The Imoko night by Boubacar Boris Diop

CouvertureLa-nuit-de-lImokositewebThis is my first time reading a collection of short stories and I most definitely enjoy it.  I had the immense privilege to attend a conference by this author last month ( I bought this book on that day). The themes of that great event were : FrancAfrique (France + Afrique) relationship, Cheikh Anta Diop, the author’s books, writing in African languages, politics in Senegal, english speaking writers versus french speaking writers, Pan-Africanism…. As you can see, it was a very rich exchange indeed.

A word  about the author

Boubacar Boris Diop (born 1946 in Dakar) is a Senegalese novelist, journalist and screenwriter. His best known work, Murambi, le livre des ossements (Murambi: The Book of Bones), is the fictional account of a notorious massacre during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. He is also the founder of Sol, an independent newspaper in Senegal, and the author of many books, political works, plays and screenplays. Doomi Golo (2006) is one of the only novels ever written in Wolof¸( Senegal main languague spoken by all ethnic groups), it deals with the life of a Senegalese Wolof family.

At 57 years, the Senegalese Boubacar Boris Diop has emerged as one of the major writers of contemporary Francophone Africa. Discreet, a great reader and curious mind, this Senegalese author is present on all fronts when it comes to defending African cultures, the greatest number to broaden his creative universe.

About the book

 The night of the Imoko is a set of seven new designed between 1998 and 2012: “The old woman”, “Myriem,” “Back to Ndar-Geej”, “Wade or art botch his destiny,” “like a shadow “,” Diallo, man With No Name, “” the Night of the Imoko. “The writer Boubacar Boris Diop gives us to read life scenes and portraits of Senegal. On hand to meet the daily lives of these beings adrift, unable to plan for the future, nailed to their stories and rituals. These stories illustrate the consistency of the literary world of Boris Diop, who said “it is impossible to read a book without completely reinventing the real.” The Senegalese author takes a sober look at the facts of African life and the challenges of contemporary history and refusing to play the game of folklore and exoticism. Through these fragments of life, Boubacar Boris Diop reveals the rout of African societies and characters, trapped in their delusions. Each story, writing stripped and a wry humor, is both a mirror to all humans and a wink to their thirst for freedom.

The views from Under the Neem Tree

Most of the short stories remind me so much of home. Unfortunately, I don’t read a lot of Senegalese authors.  I will definitely read more of this author in the future, he  is really great. Plus, he believes in Pan-Africanism like I do.

Let me walk you through the stories quickly:

  1.  « La petite vieille » : The title, literally, means the old lady in English. This story illustrates all the wrongs in the relationship  between French-speaking Africa and France. EVERYTHING!
  2. « Myriem »: The story of Myriem reminds me of  that french couple  (currently in jail) who was trafficking african children some years back. Thank God they were caught while leaving the country.
  3. « Retour à Ndar-Géej »: My family is originally from the city called St-Louis or in Wolof  “Ndar-Geej” located in Northern Senegal. But I have only been there once when I was seven. This short story reflects on the past glory of this city. It used to be the French’s capital during colonization times.
  4. « Me Wade ou l’art de bâcler son destin »:  This would translate as ” Barrister Wade or The art to botch his destiny“. Last year, my country made headlines around the word. That, in itself, is quite remarkable, Senegal is a small country of 14 millions people, no one ever heard of us, which is a good thing, of course. Our ex-president was refusing to leave power after his second term. He even decided to change the constitution so that he could contest the elections and maybe win a third term. unfortunately for him, people were looking forward to his departure and did not appreciate his dabbling with the constitution. To cut the story short, people got organized and drove him out. This short story is between 2 Senegalese men reflecting on these events and wondering if the new president will finally deliver this time around!
  5. « Comme une ombre »: ” Like a shadow”. This story is about African migrants in Europe ( I think the country is France) working as street sweepers. If you have been to France, then you are familiar with Malian or Senegalese old men sweeping the streets. This particular immigrant is reflecting on people and on himself. The story is quite dark, people are compared to blacks ants trying to be different or believing that they are different.
  6. « Diallo, L’homme sans nom » : this story was also very dark but it is the one I like the most. The title translates as “ Diallo, the man without a name“. In Africa, there are the very rich and the very poor. According to the world Bank & al., the middle class is nonexistent. The very poor usually lives in shanty town while the rich have replaced the colonizers in the huge compound in the city center. The very poor works for the very rich as cook, cleaner, gardener …you name it.. Mr Diop shows us in this story  how the rich does not see the servants as humans, for them they don’t exist, they are objects like their houses, cars…Diallo is a gardener who has a name but his employer couldn’t care less. The day he tries to tell his real name, a tragedy unfolds. PURE GENIUS!
  7. « La nuit de l’Imoko »: “The Imoko night” This story illustrates two points : the uselessness of royal families in Africa. Basically, they get paid to tell their subjects who to vote for . The second point is the ugliness of politics in Africa. Also, there is a struggle between old traditions and legends and modernity and logic.

I recommend you this book obviously!  As you can say see from the cover above, my copy was in French.

Did you read this book? What did you think?

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4 responses to “The Imoko night by Boubacar Boris Diop

  1. This is a book I’ll love to read. it has all the ingredients, especially themes, I love. First, I hate the royal stupidity that we put on ourselves. What makes one a royal? Can your blood be better than another? That’s a nonsensical idea. They do whatever they want, accumulate the people’s wealth for nothing and become lords over the people and laws onto themselves. I love Ayi Kwei Armah’s treatment of Chieftaincy in his books Two Thousand Seasons and The Healers. It is a useless institution.

    Then I also agree with the cruelty of the dichotomous wealth-status that has befallen most African countries. It is economically stupid, socially unsustainable, culturally antithetical, and morally unethical that people are either rich or poor. There is a certain phenomenon creeping up: the poor lives in shanty-towns and the rich in barricaded estates. The middle class is missing. And you complain about crime? This mentality of the rich lording over the poor has not changed since colonial days. Ngugi treats this well in several of his books notably Matigari and Wizard of the Crow.

    On President’s Wade’s case, I had a stand. I would have wished that the people had not demonstrated to the extent of lives being lost. It is simple, the man says vote for me. The people could easily say, we won’t vote for you; Just as they did in the end. So if they had, with one resolve, chosen to give him a resounding defeat why that extent of demonstrations. Besides, we should also know that politicians are almost all the same. Wade was at a time worshipped. Sall could morph easily.

  2. Well, Wade case was quite complex. But I think it boiled down to the fact that during his time in power, more people got poor while the top 2% got richer, in fact super rich ,In Senegal money, because one of my nigerian friend’s told me that the money stolen by the Wade family is “pocket money” in Nigeria.
    There is a great lesson to be learn here. You said Wade was love before, the truth is President Diouf was hated so he was drove out, Wade was around, he was elected. 10 years later, same scenario, Wade is hated and was replaced by Sall.
    Anyway -) About President Sall, I don’t expect any dramatic change in policies from his predecessor. Sadly,nothing spectacular is going to happen.

  3. Pingback: under the neem tree senegal is launching | Under the Neem Tree·

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