imaginative soul lost in a sea of incomprehension


even as she samples from Walker's important novel, she places that work into relation with an inaugural work of african feminism, Mariama Ba's So Long a Letter. Beyala's references to Ba's epistolary novel are only references; the story that she places in the mouth of the character aminata, necklaces clearance Loukoum's birth mother, resembles but does not duplicate that never quite told one of the poor schoolgirl sold by her mother as a second wife to a wealthy, much older man, the silent rival of Ba's respectable, educated narrator.

Twice abandoned by such older men, aminata survives by becoming a prostitute, trading on her beauty first in africa and then in Paris. In her resilience, aminata's character borrows from Shug, and like Walker's character she becomes a nightclub singer. Similar as well to another of Walker's characters, "Squeak," aminata finds love with Loukoum's "uncle," whose French wife has left him for a woman. The confluence of references to Ba's classic narrative and samples of Walker's bestselling novel in the character of aminata suggests that Beyala's project-begun with her first novel and still pursued today-has never been one of proving the vitality of French West african literature as a discrete category, but of calling into question the criteria by which cultural production-whatever label may be accessories clearance attached to it, whether French, Francophone, World, or Global-is evaluated and valued.

When Beyala's samples of Buten's When I Was Five I Killed Myself take center stage in the "Beyala affair," her work is largely gauged according to standards of authenticity that rely upon a neat and foundational former colonizer/formerly colonized binary. To concentrate solely on the number of likenesses between the two novels elides the layers of boundary crossings that make Beyala's sampling of Buten's novel so compelling. Translated from english rings clearance by Jean-Pierre Carasso, When I Was Five I Killed Myself doubtlessly owes much of its success in France to the precedent of Gary's Momo. Published in 1981, some six years after that novel and just after Gary's death brought the revelation that he had authored the novels signed ajar, Buten's novel presents another sensitive, imaginative soul lost in a sea of incomprehension. Less street-wise than Momo and no orphan, Gil nonetheless similarly, though without the pointed wit, inventively garbles idiomatic expressions in his fanciful yet powerful narrative.

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