Every single story was told by the people in question or by someone in their circle, either griot, houseboy, or friend. Which is interesting case. It is told as a single coherent narrative with the kind of omniscient third person narrator normally associated with fiction. To use a television analogy, it is more like a dramatisation of real events than a documentary.
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Every single story was told by the people in question or by someone in their circle, either griot, houseboy, or friend. Which is interesting case.
It is told as a single coherent narrative with the kind of omniscient third person narrator normally associated with fiction. To use a television analogy, it is more like a dramatisation of real events than a documentary.
It has the qualities of a good storyteller telling the story of their own life: not perhaps outright fabrication, but just enough massaging and selection and elision and exaggeration to turn the messiness of reality into something beautifully moulded and polished.
And Wangrin is certainly an interesting character; the son of a prominent family, he was sent to the colonial school to learn French and worked as an interpreter, which put him in position as the literal and symbolic intermediary between the French colonial administration and the native population, able to play off both sides against each other. Which he did, enriching himself in the process. So a bit of a crook, then, even if a likeable one. His position between the French and the Africans makes this book a fascinating look into the functioning of colonial life; one of the more striking things for me was how thin the layer of bureaucracy seems to have been: a very small number of French administrators on their own out in the bush, in charge of a large population of people of various languages and religions with whom they share neither culture nor language.
And that makes the interpreter a rather more important figure than the title suggests. I certainly recommend the book.
The fortunes of Wangrin
Read the Review The Birth It was the hottest time of the year; on that particular Sunday it was even hotter than on previous days. When the sun reached the middle of its parabola, all shadows withdrew underneath whatever object had been projecting them. Having attained its highest temperature, the sun shone implacably, blinding man and beast alike and making the gaseous surface that envelops the earth boil as if it were soup in a cauldron. Men drank in deep gulps, sweat poured from their bodies in large drops. Chickens, their wings slightly askew, breathed fast and loud.
Amadou Hampaté Bâ: The Fortunes of Wangrin (1973.)
In the book, we follow the extraordinary adventures of Wangrin, a cunning man who made the best of his situation as an intermediary between colonial authorities and African populations. More than simply a captivating novel, this book is the work of a talented and respected writer, ethnologist and historian. Written in French, the language of the former colonial regime, the perspective is that of an African who witnessed firsthand the foreign occupation. The style is lively, poetic and colorful and at the same time realistic as the author tries to stay true to the manner of speaking of Europeans and Africans. Always an ambassador for West African cultures, the author portrays a world lost to us but recreated and painted with accuracy.
The Fortunes of Wangrin