MASSENI by Tidiane Dem


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Winner of the Pegasus Prize for 1979, Ivory Coast novelist Dem (who writes in French) here presents a slice-of-life story set before World War II in the sub-Saharan savanna, in a small Muslim village called Ganda. A married couple, Dady and Minignan, have been childless for over five years, chiefly on account (they believe) of a spell put on Minignan by a disapproving relative who was opposed to the marriage. Dady's search for a marabout (miracle-worker) is a frustrating and expensive one, most of these sorcerers being con-men of the Koran. But finally a successful potion is secured (elephant sperm is one ingredient), and a child is conceived: girl-child Masseni, who grows up to be very beautiful and aristocratic in mien, desired by all, including the colonial governor. Eventually, however, Masseni will marry a kindly district chief--and he shows her off as his crown-jewel, much to the chagrin of one of the chief's other wives, ""the Favorite."" Finally, then, there will be another evil spell to deal with. Dem is a deferential writer, explaining this and that strange custom as the story goes along. But there's ultimately more ethnology here than novel: for special audiences only.

Pub Date: May 30th, 1982
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press