Autumn 2001

ISSN 1473-219X





The embodiment of wrath in two postcolonial prophecies: La vie et demie by Sony Labou Tansi and Mémoire d'une peau by Williams Sassine

Catherine Wendeler, University of Luton


This paper highlights mechanisms of subversion of the moral order in two philosophical narratives where tragedy is enshrined within a discourse of the body. Where does the mind end and the body begin? Labou Tansi's fable La vie et demie (1979), from the Congo, explores the taboos of murder and of incest in a surreal manner in the fictional postcolonial state of Katalamanasie. In the midst of the all-encompassing cosmic chaos of a surface reading, a semiotic reading of the act of eating will enable us to establish a clear comparison between the female character of Chaidana and that of Medea avenging the murder of her father through the systematic use of her outstanding vitality and sexual appetite – 'elle avait une vie et demie la dedans' [she had a life and a half inside her] – enabling her to dispose of her lovers, all political jackals, with a chalice of poisoned champagne.

The second part of the paper examines Mémoire d'une peau (1998), a posthumous narrative by Williams Sassine from Guinea, as essentially the rewriting of the protagonist Milo Kan's genealogy, an avenging of an insult both private and social through murder – employing metaphors of anality for reclaiming the myth of the albino as a marginal character partaking of the living and of the dead. The recurring destruction deliberately satirises a Nietzschean pursuit in Beyond Good and Evil, which, far from being exclusively negative, is endowed with joie de vivre. The tale can be read as a reclaiming of a lost origin: a rehabilitation of the African psyche after the scars of colonisation (as Mudimbe recommends in L'Odeur du Pére).

The methodology used is borrowed from the semiotic school; the work of Greimas in Du Sens 2, Bertrand's L'Espace et le Sens, Calbris and Martins-Baltar's Le corps dans la langue, un dictionnaire prototype.

Two postcolonial prophecies

Labou's and Sassine's texts both illustrate ways in which the silencing of speech triumphs in the aesthetics of a subversive discourse of the body. Labou's fable, 'qui voit demain avec les yeux d'aujourd hui' [considering tomorrow with today's gaze] (10) could be considered as a metaphor of the Black Diaspora rehabilitating the grief of the body. This paper explores ways in which mechanisms of survival operate within the texts and argues that language is an act of power through which lost territories are conquered and appropriated and that the mechanism of change is inherent in wrath. La vie et demie (Congo) and Mémoire d'une peau (Guinea) share excesses of fantasies or delirium, bursts of ferocious anger indicative of tensions, signs of hidden taboos. The language inflation, coined by the French literary critic Dejeux (Dejeux, 1977: 175) as 'literary delirium', subverts political censorship. The use of fractions (halves) further highlights the departure from the norm situating the narratives on a mythical plane where absurdity can co-exist with common sense. The recurring seme of wrath (Bertrand, 1985) as a mechanism for reclaiming the self, empowers the anti-heroes to reclaim their genealogies: as a daughter in the case of Chaidana in La Vie et demie, and as a son in that of Milo Kahn in Mémoire d'une peau and in either case, as a witness. Situating the texts at a cultural crossroads following independence does not suffice to conclude that they offer reconciliation with the Earth myth of the past; rather, we read both as forms of modern prophecies in which meaning comes from the body.

Both narratives employ fractions as disjunctions from the norm of the hic et nunc. In La Vie et demie, the murdered father's upper half haunts his killers relentlessly. Furthermore, he refuses to die completely. The representation of the warning takes on several forms, from the trunk exhorting Chaidana to flee to the ferocious beating of Chaidana when she does not obey. A satire of dictatorship, Labou's fable establishes bridges between madness and survival, between a quest for origins and the reality of death. Since Labou wrote explicitly in order to avoid the repetition of history, the omen and the wrath call for special attention.

