece of his mind. He was brave, but
above all, he didnt have anything to lose. No wife or children. He could speak without
being afraid of reprisals. One day, under the palaver tree, he accused the village chief of
having embezzled fundsthe co-op fundsand he gave some proof that was not from a
screwball, which is how the powerful of the market saw him. But secretly, some
villagersthose who, in spite of everything, still loved truthrespected Tiefi.
Finally, old Mamadou decided to send Tiefi to Habibs home in Fagodougou.
Fagodougou.
Tiefi and Tigbi, Salias son, got out of the automobile. Tiefi smelled that air
polluted by gas fumes and garbage, that city air so different from the village air.
Fagodougou was nothing compared to the capital Blakorodougou or other capitals like
Accra, Abidjan or Bamako. But Fagodougou managed anyway to put a kind of trance on
Tiefi that tied him to his past. His past, that muddled life: the disreputable bars, the
women with make-up on, the rare balafon partiestwisted scenes at the heart of a city
that had already killed its traditional spiritthe brawls and the yes boss.
Yes, Tiefi thought. Yes, and after that? The city is my enemy as much as I
am my own enemy. I gave it all of myself: my youth, my enthusiasm. But in so far as
success in life boils down to the sum of its achievements, my life has been worthless. Of
course, my life has been rich in suffering, humiliations, some secret joys too. My life has
been rich in passions, determination, but in the eyes of my fellow villagers, my life has
only been a long joke with reality. Because I came back to the village with nothing. And


167
sleeping. Old Mamadou himself seemed to be swimming in a disaster against which he
could do nothing. Only Tiefi felt comfortable. He approved of his nephew. Whatever
their hatred or their admiration was that day, people understood that Lassinan was no
longer a mysterious child, but a threat to their money or a guarantor of security.
Allah yi hinan ndogo la, Lassinan concluded.
Yes, may God grant rest to the child! At any rate, it was as if the ceremony had
been cut short. They were spared long speeches from some people who usually spoke of
death as if they had died once already; people who described hell as if they had already
made a trip there.
When everyone had left, having taken kola nuts, fritters and other things with
them, Lassinan revealed his decision to his father.
I have decided not to go back to school anymore, baba. I would have liked to go
further, but whats the use! One day, you would die in my absence and that would not be
good. Therefore, my place is next to you, to help you finish the rest of your days
peacefully, to comfort my mother a little, and to try to help the whole village.
I am tired. Your mother too, Lassinan. And if you stayed, that would help us.
I wanted to go further to be able to help you out even more. But I think I need to
begin to do the little that I am capable of. As for the rest, there is hope. Theres Abou
who will grow up. And I will do my best to make sure he succeeds. As for me, I made a
request and it was accepted. When classes begin next term, I will come to teach here.
That will help us, Lassinan.
It will be hard, baba. Because Im not only coming to teach the children. Im
also coming to fight the perpetual exploitation of the people. It will be hard, for the rich


172
Ramadan (Arabic): the name of the ninth month in the lunar Islamic calendar, the month
in which the Koran was revealed to Muhammad. Believers must obey, for the
whole month, a rigorous fast forsaking all forms of consumption between sunrise
and sundown, this includes food, drink, cigarettes, and any form of sexual contact.
Satana (Arabic): Satan.
sgus (Dyula): balloon-shaped baskets.
soulamaya (Dyula): solidarity between believers.
sura (Arabic): a chapter of the Koran.
trti (Dyula): coffee crop.
ton (Dyula): an aggregate of people from the same profession with the idea of working
in a collective manner for the common good.
waldjou (Dyula): a saint.


171
haramou (Dyula): fraud, its fruit and the sin that accompanies them.
I hk to (Dyula): Pardon me my son.
I nan oulafe (Dyula): Come back this evening.
imam (Arabic): prayer leader.
Islam (Arabic): the religious faith of Muslims including belief in Allah as the sole deity
and in Muhammad as his prophet.
kadiaou (Anyi): a scoundrel.
karamoko d (Dyula): beginners; a child who is learning the Koran.
koro (Dyula): older brother.
kossiafou (Anyi): a hooligan.
lahi la ha (Arabic): surprise exclamation used when there is a drama.
Makan (Dyula): Mecca, a city in Saudi Arabia, birthplace of the prophet, Muhammad,
and holy city of Islam.
marabout (French, from the Arabic al-murabitun): Muslim holy man, healer, and teacher
said to have supernatural powers.
mogoya (Malinke): a great respect for human relationships.
muezzin (Arabic): Muslim singer who calls the faithful to prayer five times daily from
the minaret of a mosque. The devout stop whatever they are doing and face
Mecca to kneel and pray.
naforo (Dyula): money.
nan (Dyula): mother.
nansi dji (Dyula): a magic potion.
ninguin ninguin (Dyula): stories not at all clear, mandatory tips to employees.
pr (Dyula): a load of thirty kilograms.
Peul (Fulani): a predominantly pastoral ethnic group found throughout West Africa; also
known as Fulani.


23
Kourouma and Kon shift the readers attention to the past experiences of their
characters. In doing so, readers are given information, which they would otherwise not
have. Therefore, by using the narrative technique known as analepse, the authors are
able to provide a clear picture of the background and social circumstances surrounding
the lives of their characters.
Description is another significant element used by Kon and Kourouma. The
authors provide vivid images of events, places, and characters in their texts. These
descriptions not only support and contribute to the narration, but they also play an
integral role in the unfolding of events in the story. Kourouma describes, for example,
Famas weak condition in prison in these terms:
Fama was not made to perform hard labour, but his health was deteriorating.
Guinea-worm swelled in his armpits and knees. He was drying up; his eyes sank
into sockets deeper than graves, his fleshless ears stood out like those of a hare on
the alert, his lips grew thin and taut, his hair scanty. (The Suns of Independence
117)
Here, Kourouma presents a rather graphic but clear image of Famas state of health
caused by twenty years of hard labour. Kon gives an equally clear picture of Issas
lingering state of health in Traites:
The child, lying on a bambou mat, wrapped in a thick wool blanket, was sweating
and shivering with cold. His yellowed eyes vaguely stared at his big brother.
Souls hand rested on the childs forehead. His body was very hot and damp
with sweat. However, Issa was cold.28
These descriptions provide detail for the reader. At the same time, in these two particular
cases, they also cause the reader to feel an overwhelming sense of despair for Fama and
Issa. The mental images obtained from these descriptions allow the reader, indeed, to
grasp the reality and severity of the situations confronting these characters.
28 My translation. See chapter 5, Exploitation. Under the Blakoros Power, p. 158.


135
money! Lets hope they understand that there is only one true luxury: the mogoyal And
well be saved.
Shes right, insisted old Fatouma. She understands city talk. And she sees just
as much as they do. Therefore, they cannot scare her.
Very well, old Mamadou said. But I also will go to Fagodougou. That will
give me the chance to go shopping for food for the fasting month.
In Fagodougou, things happened very fast, too fast even and old Mamadou didnt
have time to really follow the events. The young headmistress went to Habibs home to
demand Tifis identity card. She threatened to file a police report for theft and assured
that this affair was not going to drag on in Fagodougou only. She threatened so much
that one of Habibs employees admitted that he had seen it fall. He had taken it and
naturally, he would be too pleased to hand it over to its owner as soon as possible.
Shia and old Mamadou were thus able to send the identity card to the police
station and the young woman insisted on seeing the police captain. They told her to wait.
The big boss, in his well-furnished back office, was probably in the arms of a well-
endowed creature. Wretched shame! Finally, they introduced Shia and Mamadou. The
little teacher explained why they had come and in her excitement, made it clear that she
had dealt with loads of policemen, chiefs and of the top rank.
Mamadou did not have a clue as to what she had said. But he was aware that it
was in the process of exploding, that the captains initial smile had faded away and as the
young woman spoke, the mans muscles tensed up even more.
... Have you asked yourself once, Chief, only once, what is in fact your role in
this country? At any rate, this role is not to spend your time drinking champagne with


165
On the fortieth day sacrifice, they said the prayer for the dead. Lassinan had
come. He participated in everything. They recited on the prayer beads long verses from
the Book and then the imamthe prayer leaderspoke for a long time:
Allah yi hinan d nan\ May Allah grant rest to the child, may Allah make the
ground light on him!
Amina the audience had whispered.
The raging man had continued:
To be honest, what is a life worth? Oh! What is our breathing worth? Nothing.
The world is a test to reach true life: paradise. We are passing through, and enduring
poverty is the only way to reach paradise, beyond. Those who go are happier than those
of us who stay. Therefore, there is no place for tears.
Of course ...
We have to bear life like a heavy burden. Yes. Its through this penance here that
we will fmd salvation tomorrow. What matters is prayer and acceptance. And old
peoples duty is to watch over their children, to prevent them from losing control in
ballrooms and forgetting God. For tomorrow, it was going to heat up, worse, bum ...
The imam was just about to give a realistic description of hell. But Lassinan had asked to
speak.
And then, what had he said?
He did not deny Gods existence, but he could not accept that God recommended
us to suffer on earth and take pleasure some place later. Mans poverty cant be a gift
from God, but the will of well-to-do men, eager to increase their fortune more and more.
Those who sing that life is nothing, that poverty is good, they are rich, and they cling to


64
feeling do we have for El Hadj Doulaye who, underneath his devout airs, is nothing but a
despicable exploiter? And what about Habib and Mori Ba? And ...
In the presence of all these characters, I experience a disgusting shudder and a
revolting feeling. Disgusting shudder and revolting feeling bom from the fact that
ancestral values, like the mogoya, that immense respect for human relations, dignity,
decency, and honesty, are scorned by the very sons of those values.
Thus, we witness in so-called modern Africa, the reign of the ones Amadou Kon
calls blakoros. In Bambara society, the blakoro is a young boy not yet circumcised. He
is therefore the young man who has not yet been initiated into real life. He does not have
the right to speak out: he is not yet a man. Yet the disruption of colonization and
independence put power back into the hands of the blakoros. Denying traditional values
under the influence of Western rulers without having mastered, for that matter, the values
brought to them from Europe, the blakoros establish a bastardized society by the
widespread imposition of the blakoroya, which is no longer a temporary condition.
In this decaying universe that emits fetid odors, the characters of Lassinan and the
headmistress are genuine models. They are there to explain to the people the new system
of which the people are the victims. They are trying to teach them a means of resistance.
Undoubtedly, the author of this narrative knows these people. He knows their
grief. He has remained attentive to the beating pulse of these people. And he also
deserves our admiration because, despite the decaying carcass, he believes in the Africa
of tomorrow. He believes in crushing that race of jackals who rip out the countrys guts.
What a beautiful example of faith!


140
You dont shut your doors properly, his sister Fatouma said.
Doors! They go through anything, those people. Through the door and the
window, sometimes the roof and even the wall.
To think that in the past theft was the lowest form of human disgrace! Before,
old Mamadou continued, they would prefer to die rather than steal. Now, it has become
a profession. Cant those people do anything else?
Over there, Tiefi continued, its not like in the village. No really, its not like
here where everyone knows each other, here where its difficult to suffer from hunger
since you always have help from others. They sometimes have nothing to do over there.
And sometimes they have nothing, absolutely nothing to eat. And then, going around
poorly dressed and hungry in the midst of abundance and luxury, thats how these ideas
get into a poor devils mind ..
And you, Tiefi, have you stolen before?
Tifi calmly looked at Soul.
No, he finally said. Its only because Ive had a lot of luck. Ive always been
fortunate enough to find work. Otherwise ...
The words hung in silence. Then, Tiefi resumed the conversation:
If you really look at it, what isnt theft today? The mandatory tips to the
schoolmasters, government employees, nurses, etc ... what do you call all that? The
interest rate loans from the rich ones in your village, what do you call that? They say,
nothing is free in this world. They would be better off saying nothing is honest. They
have legalized theft, thats what it all comes down to. And the biggest thieves are safe
from going to jail.


59
Kon:
Martin:
Kon:
Martin:
Kon:
Martin:
Kon:
Actually, there is not much, except that most of the people described are
Muslims. In the book, I do criticize the religious leaders, especially one
marabout who flees, but I do not criticize Islam. I criticize these people
because they have always gotten on my nerves, although I am Muslim.
These religious leaders behave in a certain way. You listen to what they
say, which is very proper, very strict, very this, very that, and then you
observe what they do which is quite often the opposite of what they say.
So, when I was a child, this contradiction and seeing these people would
always shock me. In fact, if there is one problem with Islam in the novel,
this would have to be it. There is a contradiction between the values
professed by the religious leaders, not by the people who follow them, and
then the failure of those who profess these values to respect them.
What is the significance of Cocody, dcembre 1972 found on the last
page of Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros? You also do the same at
the end of your other novels like Jusquau seuil de lirrel (Ayam, 4
septembre 1969), Les Frasques dbinto (Ayam, 25 aot 1970), and
Courses. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros (Lagrasse. septembre 1975).
These novels are often written over a long period of time. This is actually
a kind of definitive date where I tell myself that I am not going to touch
that novel anymore. So I know it is finished at a certain time. If not, I
would never finish. As long as the book has not gone to the publisher, you
can always continue working on it. So these dates mark the end.
There is some confusion surrounding the third volume of your series. I
read that Fuites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros was published in 1989, but
that your latest novel, published in 1997 and entitled Les Coupeurs de
tetes, was the third volume. Can you clarify all this for me?
In fact, Fuites has not been published, at least not under that name. I had
planned on writing the book. The first 2 volumes were to be followed by a
third called Fuites. But I did not write it. And then, later, I wrote Les
Coupeurs de tetes. But at the last minute, right up until Les Coupeurs was
published, I hesitated; I thought I could make Les Coupeurs the third
volume. In the last analysis though, it did not become the third volume.
There is a small trace in the novel that might make someone say that it is
indeed the third volume because of one character, Abou, who is the main
character in Courses. You find him in Les Coupeurs de tetes, but only a
little. You do not see him, but he is discussed. So he is really the only tie
between those two volumes.
Do you discuss your own books in the classroom, that is, are they a part
of the required reading?
No, but this semester I am going to do so.


101
Thank you, my brother, thank you. Allah will thank you for me.
One last thing. As you can see, I am poor; this is obvious to the naked eye. In
our days, the poor man is called wicked. My food is very simple. The child should not
be complicated. He will eat what we eat.
He will eat what you eat. In my home, he eats nothing special; quite the
opposite.
Then, its settled.
Thank you, my brother, thank you, God.
The mogoya was still therea great respect for human relationships. But the
mogoya was only in the heart of the old people, of certain old people. There was no hope
because it was dying with them. Among the youth, the new human relationships were of
a different category. Money was controlling them.
May Allah open the eyes of our sons and daughters before its too late! Amina.
In the afternoon, as soon as two oclock had rung, Mamadou set off again for the
school. The sun seemed even more oppressive, but the old man was walking more
assuredly. To have his son enrolled, he counted neither on his word nor on the pity that
one would have for him. Nowadays, the civil servants understood only one language
money. Mamadou patted his pocket. It was heavy. The wallet was there. Five thousand
francs, that was money. And to think he had always had that amount in his pocket and
that quite often, he had suffered from lack of money. Some days, he and his family had
eaten the sauce without fish or meat. And today, he was going to give these five
thousand francs to a drunkard and his wife, a prostitute.
Assalam alkoum, he called out at the door.


176
Snyder, Emile. Introduction. A Dream of Africa. By Camara Laye. New York: Collier,
1971. 1-13.
Tam-Tam. Le Petit Larousse. 1994 ed.
Traite. Grand Dictionnaire Larousse. 1993 ed.
Yansan, Aguibou Y. Decolonization in West African States with French Colonial
Legacy. Cambridge: Schenkman, 1984.


2
A study of Kons fiction in relation to several texts written by some authors from his
own generation
Kons use of language in Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros
The task of translating Traites into English
Cote dIvoire
Before European colonization, important kingdoms flourished in Cote dIvoire.
Among these kingdoms (which were closely related linguistically and socially to the
neighboring Asante kingdom) were the Abron, Anyi, Baule, Kong, and Sanwi (Mundt 5).
The Asante, who founded the famous Asante Empire, were related to the Akan people; by
the middle of the eighteenth century, this powerful empire practically dominated all of
modern Ghana, along with parts of Cote dIvoire (Boahen 54). The Anyi and Baule were
also Akan peoples; these two ethnic groups migrated into the forest region of Cote
dIvoire. Smaller ethnic groups also inhabited Cote dIvoire along its coast.
France made its initial contact with Cote dIvoire in 1637 when missionaries
landed at Assinie near the coast of what is today Ghana (Mundt 5). However, attempts at
permanent settlement were greatly hindered by the inhospitable coastline and other
conditions such as the oppressive climate and endemic diseases. In the eighteenth
century, French and other European traders sought gold, ivory, and especially slaves,
along the coast where trading posts were established. In 1843, the French began signing
treaties with the local chiefs of the Grand-Bassam and Assinie regions, placing their
territories under a French protectorate. Soon afterward, French explorers, missionaries,
trading companies, and soldiers gradually gained control of the coastal areas and began to


35
not even consider Kimou as the main character or hero because he really does not
accomplish anything.
The author makes use of analepse at the beginning of Les Saisons sches. which
reveals to the reader the events surrounding the death of Kimous parents under
colonialism. In addition, he uses African traditional elements such as proverbs (p. 55)
and songs (p. 10), which highlight the oral quality of the narrative.42 Les Saisons sches
depicts a series of situations in 30 chapters. I am referring to situations because the novel
does not have a plot, that is, in the traditional sense of the term. The author paints a
picture of the current social and political situation in independent Africa. Consequently,
the reader discovers that Africans have learned the ins and outs of the great political
game of the country, and as a result, corruption is the order of the day.
Kons Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros. is a powerful, heartfelt story that
can easily be read at one sitting. It begins with a brief message from the author, which
helps the reader to comprehend more clearly his intentions regarding the language used in
the text. Following Kons message is a preface written by Jsus Kouassi Yobou. In
the preface, Yobou briefly comments on the unfortunate turn of events about to unfold
in the story and he also pays homage to Kon. Following Yobous remarks is a short
prelude to the novel. It sets up the narrative and provides a backdrop of daily life in the
peasants village.
The 96 page novel is then divided into 2 parts that are broken down into chapters.
There are 4 chapters in part 1, which is titled, Difficile Chemin vers la Qute du Savoir
42 Elements of oral literature, particularly concerning Kons text, will be further discussed in the next
section.


Dedicated in loving appreciation to my father, Stephen A. Martin, Sr., my mother, Brigid
Cheri Martin, my brother, Dr. Stephen A. Martin, Jr., and my sister, Dr. Nicole Martin
Franks, for all of the moral and spiritual support, encouragement, determined optimism,
and words of wisdom that permitted the successful completion of this ambitious project.


164
He is dead!
Five
Oh! That long awaited crop, that crop that was to erase some financial worries, it
put tears in our eyes. Here, we still know that money cant replace the man, but that
money easily costs man his life. Money is nothing. We made a relentless god of it.
We harvested the last bean of coffee, with tears in our eyes. We dried, ground,
and sold it unenthusiastically. To make sure we earned enough to repay all the debts.
Old Mamadou no longer took an interest in work. Ever since the messenger had
brought the fatal news, it was like something had been crushed in him. Certainly, he had
seen dead people in his lifetime. But, this one here was different. In the past, he had
attributed everything to God. This time, he wondered if the child would have died if
Soul could have bought the medicine in time. The episode with the young male nurse
stunned him even more. Responsibility for this death fell especially on human beings
who could have done something, yet had done nothing. And, only afterward, Gods
responsibility. Oh, money! The crop only helped to repay debts. They paid their share
to Habib, they paid Akafu too. They repaid small debts here and there. They saved
twenty thousand francs for the fortieth day sacrifice of Issas death. There was only five
thousand francs left when the two workers, Mata and Drissa, got their share. All of a
sudden, all the projects were falling apart; the dream was turning into a nightmare. The
trip to the holy city, Souls machine .. Dreams! They didnt even think about them
anymore. Five thousand francs! The fruit of so much hard work! For the following
school year, they were going to have to run around everywhere to still find money, and
then during the fasting month, face Habib. Again. A vicious cycle where only prayer
could at times give some peace of mind.


128
Two thousand francs? Where do you want me to get them from?
If you dont have the two thousand francs, you will sleep in jail tonight.
Well, Tifi suggested, lets wait here. My friend Tigbi is going to go get it.
Go, Tigbi, well wait for you.
Tigbi left. The policeman and Tifi were watching each other. The audience,
no doubt finding that the scene wasnt exciting enough, began to disperse when it
happened. The policemans nightstick beat down on Tifs shoulder, then another blow
hit him on the ribs. Then, Tifi retaliated. His head-butt, all at once, threw the policeman
into the drainage ditch and the dirty water coated him. At that moment, another
policeman suddenly appeared, then another. Tifi received numerous blows before being
driven to the police station.
Two
These very simple people! These people who just want to smile.
And then this disorderly life, this life aimed at a little bit of happiness, but this life
riddled with complications springing up from the slightest thing. This life subjected
haphazardly to the mood of the powerful.
These men who are humiliated by their own sons.
These cash cows.
These people they milk.
This long exploitation which has followed upon another and which is everlasting.
Lets be afraid to tell the whole truth, wisdom teaches us.
Or else these tired people ...
There is total darkness in the village. The moon has been afraid to come out, or
else it also has its misfortunes to mourn. Darkness! A dreary calm runs through the


13
humanity: the risk of failure, that is death, remains absolute. The binto-Monique
couple is symbolic beyond the anecdote: willpower=life.14
Essentially, Kons narrative traces, in the first-person, a young mans awareness of those
setbacks that can completely alter an individuals life. For Graziano Benelli, Cette
oeuvre est bien accueillie par la critique car elle prsente une certaine originalit
dcriture, tout en soulignant les difficults quotidiennes auxquelles se heurte la jeunesse
de ce pays.15
Published in 1980, Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros depicts the experiences
and survival of Africas peasantry in a post-independence society. In the novel, old
Mamadou and his family are subjected to hard times in the village of Kongodjan. The
poor peasant family is faced with setbacks, especially with the blakoros in power, and
they have to endure suffering and hardship in the hope that a better day will come
tomorrow. In the preface to the novel, Jsus Kouassi Yobou explains the meaning of the
term blakoro:
In Bambara society, the blakoro is a young boy not yet circumcised. He is
therefore the young man who has not yet been initiated into real life. He does not
have the right to speak out: he is not yet a man.16
In Traites. Kon presents a family that must make sacrifices, which Mamadou does for
his children, and which Lassinan, the protagonist, ultimately does for the whole family.
The novel deals with a corrupt society where problems, which are just as
disturbing as the ones that existed in colonial Africa, are made evident through the
14 My translation. Robert Pageard addressed these words to Amadou Kon in a letter. The quote was taken
from the back cover of the 1980 edition of Les Frasques dbinto.
15 This work has been well received by critics because it presents a kind of original writing, while at the
same time stressing the everyday problems which the youth of this country must confront. My translation.
Graziano Benelli, Le Roman en Cote dIvoire, Regards sur la littrature de Cote dTvoire (Anna Paolo
Mossetto. Rome: Bulzoni, 1999) 184-185.
16 My translation. See chapter 3, Exploitation. Under the Blakoros Power, p. 64.


