- Awa Cheikh Faye and Valorien Noubissi
- BBC Africa
Amadou Hampathé Ba, Sembène Ousmane or Norbert Zongo are some of the names of African authors who come up the most when we ask Africans in the French-speaking world about their favorite works.
“I read a long letter from Mariama Bâ and also currently, as you can see, I’m holding a book, I’m reading Bernard Dadié’s black loincloth” tells us a young woman we met in the streets of Ouaguadougou in Burkina Faso.
“The African authors that I have already read, there is Camara Laye, Amadou Hampathé Ba and the Burkinabé Nazi BonI” says a man met a little further.
No mention of a Léonora Miano – Cameroonian author winner of the Goncourt des lycéens in 2006 -, or of a Senegalese writer Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, recipient of the Goncourt this year.
Are the works of contemporary African writers not known to the general public on the continent?
“It’s not known because we don’t simply have access to books. If we are not, for all sorts of reasons, in the habit of buying books, they are still books that we have heard of but that we didn’t read it yourself.” slice Kidi Bebey.
Immediately contemporary literature “waits”. To access it you have to buy it notes the Franco-Cameroonian writer.
The number of readers is relatively modest in all the countries, it is enough to see the pullings of the publishing houses to be convinced some, she adds.
For the Congolese Alain Mabanckou, who received the Renaudot prize in 2006, the strong anchoring of what he calls the literature of the fight against colonization or even that of independence is explained by their presence in school curricula.
“The school program makes it possible to perpetuate writers in the very dimension of education. Unfortunately in our countries we do not put on the program the works of writers who arrived in literature after the 1980s. Unfortunately, there is a kind of heartbreak in literature programs,” the Congolese author told BBC Africa.
Yesterday’s writer, today’s writer.
However, contemporary African authors have the wind in their sails on the international scene.
The Rwandan Gaël Faye, the Senegalese David Diop, the Cameroonian Djaïli Amadou Amal all won the Goncourt des lycéens respectively in 2016, 2018 and 2020.
The year 2021 also brings a good harvest with the Tanzanian Abdulrazak Gurnah Nobel Prize for Literature, the Senegalese David Diop and Mohamed Mbougar Sarr respectively International Booker Prize and Prix Goncourt.
We can also mention the Senegalese Boubacar Boris Diop, Neustadt International Prize for Literature 2022.
Contemporary writer…nostalgic readerss ?
The African Writer’s Day celebrated on November 7 is an opportunity to highlight the difficulties faced by writers on this continent. For Kidi Bebey, it is the lack of access to public reading spaces on the continent that must be tackled.
“I’m sure that even very well-known authors like Mbougar Sarr ask him, I’m pretty sure that when he brought out his book or even after he had the Goncourt prize last year, he saw people say to him “Where do we find your book? It’s a question but ultra classic for anyone of African origin who publishes” she says.
Alain Mabanckou pleads for his part for a better education of young people in reading, in particular by explaining to them “why it is essential to read and what are the dividends they derive from reading”. To the political authorities, he asks to make room for contemporary African authors in the curucula.
“Ministries of Education must be encouraged to look at texts that represent the 2000s so that young people relate to what they read, and not always read what is nostalgic or history” concludes Alain Mabanckou.
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Why do contemporary African writers continue to be in the shadow of yesterday’s generation? – BBC News Africa