The body in La Vie et Demie

The fragmentation of the body in the metaphors of disembodiment, explicitly political references to torture, imply a deficient identity. The country is ruled by dictators euphemistically called 'guide providentiel' who, in turn, all attempt to rape Chaidana:

...le guide providentiel allait consommer son viol quand il vit le haut du corps de Martial: les yeux avaient pousse, mais la blessure au front,ainsi que celle de la gorge etaient restees beantes [the providential guide was going to consumate the rape when he saw Martial’s head. The eyes had grown and the face was a gaping wound] (23).

Martial, the father, the deposed and brutally assassinated political leader, acts as a deterrent. Warnings recur through some alarming indelible black ink stains called 'noir de Martial' smeared on doors, furniture, foreheads and bodies as a stigma of memory. Black is heralded lest social memory erodes itself. Ink acts as a device forcing the gaze, ink as dissidence, ink of the writer writing in a dictatorship. Ink takes over the silenced voices: 'blessure de la gorge – restee beante' [the throat wound gaping]. Chaidana complains about her amazing energy levels using the passive: 'Vous ne pouvez pas savoir docteur comme ca vibre une chair et demie. Ils m'ont mis une chair et demie' [You cannot imagine how much flesh vibrates inside here. They put a flesh and a half inside me] (22).

Compensating for destruction with extra life, Chaidana is endowed with a sexuality she cannot control until she decides to avenge her people through its manipulation: 'Je suis un produit de leur main je les aurai tous' [I am a product of them. I will have them all] (46). Chaidana poses the question about the reproduction of power, for how can power reproduce itself if not sexually? From passive and subservient witnesses of their fate, objects achieve the status of actors. In killing her lovers with a slow acting poison, she better enjoys their demise and her manipulation of their destinies. Many instances refer to flesh and percentages are constructed as puns on genetics and as a statement of solipsism:

Comment vous dire, docteur? On n'est pas du meme monde. On n'a pas le meme coefficient charnel. Moi, la-dedans, c'est une fois et demie. [How could I tell you, Doctor? We do not belong to the same world. We don't have the same proportion of flesh. I am one and a half inside] (27).

Chaidana's identity isolates her from the living despite and because of her extra eroticism. In stating her extra-ordinariness she also states both her difference from her persecutors and lures them with more lasciviousness to their ends. The name La Vie et demie is, in fact, the name of a brothel and an asylum from political manoeuvres:

Moi, je vais prendre une nouvelle identite. C'est le pays, ma chere. Et le pays nous demande d'etre forts dans l'art de fermer les yeux.' [I will take on a new identity. It is the country, my dear. And the country asks us to be strong in the art of closing our eyes] (30).

The doctor, aspiring to political non-committal, makes an extra effort – half forgetting, half remembering – akin to paranoia, a discourse in which cerebral knowledge is split from sensory feelings. The need to subvert the discourse of power is twofold – firstly it acts as a screen of self-protection against a brutal regime, secondly as an attempt to regain sense in a world devoid of meaning:

Mais les mots ici ne disaient plus ce disent les mots, juste ce que voulaient les hommes qui les prononcaient. [But here words do not mean what words mean, only what the men who uttered them want them to mean] (83).

It is possible to analyse the mechanisms through which wrath re-establishes sense amidst madness and chaos. Greimas's work on defiance (Greimas, 1983) demonstrates the logic inherent in the opposition between the modals 'devoir-faire' [must do] and 'ne pas devoir-faire' [should not do]. When we apply the semiotic square to the act of eating within the fable we see how the moral order is challenged and why the choice of the oxymoron is the only narrative possibility to express chaos.

Calbris and Martins-Baltar's dictionary on the use of the body in the French language (Calbris & Martins-Baltar, 1993) demonstrates that the act of eating generates active and passive figures. It presupposes (A=eater) acting (A:eating) upon an object (O:food), sometimes with the use of an instrument.The act of eating provides nourishment to the eater (Be=A).

Time (duration, repetition) is a necessary component of the act of eating. The act of eating has natural physiological motives (such as feeling hungry), psychological motives (such as nervousness) or cultural motives (such as celebration). In Labou's text the motives for eating and more importantly not-eating are subversive, the political atmosphere generating essentially circumstances of aberration ['des conditions d'infaisabilite'] (C-F).

