So Long a Letter was the first book in my project. It came highly recommended by a friend. And what a delectable treat this 95 page novella was.
In a Nutshell:
So long a Letter (Une Si Longue Lettre) was published in 1979, the edition I read was published in 2008, this edition featured in the African Writers Series Classics. At the time of its original publication, it was one of the first novels by a Senegalese woman in French.
The book is written in the form of a letter, from Senegalese teacher, Ramatoulaye, to her best friend, Aissatou.
Ramatoulaye is a woman who came of age during the period of late colonialism, married a Senegalese nationalist, gave birth to 12 children as their country passed into independence.
The letter depicts Ramatoulaye’s struggle to survive after her husband’s abrupt decision to take a second wife and then to adapt to her position.
She faced her husband’s rejection, and then his death, as the country transitioned from a colony to a modern nation.
It was the first African novel to win the Noma Award in 1980. (The Noma Award for Publishing in Africa ran from 1980-2008. The prize was an annual $10,000 for outstanding African authors and scholars who published in Africa.)
“In the women’s corner, nothing but noise, resonant laughter, loud talk, hand slaps, strident exclamations.”
“The sea air would put us to good humour. The pleasure we indulged in and in which all our senses rejoiced would intoxicate both rich and poor with health. Our communion with deep, bottomless and unlimited nature refreshed our souls.”
- Siguil ndigale: form of condolence that also expresses hope of moral recovery.
- Griot: Black African, of any nationality, who is part-poet, part-musician, part-sorcerer.
- Samba linguere: a man of repute.
Want to read So Long a Letter? Buy it here.
So Long a Letter
Written by Mariama Bâ
Translated from the French by Modupé Bode-Thomas
20/06/2008, Pearson Education Limited
#WITMonth for 2021 is curated by Jess Andoh-Thayre
I am 35, from London but currently living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I am married to a diplomat and we have had postings in Tanzania and Cambodia. Prior to meeting my husband, I lived in La Serena, Chile and Madrid, Spain.
I am a French, Spanish and English teacher, translator, avid reader and now blogger. When I am not teaching, reading and blogging, I love catching a brilliant sunset, swimming and hanging out with my husband and son.
Author: Mariama Ba
Mariama Ba was born in 1929 in Dakar, Senegal and died in Paris in 1981. She was an essayist, novelist and educator. She is regarded as one of the first writers to advocate for women’s rights in Senegal. So Long a Letter is considered a landmark of Francophone African literature, for discussing aspects of women’s experiences that had been largely invisible until then.
Translator: Modupé Bode-Thomas
There is little information available about this translator.