Across the first month of 2020, Sophie Baggott is sharing her thirty favourite books by women from across the world. Find out more about her project to read women writers from every country worldwide here.
Recommended by a colleague who loved this book, So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ (tr. Modupé Bodé-Thomas) is a powerful story from Senegal. The short book has been recognized as one of Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century – written as an extended letter, it’s a sequence of sometimes wistful, sometimes bitter reminiscences from recently widowed Senegalese schoolteacher Ramatoulaye Fall.
a nutshell: shaped as a 95-page letter from a widow to her childhood friend, this is an achingly eloquent reflection on women’s roles in Bâ’s native Senegal
a line: “The past fertilizes the present”
an image: Ramatoulaye describes the power of her work as a schoolteacher – how teachers set in motion waves within children which, breaking, carry away in their furl a bit of themselves
a thought: the significance of books also emerges in the letter (which Bâ wrote in a semi-autobiographical manner); for the narrator, Ramatoulaye, literature is seen to knit together generations and ultimately lead to progress
a fact: the novella was awarded the first Noma Prize for Publishing in Africa in 1980
want to read So Long a Letter? visit here