When asking the simple question 'who is eating what?' and answering: 'the daughter is being forced to eat the pate made with her father's corpse even if coined with an appealing gastronomic label ['daube'], we see that the refusal to eat signifies more than a whim, it equates to a humanitarian protest, to an act of common sense, to the disavowal of the taboo consisting in eating the flesh of the fathers. An iconic representation of the two victims, 'la loque-pere' and 'la loque-mere' stereotypes of destroyed genealogies, warn the reader: the late father reprobating the political dictatorship, the late mother emblematic of pain, horror and all forms of indecency. The upper part of the father's face, his raised eyebrows, take over the part played by the missing voice and continue to express reprobation:

'La loque-pere sourcillait tandis que le fer disparaissait dans sa gorge' [The father-wreck was raising his eyebrows while the knife was disappearing into his throat] (12).

Simultaneously, the mother's destroyed facial features are 'des eclairs tenebreux', (12), an oxymoron implying a strong will to cry out in the face of death and to warn future generations. Dark flashes of warning, pleas for help and revenge and tears are frozen onto her face, but the warning comes from the word 'eclairs'. Dark represents a multifaceted allusion to anger which in French is 'entrer dans une colere noire', a familiar expression denoting the outburst of a paroxystic anger. Many readers of Labou have commented on the reference to apocalyptic scenes, Labou himself freely admitted to re-reading The Apocalypse three times a year. Wrath is a necessary springboard in the awareness of a postcolonial prophecy, for the fable can be seen as a parable inverting the order of life. Therefore, eating is not followed by digestion, drinking is followed by slow death, coitus becomes an instrument of death, (mort au champagne) therefore 'ingerer=mourir'. As the Prologue states: 'Moi qui vous parle de l'absurdite de l'absurde, moi qui inaugure l'absurdite du desespoir-d'ou voulez-vous que je vous parle si ce n'est du dehors.' [I who speak to you about the absurdity of the absurd, I who inaugurates the absurdity of despair. Where do you want me to speak from if not from the outside?] (9). When Chaidana vomits, her body expresses somatic autonomy, it clamours in loathing and accusation, turning the inside out in an act of defiance over bestiality and torture:

'Alors, mon ange, tu le mange, mon pate?'
'Je n'ai pas faim.'
['Now, my angel, will you eat my pate?'
'I am not hungry.'
'Non.'] (18).

Eating, 'manger', is substituted by 'devoir-faire', the brutal order of the torturer, versus 'ne pas devoir-faire', transforming the refusal to eat or to digest into an act of bravery or freedom. The bodies of Chaidana and of the other murdered victims condemn via their bodies since their voices have been silenced. In a very different narrative, (translated into English here for the first time) the anger of the marginal so-called 'peri-hero' (163) – indicates much more than his outbursts superficially seem to suggest.

In Mémoire d'une peau, Milo Kahn's marginality as an albino illustrates the representation of a mythical wrath anchored within a dual cluster oscillating between the poles of plenitude and that of nothingness. Through its stark refusal of Eurocentric theories and of Nietzschean philosophy, the wrath sometimes controlled, sometimes extrovert, expresses defiance towards the past and a rehabilitation of African aesthetic values: 'Ton Nietzsche est devenu dingue quand il a compris. Il s'est decouvert albinos' [Your Nietzsche became mad when he understood, he found he was an albino] (135). The 'ton' is intended disdainfully – referring to male Eurocentric philosophers in general.

In order to assess the significance of anger/ wrath, the next section will refer to the extensive study by Fontanille and Klock-Fontanille in Semiotica which situates anger and wrath within the semiotics of passion in a modal framework originally constructed by Greimas. Since Fontanille and Klock-Fontanille's examples are taken from India and Ancient Rome primarily, I will sketch the salient points will be outlines and then applied to Sassine's text.

