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Billet de blog 29 nov. 2022
Le bien-vivre ensemble Littérature et Politique
Abonné·e de Mediapart

"CAMARA Laye, his Novel Black Child" by Amadou Bal BA

CAMARA Laye (1928-1980), his Novel, the Dark Child or Black child.
Le bien-vivre ensemble Littérature et Politique
Abonné·e de Mediapart

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«CAMARA Laye (1928-1980), his Novel, the Dark Child» par Amadou Bal BA -

 A great reader of Franz KAFKA, Gustave FLAUBERT, existentialists and surrealists, CAMARA Laye is deeply marked by African customs and culture. What dominates the literary contribution of CAMARA Laye, between the mystical and the traditional, are the themes of the fabulous, the wonderful and the glorification of the oral tradition. African Man, in his symbiosis with Nature, in the quest for himself and his environment, is in constant search of the Grail, of wisdom. CAMARA Laye to the school curriculum in Africa, has been widely translated and commented in English, with an introduction by Toni MORISON (See my article of August 26, 2019, in Mediapart), Nobel Prize in Literature in “The Radiance of the King”. His novel, L'enfant noir, written in a refined language, but with chosen words, was crowned, on February 24, 1954, with the Charles-VEILLON Prize (1900-1971), a literary prize awarded since 1948 by a Swiss patron, wishing to reconcile Europe and culture, a kind of Swiss Goncourt Prize : “We know that this year, Camara Laye, a young Guinean writer, of color, born in Upper Guinea, prevailed over all his competitors, with his half-exotic, half-autobiographical novel”, writes BERRY. “It's a real novel, the characters other than the author have a personality of their own, complete, well constituted and developed. It is a style success” writes Lilyan KESTELOOT. “It is one of the founding texts of African literature” writes Alain MABANCKOU in the preface of  “The Black Child”.

The eldest of 12 siblings, CAMARA Abdoulaye, known as Laye, a Malinké, was born on January 1, 1928, in Kouroussa, Anama province, in Upper Guinea, in the High Plateau between Siguiri and Kankan, of a family of blacksmiths, but where various ethnic groups (Peuls, Guerzès, Cognaguis, Manos, Soussous, Malinkés, etc.) coexist. Upper Guinea, which depended on Sudan, will not be attached to Guinea until October 19, 1899. It is therefore the country of the resistant, Samory TOURE (See my article of February 11, 2020, in Mediapart), the Guinean president, Sékou TOURE said No to the referendum of September 28, 1958, organized by De GAULLE. Guinea was under the domination of the Empire of Ghana from the fourth to the eleventh century, then of the Mali Empire from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century. His ancestor, Tabon-Wana Fan CAMARA would be a contemporary of Soundiata KEITA. After Koranic studies, he was enrolled in the French school and obtained the certificate of studies in Kouroussa. Despite his mother's reservations, his father decided to send him to pursue technical studies at the Collège Poiret in Conakry. The young Abdoulaye wanted to attend the Camille Guy college, opening the royal way of Dakar's high schools. But his uncle, Mamadou, persuades him that it is the right choice and that it was better to have a good job as a technician than to remain a paper scraper. A brilliant student, after obtaining a scholarship in 1947, the young Abdoulaye left in France to study at the Ecole centrale d'ingénierie automobile in Argenteuil, in the suburbs of Paris and obtained a mechanic's certificate. His scholarship being suspended, he was forced to take odd jobs, notably at the SIMCA car factory in 1951, then at the RATP and finally at the Compagnie des compteurs in Montrouge. At the same time, Abdoulaye studied at the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers in Paris. Inhabited by homesickness, isolated, between joy and depression, Abdoulaye undertakes to write the memories of his childhood in Upper Guinea. Marie-Hélène LEFAUCHEUX (1904-1964), who was interested in Africa and the debates on the French Union, put him in contact with his brother, André POSTEL-VINAY (1911-2007), who found him a job at the Caisse centrale d'Outre-mer and in 1955, as attaché to the Ministry of Youth; he gave him, previously, contacts to publish his manuscript “L'enfant noir”, published by Plon on July 9, 1953. Although he is discreet about it, probably, CAMARA Laye has received support from the French government.

In 1956, CAMARA Laye returned to Africa, first to Dahomey (Benin), then to Ghana. In 1958, at the independence of his country, he returned to Guinea; he was appointed the first ambassador to Ghana. On his recall to Guinea, he held various positions in the administration, before being appointed Director of the National Institute of Documentation and Research. In conflict with the political orientation of Sékou TOURE, he was briefly imprisoned, before fleeing, in 1960 to the Ivory Coast of Felix HOUPHOUET-BOIGNY (1905-1993) and will be, from 1965, refugee in Senegal of Léopold Sédar SENGHOR (1906-2001). In Senegal, in Dakar, he will be recruited at IFAN Dakar, and will pay tribute to the oral tradition, through his book, “Kouma, Lafôlo Kouma”  or the “First Word”, the oldest, telling the story of Soundiata KEITA, first emperor of Mali.