153
think about God. Once the prayer was finished, they immediately went home, they
stretched out again on the mats or else, those who could, began eating again.
That was the time when old Mamadou felt a mild sluggishness grab hold of him.
His eyes would close, but his mind, not entirely asleep, would listen to the young
peoples conversation; because, despite the fatigue, they persisted in staying up and
chatting in a friendly way, often talking about things which they had already talked about
at length some time before.
Mata, the manual laborer, would not stop talking about his return home where the
sweet and demure thought of a fiance, who was hoping for a royal dowry, was waiting
for him: the beginning of a marvelous life. Oh, that faraway thought of the girl left at
homebecause most farming workers came from homelands where coffee is not
cultivatedthat image was a kind of drug capable of destroying the working man! On
that point, Soul loved to tease Mata.
Hey Mata, what are you thinking about? Still thinking about the distant
Dorman?
Mata smiled:
Leave me alone, Soul, Im tired. I harvested three large bags today. And then,
there are so many red ants in the spot where I was harvesting. There are some kola trees
there full of ants that are invading everything around.
Look here, in spite of everything, you harvested three bags! You are a real
champion. But admit that she is the reason why you have so much strength to work. I
heard you singing:
Dorman, you tell me to come back to you
Your memory, Dorman, haunts me night and day


15
teach the others about the modem myths that are controlling them. He has every
intention of securing a teaching job at the school in the village, but surprisingly, does not
get the position for which he applied. Abou, instead, decides to accept a temporary
position at the Department for the Arts, where he feels he still might be able to do some
good for his people.
Kons latest novel, Les Coupeurs de tetes, was published years after the
completion of Courses. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros. In Les Coupeurs de tetes (19971,
Kon describes an African society that has been afflicted with many evils. For Lilyan
Kesteloot, an expert in the field of Francophone African literature, the novel is one of
chaos that portrays an apocalyptic atmosphere (270). Indeed it is an apocalyptic scene
where political corruption, crime, embezzlement, prostitution, illiteracy, and poverty have
all been established as a way of life. After having spent 15 years in Europe, Kassi, the
narrator, comes home only to find the city in this state of turmoil. Kassis destiny lies in
the social setting presented in Les Coupeurs de tetes.
Les Coupeurs de ttes has been hailed une oeuvre plus dense et mre.19 The
entire book is based on a metaphor; there are really no coupeurs de tetes." It is a
metaphor used by the author in order to depict an Africa where certain people do not
want others to think. Instead, they want to remove their tete," that is, their capacity to
think and reflect upon the problems in an attempt to come up with solutions for
themselves. Kon enjoyed critical acclaim to match the success of Les Coupeurs de tetes
when in 1999, he was awarded the GrandPrix Littraire de Cote dIvoire by the
Association des crivains de Cote dIvoire. The Fraternit-Matin newspaper reported
19 a more mature and solid work. My translation. Regards sur la littrature de Cote dIvoire, p. 187.


66
swimming in blissful optimism. He is lucid, a lucid visionary, as he happened to say
one day.
This book raises questions and tries to propose solutions. It is certainly not an
essay. Is it perhaps a poetic novel in which the author paints with emotion and sensitivity
an African milieu that he knows perfectly well because he lives in it? The author says it
is a tale. Perhaps. A tale where the French language itself has been fashioned to depict
the African reality of a country that does not need a name and whose capital is
Blakorodougou.
As for myself, I salute in Amadou Kon the African youth who, in post
independent times, feel fully conscious and responsible. I hail him as the one who alerts
the conscience of African masses wronged, fooled, robbed, emptied of their substance.
And I admire his lucidity and his boldness.
Jsus Kouassi Yobou.
Journalist at the R.T.I.


99
A simple way of saying! But Mamadou resumed:
You know, the childrens return to school, with its string of problems ... At the
village, in Kongodjan, our school has only three grades. But this year, Issa is going into
fourth grade. He is forced to come here to Fagodougou. So, I wanted to see the
headmaster to have him enrolled.
Is it done?
My goodness, so far my day has not been very good. At any rate, I went to the
headmasters home. But I dont know if I saw him.
What do you mean you dont know?
To be honest, I saw a woman who was telling off a man. So I could not believe
that that man ...
But it is him, the headmaster! Bakary exclaimed.
By the power of Allah, Mamdou mumbled.
Yes, it is him. His wife spends her time telling him off when shes not in bed
with another boy. Really, one will see everything nowadays!
But with all his brains, all the knowledge he has in his head! How can he
command respect from the other schoolmasters or the children?
Before, he was not like this. Before his marriage, he was nice. But he got
married and its as if he had married a big pain. He even began drinking. How did he
welcome you?
He shouted a lot of things in French. As God is my witness, he was not a happy
man. As I was leaving, his wife told me to come back in the evening. She spoke in
Dyula.


113
Nevertheless, Akafu created no difficulty for Mamadou. He let the old man
recount his misery while scrutinizing him with his small red eyes. Finally, he asked him:
How much?
Ten thousand francs, Mamadou risked. That will be a great help, for my
children, their transportation, their uniforms and their school supplies ...
Is that all?
That will be very good. Really, giving me this money is saving me and my
family and Allah will reward you.
Fifteen thousand francs after the crop. And Im not asking you for a field as
guarantee.
That will be good.
The laconic Akafu opened the chest that was always within his reach and he
counted ten one thousand franc bills for Mamadou.
Allah yi here ke iy\ May Allah shower you with his blessings, Mamadou
repeated.
He was really sincere. Why should Akafu go to hell and not El Hadj Doulaye?
That same evening, Lassinan asked if he could leave for school. Classes started
again on the following day. He would make sure to leave Issa with his tutor in
Fagodougou before continuing his journey to Blakorodougou.
The entire family accompanied Lassinan and Issa to the bus station. Lassinan was
sad. His fathers string of blessings did not bring him peace. His mothers presence, her
silent and loving support could not ease the djoussou kassiher sons despair.
Why are you crying, koroT Abou asked him.


GLOSSARY 169
REFERENCE LIST 173
Works by Amadou Kon 173
Scholarly and Critical Works 174
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 177
vi


159
you do when faced with a sick person? Treat him, above all give him all the care and
attention that you can. And pray. Allah, save this child who has not even lived, this child
who has up until now only benefited from his familys poverty. My God, make it so that
this child lives, grows up, gets his family out of poverty, works for his country, to do
away with the poverty of the world. Amina.
The white doctor examined the child, made a long face, spoke in French and
wrote on a bit of paper. Finally, he held out the prescription for Soul. The black male
nurse translated.
He wonders why you didnt come earlier to the hospital. At any rate, he says to
quickly buy the medicine.
How much could all that cost? Soul asked with a worried look.
It costs a lot, the nurse said. Yes, a lot. Only ..
Soul was waiting for the rest of the sentence. Bakary had already understood.
How much? Bakary said.
I could give it to you for a good price. And God knows how expensive it is. At
the pharmacy, you will get it for four thousand francs.
What kind of a bargain can you give us? The child is really sick and if you help
us, Allah will repay you some day. You know, we are poor and the coffee crop hasnt
quite come yet, but the child ...
Disease never waits until we are ready for it, Bakary continued. Is that a
reason to die because we are poor? Help us, son.
Three thousand francs.


CHAPTER 3
KONS PREFACE
This book is a cry.
The cry of a blakoro who has always maintained very solid ties with the people.
It is also, and especially, an autopsy; the autopsy of a degenerate society in which
corruption has been institutionalized.
It is an acknowledgment of the failure of a liberation in which people had put too
much hope.
For the colonized, bastardized, scorned, and starving African people, the end of
the long colonial night and the coming of independence was supposed to constitute the
beginning of a new era marked by the rehabilitation of values denied until then. Alas!
Alas three times! It did not take into account that other race of abusive starvers created
by colonization and coming forth from the very womb of Africans. The hope, bom on
the eve of liberation, was as great as the disappointment, afterwards, was immense.
The disappointed people assert a bitterness that Amadou Kon reveals to us. He
traces for us the peoples exploitation in a manner that sometimes is meant to be lax or
casual. But, lets not be fooled. Amadou Kon has chosen a subject that is so delicate, so
tragic, that only a tone of voice like the one he uses can allow him to speak of it without
crying.
In fact, dont we feel like crying when we see the male nurse refusing to take care
of a child on his deathbed just because they did not grease his palm? What other
63


158
could no longer get out of bed. He says that his entire body is aching, especially the
joints. Well my wife told me that it had to be djakoudjomalaria. So we called an old
friend who knows the cure for djakoudjo. Thats the treatment we have been following
since yesterday.
Has there been an improvement?
We cant tell...
Soul went to Issas bedside.
The child, lying on a bambou mat, wrapped in a thick wool blanket, was sweating
and shivering with cold. His yellowed eyes vaguely stared at his big brother. Souls
hand rested on the childs forehead. His body was very hot and damp with sweat.
However, Issa was cold.
Issa, Soul called, Issa ...
Im cold ..Im cold, the child answered.
His sick and empty eyes fixed a vague and desperate look on his helpless big
brother.
Im going to send him to the hospital, Soul said to Bakary.
I would have already done so, but the white mans medicine is ineffective
against djakoudjo. Thats why I chose our own medicines.
Youre right, but we have to send him to the hospital. That could just as well not
be djakoudjo.
Fine. Well take him to the hospital.
The child was in bad shape. Soul saw it. He felt that pain of this little frail body
that no one else could suffer for another person. Such is illness. Death also. What do


97
Mamadou ate heartily. The meal was eaten in silence. Which mouth do we eat with and
which one do we speak with? They were eating in silence and unwittingly, Mamadou
began to think about his friend, Bakary, and what his life had been like.
To be honest, Bakary and Fagodougou had led similar lives. At a very young age,
Bakary had refused to work the land and his father had sent him to Fagodougou. There
he began his apprenticeship with a great master tailor. Everyone said it at the time:
Bakarys apprenticeship was painful. A semi-slavery, lets call things as they are.
Spiteful gossipers had reported to his father that he was simply the houseboy at his bosss
home. But those days were still the ones of the dkisssreal children who were kind-
hearted and who exceeded the blakoroya although the initiation had already died or
degenerated. Therefore, in only a half-dozen years, Bakary knew how to sew better than
his boss and soon competed with the great masters of Dakar, Abidjan, and Bobo. It was
just at the time when Fagodougou was at its peak, the time when great Muslims still had
money and were not satisfied with large, blue or white richly embroidered houbous.
Everyone knew that in Fagodougouand even as far as BlakorodougouBakary was
the best when it came to sewing houbous. The mark of his machine had something
particular, inexplicable. There was a sudden flourish of fame; money came by itself.
So, what did Bakary do with his money? It would have been impolite to ask him.
In any case, they knew one thing. The great tailor was almost suffocated by his
numerous friends, his relatives who came out from the woodwork. Each one wished him
well. And to prove it to him, they would offer him their daughter to marry. What mark
of friendship or kinship goes beyond that? And Bakary, stunned, no longer knew how


143
Hes giving his wife a dressing-down.
And him, the other one, wheres he?
He took off. Oh, the poor man, he was stark naked!
Lahi la ha\ Stark naked?
Without the slightest piece of underwear. Naked as a worm. Had he foreseen
such an outcome?
Oh, Allah! And on this first day of the month of Ramadan!
Assamoi finally showed up. Right away, there was silence accompanied by
questioning looks. Visibly, anger left the man breathless. And since he didnt hide his
business, he insisted on satisfying everyones curiosity. So, he told it all.
One rainy evening, Assamoi had welcomed a shady individual wearing sloppy
clothes and his scrawny, sly-looking acolyte. Later on, the so-called Mori Ba had
claimed to be a great marabout, and even something like a saint. Assamoi had soon
regretted having shown hospitality to such a charlatan. But he had controlled himself. At
the start, Mori Ba had this cowering look that could move anyone. But finally, the man
had proclaimed himself waldjou and had begun to assume those airs of a haughty and
scornful prince. And then, do you know what Mori Ba had offered Assamoi? The
kadiaouthe scoundrelhad offered to increase his money tenfold, so there. Yes, Mori
was asking him for ten thousand francs, which he would turn into one hundred thousand
brand new francs just by using some small magic formulassome crissis. Assamoi had
made it clear to him that he was not bom yesterday, that he had just about had it up to
here with the saint waldjou and that if he didnt keep quiet, he could drag him before the
police who, undoubtedly, would give him some years in jail to increase tenfold!


152
they are the end result. Coins are brand new and shiny during the crop. Oh, but the road
that leads to this money is tortuous and steep!
Still earlier than usual, they ate their breakfast. It was around four oclock in the
morning. Because they were in the month of Ramadan, and because they would not eat
all day. At dawn, they covered themselves with ashes or some other unsavory powder to
protect themselves from the constant bite of red ants which some coffee trees were
packed with. And with basket in hand, they gathered precious fruits while whistling love
songs or work songs.
Beautiful girl, wait for me.
When I have plenty of money
I will give you the greatest of dowries
Be patient, beautiful girl.
Once the basket had been filled, they emptied it into a bag, once the bag had been
filled, they immediately carried it to the drying sheds on which they dumped the coffee
beans to dry. And they would start all over again. At twelve oclock, they didnt go
home. Since it was the fasting month, it was pointless to waste time. They worked.
They had to harvest one to two large bags of coffee a day. They worked without making
a big fuss about being tired and hungry.
They went home at sunset. And immediately they broke the fast, satisfied their
hunger and rested. After a quick wash, they took a satisfying gulp of water, then they
said the prayer. Next, they tried to drink the millet broth, eat some slices of papaya or
pineapple and, stretched out on the bamboo mats, they would realize the weight of their
exhaustion. But they still had to go carry out the long prayer, the last one of the night. It
was long and exhausting and some old people, already worn out, dozed off standing
while the imam himself tried not to fall asleep. At that point, they were truly too tired to


95
Mamadou took a risk. He entered as silent as an eel. The couple did not seem to
have noticed the presence of the intruder and the old man witnessed a scene that left him
dumbfounded. The woman, standing, one hand on her hip and the other with a stretched
index finger heading dangerously towards the mans eye, the woman was shouting,
gesticulating as if someone had drenched her with burning coals. The man, rather
shabby, sunk in his armchair, his head low, was babbling confused answers, hardly loud
enough to be heard. The couple was definitely arguing. These things happen to
everyone, old Mamadou admitted. But this couples behavior made him uncomfortable.
That woman who was speaking, dominating that man ... that man could not be the
headmaster. Such a man could not have the strength to run a school. At that moment, the
man noticed him.
Hey you, what the hell are you up to?
Like a jack-in-the-box, the man jumped from his armchair.
So, you no longer knock at the door, you old imbecile?
He was speaking in French and Mamadou could not understand anything. But the
man was now threatening. He seemed to have gotten back all his virility and the old
man, fearing for his old body, began to apologize.
/ hke topardon me my son. I said hello and no one answered, and I heard
people talking. I came in. Pardon me, in the name of Allah.
What do you want?
My son ..
There is no room in my school; and besides, if your son is as rude as you, hed
better stay in your concession. Anyway, I dont have the time now ...


80
evolved, the stronger old Mamadous conviction. He would repeat in an assured tone but
without passion: We are witnessing the end of the world. Its true, the world is ending.
His conviction was strong because he was a pious Muslim who lent an attentive ear to the
maraboutsthose good marabouts of the past who understood Allahs language. One of
his old friends, a venerated marabout, had told him: When you see the son answering
his father out loud, when you see him screaming at his mother, then dont ask yourself
anymore questions; when you see three-legged lambs and tailless dogs, dont ask anyone
anymore: the world will be at its end. The world will end with the blakoros in power. It
will come. It will surely happen. It is written. But as the saying goes: when a prophet
predicts the end of the world, he predicts his own end. And later, the marabout himself
had died. But his words seemed to be confirmed ...
Of course now and before, it was like the wrong and the right sides. Before it was
better. Before before, it was a lot better. There was no possible error. The world was
coming to its end. Did real men still exist? This ridiculous world that no longer tolerated
real men could not last. Nevertheless, it was curiously well organized. Solid even.
Certainly, the useless headmaster had left. But another would come, same as the
one before ... or worse even. For the new school year, the same acrobatics would start
up again with renewed vigor. Those who had kids to enroll were already displaying a
feverish activity. They had started selecting their best yam tubercles, their best
developed bunch of bananas, the largest fish from their catch, the biggest game from their
hunt. And they were storing all that to offer it to the headmaster and enter into his good
graces.


55
limited to the village level and it stands aloof from national or
international politics. It is written in a sober, very controlled, often
classical prose. Its object is to conjure up the Africa of the bush
confronting itself.55 Do you agree with her?
Kon: Critics distinguish between the regional novel and the Parisian novel. But
what is a regional novel? If you write about a small region near Bordeaux,
are you writing a regional novel? This is not my definition; this means
nothing. I agree that the book describes a particular locality, though it is
not as specific as it could be. I think the problems described in these
books are the same for all regions where, for example, coffee is grown,
such as regions of the forest in Africa, in Cameroon, and the Congo. So
the book is not as locally defined as that. This is always the problem with
French critical expressions like regional novel.
Martin: How do you feel about translations?
Kon: I do not have a problem with translations. For example, I have read
Russian literature, which I like, in French. In the beginning, I read
American novels in French. Therefore, it seems to me that translations are
necessary. When I was in high school, I would read tales by Edgar Allan
Poe, but in French. So I think translations are necessary to reach a wider
audience.
Martin: You have said that your wife has translated a few of your books into
English, but that they have not yet been published. Which books has she
translated? A gentleman was also in the process of translating Les
Frasques dbinto. Has that translation been completed? Published?
Kon: My wife has not finished translating Les Coupeurs de tetes. It is too bad
because there were publishing houses that wanted to print the text. But so
far, she has not finished. Jusquau seuil de lirrel was translated a long
time ago, but probably because of my carelessness, we did not really look
for a publisher because I would always say to myself, no, I am going to
write better books later on. So I do not know if this was a good strategy,
but that is what I did. And as for the young man who translated Les
Frasques dbinto. he did, but it has not been published yet; we have to
find a publisher. Two of my plays have also been translated into English,
but not published: De la chaire au tron (Mary Lee Martin-Kon) and Les
Canaris sont vides [The Bins are emptvj (Armand Falk). So we have all
these texts that are translated but not published. Perhaps we will begin
with your translation.
55 Lilyan Kesteloot, Turning Point in the Francophone/African Novel: The Eighties to the Nineties, New
Trends and Generations in African Literature, eds. Eldred Jones and Marjorie Jones (Trenton: Africa World
Press, 1996) 10.


163
Soul, your little brother?
He is really sick, Nan. But the doctor said that he was going to recover, and that
we should quickly bring the medicine.
Tomorrow, old Mamadou interrupted, we will go together to buy the medicine.
Yes, I am coming with you, Soul. I have to see him.
Baba?'
Yes...
You have not tried to see the path, you have not tried to see clearly?
Yes, of course I have. I went to the neighboring village and I saw Mouroulaye.
He seems to be a serious marabout. He told me the illness is serious, but that if I made
the sacrifices he showed me, it would be okay. I have already made the sacrifices.
Tomorrow, we will leave.
Perhaps I could also come, Tifi said.
What would be the point of us all going, Tifi? We would be wasting money;
now we need money to buy the medication.
May Allah give us tomorrow!
Amina.
And the next day, on the dreary morning, before old Mamadou and Soul could
even go to the station to catch the truck for Fagodougou, the messenger had arrived on
his bike. With his head low, the man had reported the news he had received from
Bakary.
D bananthe child is gone.
And the unbelievable cry burst out of Souls chest:


24
Space in the novel, as it relates to location, is similarly described by Kon and
Kourouma. Essentially, there are two distinct locations to consider: the village and the
city. Traites alternates from village to city; the narrative begins and ends in the village,
unlike the narrative in Les Soleils des Indpendances, which begins in the city and ends
in the village. The peasants, who are depicted in Kons Traites, dwell in the village of
Kongodjan. The poor village is considered a peaceful place, far from the tumultuous life
that exists in the city of Fagodougou, among others. For old Mamadou, it is a familiar
territory where he feels most comfortable, and where some individuals still show him
respect. As for Fama, he is still the respected prince of Horodougou, the last legitimate
Doumbouya, in the poor village of Togobala. He is neither insulted nor looked down
upon and called a beggar, which is the case in the fast-paced city whose name has not
been specified. This particular city, depicted in Les Soleils des Indpendances by
Kourouma, has an African quarter, which is poor and very dirty, and a European quarter,
which is clean and luxurious. In Traites, the nouveau riche Africans have moved into
an area of Fagodougou, which was formerly the European quarter of the city:
There only, two-storied homes stood. This quarter had remained the Business
District, the most active Center of the city. The big market and its enormous
rusty roof, the only cinema, and the only dance hall were located there. And on
the ground floor of the two-storied homes, Syrian and Lebanese shopkeepers had
replaced the European colony.29
The description of space in the novels is precise. The reader learns that the city is,
overall, a place of desolation and scheming for the Africans in Les Soleils des
Indpendances: corruption is the order of the day in the city portrayed in Traites. In spite
of oppression, the villages presented in both texts offer a haven of tranquility absent from
29 My translation. See chapter 4, Exploitation. Under the Blakoros Power, p. 93.


102
Come in, someone shouted.
It was the woman, alone. Thank you Allah.
I have come to arrange things for my son.
Yes, what is the matter with him? she said in a superior tone as if men, blakoros
even, were not passing over her.
In my village, the school only has three grades and my son is going into the
fourth grade.
Is he really going up to the next grade?
Yes, I have the papers.
Mamadou took them out of his fat pocket and gave them to the lady. She glanced
at them, pouting. Finally, she said:
He has not done well.
What! Over there, the schoolmaster had said to Mamadou that Issa was among
the best. At the passage exam, he had been ranked third out of forty students. So what?
Mamadou understood. It was time to make his money talk. He slipped his hand back
into his pocket, and took out the old wallet. He took out the five thousand francs bill.
The woman saw it, but did not show any excessive enthusiasm. She continued to stare at
the childs attendance certificate. She said:
We could certainly do something for him. I think he can do well.
Mamadou held out the bill.
For your kola nut, he whispered.
And he immediately regretted it. A lady does not chew the kola nut. He had
spoken without thinking. Fortunately, the lady apparently had not paid attention. She


78
Your parents have their life. You, you have your own that you must build
meticulously while you still have the time.
My parents have always taken care of me. They have sacrificed themselves so
that I would succeed.
That was their duty. God condemns parents who neglect their children.
And what about children who neglect their parents?
Its not the same thing. The child can in no case be considered an investment.
One day you will set up home and start your own family. You will have your own
children and you will have to take care of them and not your parents.
Lassinan had not been able to respond. Much later, he had understood that in any
society, at a certain stage of development, the child becomes a necessary asset, a
guarantee for the old days of parents who never manage to save the slightest amount of
money. Lassinan understood that especially in his social stratum, the child remained an
investment for a long time to come. The survival of old parents demanded that. And
Lassinan accepted it. But he had just finished tenth grade in the lyce and, a studious
boy, he had begun tasting the delights of intellectual work. He was only two years away
from the baccalaurat.
Lassinan waited for the farming civil servants hour after hour. To kill time and
also to make himself useful, he took some cut rattan, carefully scooped out, and he started
to make a basket that would surely be used during the coffee harvest. Late in the
afternoon, the young man finished weaving the basket. The civil servants had not come.
They were no longer going to come. And that evening, when old Mamadou returned
home from the field, he learned with indifference that the civil servants had missed their


70
them, even if it meant not being able to give free rein to the great dream that obsessed
him.
Breakfast was over.
When do you leave, Lassinan?
Old Mamadous tone of voice was almost indifferent. Nevertheless, one could
detect there a hint of seriousness, even anguish.
School opens in fifteen days, replied Lassinan.
Already! his uncle Tiefi exclaimed.
Yes.
Lassinan was a calm boy, too calm even, people said. His self-control bordered
on indifference. But behind that placidness was a mind in constant movement. Lassinan
observed his father who, staring into space, seemed to have forgotten that he had just
asked a question. He also took a quick glance at his two younger brothers. The news of
the return to school had given Issa the chills; about ten years old, he was going into the
fourth grade. On the other hand, Abous eyes were sparkling with joy. He was six years
old and was to go to school this year only. Two weeks from now, a good-looking khaki
suit, brand-new shoes and off to discover the wonders of school life! Abou was so
excited that he had not been able to sleep for a month. In fact, Issa thought, he truly had
no idea what school was all about.
Im going to lose a half months work, old Mamadou finally sighed. And to
think of those laborers today who can no longer bend down ... They remain standing,
damage the grass and claim to having cleared the field. One has to keep an eye on them
so that the work is done correctly.


83
A houseboy! You, if you were married, would you and your wife eat a meal
cooked by a houseboy?
If my wife works, we wont have any other choice.
But Lassinan, your mother works and she cooks. But Lassinan ...
He was choking:
But son, eating the meal cooked by a boy, all your life! Do you realize! This
kind of meal does not give strength. With such food, you will never be a real man, a
strong man. First of all, a womans lot is to cook the meal, then to take care of the
children. The rest comes afterwards.
The new headmistressshe was really a womanarrived two days after the date
anticipated for her arrival. That day, Lassinan had gone to the new cocoa plantation. He
had accompanied the farming civil servants who had finally come to do their work. And
in the evening, when Lassinan came back to the village, the comments about the woman
prodigy were unlimited.
Allah, she is so beautiful! But a woman like that, who would dare speak to her
as one speaks to a woman?
Times are changing too quickly and are changing men at the same time. But, a
woman is a woman.
Oh, those civil servants are truly lucky! Money, beautiful women: my son must
become an important civil servant to avenge me.
And her husband, has he come too?
Who said she has a husband?