Wrath and the semiotics of passion

In the opening lines of Fontanille and Klock-Fontanille's article, the advantages of separating anger from any moral connotations are stressed as this enables the semiotician to dismantle the passionate effects of discourse and 'return to the axiological background of passions, that is to say – to what is modalised, aspectualised, moralised, etc. In a previous analysis of anger as a passion, Greimas and Lakoff demonstrate the modal organisation of 'French anger' in the following sequence:

Fiduciary waiting – Frustration – Displeasure – Aggression

The above sequence can be applied to Mémoire d'une peau. Specifically, when, at the beginning of the narrative, Milo Khan disposes of his opponents in a variety of violent styles. However, does the above diagram of the so-called 'French anger' apply or does some other specific, but undefined phenomena, affect its linearity.

When the arrogant Maurice taunts the young Milo: 'Petit, comment as-tu fait pour etre aussi blanc avec une mere aussi noire?' [Little one, how did you manage to be so white with so dark a mother?] (30), his insult is understood as perverse in its nature, for what can be the sin of the child? If there is any aberration it is on the part of the utterer of the insult and, as it turns out, it is not inconsiderable. Milo has never planned to shock. Good taste, frustration and displeasure coalesce when Maurice's punishment as a paedophile is delivered at night through the systematic application of lex talionis outside the confines of the town – 'a la sortie de la ville', a place beyond the traditional social cluster:

Il est revenu vers minuit. Je l'attendais. Il m'a dit : 'Je ne me suis jamais fait sucer par un albinos.' Il m'a fait monter dans sa voiture et s'est debraguette a la sortie de la ville. J'avais ma lime. Je lui ai tranche le peu qu'il avait dans son pantalon.' [He returned around midnight. I was waiting for him. He said to me: 'I have never been sucked by an albino before.' He made me climb into his car and opened his flies when we left the town. I had my file. I cut off the little that he had in his trousers] (33).

In this example the punishment matches the insult, a radical and ironic castration matches a slur on the child's reputation and genetic makeup. Through his use of sanctions, the child re-establishes order: 'tu verras tout a l'heure comme je suis monte' [you'll see in a minute what a stud I am]. Words of fake bravado are deflated by 'le peu qu'il avait' [the small bit that he had], therefore the 'faire-croire' [make-believe] has been dismantled by the' faire-voir' [make you believe (pun on get one's revenge)]. The insult has been avenged by blood, by castration. On the symbolic level it is clear how the text can be read as a postcolonial prophecy:

S1 [sujet 1] Maurice; S2 [sujet2] Milo Kan
Transitivite: 'faire-etre'; 'comment as-tu fait?' [how did you do it?]
Factitivite: 'faire-faire'; 'Je lui ai tranche' [I chopped off]
PN[programme] 'faire-voir' [both literally and metaphorically].

In fact, far from being pathological, the wrath corresponds to the nature of the insult. This explains the mysterious descriptor, 'toujours prete a la bagarre et toujours prete a nier' [always quick to fight, always quick to deny] attributed to both the aunt and the child, as in the case of the subsequent examples in which corrupt adults are subjected to Milo's relentless wrath, we see clearly why Maurice could not complain in public for fear of losing face.

The school headmaster loses his five year-old daughter as a punishment for having slept with Milo's mother. The punishment is basic and the logic implacable: you take my mother away, I take your daughter away (32). Infanticide corresponds to adultery. But is there necessarily a hierarchy in the various crimes or a play on alternative scenarios? Wrath is not gratuitous; it follows a neat pattern which we can decipher.

The staging of defiance in Greimas's Du Sens 2 (222) defines it as 'un affrontement senti comme un affront' [an antagonism perceived as an insult]. 'Le defi se presente a nous comme une sorte de raccourci du schema narratif, a ceci pres que la reconnaissance y est anticipee et inversee et non sur la performance du sujet, et qu'elle est injustement et imperieusement negative' [The narrative scheme presents us with a shortcut: the reversal of our anticipation seems to us imperious and wrong] (216).

