Shelves: place , colonialism-imperialism-war Free ebook version available at Open Library. Batouala could really benefit from an academic introduction to situate it within the time period and explain who the author was and how his writing challenged the contemporary colonial imagination of the lives of African peoples. Nowadays there is a fantastic amount of gorgeous, critical, intricate fiction by African authors from across the continent, so the faults of this novel ring louder than the criticism and challenge it presented at the time. This challenge is presented straight forward enough however in the gem of a preface by an author overwhelmed and disgusted by the genocidal horrors of the French rubber-plantation-enslavement colonial system. It was covered with plantations of every kind and teemed with goats and poultry.
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To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions. Batouala is the leader or mokoundji of a small tribe of Bandas who live and die under an oppressive French colonial rule about the time of the Great War; they are resigned to the new lifestyle that clashes so stridently with the one that had done so well for their ancestors.
For them, the war simply means that there is a reduced market for rubber, so there is less work on the plantations or making roads for the Bandas to do. So, why change? The French have enslaved us. Now we know their qualities and faults. The story is simple enough: a few days in the life of Batouala, the aging chieftain, who is being challenged by a younger man.
More important though, the tale is a framework for what can almost be considered a compendium of Banda folklore and tribal life. Maran has done a perfect job of weaving the details of eating, shelter, rites of passage, lore, and art into his novel.
People should not walk abreast. A custom, old as the Negro race, requires it to be that way. Everything is subordinate to the simple art of living. There is no such thing as a time for this and a time for that, or worse, a time to intellectualize. Work only pleases those who will never understand it. Idleness cannot degrade anybody. It differs greatly from laziness. By contrast, the Bandas live a continuous cycle in which every rainy season means destruction, death and a new beginning.
In this light, all of our modern amenities, so to speak—from the Glen Canyon dam to Astroturf—are surely the stuff of black Because of forced labor on French railroads and rubber plantations, the Bandas were left with little time to tend their meager cassava and yam patches. As a result, the tribes lived with famine and disease, to say nothing of humiliation. Thousands died. In the face of all this, they responded by holding white values as a source of a kind of grudging laughter.
Bandas or Mandjias, Sangos or Gobous act differently. Vengeance is not a food to be eaten hot. Cordiality, in this manner, plays the role of the ashes which one spreads on the fire to keep it alive. The remarkable part of all this is that this novel was published in The French bureaucrats thought the book just this side of sedition and, in fact, managed to have it banned in their colonial territories; he also had trouble finding publishers for his later work. Guess what?
It was a good try anyway. That is all there is to the story, but when you have read it, you have been Batouala, and that means that it is a great novel.
Batouala von René Maran (2007, Gebundene Ausgabe)