Boniface Mongo-Mboussa

known at all in Europe, has a problematic history: with its origin against the background of inhumane colonialism and written in the language of the colonial powers, the traces remain visible still today.  African narrators write stories which are often difficult to understand for local readers, poets use poetic pictures the sense of which is difficult to decipher. And yet they write above all for a European public: as their books are published in Paris or London and are usually too expensive to be sold in the bookshops of African cities where a large part of the population could buy them.

These and other problems, but also the ever increasing fascination of African literature is examined in ‘Désir d’Afrique’, a book by Congolese literary academic and critic, Boniface Mongo-Mboussa , born in 1962. He received his PhD in 1999 at the University of Cergy-Pontoise under Bernard Mouralis, one of the most renowned African literary academics, and taught at, amongst others, the Columbia University of Paris, a French branch of the elite American high school: “It is difficult for black Francophone intellectuals to find a position at French universities.  So I am paid by an American university to teach American students in Paris about black literature.” Today he is above all responsible for the literary critique in the ‘Africultures’ magazine, published, of course, in Paris – an equally favourable, as well as critical, examination of the creative work of a continent.

To describe Mongo-Mboussa’s representation as simple literary history would be misleading because it is much more: a multiple voice, a confident hybrid mix of interviews with famous authors (including Wole Soyinka, Mongo Beti and Ken Bugul), contributions from European literary academics (including a text by his doctoral supervisor about madness) as well as his own reflections on the consequences of ‘Négritude’ in more of an essay form – the critic from ‘Le Monde’ called it a “happening”. Ahmadou Kouroma, the currently most well-known African writer in France, wrote a preface for it and the Togolese sociologist Sami Tschak wrote an epilogue.  Abdourahman A. Waberi, one of the young stars of contemporary African literature in the French language, born in Djibouti but who has for a long time lived in Caen, writes that with this book Mongo-Mboussa has established himself as the critic of this new generation who, equally as little as their predecessors, manage to come to rest between the continents.  And so at the end there is an inevitable longing for the home continent: “Désir d’Afrique”.

Dirk Naguschewski

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