Currently reading

Paul Hanley
A Month in the Country
Michael Holroyd, J.L. Carr
A Tale of the Dispossessed: A Novel
Laura Restrepo, Dolores M. Koch
Mesabi Pioneers
Jeffrey Smith, Russell Hill
The Crusades Through Arab Eyes
Jon Rothschild, Amin Maalouf
Island of a Thousand Mirrors
Nayomi Munaweera


Monnew - Ahmadou Kourouma This is a difficult book to read, but it's one of those things that is probably good for me. It's told as an allegorical story, a mighty myth to be learned. It centers on a fictional king who rules Soba, a fictional land that resembles the Ivory Coast (really resembles it). When the conquering French come, Soba surrenders without a fight due to a trickster translator, and then the book covers the evils of colonialism. The forced labor (but no slavery here!), the taxes and starvation, the imposed desire for modernization, the infighting spurred on by the French.

Kourouma often insults the people of Soba and black Africans in general, and I believe this is to be taken as ironic. There is such bitterness, though, that it's one of those things that make me wonder if some part of him believes some of it. And the ubiquitous use of what I can only call the n-word made the reading all the more difficult and uncomfortable. I don't think Kourouma would apologize for this -- I think he wants us to be uncomfortable reading it. But there are additional difficulties -- the narration keeps switching between 3rd person and 1st person, but different 1st persons, so it's difficult to tell who's speaking. And certainly the kind of Soba is no angel -- it is not a happy, productive, united kingdom before the French come, so there is that element of (realistic) complication as well.

So yes, I believe this book was good for me in an intellectual way. It gave me a lot to think about. But it was a rough read.