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Reviewed by:
  • Ecritures et mythes: L’Afrique en questions
  • Kasereka Kavwahirehi
Ecritures et mythes: L’Afrique en questions Sous la Direction de Sélom K. Gbanou et Sénamin Amedegnato Bayreuth: Bayreuth African Studies, 2006. 521 pp. ISBN 3-927510-96-X paper.

Comprising accounts, essays, and creation stories by more than twenty authors, Ecritures et mythes: L'Afrique en questions pays homage to a person who allows fair assessment as the African cleric whom some accuse, almost with desperation, of betrayal. The person in question is Togolese scholar Jean Huenumadji Afan, whose itinerary and works, directed by the refusal to "céder à l'instinct de démission intellectuelle" 'yield to the instinct of intellectual abdication' (16) and to the charm of myths that inhibit the critical mind, are shown as a veritable locus of inspiration for present and future generations that are possessed with the desire for an African renaissance that is based on the ascetic work of the intellect.

In their preface, Sélom K. Gbanou and Sénamin Amedegnato present the reader with the intent that underlies the work:

Chasser les mythes comme l'a précisé Afan, ce n'est pas seulement ôter le mystère (démystifier) et émanciper l'idéal africain des cadres théoriques adoptés sans mode d'emploi, en désencombrant l'imaginaire des mythes qui nourrissent la pesanteur. C'est aussi oeuvrer à constuire des mythes nouveaux, positives et porteurs d'actions utiles.

To chase out myths, as Afan specified, not only means taking away their mystery (demystification) and freeing the African ideal from theoretical frameworks that have been adopted without their methods, by clearing away from the imaginary those myths that nourish their importance. It also means working to construct myths that are new, positive, and bearers of useful actions.

In light of the editors' aim, the work is divided into four parts. The first three, "L'Afrique en mythes" 'Africa in Myths' (21–202), "Mythe et literatures" 'Myth and Literatures' (205–394), and "Créations littéraires" 'Literary Creations' (397–469), are complementary. Indeed, just like Afan in choosing "la marginalité qui allie courage et honnêteté pour diagnostiquer au jour le jour le mal togolais" 'marginality, which allies courage and honesty in order to diagnose on a daily basis the Togolese ailment' (37) and to develop a demystifying approach to the "dominant discourses" (29), the first part of the work diagnoses myths and shortcomings that contribute to the collapse of Africa—including, among others, the myth of economic, technical, and intellectual subsidy, and the myth of development and the independences. These myths have found fertile ground in an Africa that, not having "massivement fait le choix public de l'intelligence" 'in large measure made the public choice for intelligence' or "de la mise en honneur de la fonction intellectuelle" 'made a priority of the function of the intellect' (80) whose goal is to make clear to the State its foundations and its aspirations, has instead favored "l'opacité sociale" 'social opacity' (73). Following this diagnosis, the second and third parts show how African literatures are the site of a new speech that speaks our hopes and dreams today, the site of invention for new myths, new reasons to [End Page 208] live and die, that might be capable of transforming Africa into a space for freedom and creativity. The fourth part (473–514) puts the reader into direct contact with Afan's thought by presenting his texts that have appeared in the journal Propos scientifiques, which he founded in 1985.

This work opens important paths for exploration. Upon closing the book, there is a wish to see other works devoted to other intellectual figures that might serve as models and sources of inspiration for the present and the future. I am thinking of, for example, Fabien Eboussi Boulaga and Jean-Marc Ela in Cameroon, Kinyong Jeki and Pius Ngandu Nkashama in Congo, and Paulin Hountondji in Benin.

Kasereka Kavwahirehi
University of Ottawa


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