So long a letter – Mariama Bâ (Winner of the Noma award)
Year: Published in 1979 Language: Originally written in French. Country: Senegal
“The power of books, this marvelous invention of astute human intelligence. Various signs associated with sound: different sounds that form the word. Juxtaposition of words from which springs the idea, Thought, History, Science, Life. Sole instrument of interrelationships and of culture, unparalleled means of giving and receiving. Books knit generations together in the same continuing effort that leads to progress. They enabled you to better yourself”
This is a well written novella in form of a long letter between two middle aged friends. In less than 100 page, Bâ Mariama the author writes across gender, education, politics, culture, religion, Islam and polygamy. The author uses this letter to express her desires to see equality demonstrated amongst all people in her country irrespective of gender and class.
The novella tells the woes of two different women in an unhappy union in ancient Dakar. Ramatoulaye and Aissatou – a widow and divorcee bearing the responsibility of moral and material burden. Their future interwoven as Aissatou takes a modern approach on family and women in the society while Ramatoulaye sticks to conservative methods. Their distraught journey filled with hardship and betrayal. Each woman fights her own journey while seeking support and comfort in themselves to ease their pain.
I think though just like most sons molded by ancient moral principles would do – choosing not to displease their mother at the expense of their wife, would take the choice of their mother rather than be a ridicule of society. Just like the writer maintains all men remain an engima to me. I can’t understand how both men living in mental peace decide to throw all that away for short term gratifications.
Mariama Bâ, also recounts dreadful moments of religious rite – a rigorous process, a Senegalese woman passes through. In the words of the author, rites where she is stripped of possessions, dignity and personality.
I am in awe, that in each woman – they both acknowledge the power of choice as where beauty lies therein. Unto the 21st century and this book theme still crawls around the earth, sitting at tables and devouring nations. This exciting read full of wisdom would keep you engaged in one sitting.
I think generally there was the salient proven point of friendship over love. Why don’t you read the book and share with me your highs and lows. As always I would be in the comments section. And I might just get the French copy since I have a beginners grasp of the language. What do you think?
Meilleurs voeux! Eberechi.