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Reviewed by:
  • Le lecteur d'Afriques
  • Jean-Marc Moura
Le lecteur d'Afriques By Jacques ChevrierParis: Honoré Champion, 2005. 595 pp. ISBN 2-7543-1192-1.

This collection brings together texts written over a period of thirty years, from the 1970s up until today, with the majority dating from the '80s and '90s. The book is divided into five parts: Africa of the traditional world; representations of Africa in European letters; representations of Africa by African writers (the largest section of the book); literatures of the diaspora; Maghreb and Black Africa confrontations. The chapters are of varying interest; some are mere reports or popular articles from journals such as Jeune Afrique or Notre Librairie. Sometimes, too, they are simply introductions (for example, to the work of Edouard Glissant or to the literature of Guyana). Most of the chapters have already been published in other collections.

The heterogeneous character of the texts is disconcerting. Important concepts are broached without prior—or with problematic definition: "colonial literature" (or the notion of the "colonial writer"), which is applied broadly, from explorers to Pierre Loti, from Jules Verne to Paul Bonnetain, is evoked without the reader's precise understanding of the author's meaning. The same is true for ideas such as exoticism, marvelous realism, or myth, whose panoramic and fuzzy nature, however, demand careful analysis. The book's third part is the most interesting; at last there are some texts centered on an author (Kossi Effoui, Emmanuel Dongala, or Williams Sassine), and these are the most precise and are most in keeping with the demands of research.

Curiously, critical dialogue with the principal contemporary theoreticians of the francophone African literary domain is almost absent (footnotes are astonishingly few in number), whereas examination of their works would have enhanced the analyses that are offered in the volume. Subjects as important as the Maghreb-Black Africa dialogue or myth in African letters would thus have been able to be treated in a deeper manner. Generally speaking, nonfrancophone critical works, particularly "postcolonial studies" and anglophone African criticism, are ignored—bibliographic entries given at the back of the book disregard them entirely—whereas they have allowed an important renewal of African studies at the time most of this book's texts were being published.

I would nevertheless recommend reading this large volume for some studies of specific authors, but especially as an indication of the state of francophone literary studies in France of the '70s to the '90s. The work has the value of atestimony for [End Page 192] readers interested in devoting themselves to the history of a disciplinary field that todayhas become much more international.

Jean-Marc Moura
Université de Lille, France


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