- Emerging Perspectives on Aminata Sow Fall: The Real and the Imaginary in Her Novels
Despite being the author of eight novels, including La grève des Bàttu, which has been translated into eleven languages and adapted for both stage and screen, Aminata Sow Fall is not always given the critical attention she deserves. Indeed, as Ada Uzoamaka Azodo reminds us, Sow Fall's novel Le revenant (1976) was, in fact, the first novel to be published by a Senegalese woman; yet her literary career has tended to be overshadowed by that of her more famous compatriot, Mariama Bâ. Although a growing body of journal articles and short studies of individual works by Sow Fall exists, there has to date been no single book-length study of her oeuvre. In this respect, Azodo's collection of essays is a welcome addition to African literary studies, emphasizing as it does the importance of Sow Fall's contribution. However, as a "critical anthology," the book is at times a little disappointing in both scholarship and approach. Defined by its editor as "an effort to co-author the writer's texts" (28), the collection is very much dominated by Azodo's own work, to the extent that more than half the book is written by Azodo herself and even includes reviews of Azodo's previous book on Camara Laye (28–29). While the content of the essays is fairly comprehensive, discussing Sow Fall's novels from a range of perspectives, the introductory sections could have done more work with existing criticism on the texts. In particular, it would have been useful to be provided with at least a synthesis of those critical approaches to Sow Fall's writing that Azodo claims not to support (e.g., Marxism), particularly as the "emerging perspectives" presented in this book do at least make reference to this same body of criticism. [End Page 237]
As in all edited collections, the quality of the individual essays varies, as does the scholarship and editorial presentation in the book as a whole. The strength of this volume lies in the variety of material it includes, although the balance in terms of Sow Fall's novels is not always even. Divided into three parts: "The Real," "The Imaginary," and an interview with Sow Fall, the book also contains a collection of photographs. The first part consists of six essays on Sow Fall's fiction, three of them on one of the lesser-known novels, Douceurs du bercail (1998). The second part, written exclusively by Azodo, presents short, discrete readings of each of Sow Fall's novels. Although these readings are useful as an introduction to the novels themselves, this section would have benefited from an overall conclusion, as indeed would the book as a whole. As it stands, Azodo's collection is useful as a reminder of the importance of Sow Fall as a writer, but it does not always do justice to the complexity of her work.