23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Bessora
© ilb


If a biography can produce a sense of a patchwork identity then it is the one of Bessora . She was born in 1968 in Belgium, her father came from Gabon, her mother from Switzerland. She grew up in Africa, Europe and the USA. She gained her first degree in Switzerland and is presently living in Paris, where she is working on a dissertation in anthropology.
After her first two books, Bessora had already made a name for herself internationally. Both books appeared with “Le Serpent á Plumes”, the Parisian publisher which possesses some of the most exciting new voices in literature amongst its authors. Alongside Bessora, books have also appeared here by Alain Patrice Nganang, Alain Mabanckou and other young writers who reflect the heritage and the products of the French colonial history through reaching for drastic measures in language. A liking has been acquired for her not only in France where, alongside Calixthe Beyala, who comes from Cameroon, she influences the picture of the quite glamorous African female writers, but also in the USA. Her novels already belong to the reading curriculum at universities because of this influence.
Bessora’s stories aren’t just well spiced, they’re hot. In her debut novel “53 cm” (1999) the measurement in the title is the size of the rear of the protagonist, a young mother who immigrated to France and is looking for a residence permit. The author writes with this satire, in which she attacks a society which has lost any sense of orientation and proves itself as completely over-challenged with the integration of immigrants, in the burlesque tradition of Alfred Jarry and Raymond Queneau. With this, as is usual in satires, the background is a more serious one: the racism of bureaucracies and a large measure of intolerance. “Gallologie” is what Bessora ironically calls this form of literary research: the knowledge of the nature of the Gauls.
Her second novel is also spicy, “Les taches d’encre” which was published only one year later: “10.00 pm: Bianca pees but can’t manage a shit. 10.27 pm: still nothing, despite a glycerine suppository. 10.28 pm: Bianca flushes. ‘It’s not so bad,’, she thinks, ‘then I’ll just take a fuca and shit tomorrow morning.'” The vulgarity of the style doesn’t forget the social critique, even here. Bessora follows the chosen path in her burlesque critique on racism and is not afraid of declaring the legendary colonialism theorist and critic, Frantz Fanon, as one of her spiritual fathers – in which she names a fish after him in the novel. She often interrupts the plot to challenge the reader, in the style of TV advertizing, not to close the book.

In April 2002, Bessora received the “Prix Fénéon” for “Les Taches d’encre”, which is placed somewhere between a thriller and a neo-realism novel. Her novel “Cueillez-moi jolis Messieurs” (2007) was awarded the Grand Prix littéraire de l’Afrique noire 2007.

Dirk Naguschewski

© internationales literaturfestival berlin


53 cm
Le Serpent à Plumes
Paris, 1999

Les Taches d´encre
Le Serpent à Plumes
Paris, 2000

Deux bébés et l´addition
Le Serpent à Plumes
Paris, 2002

Courant d’air aux Galeries
Paris, 2003

Paris, 2004

Cueillez-moi jolis Messieurs
Paris, 2007

Et si Dieu me demande, dites Lui que je dors
Paris 2008

Übersetzer: Dirk Naguschewski