 I – CAMARA Laye and the "Dark Child", Africa of the forces of the spirit and oral tradition

The Dark Child”, published in 1953, in Paris, by Plon, is above all an autobiographical account, a brilliant portrait of traditional African culture, in a simple, direct, lively and alert style. This great classic of African literature is that of a mature man who looks, through time and space, on his past. A novel of youth and the life of a schoolboy in Upper Guinea, it all begins in his small village, in Kouroussa, where traditional life takes place happily between his mother, his blacksmith father, his grandmother, his family and his friends. The action of “The Black Child” by CAMARA Laye begins when a woman, wishing to have a new jewel to attend a religious festival, goes to a goldsmith, the father of the narrator. The woman and child are captivated by the transformation of gold into jewelry and by the work of the goldsmith. The wife of the latter, on the other hand, thinks that the work of gold harms the health of her husband. We contemplate the daily life in the fields, in the forge and the rites of puberty. The story ends, a map of Paris in his pocket, in the plane that takes him to France and that distances him permanently from his loved ones, thus definitively closing his childhood. We have not forgotten this little masterpiece, “The Black Child, where a young writer from Upper Guinea, Camara Laye, made an amazing debut. He contained, in the best language, the most precise, the most nuanced, the most flexible, the first memories of his African life, the family and venerated life of his family, his deep attachments to the mores of his tribe, and this formed a striking contrast with what Camara Laye taught us about what had happened to him since” writes Emile HENRIOT, in 1954, for “Le Monde”.

Endowed with a real talent as a storyteller, “The Black Child” by CAMARA Laye is a novel of the wonderful, African forces of the spirit, farmers and blacksmiths in Upper Guinea. In a context of a very particular Islam because mixed with animism, we discover, through a mysterious little black snake, the totem of the family. The soul of Africa is well housed in Upper Guinea. His father, CAMARA Kamady, a blacksmith-goldsmith, endowed with occult powers, dialogues with this little snake visiting him : “When he was within range, my father stroking him with his hand, and the serpent accepted his caress with a quiver of the whole body; I never saw the little snake trying to do him any harm. This caress and the quiver that answered it, threw me each time into an inexpressible confusion: I thought of I do not know what mysterious conversation; The hand questioned, the quiver answered. Yes, it was like a conversation”, he writes in “The Black Child”. The mother, Daman Sadan, a native of Tindican, daughter of a blacksmith, is invested with supernatural powers. “My mother really drew water from the river, without the crocodiles, the most voracious animals of creation, thinking of assailing her. Geniuses really populated the water, the air, the land, the savannahs. Geniuses that had to be made helpable, by dint of prayers, sacrifices and incantations”, he wrote. Her mother, Daman Sadan, embodying domestic and moral virtues, active, unhurried, resigned without veulery, courageous, discreet, efficient and present without ostentation, is the symbol of a maternal Africa : “Black woman, African woman, O you my mother, I think of you. You who carried me on my back, you who breastfed me, who governed my first steps. You who first opened my eyes to the wonders of the earth, I think of you” writes CAMARA Laye in dedication to her mother. 

Breaking with all the African writers of the time claiming, in a sometimes pamphleteering approach, independence, CAMARA Laye, supported by the French and Belgians in his literary creation and favorable to De Gaulle's plan to delay independence, decided to dodge these thorny subjects. Also, in his novel “The Black Child”, he describes an Africa-Nature, folkloric, stereotyped, peaceful, balanced, harmonious and well anchored in its traditional, sometimes mystical values. By avoiding angry subjects, including anti-colonial struggles and wars (Indochina, Algeria) as well as colonial massacres (Thiaroye Camp, Sétif, Madagascar), CAMARA Laye was praised by Westerners, sometimes in a condescending or paternalistic tone : “The quiet and conscious acceptance of the supernatural in everyday life is what strikes in this son of nature. It may be that one of the most detestable effects of 'progress' is to deprive us of the sense in which the primitives and the simple remain in communication with the invisible”, writes Walter ORLANDO, in “Le Phare” (Belgium) of September 20, 1953. His refusal to question colonization was appreciated by literary critics. “Everything here is based on what brings people together, not what divides. This young Malinké drank with mother's milk, that of human tenderness” wrote René HUYGUE in the “New World”, April 1954. Indeed, divided between several cultures, CAMARA Laye has lived all its differences : “This is probably the biggest surprise that this book brings. For Camara Laye, these questions do not arise. He trusts white people, but nothing he has learned from them touches his deep life. He does not, in his mind, make any sorting, to keep or reject; it keeps everything, because if the spirit may have changed, the spirit has remained the same” writes Jean BLANZAT in “Le Figaro Littéraire” of March 6, 1954. Others have recognized the literary qualities of CAMARA Laye “We appreciated the black child of Camara Laye, one of those books of incomparable freshness, which suddenly drenched in pink, appear, we do not know how, in the middle of the rubble and detritus of contemporary literature. With astonishment, one could see framed, in a glorious gallery of national folklore, this picture of a debonair and familiar Guinea, painted with a naïve pen certainly, but very firm and intelligent. What interests me in this Camara Laye is this living guide who, without any ideological meaning, leads us through the poetry and prestigious realities of black Africa, in the simplest and most troubled thought of the natives and their prodigious sensuality” writes André BERRY in “Combat”. Described as amiable and modest, her novel is a “lesson in politeness and a lesson in the invisible” writes Max-Pol FOUCHET.

