monday, 20 december, 2021 at 11:41 am
By Abdelatif ABILKASSEM
Rabat – “It has been a great year for African literature and I would like to accept this award in the name of all the stories told and not told, writers heard and not heard, of the remarkable continent of which I am a part”, it is with this inspiring speech that the South African novelist Damon Galgut accepted the Booker Prize 2021 for his novel “The promise”.
In fact, Galgut’s novel, which tells the story of a white farming family at the end of apartheid in South Africa, was not the only one to express the voice of Africa through the literature in 2021, because two other writers achieved similar feats by winning two other prestigious high-quality awards. With Galgut, they contributed to the influence of African literature during this year.
This is the Tanzanian writer Abdul Razzaq Garnah, Nobel Prize for Literature for his “moving and uncompromising account of the effects of colonialism and of the fate of refugees caught between cultures and continents”, according to the Swedish Academy, and the young Senegalese writer, Mohamed Mbogar Sar, Goncourt Prize for his novel “The most secret memory of men”.
The primary vocation of literature was expressed in a similar way in Garnah’s statement following the announcement of the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. “I want to write about human interactions, what people go through when they rebuild their lives,” he said.
These human interactions were also present in the novel by Mbogar Sar (31), the first writer from sub-Saharan Africa to win the Goncourt Prize, with a work that traces the adventures of a Senegalese writer faced with an endless series of troubles. and is inspired by the broken destiny of the Malian writer Yambo Ouologuem (1940-2017), Renaudot Prize 1968 for “Le Devoir de violence”, accused of plagiarism.
Returning to the coronation of Mbogar Sar, the young Moroccan writer, Abdelmadjid Sebbata, believes that the critics were right to acclaim the novel by the young Senegalese writer even before it won the Goncourt prize.
“This is a work that deals with a subject that is dear to me, literary inquiry. ‘The most secret memory of men’ delves into the secrets and the past of an unknown Senegalese writer, author of a mysterious novel which recounts events that occurred in more than one country, in search of the truth, he said in an interview with MAP.
“Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to read works by Garnah or Galgut. The themes chosen by the former focus largely on the migration and refugee crisis, while Galgut’s ‘The Promise’ deals with a family saga in the apartheid era in South Africa. These books are at the top of the list of my next readings, to learn more about the world of writers, ”said Sebbata.
Regarding Gurnah, the Moroccan writer judged that the latter was not well known to Arab readers before his coronation, noting in this sense that “many criticisms were addressed to Arab translators after the announcement of the award. Nobel Prize by Abdul Razzaq Garnah ”.
“No work by the writer had been translated into Arabic and journalists found only one interview with him in an Arab cultural magazine in 2008. However, I find that this criticism does not make sense”, Sebbata assures us.
Indeed, he said, Garnah does not enjoy a great notoriety outside the United Kingdom where he resides, recalling that the official page of the Nobel Prize winner had posted on Twitter a poll to test the knowledge of the participants on the works by the author and that the overwhelming majority (93%) said they did not know him.
In Sebbata’s opinion, it seems that the current trend for the Nobel Prize winner is to move away from famous names, which “have received enough applause”.
Regarding the role of literature in defining the issues of the African continent, its problems and the challenges it faces, the Moroccan writer noted that the latter has a central role in defining the particularities of populations and of the suffering of the oppressed and left behind, whose voices have been forgotten by mainstream media.
In his eyes, the difficulty of reaching the rest of the world is the main obstacle for African literature. For example, “the diffusion of Latin American literature since the end of the fifties and the beginning of the sixties has contributed to discovering the atrocities of dictatorial regimes in South America (…) Literature was the best mouthpiece in South America. ‘a continent that we wanted to be a backyard for the North American giant ”.
And to add that “the African continent is full of great talents and feathers, which have nothing to envy to the rest of world literature”. The problem that arises is above all linked to dissemination and readability. “Are the world’s publishing houses interested in these works? Are they seeking to acquire the rights to publish and translate the works of these writers into several languages? Or do they look at them from a point of view of contempt, inferiority and centrality of European civilization? ”Asked Sebbata.
Anyway, African literature marked the year 2021 with its presence as evidenced by the prestigious literary awards that made the African sun shine on the world. African writers have never ceased to interact with the issues of the continent and to present its problems, mainly those arising from colonization.
This interaction, which is the ultimate goal of literature, will not cease to carry the voice of the continent to the world. And it is precisely in this sense that Galgut said in his acceptance speech for the Booker Prize: “Please continue to listen to us. There is much more to come ”.
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2021: The African sun shines on the literary world | MAP Express