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  • "Causer des migraines à Léopold Sédar Senghor":Sub-Saharan Postcolonial Translingual Writing, the Cases of Senegal and Fatou Diome

This article broadens the discussion of translingual writing by exploring how it functions in a specific postcolonial context. Senegal remains a stronghold of Francophone literature, but African languages permeate this writing. Most recently, under more deregulated language and publishing policies, writers have published both in Wolof and in French. Following a discussion of this historical context, this article focuses on the translingual practice of contemporary writer Fatou Diome. It explores how this author uses her platform as a popular writer in France to incorporate other languages into her later work but problematizes the linguistic philosophies of her predecessors.

TRANSLINGUAL WRITING IN FRENCH LITERATURE is a topic that has become a prominent element of contemporary enquiry in literary studies. In 2016, Jacqueline Dutton wrote of a potential "translingual turn" in French Studies and encouraged scholars to focus on the translingual aspects of literary texts. She suggested that "perhaps translingualism will turn out to be the essential means for re-articulating modern languages studies more widely."1 In 2018, Charles Forsdick also referred to translingualism as one of many means to "mobilize French Studies."2 As the present article shows, such calls to consider the French language and attendant cultural expressions in its wide multilingual context echo work by literary critics in France on Francophone African literature over the last few decades, while heterolingual Francophone African texts have been in existence for much longer.

This article broadens the discussion of translingual writing in this collection by exploring how it functions in a specific postcolonial context. I focus here on literature by writers from Senegal, which was a key area for colonial education in French. Writers who went to the École William Ponty in Dakar in what is now Senegal received a training that allowed them subsequently to become educators in the Senegalese schooling system set up by the French, which led to their fostering literacy among West African (and later Senegalese) youths solely in French. Senegal was thus an epicenter of French language education, and it is perhaps therefore not surprising that its writers flourished in post-Independence Francophone literature.3 However, it remains a country in which many other languages are spoken4 and in which one language, Wolof, has become a lingua franca for the population in oral form.5 In writing, French has continued to dominate, however, even if Wolof makes frequent incursions into French-language texts, in sites ranging from advertising posters to literary texts. In this article, I provide an outline of approaches to writing in French and African languages in Senegalese literature, before focusing on a work by one contemporary writer. I argue that Fatou Diome's 2013 work Impossible de grandir is a multilingual Senegalese text that follows in a nearly century-long tradition; it includes a plethora of passages from African languages in order to remind the reader that [End Page 81] this writer draws inspiration from many languages alongside French. However, I also argue that Diome's novel contribution to translingual Senegalese writing is her insistence on the importance of feeling comfortable in writing in several languages simultaneously, refusing to set up a simplistic binary between the 'colonial' French language and 'decolonizing' African languages, and drawing other languages and media, especially music, into her novel.6 Diome also problematizes ideas of linguistic supremacy by questioning the role of the Académie Française, the strong position of the Wolof language as the supreme language of Senegal, and even the heroized protector of French and (ostensibly) African languages Léopold Sédar Senghor.7

Steven Kellman's The Translingual Imagination, frequently cited in this issue, is a groundbreaking work on translingual literature. However, when it discusses translingualism in African literature, it mostly examines Anglophone texts. While there is a French focus in his chapter "Pourquoi translingual?," Kellman considers authors who have deliberately transferred from one language to another. And for all his references to the independent spirit of authors such as Oscar Wilde and Milan Kundera, who temporarily departed from their native tongues in order to write in the beautiful alternative of the French language, he also concedes that "translingualism is not always an expression of autonomy, of independence from a culture that forces us to think and speak along its particular lines."8 Fatou Diome's Impossible de grandir is an example of a text by a writer whose practice of translingual writing is less voluntary than that of others. While a translingual turn in French Studies is welcome, it is also important to note the long history of the translingual imagination in areas such as Africa, which remind us of the complexity and variety of writers' relationships with the French language. Diome is among the many Francophone African writers who produce literary works in French because they are unable to receive widespread acclaim or even publication in another language. Nevertheless, she includes other languages in her 2013 novel as a reminder of the sources of her inspiration, as well as the linguistic diversity with which French co-exists in contemporary Senegal. Diome is not a linguistic nativist, however, and she credits her ability to write in French with her liberation, while criticizing the simplicity of any view of French as a language of oppression. In this way, she contributes to a Senegalese discourse on the role of French as Senegal's language of literary expression.

French and the language question in postcolonial Senegal

In one of his earliest texts, Senegalese author Ousmane Sembene creates a humorous scene in which a young character, Ad'jibid'ji, dares use French to a [End Page 82] non-Francophone Wolof matron, Niakoro-la-vieille. The utterance of one French word is enough to lead the elder character to voice a tirade against the pomposity of using the French language in the Senegalese oral context (imagined in writing) that lasts for several pages. The irony is, of course, that this anti-Francophone sentiment is written in the French language, as Sembene reminds the reader that this is taking place in Wolof, where the word "alors" has been butchered into "aloss" and is most unwelcome and viewed as absurdly exotic.9 Sembene was, however, a writer who was reputed to have enjoyed writing in French (which he confirmed in an unpublished interview with me in 2000) and was sometimes flippant about trying to write in Wolof, although at one point he ran a Wolof-language newspaper (Kaddu). If many of the titles of his works (such as the awkwardly-translated Les bouts de bois de Dieu from which the aforementioned episode comes, or the untranslated Véhi-Ciosane, Ceddo or Guelwaar indicate) came from African languages, he pragmatically accepted the need to write in French while standardized written versions of his native Diola or Wolof were not available.10 For some writers in other nations, the situation of choosing French faute de mieux has not been so readily accepted.