Despite these praises, sometimes dithyrambic, a discordant and thunderous voice of Mongo BETI launched a violent charge against this option of CAMARA Laye, considered as a “pink literature”, privileging the picturesque, even the fantastic; which made him write “nonsense”. This novel is a sickening product of “art for art's sake”. For Mongo BETI, the only reality of Africa at that time was the demand for the independence and dignity of Africans. Therefore, a writer must value assertiveness. “If the writer lacks personality, he will do what the audience asks of him. If he has personality, he will make literature according to his taste and his own conceptions. What the French public asks of an African novelist is another question. The African novelist, whether white or black, writes mainly for the French public of the metropolis, which explains many things. In the eyes of the French colonist and bourgeois, what is Africa ? “An inexhaustible supply of people and raw materials". One can therefore guess that a realistic African literature cannot be to the taste of these gentlemen-ladies. They will therefore try to nip in the bud any African realist literature. For the current reality of Black Africa, its only profound reality, is above all colonization and its misdeeds”, he writes.

Vivian STEEMERS speaks, about “The Black Child” by CAMARA Laye, of “literary neocolonialism”. Indeed, for her, all African novels conveying anti-colonialist rhetoric have been strongly and energetically opposed by Françafrique (Mongo BETI, Ahmadou KOUROUMA, Yambo OUOLOGUEM, Olympe BHELY-QUENUM). On the other hand, CAMARA Laye, favorable to Western interests, describing an idyllic Africa, was supported in her novels by Belgian writers and the French government and praised by literary critics in these countries. For Vivian STEEMERS this phenomenon of literary neocolonialism “is not about to disappear”. If one wants to break through, quickly, in literature, one must please and not disturb the Master.

For my part, being a supporter or opponent of Françafrique, does not necessarily make oneself a good or bad writer. The artist must have a beautiful pen and know how to tell a story that captivates the reader. If he is committed it is even better and CAMARA Laye has defended African cultural values. In fact, this controversy raised by Mongo BETI was only a commercial subterfuge, to attract the attention of readers at the publisher Alioune DIOP, said Daniel MAXIMIN, in October 2019, at the 70th anniversary of Présence africaine, at the Colony, in Paris 10th. In reality, CAMARA Laye did not want to speak for all Africans in general. He had only and only the ambition, in the disarray and nostalgia of his country, the solitude of exile, through a therapeutic approach, to write his childhood memories, the green savannah and the faces of the past. He had considered entitled, “Un enfant de la Haute Guinée”, but the publisher Plon imposed another title, “L'enfant noir”, in 1953. Ultimately, and nowadays, this novel, “the black child” became an essential book, brushes various themes including the relationship between Man and Nature, in its pastoral aspect, if it is respected, Nature is a source of peace, harmony and love. “We are, in Africa, closer to people and things than we are in Europe, and for reasons that are not mysterious. We simply lead a less hectic life. There were really spellcasters and words to ward off curses, an infinity of gris-gris to protect oneself, sacred things that said hidden things, healers who really healed”, he told “Actualité littéraire” n°6, 1955.

 II – CAMARA Laye and the “The Radiance of the King” a symbolic novel glorified by Toni MORRISON, Nobel Prize in Literature

The second book written, in 1954, by CAMARA Laye, “The Radiance of the King”, probably inspired by Franz KAFKA, recounts the earthly journey, symbolic of the spiritual journey of the hero, Clarence, a Frenchman. “The Lord will pass in the corridor, look at the prisoner, and say, 'This one must not be shut up again ; he comes to me”, writes KAFKA, in “The Castle”. This novel was praised by some literary critics: “Kafka reviewed by an African Alain Fournier. But this marvellous, who seems to have assimilated from the outset the secrets of the finest, prettiest French prose, never ceases to hear the eternal rhythms of his country. There is like the constant announcement of a song, which the black troubadours, the griots, chant. It is very scholarly, very concerted. It is art quite simply” wrote Jean-Louis CURTIS in “L'Art”, January 11, 1955.

Between humor, mystery mysticism, landed in Adramé, a city in the north of an imaginary country in West Africa, Clarence encounters various difficulties. “The radiance of the King is a symbolic novel, a story rich in noble meaning, a sense all evangelical, and harmoniously conducted. Camara Laye built his masterpiece, using the folklore of his homeland, but a folklore well-bred beyond the easy picturesque. Seuil an African would use the hereditary fund, with this constant happiness and this infallible accuracy” writes “Les amitiés de la Louvière” of February 1955. In this initiatory expedition, Clarence, arrived with his certainties, will undergo a transmutation ; he will mature deeply, psychologically and spiritually, in his path leading to the child-king, symbol of the Supreme God. The hero dies in the King's heart.