I intend to look at several instances of defiance and show that despite their apparent destruction on a human scale, they obey a specific positive logic:

S1 = sujet 1[subject 1]: the mother's lovers, meagre substitutes to the 'pere muscle' [athletic father], all usurpators, black and white, colonisers [headmaster, chief, teacher, priest].
S2 = sujet 2 [subject 2]: Milo Kahn, the child with a sacred power/ partaking of the living and of the dead through his ambiguous status as an albino. The prophet who can interpret and re-establish order.
Transitivite: method
Factitivite: [doing] cleansing.
PN: [programme] kill or dispose of the body of the offender to the child.

We see how in Sassine's text the manipulations occur through the body, in the wrenching of the truth, in the washing off the insult, through the skin, hence the multiple variations on the theme of 'avoir sa peau' [have his skin], 'l'avoir dans la peau' [be smitten with], or on Milo's practical life guiding principle, 'baiser ou se faire baiser' [to screw or get screwed] – crude figures of speech and of experience.

The other scenarios of the indiscreet lovers further highlight the underlying motive for wrath and murder. The validation of the quest consists in protecting one's parents from the gaze of the outsider – transposition of the traditional role of the child being protected by its parents. Shifting from the passive to the active is an indication of the positive value of wrath, of taking responsibility for one's destiny and a rehabilitation of private and traditional values of the clan – totem, myth, goldsmith, – as seen in this text from Camara Laye's L'enfant Noir: Maman, je voulais te garder pour moi seul et pour papa. A ta reputation de sorciere, s'est ajoutee celle de mangeuse d'hommes. Moi, je commencais a avoir ce regard terrible et irresistible de tueur.' [Maman, I wanted to keep you for myself and for Papa. Your reputation as a witch became that of man- eater. I was beginning to see in myself the terrifying and compelling look of a killer] (35).

S1 = sujet 1[subject 1]: the mother's lovers, meagre substitutes to the 'pere muscle' [athletic father], all usurpators, black and white, colonisers [headmaster, chief, teacher, priest].
S2 = sujet 2 [subject 2]: Milo Kahn, the child with a sacred power/ partaking of the living and of the dead through his ambiguous status as an albino. The prophet who can interpret and re-establish order.
Transitivite: method
Factitivite: [doing] cleansing.
PN: [programme] kill or dispose of the body of the offender to the child.

Ishmael the teacher, by boasting about his nocturnal exploits with the child's mother oversteps the unspoken laws of good taste, in making public private secrets he is subjected to cool and collected punishment. Similarly Father François is taken to the other side of the beach, a euphemism for the other side of life, for blaspheming by saying 'God is your father' (35). Once again laughter and logic prevail thanks to the systematic oppositions between asceticism and luxuriance: 'Jesus was thin and nailed' and 'Monsieur Charles was tall and smiling'. The living are given precedence to the dead, reality is preferred to religion and imported Christian beliefs.

Consequently, the return to order resolves each and every one of the above examples, the headmaster returns to France, where he ought to have remained, He is spared the rod while his child is taken from him. The teacher dies for having soiled the mother's reputation. The hypocritical priest dies because the child is himself endowed with particular powers, the sacred and protected powers of the albino.

Marginality in Sassine's work

Jacques Chevrier's study of Sassine's previous texts (Chevrier, 1995) does not touch upon Mémoire d'une Peau but it offers an interpretation of a previous novel, Wirriyamu, in which the character of the albino is crucified – hence fulfilling a prophecy of doom:

Etre albinos, confie Condelo a son ami Kabalango, c'est pas seulement une affaire de couleur de peau. C'est surtout un signe du ciel pour rendre plus intelligible les betises des hommes' [being albino, confides Condelo to his friend Kabalango, is not simply a matter of skin colour. It is more importantly a sign from heaven to highlight human stupidity] (54).

