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Reviewed by:
  • Littératures africaines francophones des années 1980 et 1990
  • Thomas A. Hale
Lydie Moudileno . Littératures africaines francophones des années 1980 et 1990. Dakar: Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique (CODESRIA), 2003. Document de travail no. 2 ( B. P. 3304, Dakar, Sénégal). 94 pp.

Despite its modest 94-page paperbound format, this volume offers an extraordinary range of benefits for both the scholar who has long experience with African literature of French expression and the newcomer seeking an understanding of the shape of the discipline today. I can say this from recent personal experience because in Spring 2003 I was preparing a reading list for a graduate seminar on the African novel in French scheduled for Fall 2003. Although I've been teaching African literature in both French and Comparative Literature since 1973, the addition of oral literature to my research agenda in the 1980s and 1990s [End Page 136]cut into the amount of time I could devote to keeping up with the rising tide of novels and other forms by African writers appearing not only in Paris, but also in Dakar, Abidjan, Brussels, and Montréal. Access to a book of this type at the time I was preparing the reading list would have made my task much easier.

Moudileno provides not simply information about authors and works, but in a broader sense she addresses the challenges facing those who want to learn more about the field: the great diversity of works (location and size of publishers), countries represented, backgrounds of the writers, many of whom were born after the "soleils des indépendances," and, finally, the many different literary forms adopted. She seeks to give readers "une vision globale de l'évolution des problématiques et des tendances contemporains de l'écriture." Avoiding summaries, she chooses instead to make a "coupe franche" across genres in order to focus on four major concerns: "l'évolution des circuits de production de cette littérature, les auteurs ou producteurs des textes contemporaines, les mutations thématiques et formelles les plus notoires; l'apparition de nouveaux genres depuis 1980" (6). She selects 1980 as the starting point because that date represents a significant break with the past and also because works appearing in the last few decades have not appeared in anthologies or other kinds of overviews.

Although Moudileno refers to her book as a "court document de travail," in fact it is far more than that because she opens up many "pistes de recherche" for her readers. These include the literature that has emerged from the waves of immigration to Europe, the appearance of women writers on the literary scene, the creation of national literatures, and new relationships between the writer and the notions of history, space, the body, and language. She also alerts readers to the appearance of many new branches of African literature such as detective fiction, books for children, and romance novels. A ten-page bibliography serves as a useful guide to 300 works of literature and criticism that have appeared since 1980.

Throughout Littératures africaines, I found myself nearly always in agreement with the author's numerous judgements on the issues that concern scholars today as well as on the works of African writers and the critical responses to them. Moudileno's sensitivity and awareness reveal both a considerable knowledge of the field and an extremely fair-minded critical consciousness. One of the most striking features of [End Page 137]the study is that it was published in Dakar by CODESRIA, an agency better known for research in the social sciences. The fact that this non-governmental organization has seen fit to publish an analysis of recent literary history suggests that culture, at least in the form of literature, is now part of the larger picture of development in Africa. The other side of the coin, unfortunately, is that a volume of such great value will have difficulty finding its way to bookstores outside of Dakar. For anyone traveling to Paris, the book will most likely be available at L'Harmattan, a bookstore and publisher on the rue des Ecoles that maintains...


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pp. 136-138
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