However, “Dramouss” is of a radically different style from that of “The Black Child” (1953), a symbolic novel, was considered a literary betrayal. This has therefore raised questions about the authorship of this book. For Adèle KING, one of his great biographers, who is favorable to him, “the radiance of the king” would be written a friend, a rich Belgian homosexual heir, a war criminal, Francis SOULIE, a columnist in various magazines, under the pseudonym of Gilles ANTHELME. Adèle KING also adds that four French officials at the United Nations helped CAMARA Laye in the drafting of the “King's Gaze”. Francis SOULIE, well introduced in Parisian literary circles, had hosted, for some time, CAMARA Laye and his first wife, Marie LOROFI at 15 rue Molière, in Paris 1st. The controversy “Regard du Roi” began to swell in 1981, when the Belgian academic Lilyan KESTELOOT (See my article of August 28, 2022, on Médiapart), based in Senegal and close to SENGHOR, revealed that CAMARA Laye had confided to him that this novel “had been written by a white man”. This persistent rumor is fueled by the content of the novel: the image of Africa painted by its author was too mythical to be credible, in total contradiction with that drawn in another classic of the writer, The Black Child”. Daniel DELAS evokes “the deception of the “look of the king of Camara Laye” and emphasizes “Publishing under his name a text that one has not written is not plagiarism, since the real author is consenting or even requesting, it is a form of deception. “Le Regard du roi” which, as they say in coded language, baffles critics and which today seems almost proven that it was not written by him. Revealing the imposture would have discredited all the young African literature of French expression, still fragile, and for reasons of convenience on the other hand: the situation of the Guinean writer at the end of his life was bad and it would have been cruel to add to his misfortunes”, writes Daniel DELAS.

Finally, in her investigation, Adèle KING, “Rereading Camara Laye”, exonerated the Guinean ; he was only encouraged and helped, in the writing of his childhood autobiography, by Aude JONCOURT, a professor of literature. It is a literary tradition, the publisher, here Plon, including Robert POULET, corrects the manuscripts of its authors. It is, in fact, Toni MORRISON (See my article on Mediapart) who will give her letters of nobility in a masterful introduction to this novel Camara Laye, not only summoned a sophisticated and entirely African imagist vocabulary to launch a discursive negotiation with the West, but he exploited with technical finesse the very images that served white writers for generations. The filthy inn where Clarence, the protagonist, lives could be taken over word for word by Joyce Cary's “Mister Johnson” ; susceptibility and obsession with smells read like a play on words on Elspth Huxley's “The Flame Trees of Thika” ; her European fixation on the meaning of nudity is reminiscent of H. Rider Haggard or Joseph Conrad, in virtually every travelogue”, she wrote in 2001 in “The Radiance of the King”.

It is a novel of redemption, between rationalism and mysticism, the character of Clarence, maneuvered by a roublard beggar and delivered as follows, to a very miserable exploitation of his person, before being mystically cleansed of his involuntary impurities and rewarded for his trials. In this parodic satire full of allegories, metaphors of the slave trade, a leap into the unknown, Clarence, reduced to impotence as soon as he arrives in Africa by his lack of money and disorientation, becomes the easy prey of a black beggar. Staying in a hotel, thinking he was lucky, after his wallet was stolen, he was chased away. Henceforth, as any effort on his part would prove ineffective, destitute, he thought he had to resort to the help of others, that of the King, thus renouncing his freedom and the responsibility for his actions. But the King disappears before he has had a chance to speak to him; He will therefore abandon himself to the good care of a beggar, but a favor is paid or earned. But what is moral responsibility, if we have more choices ?

Therefore, Clarence's life becomes a long expectation of the King who will come and look at him: “The look, nothing but the look, and everything would be said. Everything !” he wrote. In this desperate Way of the Cross, Clarence wants to die. Man's life can certainly be compared in many ways to an indefinite stay in prison, a spiritual enclosure where the soul, burdened with sins, obsessed with temptations, limited by the imperfections and weaknesses of the individual, is prevented from taking off. The journey would then become the symbol of the transformation of this soul who would question himself by withdrawing into himself. God alone determines the length of the journey, the duration of imprisonment. Freedom is the supreme reward bestowed by Him on those who are aware of the evil they have done with contrition. Unlike Franz KAFKA (1883-1924), Africans reject the absurdity of life, despair or suicide. Clarence must therefore get to know himself in Africa, for his redemption must go from ignorance to knowledge, from impurity to purity. In this quest, Clarence is invited to tolerance, to perseverance, that will that underlies the progression towards the King, a perfection going towards God, symbol of the noble mystery of Love.

 III – CAMARA Laye and her “Dramouss”, a hymn to Freedom, a denunciation of African monarchical and dynastic regimes

In 1966, the novel “Dramouss”, resumes the autobiography, at the time when CAMARA Laye became an adult in France, a time of innocence, because of his distance from Guinea. However, the novel's hero, Fatoman, takes two weeks off and returns home. During a sleepless night, he recalls, through involuntary memory, his stay in France. Because of the influence of his experience in France, he became aware of the dictatorship in his country and undertook to denounce and condemn it. “Dramouss” explores two major themes : acculturation and the struggle for freedom, against oppression, and in particular the regime of Sékou TOURE.

Darmouss”, first of all, as in the “ambiguous adventure” of Cheikh Hamidou KANE, a clash of cultures “In contact with the West, the Negro-African is formed as the metropolitan of his class, according to Western methods, in the name of Western principles, to become, with his fellows, the messenger of the West” writes Thomas MELONE. At the crossroads of French, animist and Muslim cultures, CAMARA Laye wants to remain himself “Culture is the result of a double effort to integrate Man to nature and nature to Man” writes Léopold Sédar SENGHOR. Fatoman, endowed with intelligence, common sense and will, who wanted to serve his country, discovers that the West has imposed itself on Africans by firearms, but also by school and its effects of acculturation, a mental colonization. He fears losing his African cultural heritage, his ancestral customs.