133
minimal contact, I believe I know you. I am an ungrateful son here, a witness to too
many sufferings and nearly escaping the weight of so much uncertainty. Nevertheless,
its providing me with more strength to undertake the struggle. I dont even know
anymore if I will continue in this effort.
Here also, there are things that make you wonder. Im in the tree nursery and
Im watching the sprouting seeds. The other day, the co-op administrative committee
election took place here at the lyce. You should have seen them. They all wanted to be
president or general treasurer. To have free access to the cash box. Here are the growing
seeds. Terribly disturbing. Here also, there is work to do. But Im just one seed among
many others.
Give my greetings to my parents.
And if you can, help them. Help the whole village.
Lassinan
And on that dreary morning, those who hadnt gotten any rest that night, those
who had stayed up, overwhelmed by the weight of suffering and gloom, got up again.
And they met again.
The young headmistress entered old Mamadous concession. Souls wife saw
her, became flustered and called her husband. He sprung out of his rattan armchair where
he had been moping. The young headmistress greeted him; Soul responded. They made
some room for the teacher. Naturally, she sat down.
And how is your father? she asked.
Hes in his room. Hes getting ready to leave.


142
he found himself to be Mori Bas host. You couldnt even say that he had a certain
respect for the old or the rich. One thing was certain. Assamoi was used to saying what
he thought about everything. Hence, his friendship with Tiefi. A friendship, lets say,
sealed by alcohol. What friendship lasted longer than that one? Hadnt Assamoi dared to
support Tiefi during the events which followed the founding of the co-op? Assamoi had
made known his need for freedom to whoever was willing to listen to him. What lack of
respect goes beyond that one?
Indeed screams were bursting forth, followed by yelling.
Its coming from Assamois home, Soul claimed.
Lets go see whats happening, Tiefi said.
You go, Im too tired, said old Mamadou.
When Tifi, Soul, and Mata, the worker, got to Assamois home, nearly the
entire village had already gathered there and comments were going nineteen to the dozen.
Small puzzling phrases were being said here and there.
Really, in a henhouse!
Im telling you its true.
Lahi la ha\ Not even somewhere else!
And him, again, him, the waldjou\
Mori Ba in person. Oh! If you had seen him ...
Im trying to imagine it. The world is upside down.
And little by little, the unspeakable was being pieced together. They began to
vaguely understand and the scandal left some people speechless.
Wheres Assamoi now?


51
Martin:
Kon:
Martin:
Kon:
Martin:
Kon:
And then you went on to study at universities in Abidjan and France. You
studied literature and, specifically, you researched West African literature
as a Humboldt Fellow. Why did you decide to teach and do research on
African literature?
That was a bit by chance. I did it only because I loved literature. I loved
to read and write ever since middle school. And then, naturally, I earned a
B.A., and later an M.A., etc. So one thing led to the next. This is actually
something I have not thought about. Maybe I regret it. I probably should
have done something else because teaching does not help me much with
my writing, and the research and literary analysis are different from
writing fiction.
Why do you write?
I began writing at an early age but at a time when the colonial problems
had been resolved, at least from a legal standpoint. From the start, I did
not write to criticize or defend anything. I wrote tales and traditional
stories that I had heard during evening gatherings. I also invented stories
which attempted to describe my vision of the world, my experience. I
considered literature a game where the imagination took delight in
creating a universe where the writer was in charge. Then, I realized that
writing could not be a simple game, but rather a responsibility I had
towards my readers. From then on, I had to figure out a way to bring
together traditional African values and Western industrial values. I was
also concerned about the relations between people in present-day African
society. So I write to try to clarify the rules of the game. I write to
encourage the exploited to understand these rules and refuse all kinds of
abuses. However, just as I became aware that literature could not be a
game, I also realized that I had few answers to offer my readers.
Therefore, I had to ask myself the important questions that were of interest
to my country, my continent, and my world. And I continue to write
because of the pleasure I receive from expressing myself and liberating
myself from my obsessions. I write because it allows me to think
intensely about privileged moments. Though I do not try to fool myself
about the power of literature, I also write because I believe that literature
has always contributed to making humanity more human.
When did you realize that writing was what you wanted to do?
Well, it just so happened that I have done it because it was fun, since
middle school or high school.
Does inspiration play an important role when your write? Is it necessary?
Martin:


89
He was going to have his little brother enrolled. He was going to even do better.
His stubbornness had become a kind of wager. Everyone was impatiently waiting for the
outcome.
Three
That night, old Mamadou was restless. Even more, he was worried. Of course!
He planned to go to Fagodougou the next day because of Issa. He had to try to find him a
place at the regional school and then a tutor also. All that was worrying him. He knew it
would be difficult to find a place at the city public school. He also knew it would not be
easy to find a good tutor for Issa. The city was no longer the village where, by entrusting
his son to you, a man would honor you with his trust. City men had forgotten the
meaning of hospitality that their ancestors had. They did not have the time to take care of
others. Mamadous only hope in Fagodougou was Bakary, the master tailor. Bakary had
perhaps not forgotten the manners of his ancestors, but he was too poor and he could
refuse to take in Issa.
That night, while thinking about his trip for the following day, old Mamadou slept
very badly or, to be honestAllah says that the truth alone is goodthe old man could
not sleep a wink all night.
It was always the same on the eve of the new school year. Problems were piling
up: lots of things to do and without a cent. And yet, only money could help solve
problems. But where was he to find money? No, its not that he wanted to fill his
pockets. He wanted a little money, only enough to be able to take care of his family.
Oh, each year, to be able to nourish his family properly, dress it decently, send the
children to school without having to tell about his misery to the wealthy! But where
could he find the money, just enough to avoid certain humiliations? Where could he find


UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
3 1262 08557 1858


5
oriented toward and deriving from economic exploitation and overt racism. The Vichy
regime controlled Cote dIvoire and, basically, French West Africa until 1943 (Yansan
27). After the fall of the Vichy regime, Cote dIvoire became a territory in the Union
Franqaise. This political entity replaced the French colonial empire and inaugurated a
number of governmental reforms, including giving Africans the right to organize
politically and abolishing forced labor. In 1946, Flix Houphout-Boigny, a politician
and physician4 bom in Cote dIvoire, founded the Parti Dmocratique de la Cote dIvoire
(P.D.C.I.). That same year, he also helped found the Rassemblement Dmocratique
Africain (R.D.A.), the leading pre-independence interterritorial political party in French
West Africa (David 32).
Cote dIvoires political history is closely associated with the career of Flix
Houphout-Boigny. For many years, he represented Cote dIvoire in the French National
Assembly, devoting much of his effort to interterritorial political organization and further
improvement of labor conditions for African farmers. As a minister in the French
government, Houphout-Boigny also played a major role in drafting the 1956 Reform act,
the loi-cadre, which established universal suffrage in the overseas territories and vested a
number of powers in the elected territorial governments of French West Africa. In 1958,
Cote dIvoire, along with many other French territories, joined the Communaut
Frangaise (formerly L Union Frangaise) under General Charles de Gaulles leadership.
Pressure, however, from the French colonies to achieve independence soon began to
grow within the Communaut. As a result, de Gaulle offered full independence from
4 Houphouet-Boigny graduated from the cole Nrmale William Ponty in Dakar in 1925 as a medical
doctor. He was one of the first of his ethnic group to complete the entire course of education under the
colonial system (Mundt 82).


114
I am not crying, Abou. Surely, thats not the solution. Perhaps one day, you and
the men of your generation will find the solution.
And never forget to say your prayers Lassinan, old Mamadou finally
recommended.
Prayer. I dont know either if the solution lies only in that direction.
The car moved off, leaving old Mamadou perplexed.


109
pr is around three thousand five hundred francs. Therefore, Doulaye was doing
Mamadou a service, but Mamadou and all those who were in his situation were making
Doulaye richer every year.
No, Mamadou had not come to beg for charity. If anything, for a simple service
that would be a lot more convenient for Doulaye than for Mamadou.
The third time, Doulayes youngest wifeshe had to be about fifteen years old,
but that was no ones businesssaid shyly that Doulaye was sleeping and that he should
not be disturbed. Sleeping at such an hour! It was time for the first afternoon prayer.
Had Doulaye already finished praying and was he already sleeping? Mamadou was not
quite sure. Leave again and come back? Indeed, he was not a child, nor an imbecile.
Poverty favors acceptance, forces acceptance of humiliation, but that does not mean it
stops someones awareness of humiliation, nor that it makes someone an idiot. Mamadou
was looking at the young woman:
I must see him, my child. This is the third time that I have come.
He remained silent. The young girl was also looking at him. She no doubt
wanted to tell him something, but she seemed to be afraid. Afraid of her co-wives, of her
husband?
I must see him, my child.
She lowered her head and silently whispered:
Come in, uncle, he is here.
Thank you my child, thank you for having allowed me to step inside your home.
May Allah grant you many children.


31
Marabouts play interesting roles in Dents and Kons respective texts. They can
be defined as Muslim holy men, healers, and teachers believed to have supernatural
powers (Robinson 25). In the novel Masseni. Dem seems to have taken the opportunity
to attack the character of these individuals. On the one hand, the reader learns that
marabouts can help bring peace and resolution to a situation that has threatened a family;
on the other hand, they learn that marabouts can resort to trickery and steal money from
innocent people by making them believe that they only have their best interest at heart.
In the beginning, Dady Konat does have his suspicions, for he is well aware of how
good marabouts should act:
The good marabouts, those who are worthy of the name, do not ask to be paid
before carrying out a job. They only accept a reward if the work they have
carried out is a success, and if tangible and positive results come from it.
Furthermore, they do not set a price, for one cannot put a pricetag on Gods name.
If the client is satisfied, he gives what he can, and the real marabout does not
complain.37
Nevertheless, Dady takes this risk for his wifes sake and trusts that the marabout,
Karamoko, will find a cure for her sterility. In doing so, he agrees with all of the
marabout's requests but, in the end, winds up being duped.
The marabout presented by Kon in Jusquau seuil de lirrel (1976) is the total
opposite of the one portrayed by Tidiane Dem in Masseni. He distinguishes himself from
the good-for-nothing-scoundrel as well as the evil sorcerer:
I am not one of those wicked Moslems, one of those charlatans who, instead of
spreading the good of their religion pass their time deceiving others. I hate these
deceitful marabouts as much as I do witches. They are cast from the same mold.
They are all crooks and sometimes even assassins.38
7 My translation. Tidiane Dem, Masseni (Abidjan: NEA, 1977) 77.
38 Translated from the French by Mary Lee Martin-Kon. The Threshold of the Unreal, pp. 125-126. An
unpublished translation.


67
At dawn, even before the second cocks crow, the old muezzin would sing the
azan in front of the small, gray-walled mosque with the rusted sheet metal roof. At the
third call, contused and whitish figures in the half-light of dawn were trotting along
towards the mosque to take part in the morning prayer; the fourth call was the last and
right afterwards, the believers would stand up on their carpet or their sheepskin, turn
towards the east, and would drop their prayer beads loudly to their feet.
Then began the prayer. The singsong voice of the imam was piercing the early
silence and penetrating the meditative believers. Everyone was drawn to Allah-God. At
that moment, they could truly see that Allah was up there. They felt his presence and
totally accepted the idea that paradise was opened to all meneven to the poorand that
here below, the men were just passing.
The imam would sing, Allaho akbarAnd together, the faithful people would
fervently resume this cry, a magic balm that used to calm the pain of the heartin any
case for a moment: Allaho akbarAllah is great. Thus began the morning greeting to
the Most High.
Once the fatiha was let out, the imam would mumble in Arabic and Dyula an
entire string of wishes and blessings that counted just as much for this earthly world as
for the other: paradise. Allah yi sini di en ma, Allah yi en d mb, Allah ka nan en
malolGod give us tomorrow, God help us, God protect us from shame!Amina the
holy people answered. Once the prayer was over, they could then greet each other. And
they returned home.
In the yards, women had been up for a long time. They had already made several


Martin:
Kon:
Martin:
Kon:
Martin:
Kon:
Martin:
54
myself here or there. And criticism has no affect on me. That is why I
write what pleases me and in a way that pleases me.
Among the literary genres, the novel and theater seem to be of more
interest to you. Why are you fascinated by these two genres?
Theater seems to be a genre that touches the audience more than the novel
because it is performed in public. The audience takes it in and there really
is not much distance between it and the stage. The ideas are immediately
conveyed to the spectators who, in a way, react together. In my opinion, it
is a method of consumption that is effective. If you want to talk about
society, theater is much more effective than the novel. I think the novel is
not as effective because it is received individuallyyou are alone, you
read your novel, you are happy or you are sad. It is difficult to share this
with someone else. Even if that person reads the novel, he or she will
perhaps feel something different.
What kind of reaction have you gotten regarding your books, specifically
Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros?
I think the reaction has been quite positive, but it depends on which book.
For example, Les Frasques dbinto has sold very well and the book is in
high schools all over Africa, like Cote dIvoire, the Congo, and Guinea.
The plays have also gotten a good response. Traites and Courses won the
Senghor prize at the same time, so they were well received by the public.
Yes, it is true, there was some criticism of Traites. Critics thought the
novel was too short and that I had held back from making it much longer.
It is true, but that is what I wanted because the plan, when I wrote Traites,
was to get the people who are concerned over these problems, that is, the
peasants themselves, to read the text. If they were more or less literate,
they should be able to read these books and understand them. That is why
Traites is written the way it is written. So the fact that I wished to appeal
to a certain readership generated criticism of the novel.
What other kinds of criticism have you received in Africa?
Some say that I deal with too many social problems in the novel and that I
need to abandon or forget the problems a little and write a novel where
one can dream. The kind of criticism received will depend on the novels,
the people, and the plans. And perhaps that is the problem. I do not write
for critics. I write what I enjoy writing.
Lilyan Kesteloot considers you as one author of the regional novel. She
writes that this novel is more deeply rooted in a particular locality and a
specifically rural one which aims at an in-depth exploration of the peasant
mind, and at times takes over from ethnology. Its preoccupations are


170
baba (Dyula): daddy.
balafon (Malinke): wooden xylophone.
bangui (Malinke): palm wine.
blk (Dyula): plantain or boiled cassava.
blakoro (Dyula): a young boy who has not been initiated. He is not capable of speaking
before an audience, nor does he have the right to do so.
blakoroya (Malinke): describes the behavior of a blakoro, a behavior not centered
around human interests or values.
boubou (Malinke): voluminous dress worn as an outer garment by men and women.
conogoli (Anyi): insect that gets drunk all day long on palm wine.
Coran (Arabic): Koran, the Muslim holy book containing the orthodox doctrines of
Islam.60
crissis (Dyula): small magic formulas.
d banan (Dyula): The child is dead.
dkisss (Dyula): a good child who is determined to succeed.
Dioulabougou (Dyula): the Dioula area.
Djakouddjo (Anyi): malaria.
djoussou kassi (Dyula): a sons despair.
Do di (Dyula): Whats up?
El Hadj (Arabic): a title given to a man who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca. The
pilgrimage, or hadj, to Mecca takes place in the twelfth month of the Islamic
calendar. All Muslims must make this journey once in a lifetime if they are
physically able and can afford to do so.
fatiha (Arabic): first sura of the Koran containing the profession of faith.
gnansouman (Dyula): tranquility.
60 The Arabic name Qu 'an, means The Recital. The Koran, for Muslims, is the infallible Word of God,
a transcript of a tablet preserved in heaven, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel.
N. J. Dawood, Trans.. The Koran (London: Penguin Books, 1997) 1.


42
mme sous ces soleils o le monde est lenvers, the word soled obviously does not
mean sun here. It suggests rather the Malinke concept of era, time, or period.
Readers of African literature are already familiar with the expression used by the Cote
dIvoire author, Ahmadou Kourouma, in his novel Les Soleils des Indpendances
(Gassama 81). On page 18 of Traites, Kon also writes Lcole souvre dans quinze
jours [School opens in 15 days]. Because of the verb, one realizes that this is an
expression borrowed from an African language, particularly Dyula.49 In standard French,
one will usually see written lcole commence rather than lcole souvre. Kon has
obviously adopted French to the lexicon of certain African languages.
The language in Kons text is also metaphoric. This is another element that
highlights the originality of his style. There are two particular instances in the novel
where this is evident. For example, the author writes: le marabout avait fini lui-meme.
This is obviously the literal translation of a metaphor taken directly from one of Kons
native languages; it signifies that the marabout has died. Another metaphor exists in
chapter 3, part 2 of Traites. Kon writes: Calmez-vous, intervint quelquun, refroidissez
vos cceurs. Here the metaphor, which has been taken from the authors African
language, makes reference to the temperament of certain individuals; they need to calm
themselves down and not get all worked up over a certain situation. Altogether, a look at
Kons use of language in Traites reveals a distinctly African style of French prose to the
reader.
49 Amadou Kon informed me of the African
language from which this expression comes.


62
For YAHAYA, my quiet and gentle mother.
Amadou Kon
For some readers
Just as every theme must influence the writing of the novel, every context must
likewise determine the language used by the novelist. Of course, this problem is more
complex in Africa. At any rate, it explains the difference in tone between Exploitation
and the authors other works. The implicit narrator, not to be confused with the author,
and the characters apply here a language adopted to their setting.
The author


154
You also call me in a dream, Dorman
But if I do not work
What will I come tell you there, Dorman?
Beautiful Dorman, wait for me
When I have plenty of money
I will give you the greatest of dowries
Sweet Dorman, be patient.
Its a beautiful song, Tifi said. I hope that girl deserves you, Mata.
If you knew her, Mata began ecstatically .. Yesterday, I saw her in a dream.
She was calling me. I must go home after the crop. I must have enough money to marry
her. At home, a woman is too important. And a man, at a certain age, is disgraced if he
has not married.
So you are only working for her?
Its because of her that I left the country to make my fortune. But, all the same,
there is my father and my mother. Ah! I will send themhe was trying to remember ...
a big, blue boubou with a golden fringe for my father, three different loincloths for my
mother; a hat and a khaki raincoat for my uncle.
He paused. He had an uneasy look on his face: the dream made him lose track of
reality.
For myself, a bike and then many other things. For Dorman, all that a woman
could desire. Of course, I will put the dowry money aside, and then ...
But Mata, in that case, you will never go home.
Tifi was a dream wrecker. Real life, he had banged his head against it. He had
felt it from all sides and was unaffected. Any love in search of ideal happiness left him
sarcastic, even bitter. Did a woman deserve someone who sacrifices so much for her?
Tifi would have answered no. But perhaps he had met in his life only the worst kind of
women.


129
concession. Tonight, they didnt eat at old Mamadous. Silence, swayed by the breeze,
hovers over these figures stretched out around the cold hearth. These quiet moments,
more eloquent than words, these flattened figures on the ground who are only thoughts
and suffering.
Fatouma, your brother ...
Yes.
Rumor has it he hit a policeman. They say he threw him into a ditch. And yet, I
had warned him. I had certainly told him to keep quiet. And now look where hes at!
Hes in jail.
Not even a cry. But an indistinct sound burst out of a heart boiling with grief.
This terrible word that even comes out of an honest mouth with difficulty. Shame and
humiliation! Filth!
My brother in jail! My mothers child!
This woman who, all her life, has respected her husband, obeyed her husbands
slightest desire so that her children would succeed, this woman who has always prayed to
Allah so as never to feel ashamed, and then this great misfortune! This female figure is
crushed, tired, on her mat. This woman grown old from exertion and pain, and secretly
hoping for a peaceful death and then this misfortune ...
What will we do? Oh! What are we to do?
If only we had money! Those people only understand the language of money.
Hey Allah! In jail!


105
confiding some worries to Mori Ba, you could be certain the complaint would reach the
Highest One himself.
No one had asked his neighbor if his affair entrusted to Mori Ba, therefore Allah,
had found a satisfactory solution. But who would deny that Allah is free to help
whomever he wants? Mori Ba asserted that he was doing his job. He would not rest at
night due to his endless praying. And it was Allahs fault if someone was not happy.
Mori Ba was beyond reproach. Besides, who would think like that? The man was
waldjou, that is to say, much more than just an ordinary man and a little less than an
angel: a saint.
Indeed, Mamadou did not understand why Lassinan could not stand the sight of
the saintly man. Mamadou had urged his son. The young man had ended up refusing
once and for all and had even blurted out something abominable: Dont you see either,
like them all, this wretch, Mori Ba, is just an outright scoundrel? If I could, I would have
him put in jail. Lassinan had dared to say such a thing at the risk of unleashing Gods fit
of rage against his family. Oh, children nowadays!
In fact, Lassinan was beginning to deeply worry his father. Everything was fine
as long as he was quiet. His very silence was certainly troubling enough. But his rare
words caused absolute anguish. He was not at all the typical boy irreverent and proud of
his knowledge. He was just elusive. Perhaps because his words, without being
conspicuously impertinent, always touched upon a subject untouchable in the eyes of the
old villagers. He knew the trouble he was creating around himself. Nevertheless, what
he wanted above all was to erase certain myths, old or modem, that clever scoundrels
kept alive to exploit the villagers under these suns. He knew how strong economic power


71
I wanted to begin preparing the mats for the upcoming drying of the coffee
beans. But since you will be busy with the childrens return to school, I will work with
the laborers, Tifi said. If Soul were here, that would have simplified things.
There was a hush. Old Mamadou turned towards Lassinan.
What are we going to do about Issa?
There is only the third grade here in the village. I believe well have to send him
to the city. We have to find him a space at the city school, and also a good tutor,
someone who wont turn him into a houseboy.
It appears that you also insist on putting Abou in school?
Yes, Tifi, he has to go to school. For him, there is no problem. We can enroll
him here.
No problem! With our civil servants, there are always problems, old Mamadou
hollered. Too many problems! Not even the ones we had when the white man ordered
us around. At your age, there are things that you should understand. You insist that
Abou also go to school. Agreed. But you do not seem to think about the difficulties I
have. Abou is more useful to me here than in their school.
When I say that he has to leave for school, I am only thinking about his future.
His tone of voice was as calm as usual. He wanted to say a lot of things, explain
the situation. But solely out of respect for his father, he could accept being wrong here
whereas, with other people, he would have easily shown that he was indeed right. He
knew that a man was not supposed to behave in this manner. But his very strict Muslim
upbringing had taught him that a father did not have the right to be wrong.
I too think about your future, continued old Mamadou. If not, do you believe I


92
made room for him. His boubou was probably tom, but he didnt even examine it. He
smelled of fresh fish and he didnt even care about it.
The whole trip, he thought it was little to say that the world was changing. The
world was upside down. When he was young, what young man would have allowed
himself to be seated when an old man was standing? Who would have dared to laugh at
an old man in a situation similar to the one in which he had found himself a while ago? It
was not for nothing that young people, nowadays, didnt succeed at anything honest.
Because they had forgotten that respect for age can offer a greater strength. The sight of
Fagodougou ended the old mans sad thoughts. The vehicle stopped at the station.
Everyone got off.
Mamadou also got off. He took the street that led to the school. Fagodougou
stretched in front, behind, to the left, to the right...
Ahead was the school. An old school built by the Whites shortly after they had
settled in the area. Its roofs of gray tile and its massive pillars revealed the colonial style.
Nearby was the hospital. It had to be just as old as the school. These two places, one
right next to the other, expressions of a civilization that had proclaimed loudly its
superiority, were no longer seen as the thing of others. They were integrated. But now,
ruling in there were the all-powerful blakoros who made the heart to those who needed
them beat.
Behind, there had been the former offices of the administration, offices that had
witnessed otherwise violent judgements, like the language of the horsewhip: bad
memories! At the same spot was now standing the imposing court house where
judgements took another form: oh, the hypocrisy of the blakoros! Further, on that same


11
[...] my classmates who knew my passion for literature asked me to write a play
for the end of the school year celebration. We had just studied Le Cid by
Corneille. So I searched for a Cornelian dilemma in African history and found
one [...]. This short play, Samorv de Bissandougou. was performed with a
certain amount of success and my classmates and my professors encouraged me to
continue writing. That was in 1966.11
Although the play was never published, the experience of writing it made Kon realize
that he was better suited for writing novels; he began writing plays again much later as a
university student.
Kons formal career as a novelist began with the publication of Jusquau seuil de
lirrel in 1976; he was only 23 years old. The plot of Jusquau seuil de firrel is
situated in colonial Africa. In the novel, the author describes the life of Karfa, a farmer,
who lost his parents as a child; and who later loses his wife at the hands of evil sorcerers.
Karfa (along with his son, Lamine) decides to leave the village to escape this past life
riddled with nothing but tragedy. However, tragedy seems to follow Karfa and Lamine
when they stumble upon the village, Soubakagnandougou, which is inhabited by evil
witch doctors; they are disguised everywhere and they certainly cause much harm to
innocent villagers. But, there are also good sorcerers present in the village, like
Fanhikroi. The good sorcerer explains this to Lamine:
But your kindyou Moslemsare not familiar with sorcerers. You must be
informed that there are different types. There are those who meet at night to eat
human souls. These blood-thirsty vampires are devoted to decimating their own
families. They amuse themselves by casting spells on those who have succeeded
and whom they envy. They are sadists. Their group is the largest [...]. But there
are also good sorcerers, who risk their lives at night, protecting the innocent and
defenseless against the sadists deeds.12
11 My translation. Lumires africaines. p. 116.
12 Translated from the French by Mary Lee Martin-Kon. The Threshold of the Unreal, pp. 55-56. An
unpublished translation. Used with permission from the translator.


