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A descent into crime: explaining Mongo Beti's last two novels

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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.

Keywords: Mongo Beti; Ville cruelle; crime fiction; ideology; literature; noir; popular culture; postcolonial literature; realism novel

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Bryn Mawr College.

Publication date: November 15, 2007

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  • The International Journal of Francophone Studies offers a critical preview for a new development in the understanding of 'France outside France', with a thorough insight into the network of disciplinary issues affiliated with this study. The journal complements the thriving area of scholarly interest in the French-speaking regions of the world, bringing a location of linguistic, cultural, historical and social dynamics within a single academic arena.
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