22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Abasse Ndione

Portrait Abasse Ndione
© Hartwig Klappert

Abasse Ndione was born in the Senegalese fishing village of Bargny near Dakar in 1946. After first attending the local Koranic school, his father sent him to a French school. In 1966, Ndione completed nurse training and worked in the profession until his retirement.

As the English-language magazine »New African« wrote of him, Ndione depended on his full-time job because his publisher seldom paid him more than a pittance for his work as a writer. It took eight long years before the author was able to publish his first novel »La Vie en Spirale« (1984; tr. »Life in a Spiral«) in Senegal. Using the tangled web of relationships produced by the consumption and trade in marijuana between jobless youths, whites and policemen, Ndione portrays the social structures of the society in his African country. After its second printing in 1988, the novel attracted the attention of the Paris publishing house Gallimard, which published the book in France in 1998. Two years later, Ndione published his second novel, »Ramata«, which was described by a critic as a »Senegalese Madame Bovary« (»El Mundo«): A beautiful and wealthy fifty-year-old married woman begins an affair with a thug half her age that causes her life to unravel. Ndione, who always composes his stories first in Wolof, the language of his people, before translating them into French, utilises all the elements of a thriller – revenge, murder and corruption – to cast light on the reality of his country by portraying it in a literary form. This proximity to reality initially led his publisher to refuse to publish »Ramata« in Senegal due to the abundance of sex and crime in the novel. In 2007 the novel was filmed, as was Ndione’s third novel »Mbëkë mi« (2008; tr. Sudden impulse). Thirty Senegalese intend to leave their homeland in just such a ship, to seek their fortunes on the Canary Islands or in Europe. In spare but penetrating language, Ndione describes the bond that forms between people bound by a common fate, whose hope for a better life threatens their very survival when they sail into a storm on the high seas. The film version garnered numerous prizes, including in Germany, where it was named the best international film at the Munich International Film Festival in 2013.

As the writer Nuria Barrios notes, it has become common in Senegal to hear that if you only read one book in your life, it should be a Ndione. The author himself, however, rejects titles like »father of the African crime novel«; rather, he simply hopes to have provided some encouragement to other young Senegalese authors. Abasse Ndione lives in Rufisque near Dakar.