136
other departmental heads, nor to sleep with young girls in your back office, nor certainly
to swindle the peoplewith the help of your policemento make payments for
luxurious cars or kept women.
Yesterday, your policemen unfairly locked up here a poor peasant after having
beaten him up. You probably havent been informed about this triviality. Has this man
eaten since yesterday? I know its not your business. By the way, what are the grounds
for his arrest?
The captain, overtaken by the events, was settling himself in his chair as a way to
put himself at ease. But Shia was furious. She was speaking a bit fast, but very
distinctly.
Perhaps I am in a bad position to teach you your role, Chief. At any rate, I know
one thing. You are supposed to serve these people. Not scare them nor exploit them.
But you dont know the importance of the identity card ...the fat captain
began.
Yes I know, Shia interrupted. But your men didnt give him time to show it to
them. You want the proof that he was telling the truth when he told you he had lost it at
Habibs home, well here it is: his identity card.
Well, under these conditions ... Im going to order his release.
Do you know what you deserve, Chief?
Now I think youre really going too far, Miss ..
But Shia kept going, unperturbed.
You deserve a good lawsuit, you and your cronies. This man who has needlessly
been rotting in your dungeon should file a complaint against your abuse of power.


138
Allah has required for the believer servile submission to the unscrupulous rich, to the
very abusive powerful. I dont believe you find God by humiliating yourselves at the feet
of imbeciles. God has also taught man to refuse and I dont believe that refusing is
necessarily a sin. I know that this struggle is unequal, but whatever our power may be,
we are your sons, your daughters.
Lassinan always says the same thing too, but how can we fight? Yesterday, Tiefi
defended himself. He slept in jail. Without you, I dont know how many days he would
have spent there, nor how many francs I would have been forced to slip them into their
hands. In the village, Lassinan has always struggled, but he doesnt understand that the
proverb says: A sincere man buys a good horse to get away when he has told the truth.
So we always have problems. Finding him a way out was quite a chore.
We are afraid, my child, because we are too vulnerable. You see, one day you
will go elsewhere. And the chief or the lowest of his policemen will make me pay for the
scene from this morning. How will I be able to defend myself alone? Thats why we are
even afraid to show ourselves in the company of those who wish us well against the
blakoros.
All that will change one day, father. Our brothers will understand one day.
May Allah hear you, my child.
Tiefi joined them, fully choking with anger. He said that he was not afraid of jail
and that he would gladly smash the chiefs face in, and even more gladly a blakoro
policeman.
The return to the village was triumphant. Tiefi had to recount his adventure a
thousand times. But for him, that was only a minor incident. Because over there, in


Copyright 2003
by
Dana Che Martin


21
In my opinion, Amadou Kons narrative technique in Traites is somewhat
reminiscent of Ahmadou Kouroumas Les Soleils des Indpendances. First, one notices
the question-response technique used by Kourouma and Kon in their respective
narrations. Thanks to this technique, the writer is able to introduce a new element or
theme into the story, as is the case in the following example taken from The Suns of
Independence:
Balia wanted to go with them. A blind man what could he see? Nothing. An
old man with swollen aching legs when would they arrive there with him along?
Perhaps at sunset. A Kaffir whose forehead never touched the ground what
would he do there? Nothing and nothing. They thought he was joking. But no!
Balia insisted. He evoked the duty to pay a last visit to the deceased. (78-79)
Kourouma makes known to the reader the unfortunate condition facing Balia. The blind
African is surely one determined individual, but in the end, he must remain in the village.
The author also provides additional details about Balia by using the question-response
technique. He writes: How did Balia become the greatest hunter of all Horodugu? (84).
The question is then followed by a lengthy answer that highlights the different events,
which led to Balia becoming a great hunter. Kon uses the same kind of technique in
Traites to explain, for instance, the reason behind Akafus exceptionally imposing
potbelly. And as for Bakary, the reader discovers how this master tailor began to lose
his fortune:
So, what did Bakary do with his money? It would have been impolite to
ask him. In any case, they knew one thing. The great tailor was almost
suffocated by his numerous friends, his relatives who came out from the
woodwork. Each one wished him well. And to prove it to him, they would offer
him their daughter to marry [...]. But each one knows that the women who are
offered in this manner cost quite a lot.


81
Old Mamadou explained to Lassinan that there were too many children to recruit
and not enough spaces for all of them. To make sure that ones child would be enrolled,
it was necessary to be in the headmasters good graces. And each one did what he could.
And this was exactly the reason why the poor mans son had fewer and fewer chances of
going to school and becoming, later on, an important man.
Lassinan understood the problems, but actually, he perceived them in a rather
unclear way. Since his childhood, he had devoted himself solely to his studies. He had
been asked to succeed, that is to say to always be first in his class, to accumulate
diplomas and to one day become an important civil servant. And he had gotten down to
work, confirming all the hopes that his parents had placed on him. He kept himself busy
always being the first in his class, but he dedicated little time to thinking about the
concrete problems of life. It was no doubt because he had always been treated like a
grown child. Yes, an exceptional child, quite different from the other boys of his age but
all the same a grown boy who only had to deal with his endless reading. Nevertheless,
time and again already, the young lycen had wanted to speak in the village as a man.
Some years earlier, it was he indeed who had spread the idea of a modem tonthe co-op.
At that time he had conceived the thing down to its smallest details and it was not his
fault if the thing had fallen through.
Still this morning, he wanted to take some responsibilities.
I will go enroll Abou myself, he told his father.
I will accompany you, the old man suggested. Only I dont know what to give
the new headmaster. He will perhaps bring in a new style. The other one, the last one, it


43
The Task of Translating Traites into English
I now discuss the choices made, as well as the problems encountered when
translating Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros. First of all, I am dealing with the
translation of a nonrelated language and culture (that is, African) with related languages
and cultures, particularly European and Anglo-American. The translation process is
certainly one of acculturation, and there are consequences to consider at all linguistic
levels, such as the translation of words, the rendering of syntax, and the coherence
between sentences. Obviously, I needed an effective approach to bring the text across in
the target language and culture.
As the translator of Amadou Kons Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros. I am
dealing with an African author who expresses African thoughts in French. According
to Paul Bandia, a scholar in the field of Translation Studies, this kind of process can be
referred to as the primary level of translation, that is, the expression of African thought
in a European language by an African writer (61). Moreover, I had the task of
translating the authors European language into Anglo-American. This is known as the
secondary level of translation, i.e. the transfer of African thought from one European
language to another by the translator (61). Bandia calls the entire process a double
transposition process. My goal in following this process was, of course, to produce a
reliable translation for English-speaking readers, always keeping in mind that I was
undertaking the translation of a French text with devices reminiscent of African oral
tradition into an Anglo-American text.
In my early attempts, my English translation turned out to be too close to the
original French. In order to respect Kons individual style of writing, I went too far in



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81,9(56,7< 2) )/25,'$


75
The rich created the custom and the poor have to follow. Only the rich always have the
advantage; the poor, they lose without a doubt.
Over there, in Blakorodougou, the blow goes far, very far. Only some things are
better left unsaid.
Abou, call your mother for me.
Abou left and immediately came back with his mother.
Fatouma, old Mamadou said to his wife, you know the farming civil servants
are coming to visit the new cocoa field today.
Yes. Thats why I pounded a little rice yesterday. But, there is nothing for the
sauce. Not even the smallest fish.
Speaking of which, I wanted you to lend me ... in fact sell me your rooster. On
credit, of course. I will pay you at the end of the coffee harvest. There are a few months
remaining and t'ereti is around the comer.
Oh, no! Youll have to look elsewhere. When my children leave for school, I
will surely have to give them money. Where do you want me to find it? I want to sell
my rooster to someone who can give me some cash on the spot.
And by the way, Tifi interrupted, I really dont know whats the use of your
civil servants. Do they come to work or just to eat roasted chickens?
Be quiet, Tifi. You always have to joke around, even when it comes to serious
matters. So, Fatouma, are you going to humiliate me?
The old woman kept quiet. She was not as old as one could imagine. She had
prematurely aged, thats for sure. Throughout her poor peasant womans existence, she
had woken up very early, done very many domestic chores and also the fieldwork. She


110
Mamadou came in. The coolness of that home, the magnificence of the furniture
and of the oriental rugs on the floor, the light smell of fine incense from Makan, so they
said, that was floating continually: all that was making Mamadou uncomfortable. Could
one think about Allah in such a home? Did they have the time to think about other
people, about poor people in such a home? Mamadou stopped thinking. His gaze had
fallen on the village chief seated opposite El Hadj Doulaye. Mamadou lost his self-
confidence again. Nevertheless, he greeted; someone answered him. Just like a blakoro
type of civil servant would say hows it going? in passing. Someone showed him a
seat. He sat down and felt useless. Clumsily, he tried to make himself at home. He
dropped a censer. The chief smiled, but Mamadou did not see him because he had bent
down and was busy putting the censer back in place.
I have been told you already stopped by two times, Mamadou?
Yes.
Well, I am listening to you.
He was listening to him. And yet, he knew very well why he, Mamadou, had
come. He also knew it would be humiliating for him to ask for money in front of a third
party. El Hadj Doulaye was probably happy to make fun of his embarrassment.
So I am listening, Doulaye repeated mercilessly.
Mamadou uttered it all in one breath.
Well, I need money. The crop is still a long way off and if you could lend me
some money in the meantime, that would help me a lot. in the name of the All Powerful,
six thousand francs would do me good.


Ill
Its not convenient because these days, I too have some small problems. Two of
my seven trucks that take merchandise to Mali are broken down. A week ago, I bought a
plot of land for two million in Blakorodougou. I plan to begin the construction work
soon. And then, my younger brother is getting married in Fagodougou next week.
Really, I have problems.
Even three thousand francs would not be sufficient, but alihamdoulilahi, that
could do a lot of things. The children need it to leave. And they have to leave, if not,
what will they do?
I am sorry for this year, concluded El Hadj Doulaye. 'Allah yi here k en y
May God shower us with his blessings!
That was a polite way of dismissing him. Mamadou got up.
iiAllahyi en d mbeV
The chief asked him if Lassinan had already left. Mamadou pretended he had not
heard and left. Outside, he heard the two men bursting with laughter, as if Allah did not
forbid the good Muslim to roar with laughter. He did not pay attention to the women in
the yard. Thus, he did not see their mocking eyes riveted on him. He did not notice
either that only Doulayes youngest wife had her head lowered.
May Allah wash us of the humiliation!
May Allah have mercy on the degeneracy of the world under the power of the
blakoros, of the corrupted girls and ... if the mogoya has not reached the blakoros, it has
left many old people, especially the rich. Naforo has gone to their heads and they are
having fim torturing the poor. And where are they putting the soulamayathe solidarity
between the believers?


150
You have given two thousand francs to Salia, two thousand francs to Brahima...,
but how much have you given to Doulaye, to Malan?
The same amount, Diabat shouted.
Liar! Shameless liar! /do drink, / am penniless. But I dont lie. I dont sell
myself either to Satana for money. Your auditor can say in front of the assembly that
Doulaye and Malan and the Chief have each gotten seventy-five thousand francs. Those
three, they have taken two thirds of the amount available to us. And you, Diabat, how
much have they given you to shut your mouth?
Watch what youre saying Tifi.
Or else what? Get off your seat and Ill shame you today in front of everybody.
You know, / have knocked out a white mans tooth.
Calm down, someone interrupted. Cool your heads off.
Tifi is right, Assamoi said. These people still want to cheat us, even in the
co-op. Let them bring the account books and you will see if I have lied to Tifi. Im the
auditor and I know there isnt anything in the cash box.
The crowd whispered. But who dared speak? Drawing together the powerful
against oneself! Only Tifi shouted what he was thinking. The rich were aware of the
danger that the co-op represented for them. If it expanded, they couldnt keep the people
under their control anymore. So all that was just an act of sabotage to keep the poor in
poverty and dominate them.
What we would need, Tifi explained, would be a co-op of determined and
responsible poor people.


34
There is nothing complex about the structure of Lezou Marie ou les cueils de la
vie. The novel itself consists of 11 chapters. What does strike the reader is the way the
narrative unfolds in these chapters. The narration is rather abrupt and, consequently, the
story does not read very well. Be that as it may, RginaYaou has told a profound story.
The characters, as well as the events depicted in the novel are all plausible. And though
the authors language tends to be flat, she does inject intense feeling into the narrative,
especially when describing those moments of crisis in Maries life.
Like Rgina Yaous novel, Les Saisons seches by Denis Oussou-Essui also takes
place in Cote dIvoire. The post-independence city with its corruption and new social
classes forms the backdrop for this novel published in 1979. Kimou Agui, the so-called
hero, has just returned to his country after a fifteen-year stay in France where he
received his engineering degree. He hopes to secure a job for which he is qualified in the
city, but is sadly disappointed when he is hired only temporarily at the Centre National
de Renseignements. Kimou realizes that the world is changing, but for his uncle Ahb,
it is much worse than that:
Say rather that our world is headed for catastrophy. Watch out, my nephew. Be
careful in the city. Our independence is not the same as the Whitemans
independence. The Whitemans scandal is obvious. Anyone can see into it. But
we Africans, I tell you, we are black-hearted. We are always ready to step on the
next man to get by.41
In the end, Kimou does manage to write a letter to Monsieur le Prsident asking
him to take action against corruption in the country before it is too late. Writing this
letter, however, will be the extent of his accomplishment in the text. In fact, one should
41 My Translation. Denis Oussou-Essui, Les Saisons seches (Paris: LHarmattan, 1979)55.


156
Soul slipped his father a comical look. He too had been haunted by an
obsession. A sewing machine. Certainly, he hadnt understood much about sewing, but
he could sew some pants and certain kinds of shirts. And with the machine, he would
improve, perhaps. Often, he would see himself as master tailor in his workshop with his
apprentices calling him boss. But after each crop, family problems did not allow him
to buy that machine.
They will perhaps buy me the machine, Soul replied. No doubt, this crop will
be the good one.
Old Mamadou tried not to listen to his eldest son. To be honest, Soul aggravated
his father. He was like no one in the family. Always in a happy mood, he seemed not to
worry too much in a life that was worrying everyone else. But what was even worse,
Soul was a lazy individual, a good for nothing. It was the worst thing that could happen
to Mamadou, he who practically worshipped work. But can one choose his offspring?
Fate, yes fate! Why then did Lassinan reject fate? Why did he think he could untangle
the problems that Allah himself had woven according to his will? One does not choose
his life. It had been written and marabouts had often repeated it. Refusing to accept
poverty and insults, Lassinan had said. And now, the young headmistress was saying the
same thing. But can one rebel against destiny? Lassinan had also said that destiny was
an invention of those who wanted to dominate the poor. Well, Lassinan was in
contradiction with ... Mamadou no longer dared continue his reasoning. No, Lassinan
loved Allah and he prayed normally. Only, he said that some, more clever people, used
religion to exploit the poor. Mori Ba for example ..
Assalam alkoum.


CHAPTER 4
PART ONE: A DIFFICULT PATH
TOWARD THE QUEST FOR KNOWLEDGE
One
Just as for any other meal, the entire family would eat breakfast together under the
shed in the middle of the yard. It was some black coffee and a little blkplantain or
cassava. Also at times, they would eat the leftovers from the evening that one had taken
care to reheat and preserve carefully. Food is a sacred thing and the one who enjoys
wasting it is an irresponsible person. Breakfast was eaten rather in silence, as were all the
other meals. Let us respect those with whom we eat, let us respect the food we eat. What
mouth do we eat with and which one do we speak with!
Even under these suns where the world was upside down, old Mamadou wanted
the meal to remain a ritual. As in the past. And old Mamadou cared about his childrens
education, especially under these suns of the blakoros and prostitutes. It was not because
he was poor that he was supposed to have children as insolent as baby goats. And during
the meal, the old man would see to it that his three youngest children had, as a sign of
respect for the old, their left hand placed on the edge of the main dish. But Mamadous
will to make real men of his childrenoh, how many real men are there still in this
world!went beyond that. Children are links. Any man who fears Allahand one must
fear Allahhas to fulfil his duties towards them. Mamadou dedicated himself entirely to
69


137
He laid his hand on a police officer.
It was the police officer who hit him first and with no sufficient reason. I have
witnesses who could back that up. You were hoping for some mandatory tips before
releasing this peasant. And he should file a complaint. But you are lucky again. These
people arent ready yet. But it will come. We will particularly make sure that it comes as
soon as possible and that the reign of abuse and dishonesty comes to an end.
The chief wouldnt listen anymore. He called a policeman and ordered him to
release the crazy old man imprisoned the day before.
All right then, goodbye Miss, he said impatiently.
Mamadou and Shia got up and left. The old man felt a strange warmth inside
himself. He hadnt understood a single word the young woman had said to the chief
during that rather lengthy talk. But already, in his eyes, the chief had lost something. His
name was no longer terribly worrying, evoking an almost supernatural being sprung from
the high administration; he was no longer the incarnation of total and abusive domination.
He was simply a man a woman addressed without lowering her head. Mamadou looked
at the frail, young teacher and wondered what she could have said to the captain. As if
she had guessed what he was thinking, she answered him.
I told him he was not what he thought he was and that when all is said and done,
he was less than what he ought to be. And then, I wanted you to understand one thing,
father.
Yes, my child?
You who have faith in God, you create other gods on earth. If all these people
like to think they are gods, its because you give them that impression. I dont believe


122
Tifi entered the bar. Tigbi followed him. Someone served them each a glass
of beer.
You too ended up leaving Blakorodogou, Tiba?
Yes, and to wind up in Fagodougou.
What are you doing now?
Thanks to my daughter, Sara, who is on good terms with the Sub-Prefect, I have
a job that tires me little and allows me to have my daily ration of nansi dji.
Of course he meant his ration of alcohol.
Oh!
Head-worker of the town. All I have to do is shout from time to time at the
workers. Thats my entire job. And since these are prisoners they put outside each time
to clean the market and dirty areas, I have no qualms about yelling at them.
Allah is great.
Yes. But what about you?
I returned to the village.
To Kongodjan! And you manage to work in the field?
I took refuge at my older sisters home, Fatouma, and her husband, Mamadou. It
is not too honorable to live at my brother-in-laws home. But I needed some peace. And
over there, Im not useless. No, I cant handle the machete too well, but I dont feel
useless. And I have peace and quiet.
I dont recognize you, Tifi. Is it you who speaks now of peace and quiet? In
the old days in Blakorodougou, you were the most unbearable of us all.


132
I have seen poverty too close and too early on. I have only seen pain. I have
lived through it since I was a child in my mothers womb. Above all, I have endured
submission. My mothers submission to my father, my parents submission to the imams,
civil servants and those who hold the power at all levels, wealthy men of all kinds. Oh,
the inexorable dependence, the infernal dependence!
... They think that its Allahs will, if they wade in misery and if others live an
opulent life. If it were true that God guaranteed poverty for some and abundance for
others, I refuse to believe that this is God, except the god of the most powerful. I have
tried to explain all that to my village, I have explained the deception of the powerful and
the mistakes of the poor. But people dont understand that, to a certain extent, God
leaves us free to assume our destiny.
But why should I confide to you my ramblings, Shia, if for no other reason
than my need for an accomplice? These things weigh too heavily on my heart. And then
I really feel my helplessness throughout my entire being, which it is weakening.
You are there, Shia. You have begun to live with these people, my people, your
people too. Soon you will understand their problems and like me, you will understand
that we must free them, that these people must free themselves. These people need an
education. That, I can clearly see; I can also vaguely make out the difficulties. But these
people need to know how to say no to the state civil servants abuse of power, the rich
mans extortion and the crimes of false prophets. These people must free themselves of
their fear vis--vis their own sons. Then, they will educate these ungrateful sons, they
will force them to become ethical and honest. We need executives to train the people.
You are there. Do your best to help them. If Im asking you, its because in spite of our


96
Mamadou understood that he was simply kicking him out. He turned around and
retreated. As he was about to leave, the woman shouted at him in Dyula:
/ nan oulafecome back this evening.
No doubt, Mamadou said to himself. This is a Dyula woman. A Muslim,
certainly. And she dared to speak to her husband in such a tone! Allaho akbarl Allah is
great and powerful. And his will is good. Mamadou would come back that evening and
perhaps, thanks to that woman, his business might be settled. Yes, he would beg this
woman to take his son and then, a little money would definitely calm down the husbands
arrogant behavior. Oh, having to drop to the feet of this couple of degenerates!
Marabouts had predicted it: the power of the blakoros would be tied to the power of the
woman. The signs were clearly visible. The world was coming to an end.
Oh, the power of the blakorosl
The others made you wish you did not have black skin. They made you
simply feel disgusted with life. But Allah said to accept life and all its difficulties. Allah
knows what he is doing. No doubt sooner or later, things would change. For Mamadou
as well. He was almost convinced of it. A better day would come for all the poor and the
frustrated. In this world or in the next.
Allah answer our prayers! Amina.
Before entering Bakarys concession, he gave the ritual greeting.
As sal am alkouml
Alkoum salam, came the answer.
Bakary and his children were eating. Mamadou washed his hands and sat down
also on the sheep skin. The rice dish with peanut sauce was steaming and smelled good.


