A descent into crime: explaining Mongo Beti's last two novels
Abstract:This study examines Mongo Beti's last two novels, Trop de soleil tue l'amour (1999) and Branle-bas en noir et blanc (2000). Using his 1955 essay Afrique Noire, littrature rose, it ties his earliest literary work to these final narrative endeavours. In particular, Afrique Noire insists on two criteria for literary excellence: realism (meaning an acknowledgement of the crimes of colonialism) and popularity (meaning something accessible and read by the Cameroonian people). The problem, according to the author, is that Africans are largely illiterate and too poor to afford books; and France controls the editorial means of production. These combined factors make reconciling the two criteria of popularity and realism impossible. If a novel is popular (sells), which it can only do in France, it is because it does not realistically represent the crimes of colonialism. On the other hand, if the novel is realistic, no one will ever publish or distribute it. Thus, according to Beti, within the colonial and subsequent postcolonial context, the classical realist novel cannot achieve his stated goals. Mongo Beti's turn to crime fiction cunningly reconciles these otherwise contradictory criteria by turning to a popular genre particularly well equipped to speak of the conditions of his homeland.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Bryn Mawr College.
Publication date: November 15, 2007
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