Chevrier notes that Condelo is damned because of the belief in drinking the blood of the albino to cleanse social ills. The old Ondo tells of a scene from his childhood when he witnessed the killing of an albino. When in his turn Condelo dies, crucified by the Portuguese, the reader experiences a cathartic feeling. In Memoire d'une Peau the killing of the enemies of Milo Kahn induces a suspicion that maybe the punishment was extreme but the insult was unforgivable. The parallel [sign] is recurrent with the metaphor of the glow-worm ['luciole'] in Mémoire d'une peau in which the writer/ albino compares himself with a prophet.

Chevrier retraces the origins of the mythical belief in the albino quoting Soyinka's play The Interpreters. The albino partakes of the sacred. The correlation between omen and prophecy is validated by the appearance of an albino within a community . Therefore the albino achieves an iconic value. Chevrier sees Yasigui's giving birth to a single albino (when she was expecting twins in the Dogon myth) as a punishment for transgressing social/ tribal rules. A similar condemnation of the mother having sexual intercourse during her menstrual bleeding occurs in Mémoire d'une Peau. As a result the albino is ostracised, placed within an ambiguous place, neither human nor god, nor black. Hence the constant taunting. In the Congo, the Nzondo community considers albinos as intermediaries between the living and the ancestors. In the Yoruba pantheon described by Soyinka in Myth, Literature and the African World, Obtala, under the influence of too much palm wine, mistakenly sculpts a blind and handicapped albino earthenware figure. Another interpretation is that Obtala rather chooses to create dwarfs and hunchbacks and albinos in order to show his supremacy and sacred lineage. A third, more likely, hypothesis, examined by Chevrier, considers Obtala as an assistant of the creator god. Obtala producing imperfect copies in a fit of rage and frustration. The introduction of the grotesque and the ugly can be considered as an act of rebellion. Consequently, the white skin of the albino condemns him to public derision. Through self-sacrifice, Wirriyamu announces a reconciliation of heaven and earth. Murdering [shedding the blood/ expurgating/ cleansing] his enemies, Milo Kahn announces an African prophecy. In The Interpreters, the prophet Lazarus – also albino – is convinced that he is back from death. Kola, the painter, represents on a fresco Lazarus as the god of the rainbow fusing the three elements: the cosmogony of the living and the dead and the embryonic 'futurologists'.

The quest encompassing Mémoire d'une peau appears to be ethical:

Je cherchais la difference entre le bien et le mal . Mais rien.Rien. C'est ainsi que j'ai decouvert que le bien existe' [ I was looking for the difference between good and evil. But nothing. Nothing. This is how I discovered that good exists] (64).

The counterpart of the ethical quest is an aesthetic one. Imprisoned within an iniquitous system of his albino skin: '... pour moi le corps a toujours ete la seule realite, la seule evasion ou l'unique prison' (57), and, 'J'avais une sale gueule, je maudis une fois de plus l'accident qui m'avait defigure en albinos' [I looked terrible, I damn once more the accident which had disfigured me into an albino] (68). Also: 'Etre albinos c'est tres dur au debut. Chez nous un albinos serait le croisement d'un diable et d'une femme qui se denude sans certaines precautions' [Being albino is very hard at first. At home an albino would be a cross between a devil with a woman who does not take special precautions when getting undressed] (133), and 'Mon passe ne me permet pas d'avoir confiance longtemps dans les autres' [My past does not allow me to trust others for long] (60).

Beyond the negativity expressed about the distrust of one's fellow human being, the rebirth of the albino as a writer able to fall in love, the potential to feel human 'rien n'est plus difficile que de devenir humain' [nothing is harder than becoming human] (64), read as a prophetic tenet for Africa. Wrath has been replaced by survival and pride:

Demain, c'est deja aujourd'hui. La fatalite du malheur n'existe pas – Beaucoup d'Africains ne revent plus – Je chassais la petite voix d'une main. Elle avait la partie facile. Je pouvais lui repondre que les Africains ne meurent jamais, qu'ils dorment seulement un peu plus longtemps que les autres, mais c'est pour la releve quand les marcheurs en ligne droite seraient fatigues [Tomorrow, is already today. The fatality of disaster does not exist – many Africans no longer dream. I shook the little voice away with one hand – I could answer that Africans never die, they sleep longer than others, but it is to take over, when the foot soldiers on the straight line get tired] (177).