79
appointment. That didnt even outrage him. Whats the use? Everyone knows that a
civil servant, a real civil servant, always misses his appointments when hes not late.
Why be surprised? Going back regularly on his word was in keeping with these suns.
Why be surprised since the widespread triumph of the blakoroya was all around?
Tifi explained that once in Blakorodougou, they had waited for someone like a
deputyin any case an important civil servantfor seven hours long, and were still
standing. Only to applaud him on his way.
Be quiet, Tifi, some things are better left unsaid.
Two
The former headmaster had been assigned elsewhere, but he had not spread the
news before the school had closed its doors. And now, just a few days before school
started, he hastily came to announce the news and packed up on the double. He left,
leaving behind the ill-suppressed insults of the villagers and the debts he promised to
come back to pay.
Oh, that directorone could now say it out loudthat director, for sure, was only
a good for nothing! And a drunkard, always drunk like the insect conogoli that gets
drunk all day long on bangui produced from the palm tree. And besides, he loved women
too mucha weakness shared by many civil servants. And therefore, since the money he
earned was used to pay for alcohol or girls, he owed as much money to Adebayo, the
shopkeeper, as to the village women who sold him pepper, bananas, and cassava. Above
all, the man was irreverent like the rump of a donkey. He had strength on his side and he
was right. They were forced to respect his strength. Before, it wasnt like that.
Before, things were not done in this way. Today, the world was spinning round
too quickly and one didnt have enough breath to follow its rhythm. And the more things


134
So where is he going?
To Fagodougou.
I have brought news of Lassinan.
Lassinan? You have seen him? How is he doing? Sali, tell baba that the
headmistress wants to speak to him.
At that moment, old Mamadou came out of his hut, somber and tense, followed
by his wife. They greeted the headmistress while watching her with a questioning and
worried look on their faces.
She brings news of Lassinan, Soul said.
You saw him? Mamadou asked.
He wrote me. He is well and he greets you.
Thank you my child. May Allah help you!
On my way here, I learned another piece of news.
Yes, Lassinans uncle is in Fagodougou and I pray to God that they understand
me.
Im also going to Fagodougou this morning. Stay here, uncle. I will speak for
you. They will certainly understand me better.
Thank you my child. May Allah bless you! But I have to go myself.
They will not listen to you. They will ask for one thing only: money. Your
struggle against them is a struggle on unequal terms. Im going to try to help you. Let
me help you as if I were Lassinan. I am also your daughter.
They looked at her and a gust of hot air welled up inside them. Lets pray all our
sons and our daughters understand that, often, a few words are more comforting than


58
Martin:
Was there any particular reason why you used different French words to
describe the same kind of woman in Traites? For example, vou write:
des filies de petite vertu, des filies de rue, des courtisanes, des femmes de
petite vertu, des filies publiques.
Kon:
First of all, I must say that the word blakoro mostly represents a category
of people. The word translates into these peoples total lack of education.
A blakoro is a child. He is the one who has not been initiated. He is the
one who is truly not capable of speaking before an audience and who does
not have the right to speak, for that matter. It is interesting that these
blakoro people now run the society. Such a state of affairs is backward
and that explains why we have problems. But the feminine word that
would correspond to blakoro and that would characterize this type of
woman does not exist. It does not exist in reality, and this is very
interesting, even in the African language. A blakoro is certainly a man, a
boy, but there is no word for a woman. That is why I borrow all these
French words which mean just about the same thing.
Martin:
Do you express a certain opinion here of what education is all about? Can
you explain exactly what education means for you?
Kon:
In the context of Sous le nouvoir des Blakoros. education does not iust
mean attending a French school. It is also the knowledge of African
culture in which an important part of society functions. One can be very
educated without having gone to a French school. On the other hand, one
can be educated at a French school and not know African culture.
Martin:
Blakoroya and mogoya are two very important Malinke terms that appear
in Traites. Can vou explain what thev mean?
Kon:
Blakoroya is the idea. It explains the behavior of a blakoro and this
behavior is not centered on human interests or values, in other words, the
mogoya. Mogoya refers to humanism. It is the act of being human. It is
the respect for all those ancestral values and blakoroya is the opposite.
Martin:
Is it possible to find one translation for the word, traites?
Kon:
It is very ambiguous. I think you have to show all the nuances, so you
cannot just translate it with one word. You can think of it as the crop
when the fruit is ripe and ready to be sold, but it goes much further than
that. It is also the exploitation of the people or the people whom they
milk, like a cow.
Martin:
What is the function of Islam in the novel?


4
Thousands of Cote dIvoire Africans fought for the French army in World War II.
In fact, a significant number of Africans, in general, served France in the Second World
War. According to Myron Echenberg,3 at a conservative estimate, the French recruited
in excess of 200,000 black Africans during the Second World War (88). This time,
recruited African troops played a much more combatant role against Nazi Germany,
which had territorial ambitions in Europe and Africa. Black Africans, as well as North
Africans, made up an important part of the ranks in the French Army; altogether, they
fought vigorously to defend France (Echenberg 88).
These soldiers, no doubt, were made to expect more after the war, not only
because of the economic and social developments in the colonies, but also because of the
suffering and hardships they had endured. As one officer noted:
The man [African] at the war is being thrown in contact with Europeans in a way
as never before. The returning African cannot be quite the same. They will have
fought and lived side by side with foreigners, black and white. They received at
any rate in the Middle East, the same food, the same clothing, they drank side by
side in the canteens the same beer, they were fighting the same battle [...] they
will have seen the world sufficiently to realise that they can have improved
homes, better food, better conditions and better pay for work undertaken [...].
How are we going to keep them down on the farm after the war? (Boahen 142)
Upon their return home, Africans expected employment as well as adequate pensions and
benefits, but a good number were sorely disappointed. Of course, this proved unfair for
the returning soldiers, for without the rank-and-file black African soldier, their [Free
French forces] victories would have been impossible (Echenberg 104).
During World War II, Cote dIvoire, like the rest of French West Africa, fell
under the control of Frances Vichy government. Under this authoritarian political
system, numerous severe measures against the African population were established,
Colonial Conscripts: The Tirailleurs Snealais in French West Africa. 1857-1960.


147
honest towards others and demanding that one be honest towards oneself. The events
seemed to prove Lassinan right and Mamadou admitted that it was better to react than
suffer.
Yes, Lassinans letter had been a reproach:
.. its because you didnt think about how important the co-op was that the co
op died barely before it got on its feet. And yet, I had explained to you what it was all
about. I had told you to unite the strength of numbers with stubbornness in order to resist
the power of the rich: beat the rich with their own weapons ....
What exactly had become of the co-op?
The idea had burst forth one morning and had created hope: an imaginary tree
whose fruit-scented perfume pervaded the air. The farming civil servants had vaguely
spoken about it and Lassinan had been filled with enthusiasm about it. He had finally
conceived the thing and had communicated his enthusiasm to the peasants.
The co-op, Lassinan had said, was nothing other than a modem version of the ton.
The ton, as everyone knows, is an aggregate of people from the same profession with the
idea of working in a collective manner for the common good. The co-op was supposed to
be the union of all the peasants, the coordination of the common effort for the good of all
people. Therefore, they had to organize the collective work: going to someones field
today and tomorrow to someone elses field. For a village, that couldnt be too difficult.
But they would have to chip in during each coffee crop. The government would probably
agree to giving credit to the co-op. Two or three years would be enough for the co-op to
become a force. The money chipped in and the governments credit could buy all the
villages coffee at the same price. And the profits, instead of going to Habib or another,


A TRANSLATION INTO ENGLISH
OF AMADOU KONS TRAITES. SOUS LE POUVOIR DES BLAKOROS
[EXPLOITATION, UNDER THE BLAKOROS POWER1
BY
DANA CHE MARTIN
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
2003


29
particular, Kop Yacinthe, the protagonist, and his family, who live in Abidjan. These
men and women, who have chosen to be evil witch doctors, threaten the everyday lives of
an innocent tribe. Kopes daughter explains it to her cousin, Saly, who is skeptical about
the entire phenomenon:
For the most part, they are sorcerers from the time of birth. A great number of
children are sorcerers without even knowing it; they only realize it once they are
grown. The question is whether they choose or choose not to be good rather than
bad and vice versa.34
Kop Yacinthe discovers later on that his eldest brother and sister-in-law are
sorcerers and are the ones guilty of attacking his own children. Their true identities are
revealed at a ritual gathering led by Mansoua, a good witch doctor. With the help of his
tam-tam43 and some magic, Mansoua is able to expose the destructive duo who have
taken, des leur naissance, les principes vitaux des nouveau-ns (82).36 Kon describes
a similar gathering, where the real sorcerers are revealed, in Jusquau seuil de lirrel
(1976). Here, the great marabout, Bou Ouattara, uses his powers to disclose before all
the villagers of Soubakagnandougou the queen sorcerer who has killed Karfas son and
the chiefs daughter.
Fatou Bollis novel, Djigbo. includes 8 chapters and an epilogue. The author
employs the first-person narrative technique in this short novel. His style of writing is
controlled and not at all elaborate, which allows for a smooth reading of the text. The
descriptions are very poignant and, at times, quite graphic, which might disturb the
reader. Stories are also related within the main story-line by different characters; this
34 My translation. Fatou Bolli, Djigbo (Abidjan: CEDA, 1977) 10.
35 African drum made from wood and used for transmitting messages. The musical instrument also
accompanies dances. Tam-Tam. Le Petit Larousse. 1994 ed.
36 from birth, the vital organs of newborns. My translation.


145
gave her would be used to feed the third thief who, Tifi found out much later, was
literally a dirty blakoro, a hippie with no education, a dirty little mechanic certainly
uncircumcised and with long hair. Tifi ended up excusing Assamois wife. Under these
suns, God alone knows how much marabouts and other charlatans can talk up a storm!
When they came to report it all to old Mamadou, he remained pensive and said
only that to be honest, marabouts nowadays shame Allah. In fact, old Mamadou was
thinking about a letter that Lassinan had sent him right after the fall of the co-op. The
long letter began as follows:
Simply shaming Allah means nothing. Shaming Allah by humiliating men,
making men feel ashamed, thats what is serious. Serious for God, serious for those
whom they humiliate. The foretastes of divine punishment must begin here below.
Poverty is too great a torture for you to allow yourself to accept and suffer from it
eternally. Humiliation is far too much a burning wound for you to allow yourself to
accept it passively ..
With this very beginning, Lassinan had disturbed his father and the public letter-
writer who had read the letter. Afterwards, the two men had commented for a long time
on the letter from the young lycen. To be honest, the path that Lassinan seemed to be
takingeven with some simple hintsworried old Mamadou. Because for him, it was
written that Allah made some people rich and others poor. It was written that the Most
High watched over men while waiting for the Great Day to punish the miscreants and to
reward those who, all their life, have taken the right path, those who have accepted
humility and humiliation as well. But Lassinan didnt understand what had been written.
And thats what worried old Mamadou. Lassinan wanted to solve everything here, on


104
He had to see Mori Ba. And Mamadou failed to understand Lassinans reluctance
to go to the masters home. Because after allthere was not a single doubt thereMori
Ba was truly the best marabout in Kongodjan and even within a hundred miles around.
To be honest, nobody knew very much about Mori Ba. He had arrived one
stormy evening, drenched and flanked by a scrawny disciple looking like a Peul, carrying
a small package and the inevitable kettle for the ablutions. That wet entrance into the
village was very discreet and the advertising side of it failed. Therefore, at the start,
people had mistrusted him, of course. Particularly because he was poorly dressed. But
very early on, Mori Ba made them understand their error. Only educated men, the ones
who know and see, only those dress poorly. Such men are too close to Allah to think
about their body, that detestable physical appearance. They understood the lesson very
quickly and hurried over to the master to request his services.
Another thing proved that Mori Ba was not like all the other marabouts, those
dangerous sly-looking charlatans who could talk up a storm. He never asked for cash.
He had only one rate. For any job, he would insist on one sheepof any color, provided
it were fatand a rooster. The sickly disciple would take care of reselling the masters
sheep in the same village. According to spiteful gossip folk who do not even respect
Allahs servants, he could easily resell the same sheep three times. As for the roosters,
they got thrown into the cooking pot in a flash.
There was something else about Mori Ba. He gave neither a ring, nor an amulet,
nor nansi djia magic potionto those who requested his services. No, all that was the
work of karamoko dthose beginners, marabout apprentices. The master would pray
to Allah only, or to say things clearly and precisely, he would converse with Allah. By


98
many women he had married. But each one knows that the women who are offered in
this manner cost quite a lot.
But naforomoneyis nothing. And Bakary never knew when his fortune
began to escape him. In any case, that coincided with the arrival of independence. They
had promised that everything would change. Bakarys fortune changed. He lost his
customers because the Dyula shopkeeperstheir business having collapsedbegan
dealing in something other than richly embroidered boubous. As to the civil servants,
who had become the most important men, they were wearing pants and a jacket. Bakary
had learned to sew something else.
Naforo is nothing. Money disappeared as quickly as it had come in. Bakarys
friendsand his relatives toodisappeared. His wives followed. Only one stayed with
him. She was too old to be able to take advantage of the civil servants. Bakary sold one
of his three sewing machines. Then a second one was sold. The third one, the only one
left, was old and used only to mend the rags of old people, like Mamadou, who remained
loyal to the old tailor. Thus Bakary was trying to survive. But Bakary was dwindling
like Fagodougou.
Naforowealthis nothing. Whoever has not understood this yet has
understood nothing.
The meal was finished. They had washed their hands and the children had swept
the ground. While the two friends were chewing the kola nut, Bakary asked about the
news.
D di, Mamadou?
A ma k djougou manyits nothing serious.


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
A TRANSLATION INTO ENGLISH
OF AMADOU KONS TRAITES. SOUS LE POUVOIR DES BLAKOROS
[EXPLOITATION. UNDER THE BLAKOROS POWER!
By
Dana Che Martin
May 2003
Chair: Bernadette Cailler
Major Department: Romance Languages and Literatures
In this dissertation, the author presents a translation of Amadou Kons novel
Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros. which is the first volume of a series published in
1980. In the novel, Kon depicts a corrupt post-independence society where certain
native Africans, otherwise known as the blakoros, exploit their fellow Africans
mercilessly. Unlike those in the community who want to build the future on traditional
values, the blakoros function rather on the basis of new and poorly mastered values
established by Western societies. Kon, a writer from Cote dIvoire, is a defender of the
oppressed and exploited masses, especially the peasant class, who have been betrayed by
their fellow citizens in independent Africa.
Chapter 1, the introduction, presents the following: an examination of some
important aspects of Cote dIvoires history from the pre-colonial period to the twentieth
century; Amadou Kons life; an overview of the authors writing career; a comparison
Vll


6
France to the African colonies in 1960. Cote dIvoire achieved full independence on
August 7, 1960 and Flix Houphout-Boigny was elected the countrys first president
(Mundt 11).
Political tensions were high during those first few years after Houphout-
Boignys election as president. In fact, shifts in tactics and ideology by the Parti
Dmocratique de la Cote dIvoire (P.D.C.I.) caused tensions to explode in what became
referred to as the events of 1963 (Mundt 12). Supposedly, a coup was in the works to
overthrow the president; plotters certainly set out to challenge his authority. But all of
their attempts failed and by the next election, Houphout-Boignys control was again
secure.
Of all the former French colonies in Africa, Cote dIvoire was the only one that
had the same president for more than three decades; Houphout-Boigny was reelected
president in 1965, 1970, 1975,1980,1985, and 1990.s I asked Amadou Kon what he
thought about the countrys former president. He said:
Houphout-Boigny was not a democrat, that is, his system of government was not
like the democracy that [I am] used to. It was not even a dictatorship. It was a
personal power that had the advantage of giving a certain amount of freedom to
the people and also, of functioning economically in spite of corruption. Alas, the
governments that have followed Houphout have not succeeded as well.6
While other African nations focused on industrialization, Houphout-Boigny developed
Cote dIvoires cash-crop agriculture. As a result, the country became a primary exporter
of goods, principally cocoa and coffee; in 1977, it was the worlds largest producer of
cocoa (Mundt xviii). Philippe David acknowledges the peasant community in Cote
5 Flix Houphouet-Boigny was born on October 18, 1905 in Yamoussoukro, Cote dIvoire. He was known
respectfully as le Vieux [the Old Man] by his compatriots. Houphouet-Boigny died in Cote dIvoire on
December 7, 1993. Under his leadership, Cote dIvoire became one of the most prosperous nations in Sub-
Saharan Africa. La Cote dIvoire, pp. 38,45.
6 My translation from the French. Interview with Amadou Kon, 2002.


47
culture. I have also included a helpful glossary of all the foreign words and indicated to
which languages they belong: thus balafon (Malinke), El Hadj (Arabic), to name a few.
Traites is perhaps the most difficult and yet most important word I had to
translate. The word itself has several meanings: trade, traffic, journey, transport,
exportation, draft, bill, milking (Larousse 1023). The word is present throughout the
narrative and is cleverly used in different contexts, which would indicate that it exploits
the different meanings. In my interview with Kon, I expressed doubt as to whether one
could find a single translation for the word traites? He explains:
It is very ambiguous. I think you have to show all the nuances, so you cannot just
translate it with one word. You can think of it as the crop when the fruit is ripe
and ready to be sold, but it goes much further than that. It is also the exploitation
of the people or the people whom they milk, like a cow. (Interview 2002)
Traites appears in the story as la traite du caf [coffee crop/trade]; traire les
pauvres [milk the poor]; and tout dune traite [all in one breath]. Indeed, considering
the various meanings of the word traites, Kons response, and the subject matter of the
novel has led me to translate the title of Amadou Kons narrative as Exploitation. Under
the Blakoros Power.
Translating Amadou Kons Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros was quite a
challenge. The process was difficult and I faced many problems. But the overall
experience was rewarding. The translation of Kons novel is important for me in that I
bring the sense of this source text into the new language, that being English, thereby
widening the readership of Francophone African Literature, and specifically literature
from Cote dIvoire. The English translation may even appeal to some potential
researchers who, otherwise, might have been hindered by the problem of language.
Therefore, both readership and scholarly interest in Kons novel will be expanded with


3
move inland. French claims, however, were not matched by effective control over Cote
dIvoire until the late nineteenth century.
Eventually, the French defined Cote dIvoires borders, thereby solidifying
control over the country. They were able to carry out this mission after the capture of the
Muslim religious leader, Samory Tour.2 Tour, a Malinke warrior chief who often came
into conflict with French military expeditions, was against their expansion in West
Africa. With his supporters, he resisted French penetration, but was finally captured after
prolonged fighting in 1898 (Mundt 7). Six years later, Cote dIvoire became a
constituent territory of the Federation of French West Africa and in 1908, Governor
Gabriel Angoulvant began military occupation of the colony.
In the years to follow, Africans had to succumb to forced labor, which
subsequently led to fierce resistance. Revolts broke out as France picked thousands of
Africans from Cote dIvoire to serve as soldiers in World War I. However, the French
overpowered these revolts and resistance efforts; and the Africans implicated were
severely punished. By the end of the war, the French had concluded their conquest of
Cote dIvoire. To secure their authority during the period of conquest, they subdued the
African tribes and imposed a uniform, centralized administration. In the years between
the two world wars, economic development in Cote dIvoire became the primary focus.
Not only was a railroad completed to help with the colonys transportation infrastructure,
but Africans also began planting cash crops, such as cocoa and coffee, for export (David
27).
' Kons first play was about the great leader, Samory Tour. He titled the tragedy, Samory de
Bissandougou. Unpublished.


I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Bernadette Caller, Chair
Professor of Romance Languages
and Literatures
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
o
OH
|4\A 1
1
Sylvi
[ E. Blum-Reid
Assistant Professor of Romance
Languages and Literatures
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
William C. Calin
Graduate Research Professor of
Romance Languages and
Literatures
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
J
Professor of English
This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Department of
Romance Languages and Literatures in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and to
the Graduate School and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the
degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
May 2003
Dean, Graduate School


146
earth. And the scary idea had crossed the old mans mind: his son, even if he didnt want
to admit it, had set himself up as god. The young mans letter to his father was clear. He
criticized him for having given up on the co-op. He made him responsible for the failure
of something he had conceived down to the smallest details. As if Allah were not
responsible for everything. If the co-op had failed, its because Allah had wanted it. But,
Mamadou thought, Lassinan was often right. The future had again just proven Lassinan
right about Mori Ba. Mamadou also remembered one of his rare discussions with his
son. Lassinan had said:
Its not that I dont believe in God. I only question what we make of God. I
question the God that rich people rely on to exploit the poor, that powerful people rely on
to keep the weak enslaved. Thats all!
In the past, God was the best defense for the poor, the weak.
Those were the days when we knew about piety, when we paid homage to
humility. Now, humility has become a weakness, and respect, a fear. In any case, saying
no to poverty cannot be sacrilege.
Mamadou, virtually defeated, had spoken as if to himself.
We have accepted for too long. And it has become our way of life to suffer.
And to survive, we used to call God witness to the injustice, and we used to think about
tomorrows reward.
Baba, God is perhaps honesty. And honesty, it doesnt just mean not cheating
others; its also refusing that others cheat you.
Mamadou hadnt quite understood his sons last words. But little by little, he
understood that these little words were controlling his sons entire behavior. Being


20
independence. He represents the group of deluded Africans lured from the village by
promises of opportunity in the capital city. Misfortune, however, is the only outcome.
Like Ahmadou Kourouma, Kon also denounces the new bourgeoisie who have adopted
European ideologies.
In addition, certain individuals in Traites and Les Soleils des Indpendances are
linked to one another because they share similar viewpoints concerning Africas
independence. Fama (Les Soleils des Indpendances) can be linked with old Mamadou
(Traites), and the narrator (Les Soleils des Indpendances) can be linked with Lassinan
(Traites). Fama and old Mamadou have not adjusted to the changes that have occurred in
Africa since independence. That is because they only know their own culture, customs,
and values. It is difficult for them to see beyond tradition, especially in the independent
society where modernism prevails. Furthermore, neither Fama nor old Mamadou
understand the European language, that is, French. All these factors contribute to their
perception of the independent society. For Fama and old Mamadou, it is certainly one
where traditional values have no place. This makes it all the more difficult for them to
function, because they are blind to certain issues. Yet, the narrator of Les Soleils des
Indpendances understands how this new society functions. The same can be said for
Lassinan who grasps fully the situation confronting the peasant community depicted in
Traites. Both are aware of the new rules of the game, or rather, the new exploitation in
independent Africa. Kouroumas and Kons novels are directed against the new native
rulers of post-independence. At the same time, the novels also highlight cultural
problems encountered by Africans because of contact between African and Western
civilizations.


12
In Jusquau seuil de Pirrel. Kon reveals the deadly practices of sorcerers who
curse the village of Soubakagnandougou. At the same time, he also presents a traditional
group of individuals who make up an integral part of the African society in which Karfa
and the others live. Of course, Kon includes other traditional elements in the text that
characterize an African society. For instance, one reads about farm workers, griots who
play the kora,i} marriages, various celebrations, and Hierais. These elements are a
welcome addition to an otherwise heartbreaking story dominated by tragedy and anguish.
Kon wrote Les Frasques dbinto before Jusquau seuil de lirrel while he was
still a student in Grand-Bassam. He finished the novel in high school in Abidjan and it
was later published in 1979. Les Frasques dEbinto is well known by middle and high
school students throughout Cote dIvoire and is considered one of the most beautiful
novels written by Kon (Abissiri). The story is about binto, a young student, around
the same age as the author, who learns about the facts of life the hard way when he
must interrupt his studies and marry Monique, a childhood friend, who becomes
pregnant. The narrator-protagonists dreams are ultimately shattered once he is faced
with this new life, a life without the education for which he so hungered. The novel is
also about love; but in the end, love is not enough to save Monique, who dies from a
horrible tragedy. With regard to binto and Monique, one critic suggests the following:
There is a pro fond contradiction between the harshness of binto turned towards
the future and the sensitivity of binto tied to the past. This contradiction is none
other than the severe, perhaps mutilating, conflict of tomorrow throughout
13 In his book, Epic Traditions of Africa (1999), Stephen Belcher discusses the term griot. He writes that,
From the French, the word has come into English. The term applies to the musicians and singers of many
ethnic groups in French West Africa; their functions resemble the combined roles of minstrel and herald in
medieval Europe. Music and song are widely seen as their essential activities, but griots also fulfill other
purposes. They are widely credited with diplomatic skills (the art of the word) and may serve as
intermediaries in negotiations; in the past they were the spokesmen for royalty, protecting the majesty of
the ruler by isolating him (8). Belcher also defines the kora as a large stringed instrument (a harp-lute)
used by many griots in West Africa (216).


