An African Saga

Ségou, south-centre of present-day Mali, cradle of the Bambara people, 18th century.

At the the center of Ségou is Dousika, a nobleman close to the Mansa, the regional king, embodiment of power and wealth, everything the Ségou society stands for. It is Dousika, whose household comprises three wives, one concubine and four sons, through whom the narrative unfolds and splits.

In this society in which life is organized by rituals and customs, the inevitable course of history draws Dousika’s sons away from his house to make their own way in the world. Exploring three generations, the novel follows the sons’ destinies in the larger context of the expansion of Islam in Saharan Africa and the slave trade in the Americas.

Bambara, Peul, Ashanti, Moors, French, mixed races, the novel is a melting pot of ethnic groups, languages, religions and customs permeating the narrative substance and making the reading experience both rich and colorful. Maryse Condé pays homage not only to her African ancestors, but also to a world of infinite power, sophisticated culture and influence, emphasizing the diversity and complexity of Saharan civilizations, often too poorly known by the modern public.

The immense research behind this novel weaves itself into an intimate knowledge of African history—a primary reason Ségou is often called “the African saga.” Yet, set aside its historic frame, Ségou is also a novel portraying eccentric and passionate characters; from mighty Dousika to Nya, his fiery first wife; from the short-tempered Malobali, the son of Dousika’s concubine, to the utterly good slave Nadié. All of them bring their own insights to the multi-faceted human fate, half free, half contaminated by history.

Ségou by Maryse  Condé 

Editions Robert Lafont |1984| ISBN:2-221-01197-X

 

Review by Ioana Danaila

IMG_0478-2Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She has published short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish and teach

 

Mali: Sur une page de tous les jours | Souéloum Diagho

O seigneur à toi ceci, une simple prière modeste et venant du cour.

Tu n’as pas besoin des yeux ouverts pour voir comment on vit ici, sur cette terre démembrée que les
humains ont transformé en charnier, ils coupent, creusent et fauchent les enfants.

Peux-tu seulement nous prendre en pitié, et accepter nos défauts?

Peux-tu nous ramener sur un droit chemin ? Celui de l’amitié, celui de l’amour pour son prochain et
allumer une veilleuse dans notre cour pour éclairer le tunnel assombrissant qui termine nos
journées.

O seigneur, toi l’éclaireur de nos sombres idées, toi qui voit avant que la vision n’éclose dans nos
sens, donne-nous un peu, rien qu’un peu de ta bonté pour que le mensonge soit loin de nous, pour
que la lumière se fasse même dans les nuits orageuses.

Pour toi seigneur, je chante mes chants de l’aurore, et ceux accompagnant le crépuscule des peurs,

que la nuit se referme sur moi et qu’elle ne s’ouvre plus jamais.

Je prie ton nom, ta majesté et ta grandeur jusque dans les univers éloignés, que mon âme fasse un
vol plané pour échapper à ce monde et ses atrocités.

Souéloum Diagho, the contemporary Tuareg poet, comes from Tessalit in the North of Mali. He is author and editor of Poésies touareg : le chant des saisons (Tuareg poetry: Song of the seasons), a collection of traditional poems.