Darmouss” is then a confrontation of its hero, Fatoman, with a crisis of social values, Guinean society having lost its soul in modernity; Traditional values are unravelling. “The world is moving, the world is changing and mine, perhaps, faster than any other !” wrote CAMARA Laye in “The Black Child”. Guinean society is also facing a crisis of cultural values. In a dictatorial society, art is impoverished to become only an object of entertainment, utilitarian and commercial, for tourist purposes. “The vengeance of heaven threatened us. Hence the beginning of our craft and social life, hence the frenzied braying I had just heard, and those roars of madhouses, by means of which they claimed to educate a society that only asks to eat and live in peace”, he wrote. It is therefore a serious desecration of the mystical and sacred dimension of African art : “Mystery and power are no longer where they used to be. It is that they begin to dissipate in contact with new ideas”, writes CAMARA Laye.

When he was young, CAMARA Laye admired Sékou TOURE (1922-1984), a nationalist, who was neither socialist nor capitalist. “The West has brought what is precious to it, that is to say, the French language and the English language. These are the two wonderful tools that must be able to allow us to fulfill our promise, the promise we made to the rest of the world by taking our respective independences : to assimilate and not to be assimilated, the promise to get Africa out of hunger, and finally the promise to make known our particular civilizations”, he wrote in 1963, in Dakar. Also, in 1958, the young CAMARA Laye wanted to serve his country, newly independent, in need of cadres : “Not long ago, Guinea had very few cadres (and we need a lot), because their training depended on the goodwill of the colonial power, which did everything to keep most of the people in a permanent state of illiteracy or semi-ignorance. We are pleased today to see that our city, too, is beginning to provide valuable frameworks for our country. We have the honor and joy to welcome among us one of our brothers, Fatoman, who has returned from Paris”, said a Party official in “Dramouss”. Other Africans, such as the young poet, David Mandessi DIOP (see my article of October 28, 2018, in Médiapart) had come to engage alongside Sékou TOURE, but disappointed, quickly left.

Like the hero, in “Dramouss”, CAMARA Laye, a supporter of cooperation with France, discovers the regime of the repressive Single Party of Sékou TOURE. Now a refugee in Senegal, with his family, “Darmouss” is a violent indictment of the regime of Sékou TOURE and all autocratic regimes. Indeed, Fatoman, who had idealized his country during his stay in France, back in Guinea, discovers, with horror, the violence and repression that have fallen on the Guinean people. “Strangely enough, I had only felt and understood how divided a man I was. My being, I realized, was the sum of two intimate "I"s : the first, closer to my meaning of life, shaped by my traditional existence as an animist weakly tinged with Islamism, enriched by French culture, fought the second, a character who, out of love for the native land, would betray his thought, returning to live within this regime. A regime that would also undoubtedly betray socialism, capitalism and African tradition at the same time. This kind of bastard regime in gestation, after having been supported by the Church, by the Mosque and by Fetishism, would deny God after his triumph. He had begun to muzzle the naïve populations of Guinea”, he wrote. Indeed, the dictator Sékou TOURE, designated in “Dramouss” by the sobriquet of “Gaillard”, crisscrossed the entire country by countless committees in order to rule and manipulate the people, against a hypothetical plot. “The R.D.A. wants Franco-African fraternity and fights colonialism, as well as its puppets, instruments of colonialism. I mean the reactionaries of the B.A.G. Respect these reactionaries (enemies of our movement) in case they keep quiet. If they pretend to ignore the strength of our Party, apply the instructions: put the saboteurs out of harm's way, set fire to their huts. And then, rightly intimidated, they will no longer stand in the way of the harmonious evolution of our country. (...) Man's first enemy is man himself. The life and death of our people is within themselves. The death of each of us is in each of us”, says a Party official in “Dramouss”.

Consequently, all the beautiful promises, which had once mobilized the Guinean people, in their struggle for independence, have been betrayed: “There is no dignity without freedom. We prefer freedom in poverty to freedom in slavery. Independence is at the disposal of Guineans” said on September 2, 1958, Sékou Toure, in his campaign for the No to the referendum DE GAULLE of September 28, 1958. Indeed, in a great Machiavellianism and cynicism, the single party, controlling everything, is a transmission belt of its propaganda, its lies and its instrumentalizations, in order to better excuse or hide its misdeeds. Fatoman, questioned by a Party official, rebels against these crimes that no one dares to denounce : One day someone will have to expose all these lies. It must be said that if colonization, vilified by this committee, has been an evil for our country, the regime you are introducing will be a disaster, the misdeeds of which will extend over decades. It must be said that a regime that is built in blood, by the care of the arsonists of huts and houses, is only a regime of anarchy and dictatorship, a regime based on violence, and that will destroy violence. The violence you are instituting in this country will be paid for by each of you and even more by the innocent. Above all, to build a viable society, it will require more concrete and honest actions, less speeches, more respect for the opinion of others, more brotherly love”, he writes in “Dramouss”.