REFERENCE LIST
Works by Amadou Kon
Jusquau seuil de lirrel (Novel). Abidjan: NEA, 1976.
La Force de vouloir (Childrens book in collaboration with Mary Lee Martin-Kon).
Abidjan: CEDA, 1978.
Les Frasques dEbinto (Novel). Paris-Abidjan: Hatier et CEDA, 1979.
Terre ivoirienne (Childrens book). Abidjan: CEDA, 1979.
De la chaire au tron (Drama). Paris: Hatier, 1980.
Le Respect des mors (Drama). Paris: Hatier, 1980.
Les Liens (Short stories). Abidjan: CEDA, 1980.
Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros (Novel). Abidjan: NEA, 1980.
Courses. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros (Novel). Abidjan: NEA, 1982.
Anthologie de la littrature ivoirienne (published in collaboration with Grard D. Lezou
and Joseph Mlanhoro). Abidjan: CEDA, 1983.
Les Canaris sont vides (Drama). Abidjan: NEA, 1984.
Du rcit oral au roman: Etude sur les avatars de la tradition hro'fque dans le roman
africain. Abidjan: CEDA, 1985
Kamlfata ou les ennemis de la traite (Childrens book). Paris: Hatier, 1987.
Roman africain et littrature rale. Komparatistische Hefte 15-16 (1987): 27-36.
Des textes oraux au roman modeme: tude sur les avatars de la tradition orale dans le
roman ouest-africain. Frankfurt: Verlag fur Interkulturelle Kommunikation,
1993.
Les Coupeurs de tetes (Novel). Abidjan: CEDA, 1997.
173


149
Diabat spoke. Really, under these accursed sunswho hasnt cursed them?
nothing was in its proper place. Otherwise, would this meeting have had any reason to
take place? And even if it were necessary, was it supposed to be held in this way?
Serious matters are settled under the palaver tree or at the mosque. But this famous co-op
had found a way to confine them in a classroom, like some blakoros. Tell me, worthy
people, why is that? Because drunkards, people who had never had a penny and who
hadnt experienced shame either, and then cuckolds who were good for nothing other
than raising fowl and baby goats, these people had thus spread lies and slander trying in
this way to tarnish the reputation of men whom Allah himself knows are decent. And
people, others, who didnt see any further than the tip of their nose, had accepted such
slander.
The brilliant speech failed to exonerate the leaders of the co-op who really found
themselves in the position of defendants.
We were told that the co-op was for helping the poorest people without driving
them even more into poverty. But, Salia continued, during the fasting month, its us
poor people who have the greatest number of problems. Therefore, we should benefit
from the co-op.
Dont you benefit from the co-op in this way? Malan screamed. You, Salia,
who are speaking, you got two thousand francs.
We should take our resources into account, which for the moment are low, El
Hadj Doulaye calmly said.
Salia had already lost his enthusiasm for making accusations. Thats when Tifi,
seeing that the meeting might not take place, intervened.


56
Martin:
Have any of your books been translated into African languages?
Kon:
There are no written translations of my books in African languages.
However, the plav. Le Respect des morts. has been orallv translated. One
year, in the Anyi village where a particular scene takes place, young
students performed the play in the village language. So all the old people
came to hear the language. It was very nice.
Martin:
French is the official language of Cote dIvoire, but dozens of African
languages are also spoken there. Ive read that Bambara, Malinke, and
Dyula are all dialects of the Mande language. How closely related are
these languages? And Malinke is often called Dyula. Is that right?
Kon:
Yes, they are pretty much the same language with a few variations in tone
and accent. Dyula is the popular Malinke; it is for popular use, for
commercial use. It was the language spoken by shopkeepers all
throughout West Africa before Independence and everyone easily
understood it. Dyula is really the simplified form of Bambara and
Malinke.
Martin:
This is interesting because Dyula is the particular African language you
mention in Traites. But vou also include Arabic in the text. What is the
role of this language?
Kon:
Dyula is often mentioned in the text because before French, that was the
language you spoke in the market place and everyone could understand
the language. Yes, there are at times Arabic words in the text that are
uniquely spontaneous expressions that we say under certain
circumstances. That does not mean that the one saying those words
understands Arabic. Maybe it is just a reflection of the society in which I
live. If someone is happy, or if someone thinks he has done something
good, I, in the text, often say, alihamdoulilahi. They are just words that
appear spontaneously. For example, if you are surprised, you say Allah
akhar, which is an exclamation; you are surprised to the point where you
say Gods name.
Martin:
So most of the words in Traites are in Dvula or Malinke?
Kon:
Yes, like the word hangui. That is a Malinke word. Gui means water,
and hangui is the water from a palm tree; it is palm wine. Allah yi en d
mb is also Malinke. It can be translated as May Allah help us. Blk,
which means plantain or boiled cassava, is a Dyula word. So it is a
mixture of Malinke or Dyula. But, assalam alkoum, alkoum salam, is
Arabic.
Martin:
Can you situate your novel. Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros?


53
Kon:
Martin:
Kon:
Martin:
Kon:
A writer has to describe his society and understand social problems. I do
not think a writer can solve the problems. However, he can at least
present them in such a way that those who are capable of solving them
may think about these problems and attempt to solve them. But when you
imagine it this way, you are led to think a little more on political
questions. Writing is a kind of fake action because, on the one hand, you
have action, and on the other, you have writing, and the two must come
together to be truly effective. In the past, I thought a writer did not have to
commit himself politically; I thought it would be enough if he simply
wrote, but now, perhaps I think differently.
Which authors do you feel have influenced you the most?
In the beginning, I read French literature practically until I got to the
university. So I was obviously influenced by this literature, the romantic
writing, and authors like Victor Hugo and Chateaubriand. I was
particularly interested in Andr Malraux when I began to read twentieth
century literature. I was drawn to his writing because of the type of
heroism he described in the Orient, which was the setting for these books.
He described an awakening of the Orient with a certain nationalism that
was developing there, which made me think a little of Africa. But,
obviously, African and Caribbean literatures have influenced me. Among
those writers, I think Aim Csaire has influenced me. Although I do not
share his style of writing, I think he is a very important writer. I am a
great admirer of Birago Diop and of Lopold Sdar Senghors poetry,
which is different from Csaires. All of these writers have had an
influence on me in one way or another because they have shaped my
literary taste. But my taste in writing is obviously quite eclectic. I must
say though that Ahmadou Kouroumas influence is the determining factor.
I think he has succeeded at something on the level of language, but not
just the level of language. When you know African culture at the level of
expressing the culture, that is something extraordinary. Thanks to the
Africanized French language, Kourouma succeeds more than anyone in
translating African culture in the most expressive way. The one who
knows this culture and how it is expressed in African languages sees how
Kourouma plays on reality and the two languages, that is, African and
French. I am not a big fan of his latest novel, but a novel, such as Monne,
outrages et dfs. I find to be very important. So I am interested in
Kouroumas writing.
Where do you place yourself in the context of West African literature?
Where does your fiction fit in Francophone African literature?
I must say that my attitude vis--vis writing is a very personal and
individualistic attitude. I write about things that I enjoy and that interest
me. I am not concerned about placing myself in a movement or placing


17
vita provisoria] was published in 1996.22 Kons third play, Les Canaris sont vides, was
published in 1984. In this play, peasants must deal with a severe drought that has struck
their village in the Sahel region. Consequently, they must also deal with famine. These
three plays by Kon have been successful, earning the author awards. De la chaire au
tron and Le Respect des morts won prizes at the Concours Thtral Inter-Africain in
1972 and 1974, respectively. Les Canaris sont vides won the grand prize at the Concours
Thtral Inter-Africain in 1976.
There are also childrens books to add to Kons list of publications. In
collaboration with his wife, he wrote La Force de vouloir (1978). The story is about the
strong relationship between a father and son. When times get hard for Ousmane, his
young son, Birama, is there to support him and give him the confidence to fulfill his
talent despite blindness. Terre ivoirienne (1979) relates the adventures of the protagonist,
Tikilikan, in Cote dIvoire. Indeed, he discovers this land, its diverse regions and
inhabitants. At the same time, he also learns the history and culture of his country. As
Kon expressed in an interview with Jnos Riesz:
Literature for children is something I consider an area of vital importance for
African culture. Traditional story-telling, once a basic factor in the education on
the African child, no longer exists. It has been replaced by television, the
programming of which comes from abroad, and by childrens books, also from
abroad. It would seem to me to be of prime importance to develop childrens
literature in Africa, to provide a literature that talks about African culture and
about the concerns of young Africans, a literature that would be a valid
replacement for traditional story-telling. Books conceived of and written locally
will be more likely to create the kind of interest that will induce children to
become habitual readers.23
22 Janos Riesz, Per Staudamm. (Koln, 1991). Paolo Maddoni, La vita provisoria (Roma: Grin srl, 1996).
23 Translated from the French by Jnos Riesz. Amadou Kon at the University of Bayreuth, Afrika 10-
11-12(1986): 36.


126
Habib lost his smile, reddened with anger and almost passed out, then caught
himself just in time.
Scram! he said. Let those who have sent you fmd more intelligent
messengers.
Tifi tightened his arms well up against his sides. Nothing disgusted him as much
as these people who thought they were intelligent because they were rich.
Thank your God for having made you rich. But admit that wealth never made a
man intelligent and that poverty is not necessarily a sign of idiocy. Lets go, Tigbi.
But Tigbi was babbling:
Pardon me, mista Habib, the fasting ..
Lets go, Tigbi.
Tif grabbed him by the arm and they found themselves back on the street. Tifi
was sweating. To let oneself be ripped off is one thing; to let oneself be insulted is
another. Poverty puts up with humiliation. Who said it ruins ones sense of dignity?
Never could Habib realize that he had come so close to death. But naforo protects.
Who said naforo is nothing?
The taxi braked two meters from Tifi. Its tires screeched lugubriously on the
asphalt and Tifi knew he had walked in the middle of the road and had nearly gotten
himself run over. The taxi driver shouted something at him that he didnt understand. He
said nothing. He only noticed that the accident, which had almost taken place, had
already brought on a mob and that all kinds of comments were bursting out. They were
saying that there were as many drunkards as reckless drivers; that was really the cause of
countless accidents under the sad reign of the blakoros. Tifi didnt pay any attention to


100
Oh! I forgot to tell you that she is a Dyula woman. But she loves men and
money too much. Or maybe she just loves money. Give her a little money and you will
see. She will force her husband to take Issa.
May Allah protect us under the power of the blakoros and the courtesans! Amina.
I would also like to ask you for a big favor, Bakary.
May Allah help me to be able to give it to you!
I told you that Issa will have to come here to Fagodougou if they agree to take
him at school. I would like to ask you to take him in your home.
There was a hush. Bakary was thinking.
You know, Bakary finally said, that I cannot refuse to help you. I have known
you for too long and our friendship is built on too many complicities. But todays
children are not children. It would be an honor for me to look after your child. He is our
child, to us all, but this child could spoil our friendship.
May Allah keep us from that!
Look, my wife is old. She will no doubt ask your son and her sons for small
chores. She will ask them to go draw water. And they really might go tell you something
other than the truth. That would spoil our friendship.
You spoke the truth and God likes the truth. But dont worry about that. I know
todays children. And we would have to be an imbecile to have faith in their word. That
will not spoil our friendship.
Indeed, I wanted everything to be clear between us. Otherwise, your child is my
child. Who knows, maybe he is the one who will bury me some day? You can send him
to me.


141
You are absolutely right, old Mamadou emphasized. Those are not easy things
under the blakoros power. At the hospital or the maternity ward, male and female
nurses dont keep it a secret: free medicine no longer exists. There are prescriptions and
the pharmacy, but above all, theres the secret purchase of medicine at the nurses home.
That only happens to us because we know nothing about their wretched world.
We endure. But whom do we complain to?
Theres also that group of crooks, Habib, Doulaye, Akafu.
I thought that an El Hadj ought to be more human and detach himself more from
material goods. To be honest, he surprises me, Doulaye.
Other people go to the holy city to ask Allah for wealth on earth. Who knows if
Doulaye is one of those?
Yes, who knows? At any rate, since his return from Makan, his business has
prospered and, strangely enough, he is becoming more and more cynical, more and more
stingy, relentless. Hes a show-off. He flamboyantly displays his splendor right before
the eyes of the poor, and he relies on them to build up his immense fortune.
Thats why he and Lassinan will never be able to get along. Wealth is a good
thing, says Lassinan, but it must not be built on the poverty of others.
There was silence. No doubt, everyone was thinking about Lassinan. There was
total silence and thats why yelling could be heard with such force.
The screaming was coming from Assamois concession, a poor cattle breeder by
trade, but who seemed to know what he wanted in this life. Assamoi, everyone said it,
was as insolent as a goat, as perceptive as a trail-sniffing dog. You wouldnt have
thought that he had any liking for religions and prophets and it was really a coincidence if


dIvoire for playing an instrumental role in the success of the countrys agricultural
economy. According to this scholar:
7
[...] farmers were, and still are, an essential strength for the country [...].
Houphouet will always show, what he has admitted to calling, his profonde
sollicitude to all planters [of coffee and cocoa, pineapples, cotton, and sugar
cane] food-producing farmers, stockbreeders, fishermen, and rural artisans, the
backbone of a country that, on this level, has always asserted itself as certainly
different from its neighbors. Even if the important CEOs of Abidjan sometimes
grew more and more distant from the low-ranking planters who, nonetheless,
provide the basic essentials of their prosperity, one will see that numerous
personal and financial ties continue to unite one to the other.7
Kons focus on Africas peasantry is, therefore, a timely one. Undoubtedly, the
presence of this group in Cote dIvoire was important, especially to Houphout-Boigny
who, along with the peasant class, made agriculture the backbone of Cote dIvoires
economy (David 54, 1st ed.).
The characters, particularly in Traites, Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros. are farmers
who plant coffee and cocoa to sustain their livelihood in the village. Unfortunately, these
hard-working individuals seem to benefit the least from the fruits of their labor because
their village has been plagued with corruption:
We harvested the last bean of coffee, [...]. We dried, ground, and sold it
unenthusiastically. To make sure we earned enough to repay all the debts.8
In Traites, the new social classes of the post-independence city are made up of scheming
exploiters. They lend money to the peasants, but once the peasants crop has been
harvested, the good-for-nothing scoundrels cash in and come out ahead every time.
Indeed, the fruits of independence [are] ripe enough for the greedy ones to pluck in this
Ivoirian society depicted by Kon (Snyder 12-13).
7 My translation. La Cote dIvoire, pp. 68-69.
8 My translation. See chapter 5, Exploitation. Under the Blakoros Power, p. 164.


36
[A Difficult Path toward the Quest for Knowledge]. Part 2 consists of 5 chapters and is
titled, Le Peuple qu 'on trait [The People they milk]. The chapters are narratively linked
and vary in length. The narrative structure takes the form of a series of episodes that
occur in either the village or the city, and are linked by key figures like Lassinan and
Mamadou.
As far as characterization is concerned, Kon presents types as well as
developed characters in the novel. For example, there are the low-down, ruthless
scoundrels such as Habib, Doulaye, and Akafu; they are types of exploiters. There is
Fatouma, a mother who exemplifies the traditional role of African women. She has been
brought up to be submissive to males, especially her husband; nonetheless, she has the
important role of caregiver for the family. There is Bakary, a faithful friend who has not
forgotten about traditional African values, like respect, honesty, and hospitality. There
are also the fieldworkers, Mata and Drissa, and there is Mori Ba, the so-called saintly
marabout who is nothing but a hypocrite. As for the policemen, they are only typical
representations of instruments of oppression in society. The roles of characters such as
Mamadou, Tifi, Shia, and Lassinan, are developed in the novel. In addition, Lassinans
and Shias roles further develop in Courses, volume two of Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros.
Now as husband and wife, they continue the struggle together in the hope that they will
be instrumental in raising the level of consciousness of the peasants, in helping them to
be fully aware of their exploitation and of the necessity to resist it.
Like Les Saisons seches. Traites is also a novel of situations; the book has no plot,
as Kon happened to say.43 Furthermore, it is a rcit-expos in which Kon unveils a
43 See interview question with Kon, Chapter 2, p. 56Can you situate your novel, Traites?


30
structure alludes to the element of African traditional folklore. Altogether, Diigbo is an
interesting novel that highlights the theme of sorcery in a post-independence society.
Sorcery is once again the main theme in Tidiane Dems novel, Masseni. also
published in 1977. The story takes place in colonial Africa, in a village called Ganda in
Cote dIvoire. The reader learns that Dady Konat and his wife, Minignan, have been
unable to conceive a child after five years of marriage because of a spell cast on
Minignan by her neighbor, Nakaridia. Although skeptical, Dady and Minignan decide to
seek help from Karamoko, a well-known marabout. But after many meetings and animal
sacrifices, the couple fail to see any results. In fact, Karamoko turns out to be a fake
marabout and has disappeared with a large sum of Dadys money. Finally, with the help
of a hunter and an old woman who, in particular, holds the key ingredient for a remedy,
Minignans sterility is cured. She and Dady soon have a baby girl and call her Masseni.
The remaining pages of Dems novel focus on Massenis life. She grows up to be
a beautiful and intelligent woman and many men desire her. The area chief turns out to
be the lucky man who wins Massenis hand in marriage; she will now live in a harem
with his other wives. The first wife who, in the beginning, is a kind of mother figure for
Masseni, ultimately becomes her rival out of jealousy and attempts to do her harm with
the help of her fellow sorcerers. Every attempt fails, and the occult ways of the first wife
are discovered. After some time passes, we learn that the chief suddenly dies after being
struck down with paralysis. Masseni is overcome with grief as a result of her husbands
death, but she must go on for the sake of their daughter. In the end, Masseni accidentally
falls and, tragically, she dies as her friend, Mabronti, remains close by her side.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
My first expression of gratitude must be directed to Dr. Bernadette Cailler,
Professor of French and Chair of my committee, who provided guidance, professional
expertise, and encouragement throughout the research and writing process. She carefully
read and patiently worked with me through the dissertation. I have greatly appreciated
and profited from her constructive criticisms and valuable suggestions. My appreciation
extends to the members of the dissertation committee: Dr. Sylvie Blum, Assistant
Professor of French, Dr. William Calin, Graduate Research Professor of French, and Dr.
Mark Reid, Professor of English. They have also provided helpful comments and
suggestions which contributed to the successful completion of this project.
I would like to thank Amadou Kon and the African Publisher, Les Nouvelles
ditions Ivoiriennes (formerly Les Nouvelles ditions Afficaines) for giving me
permission to translate Traites, Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros. I also extend my sincere
thanks to Amadou Kon, my former professor at Tulane University, for granting me a
personal interview and for allowing me to contact him whenever I had additional
questions. I am grateful to the University of Floridas Department of Romance
Languages and Literatures for offering financial support through teaching assistantships,
fellowships, and tuition waivers.
Finally, I wish to thank my loved ones, friends, and colleagues for their moral
support, encouragement, and also for helping me overcome some very difficult times.
IV


117
anywhere. Souls concern was rather the echo of his fathers and of a lot of Muslim
peasants as Ramadan approached.
With the childrens return to school, certain worries had smoothed themselves
out. But immediately, others would arise. The month of fasting, Ramadan, was the most
important month of the year: thirty days of fast and the hope of being cleansed from
many sins, countless stains that haunt the atmosphere under the reign of the blakoros and
streetwalkers. Thirty days of fast also under the sun, spent weeding under the coffee
trees and harvesting the coffee while getting bit by red ants. But thirty days of physical
exhaustion are nothing if one has succeeded in obtaining what one needs to eat properly
every evening.
In order to appropriately observe the fasting days, each family was to buy,
depending on whether it was a large or small family, one bag or half a bag of rice, millet,
a carton of sugar, and on some rare occasions, a little honey, a small supply of dates and
some milk too. The rice and millet would be used for the porridge, and from time to time
the morning meal. The sugar would be added to the porridge and coffee. The presence
of honey and dates was simply symbolic. Could anyone still not know that Allah likes
these kinds of foods and recommends them as much as he forbids pork and alcohol? The
springs of paradise, as the marabouts claim, are pure and fresh water, milk, and honey
flowing at the feet of superb date palm trees.
They have to buy all that, if not, how will they observe the fasting? But how will
they buy all that with no money? Adebayo was the only shopkeeper who could give
credit and not worry too much. But Adebayos small shop couldnt allow him to give
credit during the month of fasting. And that was really a shame. Really unfortunate


144
Assamoi believed the threat had been made sufficiently clear to keep the man
quiet. He didnt know him well because that evening ...
That evening, I was coming back from hunting. Night had taken me by surprise
and I got home late. I thought I would find the kossiafou sleeping off his porridge. But
once in the yard, I see no one: neither Mori Ba nor Aya, my wife. I go to the big
henhouse to see if its closed and I find the hens outside on the bush branches, on the roof
of the henhouse ...
Assamoi had thought it might be a boa and he was quick to look inside the
henhouse. He had lit his torch and had looked around. The scene confronted him with an
extraordinary intensity. Well finally, he had seen them! She and he, in the henhouse,
telling each other something other than holy words.
To be honest, Assamoi did not have a single ounce of respect for his saintliness.
He got her out of the henhouse like a dying goat and he beat him black and blue with a
stick. The man laid down his dignity and began to scream. At that moment, some people
had intervened and had removed Mori Ba from Assamois clutches. The waldjou hadnt
continued the conversation and had squirmed away into the night.
Really, nowadays, marabouts make Allah ashamed.
Tifi tried to calm his friend. Women, of course you couldnt trust them.
Because Tifi, who was talking, had rolled around in the hay with women far too much
and everyone knows that Blakorodougou women are worse than all the others. Who
could believe that Tifi had once married a woman who was already married? She
would always say that she was going to the village to see her parents; but she was going
to live one week with her other husband, one week with Tifi. And the money that Tifi


68
trips to the small river to draw the water of the day. They had swept the yard, washed the
children, and prepared breakfast. They ate very early, right with the sunrise and then ...
And then life continued.
The men would conscientiously file their machetes, loudly whistle for their dogs,
then, by small groups, pour into the coffee and cocoa plantations. This was done in order
to remove the weeds tangled under the precious bushes or to cut them back. Or still, men
disappeared well into the forest to cut the rattan cane and the bamboo necessary for the
preparation of the mats serving to dry the coffee or the cocoa beans.
That existence, which varied only with the seasons, was a process of constant
renewal with the passing years. People, however, did not have time to be bored. They
were living under a power that old Mamadou called, the power of the blakoros and the
girls of easy virtue. Everything seemed dissolute. Mercilessly, there reigned the civil
servants, rich city merchants, and village usurers, the prophets of little influence. And the
life of the peasants was without order, a life aimed at a little bit of happiness, but a life
riddled with complications springing up from the slightest thing. Oh! This life subjected
haphazardly to the mood of the powerful! Yes, those people were forever hoping for
better tomorrows, but the days were always disappointing them. They were living from
one coffee crop7*7 to the next, at the two poles of the year, with a lot of hope and certain
risks of disillusion.
57 Here, the word traite appears for the first time in the text; in fact, the word appears throughout the text.
See my interview with Kon for an explanation.


85
gifts to the state civil servants in order to get what one wants. Some old men coughed; a
cough of approval or disapproval depending on whether they were poor, or rich ...
Finally, the headmistress said she had taken note of everything and the meeting
ended. It was totally dark.
Lassinan and old Mamadou returned to their concession. After the meal, they
rolled out the mats around the fire and they sat down to talk as usual. In the past, when
Lassinan was little, those evening gatherings were eagerly awaited moments. It was then
when one used to tell tales, taking the audience out of reality to transport it into the
kingdom of animals where the powerful lion, the panther, the silly hyena or the hare, the
most intelligent animal, reigned. Also in those days, one would create with a dazzling
intensity the marvelous kingdoms of handsome, courageous princes, beautiful princesses
the likes of whom Lassinan had not yet succeeded in meeting. There also, one would
consider the problems of the village from all angles, although it did not really seem that
way. Now, no one any longer told tales. The old people had too many worries and
everyone knows worries drive away tales because they trouble the mind. And then the
children of these new suns no longer appreciated tales as they had in the past. Its also
true that these children, from their first cries, believe they know more about the world
than their parents. Without initiation, they already think they know everything. And the
blakoros also had the floor. So whats the use of tales? When an old man happens to tell
a story to teach a lesson, the children of independence begin by asking for the date and
the places of the story, photos: well, some proof!
No, around the fire nowadays, one could only talk about current events and then
curse the power of the blakoros.