Syntactically the modal identity of the subject, Milo Kahn, defined by the correlations between the modalities of doing and of being show him as a killer ready to deny his deeds, a philosopher dreaming to liberate the weight of the past, the collective and individual memory.

To conclude with Fontanille and Klock-Fontanille's view, the passionate identity, a sensitivity typical to a given culture, is implied in the modal identity: for instance, murder is considered the norm for Milo whereas the lack of adult love is abnormal. The father figure is sacred. The multiplicity of female lovers fails to fulfil the quest for a woman exiled in her identity. Rama seems to construct the lost twin of the Yoruba myth. Her anger: 'Pourquoi ne cherches-tu qu'a detruire ce que tu construis? Tu aimes te faire aimer, tu n'aimes pas qu'on t'aime' [Why do you always try and destroy what you build? You love being liked, why don't you like being loved?] (172) focusses on the constant oscillation between construction and destruction. Since there is no moralisation of the 'faire' or of the 'sujet d'etre', we conclude that sin does nor exist in the text as it is a Eurocentric manifestation and a constantly rejected concept. Play replaces sin. Milo Khan, for instance, plays at making his enemies disappear – a parody under the guise of child's play: for instance, the woman journalist is pushed under the waterfall, a example of wishful thinking and a sarcastic satire of media reporting on Africa. When Greimas considers anger as a syncope of revenge and a necessary process of re-balancing pleasure and pain, Fontanille and Klock-Fontanille's approach is more cautious and critical. They rather suggest that revenge 'meets with the social limits': following Rene Girard (Girard, 1972), and that the chain of reprisals induces general violence and collective destruction. Then the only societies to survive are those who manage to create a second level for rebalancing damages, the level of a kind of' meta-revenge, 'out of reach of the outbidding caused by the never ending rebalancing due to reprisals-the upper level of sovereignty and justice.'

The aesthetic of dissociation explosive in anger transforms itself in the development of Sassine's narrative, corresponding to the transformation into a realistic vision of the universe, a cosmic and private fusion. The quest for the father who abandoned the child in dying – 'J'ai besoin que tu me guides' [I need you to guide me] (44) – is outgrown by the triumph of creative writing:

'Le corps des autres n'est pas l'amour ni meme le plaisir, c'est encore le passe qui vous grignote pendant que vous usez les partenaires de caresses' [The bodies of others is not love, not even pleasure, it is still the past devouring you while you are caressing your partners] (151); 'C'est avec toi que j'ai compris que l'amour souvent n'est que la parfaite organisation de la mort' [With you I understood that often love is but a perfect rehearsal for death] (125).

The propensity to understand one's body thus enables the integration of the multiple – survival and durability: 'Je voulais lui faire comprendre seulement que le feu, l'eau, le soleil, l'amour et la haine, le noir et le blanc doivent se rencontrer sinon le monde meurt' [I wanted to make her comprehend only that fire, water, sun, love and hate, black and white must meet or else the world would die] (164). Sassine's text chooses the iconicity of the body and reintegrates it to a cosmic discourse of harmony. The history of malediction and the malediction of history are transformed. The albino becomes a seer, a new kind of 'griot' – story teller. The quest for genealogies need not continue since the present is stronger than memory, Milo has created reality, he even sports a pair of sun-glasses, dies his hair and eye brows, darkens his skin and will be accepted socially: 'je suis fatigue, je veux etre comme tout le monde' (114). As Hountondji notes:

'It is urgent for African thought – in order to assure its own progress, its relevance to the problems of our societies – to remove itself from the western philosophical debate in which it is submerged at the present. It should stop languishing in the vertical dialogue of every African philosopher with its European counterpart, in order to shift from now on, following a horizontal axis to an internal debate in our societies concerning real philosophical problems strictly geared to our actual preoccupation – we must now think for ourselves – and produce by so doing, new problem-fields, rooted in the concrete soil of our history today' (Hountondji, 1989: 148)..


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