Ultimately, this novel, “Dramouss”, a powerful hymn to freedom, is a prophetic literary creation that one day will come, when Guinea will be free. The character of Fatoman, unlike Samba Diallo, in the “ambiguous adventure” of Cheikh Hamidou KANE, who had chosen suicide, preferred internal exile. We know, subsequently, that Sékou TOURE, victim of four failed attacks from Senegal, and who shouted all day long, “down with imperialism”, died in 1984, in the United States. The visit of President Valéry GISCARD-D'ESTAING (1926-2020, see my article) had restored Franco-Guinean relations : “It is a question of celebrating the reconciliation of Guinea and France, of seeking, together, ways of cooperation favourable to Guinea and France. I want to tell you, with deep and sincere joy, France and Guinea, which 20 years ago were lost, have now found each other. Guinea's vocation seems to me to be that of independence. You have encountered difficulties and many obstacles, you have overcome them. You offer the spectacle of a country which, with its head held high, is preparing to embark on a new phase of its history”, said on December 21, 1978, at the Stade du 28 septembre. But the country is still shaken by military dictatorships and Alpha CONDE, a formidable opponent, did not keep his commitments, once in power from December 21, 2010 to September 5, 2021. Would Africa be cursed ?

Dramouss” refuses this Afro-pessimism ; CAMARA Laye in her optimism opens a glimmer of hope and hope. The Guinean “Revolution” being betrayed by the single party of Sékou TOURE, Guinea became a people in rags, hungry and surrounded by a high wall. However, Fatoman saw, in a dream, that one day the calm “Black Lion” will come, not roaring, will liberate his native Guinea : “The sacred forests, the plundered property, were returned to their owners ; Famine yielded to prosperity, illegality to legality, barbarism to civilization. And life, which had once been for us a mixture of sadness, absurdity and anguish, had once again become all joy and laughter. I contemplated my Guinea, wisely guided by the Black Lion, the heroic and wise Black Lion. And I discovered that he was not alone ; I saw that the people of his brethren accompanied him in his wonderful ascent to the sun; and to this extraordinary source of light, to progress; all embarked on the same dodge, passengers in solidarity, promised to the same port”, he wrote. This makes me think of a quote from an eminent French poet : “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise” writes Victor HUGO.

 CAMARA Laye died on 1980, in Dakar, Senegal, at the age of 52, following a long illness, nephritis and hypertension, said to have resulted from poisoning in the prisons of Sékou TOURE. His wife, Marie LOROFO, a mestizo whose father, Dr. Henry LOROFY, a Corsican, gave him seven children. “She was mixed-race, very fair in complexion, almost white in truth; In my eyes, she was beautiful as a fairy ! She was gentle and agreeable, and of the most admirable equality of temper”, he said of his wife. In 1970, Marie was visiting her father who was said to be dying in Guinea and was imprisoned by Sékou TOURE for seven years at the sinister Camp Boiro. Upon his release, Marie, a Catholic, discovers that CAMARA Laye, during his absence, had remarried to a Senegalese, originally from Vélingara, Ramatoulaye KANTE, a nurse who treated him; They had three children. Marie LOROFI asks for and obtains a divorce.



I - 1 – Boooks of CAMARA Laye

CAMARA (Laye), Dramouss, Paris, Plon, 1966, 260 pages ;

CAMARA (Laye), L’âme de l’Afrique, dans sa partie guinéenne, Dakar, Faculté des Lettres, 1963, 10 pages ;

CAMARA (Laye), L’enfant noir, préface d’Alain Mabanckou, Paris, Plon, 2006, 256 pages et Paris Pockett, 2007, 224 pages ;

CAMARA (Laye), Le Haut-Niger, vu à travers la tradition orale : Kouma, Laloolo Kuma, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, 1971, 342 pages, doc UCAD, THL 1297 ;

CAMARA (Laye), Le maitre de la parole, Kouma, Lafôlo Kouma, Paris, Plon, 1978, 315 pages ;

CAMARA (Laye), Le Regard du roi, Paris, Plon, 1954, 254 pages.

I - 2 – Articles Interviews Reports on CAMARA Laye

CAMARA (Laye), «Camara Laye nous parle de son voyage en Guinée et de ses projets», Paris-Dakar, (RCI), 6 février 1954, page 2 ;

CAMARA (Laye), «Commitment to Timeless Values», entretien accordé à J. Steven Rubin, Africa Report, mai 1972, n°5, pages 20-24 ;

CAMARA (Laye), «Dramouss, c’est l’aventure intellectuelle d’un Malinké porté vers le surréalisme», entretien accordé à Gaoussou Kamisso, Fraternité Matin, (RCI), 22 septembre 1966, page 7 ;

CAMARA (Laye), «Entretien», accordé à Irmelin Hossman, Afrique, juillet 1963, n°26, pages 54-57 ;

CAMARA (Laye), «Entretien», accordé à Jacqueline Leiner, Présence francophone, printemps 1975, n°10, pages 153-167 ;

CAMARA (Laye), «Entretien», accordé à Jacqueline Sorel, RFI, série Archives sonores de la littérature noire, 1977 ;

CAMARA (Laye), «Entretien», accordé à Marcel Ebode, Afrique (Paris), juillet 1963, n°26, pages 54-57 ;

CAMARA (Laye), «Entretien», accordé à Roger N’Da, pour la télévision ivoirienne et transcrite dans Fraternité-Matin, 3 et 10 octobre 1972 ;

CAMARA (Laye), «Et demain ?», Présence africaine, 1957, Vol 3-4, n°14-15, pages 290-295 ;

CAMARA (Laye), «L’Afrique et l’appel des profondeurs», conférence de Fourah-Bay, Sierra-Léone, 1963 ;

CAMARA (Laye), «L’écrivain est obligé de se taire ou de tordre sa plume», entretien accordé à Gaoussou Kamisso, Fraternité Matin, (RCI), 6 avril 1976 ;

CAMARA (Laye), «Les yeux dans la statue», Présence africaine, 1957, Vol 2,  n°13, pages 102-110 et Orphée Noir, n°5, 1959.