166
life and their privileges. Death relates to God, but also relates to poverty. Everyone dies,
but the poor die more easily.
Why is my brother dead? Its Allah who wished it, youll tell me. Ill say that
its mainly because he was from a poor family. And then, if his family is poor, its
because its more convenient for some other people that they are poor.
The audience was moved by the young lycens words. Someone had tried to
protest. One does not speak in this way during a sacrifice. But the man had held back his
protest in front of Lassinan who, with a serious look on his face, went on speaking.
You keep saying that the important thing is paradise, and that money is nothing.
But who among you all hates money? Which one of you refuses earths material well
being? Youd rather pocket your bills in your old wallets rather than lending them to a
friend in trouble. Whom do you think in this village is a good Muslim? The rich, those
who can afford being Had) just to come back later to show off in front of others.
You did everything to bring down the co-op, to continue exploiting the poor
peasants. If the co-op existed, my brother would not be dead. No, people, he would not
be dead because the co-op would have easily lent the money to my father. You destroyed
the co-op so that someone would continue to bow down to you. You know that people
need to believe in something. In your interest, you, the rich who are looking at me, you
push them to believe in a sad fate, damnation. The poor must also believe in happiness,
the chance of happiness.
I will help them as long as I live.
El Hadj Doulaye, overtaken by what had happened, was shrinking in his comer,
trying not to draw any attention to himself. Diabat, with his eyes lowered, seemed to be


46
htrodigtique. In Figures III. Genette makes a distinction between two different
types of narratives:
[...] one by a narrator who is not a character in the story he is recounting [...],
the other by a narrator who is present as a character in the story he is recounting
[...]. I call the first type, for obvious reasons, htrodigtique, and the second
homodigtique.52
However, in the first few sentences of the last chapter of part 2,1 felt that Kon
wanted to introduce a narrator in the story when he used the pronoun on. This led me
to translate the French on as we in the English text. In doing so, this collective
narrator becomes, in fact, a character like the peasants. Now, condemning the evils of the
independent African nation, the humiliations, economic exploitation, and administrative
corruption is their problem. They must pull together and work together as one group to
overcome the current aggressive capitalist system dominating their society.
I have, of course, retained all the African and Arabic words of the original text in
my English translation. The words, which have been translated into French by Kon, are
translated into standard English. For instance, naforo, largent, becomes naforo
money and sgus, des paniers ventrus, becomes sgusballoon-shaped baskets.
This is also true for the names of characters and places. I do not change the orthography
of the proper names or names of places so that English readers can pronounce the words
more easily. Nor does Martin-Kon, for that matter, in her unpublished translation of
Jusquau seuil de lirrel. Adrian Adams, on the other hand, found the need to do just
that in his translation of Les Soleils des Indpendances [The Suns of Independence]:
Doumbouya [Dumbuya]; Ticoura [Chekura]; le mont Tougb [Mount Tugbe], I want to
preserve the original words as they are, specifically because of their link to African
52 My translation. Grard Genette, Figures III (Paris: Seuil, 1972) 252.


148
would go into the common cash box. Three years would be more than enough for the co
op to become a public force capable of having its own general store and capable of giving
credit to the peasants during the fasting months or the new school term periods without
resorting to usury. They would no longer need to humble themselves at the rich peoples
feet to ask them for the price of a bag of sugar or money to buy medicine at the
pharmacy. Lassinans ideas had been convincing. But the young man hadnt taken into
consideration those that the co-op made uneasy.
The rich get along with each other. And they are powerful.
The co-op administrative committee was formed after Lassinans departure. The
president was a powerful man, the treasurer had been a rich man. They clearly said it at
the time: you cant entrust money into the hands of a poor man. One of the first things
they would do would be to dip into the cash box. As if the rich werent the biggest
thieves. Therefore, the chiefs nephew, Malan, was appointed president of the co-op; El
Hadj Doulaye became general treasurer. They took control and they chose as general
secretary, Diabat, a middle-aged man who was very talkative, but who knew how to
keep quiet when silence earned him more than well-phrased speeches. Assamoi was able
to get himself elected auditor.
The co-ops first collection garnered three hundred thousand francs. But during
the fasting month, people noticed that the co-op officers had given the most important
loans to those who needed them the least, under the pretext that they were the ones who
could pay back what they had borrowed. The people put pressure on Diabat to have an
urgent meeting. He reluctantly complied. At the meeting, they understood his lack of
enthusiasm.


41
Songs are an additional element that reveals how the narrative strategy of Traites
arises from the rich African oral traditions. For instance, whistling or singing songs
while laboring in the fields is very common, in spite of the strenuous work conditions:
At dawn, they covered themselves with ashes or some other unsavory powder to
protect themselves from the constant bite of red ants which some coffee trees
were packed with. And with basket in hand, they gathered precious fruits while
whistling love songs or work songs.
Beautiful girl, wait for me.
When I have plenty of money
I will give you the greatest of dowries
Be patient, beautiful girl.48
Songs help the laborers, who work collectively in the field, to forget the worries and
sufferings of everyday life in the village. It is a common pattern, according to Ruth
Finnegan, for stories to be interrupted from time to time by a song (244). She goes on
further to say that sometimes these songs amount to quite long poems, and are then often
in recitative. Short verses are also very common [...] (244). Altogether, songs give
rhythm and melody to the narrative and thus, further emphasize the oral-like quality of
the novel. Kon recalls his own linguistic and cultural heritage by using such elements as
songs, repetition, and proverbs. The novel Traites is a good example of a number of
African creative texts written in French that have been influenced by African oral
tradition.
In an attempt to resolve the problem of rendering exactly his African ideas,
feelings, and thoughts in French, Kon decides to employ French words whose meanings
are contingent on the significations that these words have in his African language. In
Traites, for example, the word soleil appears eleven times. This is a prime illustration
of an expression that comes from an African language. When one reads the French,
48 My translation. See chapter 5, Exploitation. Under the Blakoros Power, p. 152.


39
demonstrate in their respective works their ability to Africanize the French text by
using words from their own African languages.46
The Africanness of Kons Traites is not limited to African words. There are
various elements, for example, of oral tradition, which also reveal the Africanness of
his French text. The authors prose style is, indeed, reminiscent of African oral literature.
He includes elements which belong to traditional African folklore, such as proverbs,
repetition, and songs. With regards to proverbs, Ruth Finnegan, an expert on oral
literature, writes the following in her book, Oral Literature in Africa:
The exact definition of proverb is no easy matter. There is, however, some
general agreement as to what constitutes a proverb. It is a saying in more or less
fixed form marked by shortness, sense, and salt and distinguished by the
popular acceptance of the truth tersely expressed in it. (393)
The element of truth or self-evidence of proverbs enables proverbs to be believed as
truths. They have a persuasive force and, therefore, are often used to illustrate, explain or
argue a point.
In the following example taken from Traites, Mamadou uses a proverb to try and
convince the headmistress, Shia. Once Tifi is released from prison, Mamadou explains
to Shia the familys difficult position concerning the struggle in the village. He
specifically makes use of a proverb to highlight the kind of action his son, Lassinan,
should take once he has told the truth about the evils of the post-independence society in
which his family and the other peasants live. He relates:
Lassinan always says the same thing too, but how can we fight? Yesterday, Tifi
defended himself. He slept in jail. Without you, I dont know how many days he
would have spent there, nor how many francs I would have been forced to slip
46 Linguists call this device, code-switching. Code-switching is the alternating use of two or more
recognizably different language variants (varieties of the same language, or different languages) within the
same text. Sndor Hervey and Ian Higgins, Thinking Translation: A Course in Translation Method:
French to English (London; New York: Routledge, 1992) 248.


8
Amadou Kons Life
Amadou Kon was bom in Tangora Banfora in the south of Burkina Faso,
formerly Upper Volta, in 1953. However, he spent most of his life in Cote dIvoire. As a
child growing up in Cote dIvoire, he led a very simple life on his parents farm. It was
there where, often, he would anxiously wait to hear animal tales and epics with all of the
family gathered together. Indeed, oral literature such as this served as the basis for
Kons writing career. Of it he related: Les premiers textes que jai crits taient des
contes traditionnels que javais entendu dire dans ma famille quand jtais enfant.9
Kon lived with his parents until he was old enough to leave for the school located in
another village. He followed his older brother, who was a school teacher, from one
school to the next during those early years of independence in Cote dIvoire. Kon
received his early education at the college in Grand-Bassam. He finished his secondary
education in Abidjan where he attended a boarding school, a very comfortable setting and
a privilege for students like him who came from a village and not a big city. He received
his baccalaurat in June of 1971.
Kon began studying literature at the Universit dAbidjan. After obtaining his
licence es Lettres Modernes, he continued his studies in France at the Universit de Tours
where he received the Doctorat de Troisime Cycle in 1977. From there, he returned to
Africa where he taught African and Comparative Literatures at the Universit Nationale
de Cote dIvoire in Abidjan until 1990. In addition to teaching, Kon also wrote his
9 The first texts I wrote were traditional tales that I had heard as a child in my family. My translation.
Amadou Kon, De la mission dun theatre africain modeme, Lumires afficaines (New Orleans:
University Press of the South, 1997) 116.


52
Kon:
Yes, I think it is necessary. First of all, the word, inspiration, is difficult to
define. One can, however, consider it a force that puts you in a trance,
that is, you become inspired, you are a little outside of reality and it helps
you do things that you did not think about in reality. I think it is
important. If you do not have inspiration when writing a novel on a
certain subject, you end up writing a very dry novel. So it is necessary.
Martin:
Which native languages have influenced your French, thus, your style of
writing, grammar, etc.?
Kon:
Malinke and Dyula, more than Senufo.
Martin:
Why is that? And why dont you write in Senufo?
Kon:
Senufo is not a widely spoken language as it is only used by a small group
of people.54 I would have liked to write in Senufo because the images
would certainly be much more colorful than the ones I try to use or
express in the French language. But I do not write in my language
because I have a very small audience. As a matter of fact, the people can
read in French but are unable to read in Senufo because that is something
entirely different. They would have to be able to read and write in Senufo.
It is not easy.
Martin:
What is your process when writing? Do you work with an outline or
notes, etc.?
Kon:
It is very eclectic, that is, I do not have just one way of writing. It depends
on the topic. For certain topics, I do not make an outline. For example, I
get inspired and begin writing. That inspiration pushes me, one thing
leads to the next, and the story develops. And, then, I can make an outline
for other subjects, but once I begin writing, it turns out to be different from
the original. So it depends on the subject and on the moment.
Martin:
Have you already thought about the kinds of characters and their roles
before you write or are your characters developed as you are writing?
Kon:
I think about the main characters. That is important because they lead the
action. I generally know what a certain character symbolizes and, often,
the whole society develops around these main characters. So you do need
a minimum of such characters. As for the others, you can add them later
to enhance the protagonists.
Martin:
How would you define the role of a writer, in particular one from an
African society?
54 Here, Kon is obviously referring to a small group of people in Cote dIvoire.


37
gallery of portraits, or rather, characters. There are certainly a plethora of them in the
text and, thanks to the authors rendering of dialogue, they seem to come to life right
before the readers eyes. Kon has told a convincing story in which he describes Africas
peasant community and all the trials and tribulations it must endure in a corrupt society.
Traites, Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros is engaging, at times humorous, and altogether
straightforward. The story will no doubt elicit strong emotions in the reader who will
grasp the severity of the situation presented and will understand the need for a change.
The reader will, indeed, become aware of the socio-political atmosphere and economic
effects created by certain life conditions.
Kons Use of Language in Traites, Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros
Reading Traites, one will discover that Kon does make use of a certain number
of African words and expressions; he seems to be one of those writers who are strongly
attached to their native language(s). As declared by the critic Georges NGal, If one has
to look for a distinctive characteristic or feature of the African writer, it is because his
writing is shaped or enriched first of all by his mother tongue and then by other African
languages (118). Throughout the narrative, Kon intentionally renders the exact African
words in either his mother tongue or any one of the other African languages he speaks.44
He does so because they cannot adequately be expressed in the French language. In
44 Kon speaks Senufo, his mother tongue, as well as Dyula, Malinke, Bambara, and a little Anyi. Kon
thinks in his native languages, but he also thinks and, above all, writes in French. There are references in
the text that the person behind the character is not Francophone. Old Mamadou, for instance, is (me of
those characters: He [the school director] was speaking in French and Mamadou could not understand
anything (my translation; see chapter 4, p. 95). There are also instances where the characters speak in
French with occasional words from other languages: He [Mamadou] said the prayer in his home. After
the fatiha, he mumbled things in Arabic that he didnt understand. Then, he finished the grievances in
Dyula (my translation; see chapter 4, p. 90). Those characters who do speak French, such as Lassinan,
Shia, and the school directors wife, are able to communicate with the peasants in their African language.
They are even able to communicate for them in French, as is the case for Mamadou who, along with Shia,
must go to the city concerning his brother-in-laws wrongful arrest. Shia is the one who speaks to the City
Police Chief because she understands city talk (my translation; see chapter 5, p. 135).


90
the money? When he was young, he thought working was enough. He had worked the
land because he loved the land. Who had exerted oneself more than he? His dream had
been grand and honest: a dkiss dreama strong-blooded dream. He had ruined his
health staying in the field from morning until night in order to create a large plantation:
work that honors all men. His wife, Fatouma, had courageously followed him. But the
birth of their first child, instead of encouraging them to work even harder, had
disappointed them. The child, who was called Soul, was lazy like an anteater and at the
age of twelve, Mamadou knew he was not good for working the land. They sent him to
learn how to use a sewing machine. He didnt shine at that either. And since his
departure, he had been unable to purchase his own sewing machine. Mamadou meant to
buy him one after each coffee crop, but every time, more urgent problems would arise.
And his money only ended up in ninguin ninguinstories not at all clear, mandatory tips
to civil servants.
He had not slept, the old man. He had thought about all these problems and had
not even had enough strength to examine his greatest obsession. Having given up his
former dream of making a fortune, now he simply wanted to take care of his family. But
another important project was challenging: going to the Holy City. The world was racing
to its end and it was necessary to ensure better tomorrows for oneself. Going to Makan
Mecca. That was his obsession. But that is a project of which one never speaks except
when going to carry it out.
Very early in the morning, Mamadou got up, washed himself, but did not go to
the mosque. He said the prayer in his home. After the fatiha, he mumbled things in
Arabic that he didnt understand. Then, he finished the grievances in Dyula. Allah yi en


161
The male nurse turned around and, on his way out, said to Bakary and Soul who
were looking at him imploringly:
The child is very sick. Quickly bring the medication.
He left, followed by the female nurse.
Helpless, Soul watched them leave. He didnt realize that he was crying.
It wasnt possible for Soul to hang around in Fagodougou to try to borrow some
money. With Habib, the contract was crystal-clear: buying goods on credit during the
fasting month or difficult times then, during the crop, selling his coffee to Habib who
would deduct his share before handing over the rest to the planter. Today, Habib would
refuse to give any money. That wasnt in the contract. Who then, in Fagodougou, could
save Soul? No one. Bakary wanted to with all his heart, but he was poor and worn out
like an old chipped plate. Certainly, he had had friends in the past, when he was
worthwhile. That is to say, when he was rich. But now, who would be willing to lend
something to the old tailor? Everyone knew that money lent to Bakary was money given
to God, or lost. Like money given to a beggar.
Im returning to the village. Baba had told me that he would grind the dry coffee
today. Im returning to get the ground, sorted out coffee. I will sell it here. Tomorrow, I
will perhaps be able to buy the medication.
Youll have to hurry, Bakary said. Meanwhile, Ill stay at the childs bedside.
But, you have to hurry.
Im leaving. Tomorrow, Ill be here very early.
May Allah accompany you.


82
was alcohol and women; the new one, it will be women and something else. Oh, what a
life!
No, I will go alone with Abou. But before, you will give this new headmaster
neither baby goats nor yams.
If the new one is like the former, your younger brother will not be enrolled. Its
very simple. Because first of all, they look at the parents face before enrolling the
children. Well, so and sos son? No problem. No, but this is so and so? Then the child
is too young or too old. Oh, the power of the blakorosV
I will go with Abou and his birth certificate. That will do, Lassinan calmly
asserted.
I hope that before then, your older brother Soul will be back from his in-laws.
We cannot put Abou in school without his consent. As for your mother, I talked to her
about it and since you want it, she can only approve.
I have heard that the new headmaster will be here tomorrow.
Yes. The village chief says he met him the day before yesterday in Fagodougou.
I dont even know if hes telling the truth because he says its a woman. A headmistress!
If that is true ... no, but the marabouts are right. The world is upside down and
approaching its end.
Because a woman is headmistress?
Do you believe that a woman like that one listens to her husbands words? Do
you believe she has the time to cook meals?
Maybe she should take on a houseboy-cook.


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Dana Martin grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana where she graduated from
Ursuline Academy High School in 1992. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in French
from Tulane University in 1996. After graduating from the university, she attended the
French Language School at Middlebury College in Vermont. There, she began her
advanced studies in French and prepared for the language schools overseas program in
Paris, France; she lived and studied in Paris for the 1996-1997 academic school year. In
1997, she received her Master of Arts in French. She then began doctoral studies at the
University of Florida, where she also worked as a teaching assistant, and completed her
qualifying examinations in the fall of 2000.
Since that time, she has taught French at the University of Florida where she is
currently a Graduate Teaching Associate.
177


139
Blakorodougou, he had seen far worse, compared to which what he had just lived through
was only a small joke. Even so, it was a triumphant return.
But do people ever triumph? People only pay. Even for their slightest hopes.
Three
Trti was approaching.
The beans on the coffee trees, previously dark-green, were turning green-yellow
and were soon going to turn pink. Each peasant had taken precautions. The mats for the
drying had already been woven, the sheds built and they had now begun to weed under
the bushes. They had to clear the plantation one last time in order to drive away red ants
and also to make sure that not too many beans would be lost in the weeds. They had also
woven some gigantic sgusballoon-shaped baskets that would be used to preserve the
dried coffee before its shucking. Brahima had already asked a mechanic if he could come
to repair his old shucking machine that so often broke down.
The fast had arrived before the coffee harvest and people were trying to properly
abstain from food before the major work. But fate had it that that year, the fasting month
would not get off to a good start. The unspeakable thing blew up right before all their
eyes.
It was evening. Everyone had finished eating the millet porridge and they had
each begun to make themselves comfortable in order to regain a little strength and
commence the main evening prayer. At old Mamadous home, Tifi, as usual, was
talking about Blakorodougou. The conversation had wound up on the subject of theft.
In Blakorodougou, Tifi said, theft has become a normal thing. People steal.
Well, they steal anything, from a simple comb right up to a garment bag. If we didnt
pay attention to ourselves, we would have ourselves stolen.


162
Soul reached the village very late. The sun had gone down. The dry coffee had
been ground and already sorted out. They had a total of about sixty kilograms. It wasnt
heavy though. Seven thousand francs. Anyway, it was enough. But Soul was
exhausted and his fatigue was obvious. However, he would have certainly liked to put on
another face, a reassuring face to talk to his father and his mother. It wasnt possible.
He was bombarded with questions. And he couldnt answer them all without
telling the truth, without admitting that the child was between life and death. And then,
that look on his fathers face, that inconceivable look on old Mamadous face with a
slight trembling of his eyelashes:
Youve seen him?
Hows he doing?
Dont hide anything from us, tell us the truth. Is it really serious?
Its djakoudjo. Its serious enough, but the doctor said that its nothing, that it
was going to pass. We have to quickly send the medication.
I heard Whites dont know anything about djakoudjo. So ...
Thats not true. The hospital was able to heal Assamoi last year, otherwise ...
And besides, who can still trust charlatans nowadays? The true healers, those who spoke
to the genies, have disappeared with the coming of the blakoros. The others remain now,
Mori Ba and ...
Oh no, dont talk about that allahdjougouthat enemy of Allah, here!
Then silence. That heavy, agonizing silence. Night came, even more silent. And
darkness weighed so heavily on the frail shoulders of the mother all but overcome by
anxiety.


74
Tifi always spoke of Blakorodougou. The capital, Blakorodougou, had been his
life for nearly forty years. He could not say two words without comparing the capital to
the country.
Over there, he continued, only the rich send their children to school. The
childs registration already costs too much money. Of course, school is free, but... And
then, the tips here and there, the supplies to be bought...
All we have left to do now is go to the field, old Mamadou said.
The farming civil servants are supposed to arrive today, Tifi mentioned. Last
time, they said they would be coming today to take a look at the young plants.
Good, then Lassinan, you will stay home. And you will drive them to the new
cocoa tree plantation when they arrive. Oh! We must make them something; they will
have to eat when they get back from the field. But what are we going to cook for them?
These are civil servants; they cannot eat the same things as us. Where am I going to find
a fat rooster or a plump chicken?
Why wouldnt they eat what we eat? Do you believe, baba, that at their home, at
their parents home, these civil servants eat a rooster at each of meal?
Well, my child, that is the way we welcome them. To make sure that their work
on their plantation is better than somewhere else, some well-to-do people welcome them
even with a really fat sheep. Theyve gotten them used to that; and us poor people suffer
the most.
Also in Blakorodougou, Tifi continued, the thing exists. So that the civil
servants will quickly fill out a form we need, its necessary to adjossigrease their palm.


32
In the interview with Kon following this introduction, he comments on the behavior of
marabouts, particularly the one who turns out to be a fake in his novel Traites.39 He
acknowledges the scheming actions of these individuals who exist in the society where he
grew up. Marabout behavior is, therefore, a particular target of Kons criticism as
evidenced in Traites, Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros.
Masseni is an easy novel to follow. It consists of a forward, an introduction, and
7 lengthy chapters, which recount a multitude of different events. The author includes
elements of oral tradition in the narrative, such as proverbs and songs. One of many
songs is revealed to the reader in the first chapter on page 14; this particular hymn is sung
by a choir of young girls to celebrate the new moon and the end of Ramadan. There are 2
stories with distinct plots in Masseni. The first 3 chapters of the novel pertain to the first
story; they focus on Dadys and Minignans desire for a baby, and finally the birth of that
baby, named Masseni. Then, the last 4 chapters, or the second story, revolve around the
life and death of Masseni. With regards to the novels structure, one can say that the
author proposes an interesting way of not only organizing the narrative, but also
documenting the daily adventures in a village during colonialism. Kon, however, sees
otherwise and candidly states: Masseni est incontestablement mal construit.40 I do not
agree with Kons point of view regarding the structure of the novel. In my opinion, I
feel that the novels unique composition contributes to the readers overall
comprehension of this beautiful, yet tragic story.
Rgina Yaou is another Cote dIvoire writer from Kons generation. Her first
9 See interview question with Kon, Chapter 2, p. 58What is the function of Islam in the novel?
40 Beyond any shadow of a doubt, Masseni is poorly constructed. My translation. Amadou Kon,
Roman africain et littrature rale, Komparatistische Hefte 15-16 (1987): 30.


