MONNEW by Ahmadou Kourouma


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 Ivory Coast-born Kourouma (The Suns of Independence, 1982) brilliantly indicts both colonial and independent Africa for their monnew--insults, outrages, humiliations. Like a griot (one of the traditional storytellers of West Africa), Kourouma tells of Djigui Keita, the ``AgeOldMan,'' in idiomatic prose that reflects the mythic nature and intent of his tale. Djigui, a great king, tries to repel the French colonialists with human sacrifices and a towering wall, but he's soon won over by the French, who promise to build him a railway line from the coast. In return, Djigui is to provide them with free labor. As he grows older, however, this devout, humanistic Moslem begins to question his bargain with the French as their demands for goods and labor grow more rapacious. Djigui's subjects are also made to fight for France in WW I, suffer under the PÇtainists, welcome de Gaulle, and then participate in French-rigged elections. The French, Djigui realizes, are all promises--the railway never materializes--and bestowers of trifles, like a visit to France for Djigui when he's invested with the Legion of Honor. But as independence nears, Djigui's own people-- including son Bema--are equally treacherous and greedy. Djigui now understands that people's woes, their monnew, like his own, come from themselves--``the wound of Djigui came from a possession of Djigui, the wound that never closes is the one left by the crocodile born of your own.'' In a last-minute effort to thwart his son, the 125-year-old patriarch sets off for the ancestral stronghold to abdicate, and thereby end the dynasty, but he dies en route. The ``rough path'' is unchanged, monnew continues. An evocative lament for the passing of the old--as well as a bitter indictment of all that leaves Africans still ``voiceless in short.''

Pub Date: Feb. 8th, 1993
ISBN: 1-56279-027-7
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1992