Cheikh Hamidou Kane was born in 1928 in the Senegalese town Matam and underwent the traditional Islamic education in a Koran school. When he was ten years old, he changed to a French school. He studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and graduated in Philosophy and Law. Following his return to Senegal in 1959, Kane assumed various political offices, including Governor of the Thiès region and Planning Commissioner under Prime Minister Mamadou Dia.
In 1961, Kane’s novel »L’Aventure ambiguë« (tr. »Ambiguous Adventure«, 1972) was published, which he had written in the 1950s and for which he won the Grand Prix Littéraire d’Afrique Noire. This autobiographical novel, now counted amongst the classics of African literature, was strongly influenced by Kane’s studies in philosophy. The writer uses a discursive narrative technique permeated by internal monologues, and describes the crisis of the traditional Senegalese society that was triggered by its contact with the colonial power. The plot is about Samba Diallo, a young Senegalese boy from an elite background who becomes embroiled in the division between his traditional upbringing and his European education. Samba Diallo’s father, who sees European values as being materialistically superior yet devoid of meaning, makes a prophetic statement about the future relations between the colonies and the colonial powers: »You and I, we haven’t had the same past, but we will certainly share the same future.« Samba Diallo can’t solve this clash of cultures; he cannot return to his own world and his inner turmoil ends only with his death. »L’Aventure ambiguë« is one of Kane’s Francophone novels, published after Senegal’s independence, in which cultural alienation is a central theme. Kane, like Mongo Beti and Williams Sassine, shows the reader an uprooted intellectual at the crossroads of cultures, faced with a choice between complete disorientation and unthinking submission to the veneer of European civilisation.
After almost 35 years of literary silence, another novel by Kane was published in 1995. »Les Gardiens du Temple« (tr: The Guardians of the Temple) is a sequel to »L’Aventure ambiguë«. Whereas the first novel tells the story of the alienation suffered by a protagonist leaving his Islamic-African world, the second novel is concerned with the political conflicts in an African country five years after its independence.
Cheikh Hamidou Kane now lives in Dakar.