II – Other References on CAMARA Laye

AAS-ROUXPARIS (Nicole), «Le personnage de Mimie dans «Dramouss» de Camara Laye», Francofonia, 1993, n°24, pages 41-52 ;

ABDI FARAH (Omar), Le rêve européen dans l’œuvre de Camara Laye, Thèse sous la direction de Jacques Poirier, Université de Bourgogne, 2007, 70 pages ;

AFEJUKU (Tony, E.), «Mythologization in the Characters in Autobiographies of Camara Laye, Wole Soyinka and Ezekiel Mphahlele», Neohelicon, 2001, Vol 28, n°2, pages 243-249 ;

AUGUSTAVE (Elsie), ASSIBA D’ALMEIDA (Irène), Autour de l’enfant noir de Camara Laye, un monde à découvrir, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2018, 220 pages ;

AWOLO (Marie-Joseph), L’image de la femme dans «l’enfant noir» et «Dramouss» Camara Laye, Thèse sous la direction de Robert Jouanny, Université de Paris-Est, Créteil, UPEC, 1992, 82 pages ;

AZODO (Ada, Uzoamaka), «The Work in Gold as Spiritual Journey in Camara Laye’s African Child», Journal of Religion in Africa, 1994, Vol 24, n°1, pages 52-61 ;

AZODO (Ada, Uzuoamaka), L’imaginaire dans les romans de Camara Laye, New York, Bern, Paris, Peter Lang, 1993, 165 pages ;

BARRE (Christian), Une œuvre : l’enfant de Camara Laye, Paris, Hâtier, 1992, 128 pages ;

BATTESTINI (Monique), MONIQUE (Simon), MERCIER (Roger), Camara Laye, écrivain guinéen, Paris, Nathan, 1965, 64 pages ;

BELCHER (Wendy), «Indirect Resistance : Rhetorical Strategies for Evading Power in Colonial French African Novels by Camara Laye, Ferdinand Oyono and Sembène Ousmane», Literature Interpretation Theory, 2007, Vol 18, pages 65-87 ;

BERRY (André), «Au pays de Camara Laye», Combat, 28 juin 1956, page 1 ;

BERRY (André), «Le Prix Charles Veillon fut chaudement disputé avant de revenir à Cmara Laye», Combat, 4 mars 1954, page 6 ;

BERRY (André), «Romans nègres», Combat, 7 mars 1955, pages 3 et 9 ;

BETI (Mongo), ou Eza Boto, «Afrique noire, littérature rose», Présence Africaine, nouvelle série, 1955, n°1-2, pages 133-140 ;

BETI (Mongo), ou Eza Boto, «L’enfant noir», Présence Africaine, 1954, n°16, pages 419-422 ;

BIAYE (Idrissa), La mise en scène de soi, dans «les mots» de (1964) de Jean-Paul Sartre et dans «l’enfant noir» de Camara Laye, Master II, sous la direction d’Amadou Falilou N’Diaye, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, 2016-2017, 87 pages, doc UCAD ;

BOURGEACQ (Jacques), «Camara Laye’s L’Enfant Noir and the Mythical Verb», The French Review, février 1990, Vol 63, n°3, pages 503-513 ;

BOURGEACQ (Jacques), L’enfant noir de Camara Laye, Sherbrooke, Naaman, études 41, 1984, 80 pages ;

BURNESS (Donald), «The Radiance of Camara Laye», Journal of Black Studies, juin 1981, Vol 11, n°4, pages 499-501 ;

CAMARA (Sory), Gens de la parole : essai sur la condition et le rôle des griots Malinkés, Paris, Mouton, 1976, 358 pages ;

CHEMAIN (Roger), CHEMAIN (Arlette), «Pour une relecture politique de «Le Regard du Roi» de Camara Laye», Présence Africaine, 3ème trimestre, 1984, n°131, pages 155-138 ;

CHEVRIER (Jacques), «Un écrivain fondateur : Camara Laye», Notre Librairie, juillet-septembre 1987, n°88-89, pages 64-73 ;

COGAN (Gaëlle), RAMAIN (Célia), L’enfant de Camara Laye (analyse de l’œuvre), Bruxelles, Le Petit Littéraire, 2011, 27 pages ;

DEDUCK (Patricia, Anne), Franz Kafka’s Influence on Camara Laye’s Le Regard du Roi, Indiana University, 1970, 158 pages ;

DELAS (Delas), «La supercherie du «Regard du roi» de Camara Laye. A quoi sert la critique ?», Littératures francophones, 2013, pages 229-240 ;

DIAKHITE (Paul), «La maître de la parole de Camara Laye», The Language Quaterly, 1985, Vol 24, pages 16-18 ;

ELIET (Edouard), Panorama de la littérature négro-africaine, Paris, Présence africaine, 1965, 265 pages ;

ETONDE-EKOTO (Grâce), ««Le Regard du Roi», une pédagogie de la rédemption», The French Review, décembre 1985, Vol 59, pages 267-277 ;

FABIJANCIC (Ursula), «Le regard du Roi : un roman anti-existentialiste ?», Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, juin 1986, Vol 49, pages 377-382 ;