45
written by the author. Ultimately, I decided to eliminate these commas which did not
appear in the original text because they broke the rhythm of Kons sentences. Also,
there are many instances where Kon uses stressed pronouns and their respective subject
pronouns to emphasize the spoken language in the text; this is otherwise known as mise
en relief in French. In spoken language, emphasis can be expressed by intonation, pitch,
stress and even gesture, none of which is available to written expressions. Emphasis, or
mise en relief, allows one segment of an utterance to stand out. Thus, I had to choose the
best way to emphasize, for example, Je mange avec le Prfet, moi in written form.
One obvious way to translate the sentence would be: Me, I eat with the Prefect.
However, this structure would be considered grammatically incorrect in English. I
looked at English translations from the French, notably the unpublished translation of
Jusquau seuil de lirrel [The Threshold of the unreal] by Mary Lee Martin-Kon to see
how she handled the grammatical point. Interestingly, Martin-Kon does not even keep
the emphasis in her English translation: En tout cas, lui Karfa avait t accabl par les
coups dune fortune hostile [...] [In any case, Karfa had been wracked by the blows of
hostile fortune.] (9). My example, Je mange avec le Prfet, moi, can be translated two
different ways: As for me, I eat with the Prefect or 7 eat with the Prefect (italicized
subject). The reader will notice the latter form applied primarily throughout the English
translation.
The French indefinite pronoun on is also used throughout the French text. For
the most part, I translated the pronoun into English as either one, they, we, or people,
depending on the context. In Traites, the narrator tells the story but does not appear as a
character in the text. As we know, Grard Genette names this kind of narrator


TABLE OF CONTENTS
page
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iv
ABSTRACT vii
CHAPTER
1INTRODUCTION TO THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF TRAITES. SOUS
LE POUVOIR DES BLAKOROS 1
Cote dIvoire 2
Amadou Kons Life 8
An Overview of Amadou Kons Writing Career 10
The Thematic Content(s) in Kons Traites and Kouroumas Les Soleils des
Indpendances and their Respective Structures 18
Literature from Kons Generation 28
Kons Use of Language in Traites. Sous le pouvoir des Blakoros 37
The Task of Translating Traites into English 43
2 INTERVIEW WITH AMADOU KON 48
3 PREFACE 62
4 PART ONE: A DIFFICULT PATH TOWARD THE QUEST FOR
KNOWLEDGE 68
One 68
Two 78
Three 88
Four 102
5 PART TWO: THE PEOPLE THEY MILK 114
One 114
Two 127
Three 138
Four 151
Five 163
v


157
Alkoum salam. Sit down, Yacouba.
Yacouba sat down. They offered him the ritual water. He took a few sips.
Intrigued by that late night arrival, they immediately asked if there was anything new in
Fagodougou. Yacouba gave the news. He ended with the most important bit.
Bakary told me that Issa is sick and to give you the message.
Is it serious? Old Fatouma was getting worried.
Bakary didnt give me details.
Immediately, there was a hush. Worries. Issa, sick and over there! Certainly,
Bakarys wife is good-hearted, but she is old and very busy. Was Issa getting the proper
care and attention? Allah, protect the orphan who is over there, caught up in a life where
hes nothing more than a small ant. Allah, help us! Amina.
Tomorrow, old Mamadou said to Soul, you will go to Fagodougou and see
your little brother. You will need a little money in case there is talk of buying medicine
at the pharmacy. I only have a thousand francs.
A thousand francs ... transportation and then the cost of the medicine.
I know, Soul. But its too late tonight to grind the little amount of dry coffee
we have. Tomorrow morning, you will leave early to see whats going on. Meanwhile,
we will grind the dry coffee and in case you should need to buy medicine, come back and
get the ground coffee.
When Soul arrived the following day at Bakarys yard in Fagodougou, he knew
from the way they were looking at him that Issas sickness had to be serious.
It began only two days ago, Bakary said, overwhelmed. First, he told us that
he had a headache. That evening, he did not eat. The following day, it was yesterday, he


9
second major dissertation, which he defended in 1987. Kon received the Doctorat
dtat es Lettres in Comparative Literature from the Universit de Limoges (France).
In 1990, Kon obtained a prestigious fellowship from the Alexander Von
Humboldt Foundation. For 2 years, he carried out research on West African literature at
the University of Bayreuth in Germany; he also lectured on literature and held seminars
on his own works. In 1992, Kon came to the United States where he accepted a position
in the Department of French and Italian at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Talking with interviewer Christian Kocani about his decision not to return to Cote
dIvoire at the end of his fellowship term, Kon remarked:
I regret leaving. I miss my students. I know that there, in my country, I had
responsibilities and I tried to carry them out for about 15 years. When I finished
my Thesis in France, I obtained a position there as Assistant Professor. So, I
could have stayed there, but I preferred to go home so that I could contribute my
time to building the country modestly, of course, in the area of Higher Education.
Then I left after fifteen years for personal reasons. But in my mind, it was not a
definitive departure and it still is not one. Furthermore, you can serve your
country wherever you live. It also depends on the diverse opportunities you have
to do it. As for myself, even in the United States, I continue to serve Cote
dIvoire.10
After 5 years at Tulane, Kon and his family (a wife and four children) left New Orleans
and moved to Washington, DC. There, he joined the Georgetown University faculty in
1997. Today, Amadou Kon continues to teach African literature and culture south of the
Sahara at Georgetown.
The author of novels, plays, short stories, childrens stories, essays, and literary
studies, Kon is a specialist in Francophone African literature. His teaching and research
interests center around the oral tradition of Africa and its modem written literature. More
specifically, he has focused on African tales and epics and their influence on the modem
10 My translation. Christian Kocani, Lexil dAmadou Kon, LAgora 24 juillet 1998: 12.


130
Tomorrow, Ill see about borrowing a little money from Akafu and then Ill go to
Fagodougou.
And what if we saw her?
Whos that?
The young woman, the headmistress. She will certainly help us. Lassinan told
us to see her if we have problems with some of the civil servants.
This here is mans business, Fatouma.
They understand each other, Mamadou. And she will help us. She will know
how to speak to them, apologize to them. Perhaps they will understand. They will most
certainly listen. But with you, they will expect only your money.
But what will the village say? Letting a woman take care of my problems! No,
Ill go tomorrow with Gods help.
May God give us tomorrow!
May God grant us his help!
And then, that silence over these figures who are nevertheless lying awake and
talking within themselves. Is it true, God, that you wish that some be unfairly subjected
to constant humiliation, and that some exist only to live off the efforts of others, to milk
the others and humiliate them? Yet this life, so filled with acceptance, self-denial and
pain!
Allah above, and then that silence over these figures who will not sleep a wink all
night... This night is made to stir up so much pain, to reopen so many wounds!
Somewhere, someone is also lying awake. The young woman is reading and


94
Fagodougou was dying from its incurable disease, wasnt it because of its inhabitants?
But all city dwellers are the same. Fagodougou was simply unlucky.
It was very hot and Mamadou was walking towards the school. Beads of sweat
formed on his forehead and he smelled of fresh fish.
May Allah cleanse us from such humiliation! Amina.
There was scarcely anyone at the school. It was not the recruitment day in town.
Mamadou asked for the headmaster. Someone showed him the mans home. He walked
towards it, but as he was getting closer, his step became less certain. Allah, he was afraid
of the sons of the country! It was painiul to see. The others had beaten him with the tree
stump, had made him work like a slave on the roads of forced labor. But in those days,
he would sometimes dare to utter a little no. And this no, even if uncertain, gave him
back all his dignity. The general no had eventually freed the country. But to take it right
back to what? Things had simply changed names and torture was only disguised, but
how much more refined!
Mamadou was afraid to meet the headmaster, a man who could certainly be his
son.
Allah yi en d mhe\
May Allah help us; may Allah also help our sons to understand! Allah yi ou d
mb! Amina.
Assalam alkoum.
Mamadou did not hear any response. Nevertheless, people were talking a lot
inside. He distinctly heard the voice of a woman who spieled off French like he,
Mamadou, spoke Dyula. He also perceived the weak echo of a mans voice.


175
Hervey, Sndor and Ian Higgins. Thinking Translation: A Course in Translation
Method: French to English. London; New York: Routledge, 1992.
Kesteloot, Lilyan. Histoire de la littrature ngro-africaine. Paris: Karthala, 2001.
. Turning Point in the Francophone/African Novel: The Eighties to the Nineties.
New Trends and Generations in African Literature. Eldred Jones and Marjorie
Jones, eds. Trenton: Africa World Press, 1996. 4-13.
Kocani, Christian. Lexil dAmadou Kon. LAgora 24 iuillet 1998: 12.
Kourouma, Ahmadou. Les Soleils des Indpendances. Paris: Seuil, 1970. (First
published in Montreal by Les Presses de lUniversit de Montral, 1968).
. The Suns of Independence. Trans. Adrian Adams. New York: Africana
Publishing Company, 1981.
Maddoni, Paolo. La vita provisoria. Roma: Grin srl, 1996.
Makaryk, Irena R., ed. Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory. Toronto:
University of Toronto Press Inc., 1993.
Meschonnic, Henri. Potique du traduire. Lagrasse: Verdier, 1999.
Mundt, Robert J. Historical Dictionary of the Ivory Coast (Cote dTvoire). Metuchen-
London: The Scarecrow Press Inc., 1987.
Niane, D. T. Soundiata ou Ppope mandingue. Paris: Prsence Africaine, 1960.
NGal, Georges. Interview with P. Herzberger-Fofana. crivains africains et identits
culturelles: Entretiens. Tbingen: Stauffenburg, 1989. 115-124.
Ngandu, Pius. Kourouma et le mvthe: Une lecture de Les Soleils des Indpendances.
Paris: Silex, 1985.
Oussou-Essui, Denis. Les Saisons seches. Paris: LHarmattan, 1979.
Riesz, Jnos. Amadou Kon at the University of Bayreuth. Afrika 10-11-12 (1986):
34-37.
. Per Staudamm. Kln, 1991.
Robinson, Neal. Islam. Richmond: Curzon, 1999.


CHAPTER 2
INTERVIEW WITH AMADOU KON
Martin: Mr. Kon, I would like to begin by thanking you for having this interview
with me. Can you first of all tell me about your origins, your family life,
and your religion?53
Kon: My parents belonged to the Senufo ethnic group of northern Burkina Faso.
I, however, was bom in the south of Burkina Faso, which was formerly
known as Upper Volta. Then we migrated to the southern part of Cote
dIvoire in the forest region. My parents were planters. They worked the
land in Burkina Faso and then moved down to Cote dIvoire where they
produced coffee and cocoa plantations. They were peasants. I had a very
simple childhood. During the first five or six years, I basically lived on a
farm until I was old enough to go to the school in another village. As for
religion, I am a Muslim; I come from a Muslim family. I give alms and I
also practice the religion, but I am not a fanatic. I have to say that Cote
dIvoire was, until a certain time, an interesting country from a religious
standpoint because there were maybe a few more Muslims than Christians,
the Christians being Catholic and Protestant. I believe the relationship
between Muslims and Christians was very interesting in Cote dIvoire
because there was no problem; one could not care less if you were this or
that, that is, until recently with political events. It has certainly changed.
Now, there is a kind of religious exploitation and ethnic groups are also
talking politics, which is becoming very dangerous.
Martin: What is your mother tongue?
Kon: It is Senufo. The Senufo people can be found in the south of Burkina
Faso, the north of Cote dIvoire, and also in Mali. The Senufo ethnic
group has always lived a little with the Malinke people, so generally, they
also speak Malinke. In any case, Senufo is my mother tongue; it is the
African language I speak best. I speak Dyula, like most Senufo people,
but not all Dyula people speak Senufo. I also speak Malinke, Bambara,
and a little Anyi. The Anyi people belong to the Akan group found in
parts of Cote dIvoire. I speak Anyi because my parents settled in an area
where the Anyi people lived, in order to plant coffee and cocoa.
53 This interview was conducted on January 25, 2002, at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. I
interviewed Amadou Kon in English. He explained that his English language expression was not perfect,
therefore, he answered my questions in French. The interview was transcribed and, then, translated into
English. While I have faithfully transcribed and translated the interview, I have had to do some minor
editing.
49


44
trying to follow his French, especially his word order and sentence structure.
Consequently, I produced a stilted English which did not reflect his tone and rhythms in
the French language. My own personal style in English was unusual since I retained too
much of the French structure. In order to capture Kons rhythms and the orality of his
prose, I had to consider not only the words, but also the discourse. In linguistics,
discourse serves as the rough equivalent of speech, that is, language as actually used by
the speaker (parole), as opposed to language as a system of signs (langue) (Makaryk
53 5).50 I discovered that I had to go from discourse to discourse in my English
translation and not from sign to sign, so that I could capture the nuances and rhythms of
the language articulated by Kon. Henri Meschonnic explains the process best in his
book, Potique du traduire:
You cannot continue to think any longer in usual terms of the sign. You do not
translate language (langue) anymore. Or in that case, you ignore discourse
( banal.51
In order to precisely render the discourse, I sought out 2 native English speakers with no
knowledge of the French language. They listened to the English text, and this exercise in
turn helped me to eliminate some of the instances where my French interfered with my
English.
There does appear to be less punctuation in Kons text. This initially led me to
add several marks of punctuation, particularly commas, to the rather long sentences
50 The terms langue and parole were introduced by the Swiss linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure, in order
to separate two of the meanings of the word langage. Roughly speaking, langue is the language system
of a particular language community, while parole is speech, the way in which members of the community
actually use the system.
51 My translation. Henri Meschonnic, Potique du traduire (Lagrasse: Verdier, 1999) 12.


25
the city.30 Kons Traites and Kouroumas Les Soleils des Indpendances do, in fact,
share similar structures which, in many cases, give additional feedback to the reader
about the characters, their surroundings, and the events, both present and past, that affect
and that have affected them.
A look at the roles of some specific characters, particularly in Traites, is
significant, for their roles foster the development of events throughout the story-line.
Kon often makes use of certain individuals in his text to expose corruption, repression,
and hypocrisy in post-independence Ivoirian society. In Traites, one can recognize the
importance of those characters who play either active or passive roles in the struggle
against all the evilsilliteracy, misery, injustice, and exploitation. Lassinan is an active
participant; he essentially takes positive steps to make a change in the environment of
which the peasant community has become a victim. On the other hand, old Mamadou
and Tifi have passive roles in that they can only hope for a change to occur in society.
Lassinans role in Traites is paramount. Not only is Lassinan an active
participant, but he is also the hero in the narrative. It is through his role as the hero, more
specifically the non-traditional hero, that he is able to demonstrate commitment to the
cause. One can make a distinction between Lassinans role as the non-traditional hero
and the role of the traditional hero often found in African literature. Unlike the
traditional African hero31 who works collectively with the group to achieve a common
j0 Pius Ngandu refers to villages as les espaces nature Is and also as a refuge in his book, Kourouma et
le mythe. p. 75.
31 Soundjata is an example of the traditional African hero. The great African epic of Soundjata celebrates
the career of Soundjata Keita, the thirteenth-century King of Mali, the largest and most famous of African
empires in the Middle Ages. Soundjata Keitas reign lasted for twenty years during which time he served
as the military leader who defeated King Soumaoro Kante of Sosso at Krina and, in turn, established the
capital at Niani. Soundjata had numerous followers when he went to battle with Soumaoro Kante,
including his mother, Sogolon, his sister, Nana Triban, his brother, Manding Bory, and his griot, Balia
Fasseke. They all united and formed a solid group that supported and helped Soundjata, the great hero and


125
The man was still smiling. But his toad eyes, his protruding eyes contracted. A
hint of cruelty furrowed some wrinkles on his fat and sweaty forehead. His smile
persisted.
The village of Kongodjan! And the co-op?
Which co-op? Tifi said.
Come on now! The one at Kongodjan. You know, the one that was supposed to
run out old Habib!
True, there was a co-op attempt. But no one said it was aimed against Habib,
Kalil, Amara or Kouadio.
I know what business is all about, my friend. I have known since Bagdad.
That, thats your job to know what business is like. We came for something
precise. If you have a grudge against the village of Kongodjan, its the chief youll have
to see.
Kongodjan is too small to create problems for Habib. / do eat with the Prefect.
Tifi was hot. The heat, the glass of alcohol, the shopkeepers words were getting
on his nerves. He was used to saying what he thought about everything. But in his
younger days, he would speak little: he would hit. In Blakorodougou, what had he not
done with his fists? And this toad dared to take up such language with him! He
controlled himself because his brother-in-law had greatly advised him not to make a
scene in Fagodougou.
As for me, I served a meal to the President of the Republic and then I knocked
out a white mans tooth, a real white man, in those days when the white man still came
after Allah.


22
But naforomoneyis nothing. And Bakary never knew when his
fortune began to escape him.
Essentially, the question-response technique allows both authors to reveal more
information in the narratives about the characters in general, their achievements, as well
as their setbacks.
Another important feature of Kouroumas and Kons narrative technique is the
use of analepse26 or the flashback. Kourouma certainly uses an incessant number of
analepses in Les Soleils des Indpendances. For example, he begins with an analepse in
part one of his novel, which informs the reader about how the French deprived Fama of
his inheritance as chief of all Horodougou. Another analepse makes the reader relive the
terrible experience of Salimatas excision and, then, her rape by the fetish-priest. Here,
the analepse takes the form of a remembered memory of the past. Indeed, this horrible
memory will influence the poor, young womans entire conjugal, social, and
psychological being. In Traites, the reader learns about Adebayos days as a successful
shopkeeper who could give credit to the peasants. The reader also gains an insight into
Bakarys life as a master tailor. In chapter one, part two of Traites. Kon discusses
Tifs life in the capital city of Blakorodougou:
Tif had left the village at quite a young age. He had headed directly for the
capital Blakorodougou without even understanding a word of French. Its true
that at that time, Dyula was spoken just about anywhere and you did not
necessarily need to understand French in order to move around in the country.
Therefore, Tif had left for the capital. The mans adventure began there. This
adventure immediately became a legend that Tif would recount by adding on
each time some new changes.27
25 My translation. See chapter 4, Exploitation. Under the Blakoros Power, pp. 97-98.
26 This is the technical term used by Grard Genette in Figures 111, pp. 90-105.
27 My translation. See chapter 5, Exploitation. Under the Blakoros Power, pp. 118-119.


118
even... That was old Mamadous opinion. Salia too and many other peasants of
Kongodjan. For in Fagodougou, Habib ruled.
And Habib was something. A force.
Youre going to have to return to Fagodougou to see Habib, old Mamadou said
to his friend Salia.
The images of his last trip to Fagodougou flooded his memory: the old vehicle,
the bowl of fresh fish, those laughs around him. And the men of Fagodougou, insolent
even in their looks, their walks.
7 plan on sending my son Tigbi to Fagodougou, Salia said. Habib knows
him and he will not make a fuss. He will give the goods on credit and will note them
down in my voucher book.
Really, that is a good idea. I too will send someone.
That will be better. We are too old to travel. There are too many
misadventures.
Yes, Mamadou simply declared.
He was thinking of sending Tifi. But with Tifi, you were never sure of
anything. Because if old Mamadous brother-in-law really claimed to have his head on
his shoulders, very few villagers were convinced of it.
Tifi had left the village at quite a young age. He had headed directly for the
capital Blakorodougou without even understanding a word of French. Its true that at that
time, Dyula was spoken just about anywhere and you did not necessarily need to
understand French in order to move around in the country. Therefore, Tifi had left for
the capital. The mans adventure began there. This adventure immediately became a


91
d mb\Allah help us, Allah make the day good for us, Allah give us a long life, Allah
give us tomorrow, Allah accept our prayers!Amina.''
Allah help us under the power of the blakorosl More than ever, we need his help
to survive. And just think, we had been promised tranquilitythe gnansoumanl Of
course, the gnansouman existed under these suns, but for others, for the blakoros.
Allah yi en d mb\
Mamadou wanted to get on the old bus. But it was full. No more seats and a lot
of luggage between the seats! The old man scrutinized the passengers, imploring a child
who might get up to make room for him. There were some young people, but not a single
one made a gesture. Only a woman, an old woman, made room for him, a tiny space.
But Mamadous full boubou restricted him and had latched on to an old bowl full of fresh
fish. Mamadou fought to free himself and reach his seat. It was just at that moment that
the novice blakoro yelled out a ringing thats it and the bus bounced. Mamadou,
unable to help himself, dove his nose into the bowl of fresh fish while cries and laughs
were also bursting out from everywhere. The driver braked and the old man got back up
while some people were laughing from the ridiculous dive and others were hurling rude
language at the driver. But the frail apprentice replied that only those old men and their
full boubous were looking for trouble. They could not go anywhere unnoticed. When
they took it upon themselves to travel, there were always problems on the bus.
Allah ka nan en malo, old Mamadou softly whispered. May Allah not hold us
in contempt; Allah protect us from shame! Amina
He reached the small space, sat down without looking at his entourage, without
uttering a single word. He only had one look of gratitude for the old woman who had


103
calmly took the bill, tucked it away in her bra on her pretty slut breasts. At the same
time, her husband entered the room. She quickly told him something in French. The
man didnt say anything. So, she addressed Mamadou in Dyula.
You can leave in peace. Your son will be enrolled.
Mamadou said thank you and left. He went to Bakarys to tell him about the visit
and asked him for the way to Kongodjan. The journey back home was no problem. At
home, he was told that Lassinan had easily enrolled Abou. Besides, rumor had it that the
young headmistress was enrolling children only upon Lassinans advice. Some people
had sorely missed their chickens and other gifts given to the young headmistress.
Old Mamadou also described his trip which, despite some incidents, had ended in
success. When he began to speak about the episode of the five thousand francs, Lassinan
got up and went to bed. But the old man continued to speak. Perhaps he needed to
explain his gesture and even excuse the schoolmasters. In any case, he said some
intriguing things. For example, if schoolmasters take part in milking the people, its out
of sheer need and to be honest, school headmasters are not worse than any other civil
servants. They are far less dangerous to the people than the other exploiters. And
besides, they are important only at the beginning of the new school year. Afterwards,
they are forgotten. Whereas some others reign all year. Really, old Mamadou said,
we come across worse under the power of the blakoros'' No doubt, he was right.
Four
Old Mamadou certainly would have liked to pay a visit to Mori Ba.
This is no way to toss children out into the world without making sure what
obstacles lie ahead, without making some sacrifices that are always beneficial.


72
would kill myself at my age in the field? Well, \iyou were at home, you would be very
useful. But you have been there, at their school, for how long?
Eleven years.
Eleven years! Do you realize! And besides, you are always over there, always.
And I will have to take care of your younger brothers for eleven years more before they
wind up where you are. Eleven years of a job that brings back nothing. If you had stayed
home, you would have surely plowed fields that would produce right now.
Lassinan, the days are going by and I am tired.
He regretted that the conversation had come to that. He knew his son wella
very sensitive boy who quickly grasped all the allusions. He was sorry for having spoken
in such a way.
One day, I hope to be useful to you, baba, Lassinan said. With Allahs help
and your blessings. The world is changing too quickly and one does not often have the
strength to follow its changes. That is why Abou must leave for school. We dont know
what tomorrow has in store for us and if you dont send him to school, one day he will go
to your grave to accuse you of having made him a failed man. He will accuse you and he
will accuse me as well. I simply want us to give him his chance.
If only you had begun to help me ...
Lassinan sighed. Abou looked at him with worried eyes, imploring eyes almost.
Perhaps he grasped vaguely that his life was hanging in the balance there, that morning,
between a father crushed by financial difficulties and an older brother, lucid but
powerless ... Perhaps he was simply reducing the drama to a playroom to which his
father forbade him access.


124
big wholesale stores, wholesale-trade stores and two immense general retail stores. On
top of that, he owned the only movie theater. He was also one of the big coffee buyers in
Fagodougou. His grip on the city did not allow any competition. But like all the
wealthy, Habib was insatiable. Money and power are accursed forces that do not give
any rest to those who own them. But despite that eternal thirst, Habib always seemed
pleased with himself. Perhaps he spoke French poorly, but he was always in the first row
at official ceremonies. Besides, the State had rewarded him for his services. One
morning, an authority had pinned a medal on his chest. On that occasion, Habib made a
speech that, according to the people, was just atrocious, horrible. And Habib was still
smiling.
Mr. Habib, Tifi said, we come from Kongodjan on behalf of old Mamadou
and Salia. They have sent us to buy whats needed for the fasting month.
You have the books where I make a note of the debts, well, your credits?
Yes, we have the voucher books.
Tifi got his wallet out, took out the two small books and held them out to the
shopkeeper.
What do you want to take? the man said, with a smooth voice.
Two cartons of sugar, two bags of rice and then ...
From the village of Kongodjan, you said?
Yes, Kongodjan. Old Mamadou and Salia could not come themselves. They
gave us their books. And besides, you know us; we often come here. Anyway, here are
our identity cards.
From the village of Kongodjan! Mamadou and Salia ...


112
May Allah soothe the suffering of the poor! Amina.
Mamadou did not immediately go home. He headed straight ahead to Akafus
home.
Undoubtedly, Akafu was an example, the flagrant example of those who are
doomed to Allahs hell. The old Muslims were not afraid to say it. And besides, thinking
about what the marabouts say, they were in any case tempted to declare that indeed, the
man was presenting external signs of the most terrible of anathemas.
Akafu was fat. Nothing abnormal about that. But his stomach! His potbelly was
exceptionally imposing. The man could not wrap his own arms around it. There was the
sign. Because what could develop the abdomen to such a degree? Of course, money,
affluence, they would say. But the old Dyulas maintained that it was the haramou. The
haramou, lets be clear, is at the same time the fraud, its fruit and the sin that
accompanies them. The haramou blows up the stomach abnormally. The proof? Akafu.
And naturally, no one could deny that Akafu was a crook of the worst kind. In the past,
he would perhaps swindle, but he did not go too far. So, he could be put in the same
category as El Hadj Doulaye or Habib of Fagodougou. But Akafu decided to take short
cuts. To those who wanted to borrow money from him, an important amountlets say
one hundred thousand francsAkafu would propose a deal. If the planter did not
manage to pay him back the one hundred thousand francs for the next cropand few
peasants earn that amount in three cropsAkafu would quite simply take over the
plantation.
In that way, Akafu had become a big planter. A rich planter. But each day, his
stomach was growing a little more and Akafu was suffocating under the haramou.


174
ed. Lumires africaines: Nouveaux propos sur la littrature et le cinma africains. New
Orleans: University Press of the South, 1997.
Scholarly and Critical Works
Abissiri, F. Amadou Kon ddicace. Ivoir Soir 9 iuillet 1998. N. pag.
Amadou Kon, Grand Laurat. Fratemit-Matin 20 avril 1999: 1.
Awoonor, Kofi. The Breast of the Earth: A Survey of the History, Culture, and Literature
of Africa South of the Sahara. New York: Anchor Press, 1976.
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