GARNIER (Xavier), «Le regard du roi et la temporalité magique», La magie dans le roman africain, 1999, pages 137-146 ;

GUDIJIGA (Christophe), «Darmouss, un nouveau roman de Camara Laye», Congo-Afrique, mai 1967, n°15, pages 257-259 ;

GUDIJIGA (Christophe), «Quatre thèmes dans l’oeuvre de Camara Laye», Congo-Afrique, mars 1966, n°3, pages 139-148 ;

HENRIOT (Emile), «Le «Regard du roi» de Camara Laye», Le Monde, 24 novembre 1954 ;

IRELE (F. Abiola), «Camara Laye : An Imagination Attuned to the Spiritual», West Africa, avril 1980, Vol 7, pages 617-618 ;

IRELE (F. Abiola), «In Search of Camara Laye», Research of African Literature, printemps 2006, pages 110-127 ;

KACOU (Gisèle, Virginie), Camara Laye et la tradition africaine, Montréal, McGill University, novembre 1986, 124 pages ;

KAMA (Jacques, Mangue), Cultural Revival in Things Fall Apart (1958) by Chinua Achebe and the Dark Child by Camara Laye, Master II, sous la direction d’Abdoulaye Dione, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, 2016-2017, 90 pages ;

KETCHORE (Kwasi, Ndjokunla), L’image des griots et l’écriture griotique dans Camara Laye et Aminata Sow Fall, Thèse sous la direction de Jacques Melinda A. Cro, Kansas State University, 2020, 31 pages ;

KHEIR (Ibtissem), Identité et altérité dans «l’enfant noir» de Camara Laye, Thèse sous la direction de Saïd Khadraoui, Université El Hadji Lakhadar, Batna (Algérie), 1977, 95 pages ;

KING (Adèle), «Camara Laye, 1928-1980», Research in African Literature, hiver 1980, Vol 11, n°4, pages 548-548 ;

KING (Adèle), Rereading Camara Laye, University of Nebraska Press, 2002, 210 pages ;

KING (Adèle), The Writings of Camara Laye, London, Heinemann, 1980, 132 pages ;

KOUYATE (Mamadou), La variabilité dans quatre versions de l’épopée mandingue, Thèse sous la direction d’Alpha Oumar Barry, Université de Bordeaux Montaigne, 2015, 2 vol, 674 pages ;

LEFRANKE (MBo), «Structure et thème du merveilleux dans le roman négro-africain : le cas du regard du roi de Camara Laye», Annales Aequatoria, 1988, Vol 9, pages 183-198 ;

MALANDA (Ange-Séverin), L’esthétique littéraire de Camara Laye, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2000, 141 pages ;

NZABATSINDA (Anthère), «La figure de l’artiste dans le récit de Sembène Ousmane», Etudes françaises, 1995, n°31, pages 51-60 ;

OJO (F. A), «Une lecture de deux romans de Camara Laye», Néohelicon, 1982, Vol 9, pages 241-271 ;

OKEY (Peter, Igbonekwu), La recherche intérieure : une explication de l’enracinement chez Camara Laye, Moncton (Canada), University of Moncton, 1973, 12 pages ;

OUPOH (Gnaoré), «Hommage à Camara Laye», Fraternité-Matin, 12 février 1980, pages 19-21 ;

PAKALY (NDoy), L’acculturation dans l’aventure amnbigë de Cheikh Hamidou Kane et dans Dramouss de Carama Laye : essai d’analyse comparative, mémoire sous la direction de Tsh Nyembwe, Université nationale du Zaïre, septembre 1981, 74 pages ;

RABEMANANJARA (Jacques), «Le poète noir et son peuple», Présence africaine, 1977, n°16, pages 9-24 ;

RUBIN (J. Steven Rubin), «Laye : Commitment to Timeless Values», Africa Report, mai 1972, Vol. 17, n°5 pages 20-24 ;

SELA (Tal), Le roman africain francophone au tournant des indépendances (1950-1960). La construction d’un nouvel éthos d’auteur, Thèse sous la direction d’Anthony Mangeon, Université de Strasbourg, 2017, 511 pages ;

SELLIN (Eric), «Trial by Exil : Camara Laye and Sundiata Keita», World Literature Today, été 1980, Vol 54, n°3, pages 392-395 ;

SENGHOR (Léopold, Sédar), «Camara Laye et Lamine Diakhaté ou l’art n’est pas un parti», Liberté I Négritude et humanisme, Paris, Seuil, 1964, pages 155-158 ;

SIMPORE (Karim), «Camara Laye et J-M Le Clézio, dans la quête épistémologique de la nature par le mythe d’origine», French Cultural Studies, 2019, Vol 30, n°3, pages 248-255 ;

STEEMERS (Vivian), «L’enfant noir : le parrainage des nègres blancs de droite», Le néocolonialisme littéraire : quatre romans africains face à l’institution littéraire parisienne 1950-1970, Paris, Karthala, Lettres du Sud, 2012, 234 pages, spéc pages 39-88 ;

VINCENOT (Guy), L’enfant de Camara Laye, Paris, L’Ecole, 1972, 24 pages ;

YEPRI (Léon), Relire l’enfant noir de Camara Laye, Dakar, NEA, 1987, 89 pages.

Paris, 26 november 2022, par Amadou Bal BA -

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