The example of sub-Saharan African translingual writing by Amadou Kourouma, who transcribes his Malinké language into the French he felt forced to write in, is particularly famous. As outlined by critics such as Makily Gassama, Lise Gauvin, and Jean-Marc Moura, Kourouma wrote in a French so difficult to recognize that his 1968 novel Les soleils des Indépendances was originally refused publication in French. Gauvin calls Kourouma's project one that sought to "casser la langue" in which he wrote his work.11 More specifically, Moura points out Kourouma's literary techniques, which he borrowed from Malinké to create an "interlangue"12 with syntactic and lexical calques and a re-ordering of words to replicate some structures of the African language in question, as well as creating "néologismes savoureux" and "images empruntées au fonds culturel" of his West African space of reference (97, 99). However, such ostensibly translingual projects have not always been well received within or beyond the Hexagone. Kourouma's book was originally rejected in France, after all (Gauvin 107). Francophone African texts are still published mostly in Paris and sold to a European readership. In a system in which a regulatory linguistic body like the Académie Française is active, it is perhaps not surprising that such techniques as "abrogation" and "appropriation" of the language of the center by its periphery have been less associated with Francophone literature than they have in the Anglophone context (Moura 84).

Much sub-Saharan writing seems characterized by a tendency less to transgress linguistic boundaries than to provide a message, be it concerning [End Page 83] society or the position of the writer therein. Yet these are not authors who, as Rainier Grutman sarcastically puts it, "ont tous eu la politesse de laisser leur langue maternelle au vestiaire."13 For these writers, such choices are not always so much about manners as having the tools and outlets available to compose in other languages. Writers such as Aminata Sow Fall and Fatou Diome have produced works that, while they contain other languages, refer to them in parentheses and sparse footnotes. While Fall and Diome may imagine their tales in languages other than French, they write in French both for the audience it affords them and because standardized written versions of their native African languages do not exist.14 Thus, while it is clear that these Francophone texts are rooted in multilingualism, their paratexts often do not reflect the amount of linguistic honing that has made them polished, publishable French-language texts. While Alain Ricard insisted they must "maintenir une tension entre la langue d'origine et le français sans abandonner la partie au profit du français,"15 they nevertheless include only small amounts of the non-French languages to which they refer on their pages, far from the "savage hybridity" some critics associate with North African writers like Kateb Yacine and Abdelkebir Khatibi.16 However, Diome's case shows how particular "situations d'énonciation" determine types of translingual writing.17 Thus when we talk of the increasingly popular translingual turn today, we should consider the need for the "hyper-specification," encouraged by Moura (Exotisme 215).

In Senegal, African languages are spoken by a large proportion of the population, but the country remains a bastion of "la Francophonie," especially due to government policies. In particular, the first two post-Independence presidents of Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor and Abdou Diouf, strongly advocated French-language literacy and in some ways seemed to hamper the development of written forms of African languages. Nevertheless, writers and filmmakers have developed strategies to incorporate their indigenous languages into their predominantly French-language writing. The incorporation of such languages into Senegalese literature provides an example of a literary tradition that rarely seeks to break fully free of French, regarding it as a means for conveying messages across a medium that offers few alternatives. However, this literary tradition continually points to the status of writers as Francophones who conceive of their work in many languages alongside French. Sembene, the most famous Senegalese writer and filmmaker, communicated the messages of his French-language novels to a mass audience by making film adaptations of them in Wolof and Diola. He was a proponent of developing written African languages and clashed with Senghor, yet maintained French as his language for writing without apparent resentment.18 Celebrated [End Page 84] authors Aminata Sow Fall and Cheikh Aliou Ndao published works that revealed their Wolof origins through paratextual elements such as footnotes, although the case of Ndao is one of a more militant linguistic activist whose translingualism is the result of thwarting: much to his consternation, Ndao could not find a publisher for his Wolof work, which he then had to translate into French, resulting in awkward passages that do not convey quite the same message as the original.19

Ndao's attempts to write in Wolof influenced the decisions of one of his contemporaries, however. Boubacar Boris Diop publishes under the more deregulated language and publishing policies of later Senegalese presidents during the twenty-first century in what Tobias Warner labels "neoliberal Senegal" (203). Diop's use of both French and African languages in his writing is an attempt to resist the power of the language of the colonizer, but his career trajectory also points to a recognition of the power of French as the ultimate arbiter of literary writing. After publishing several novels in French, Diop published a novel in Wolof. Diop mentions the influence of Ndao and the long tradition of Wolofal (Wolof language written in Arabic characters) in his decision to write in his native language. He describes French as a language he speaks only occasionally in everyday life, referring to it as a "langue du dimanche."20 While recognizing that Wolof is a language that he wields more freely than he does French, Diop also abandons French (albeit temporarily) for political reasons. He describes his evolution from a writer who saw the use of French as a "moindre mal" (163) to one who decided to abandon it as his language of expression, at least for a period. Diop notes that he does not know how to render humor in French, but also goes as far as to associate the aiding of the ethnically-based massacres in Rwanda with a deliberate protection of French from the Anglophone 'enemy' of Uganda by the French government. He therefore effectively claims the French language was a cause of the Rwandan massacre, leading him to abandon it for a while. The decision is a fruitful one, since writing in Wolof gives more fluency to his expression, he claims: "les mots de l'autre m'aidaient à dire autant qu'ils me condamnaient à me taire ou à bégayer bien pauvrement" (Diop 168). Diop thus appears to feel strongly about the use of Wolof in his work, yet he admits he never said he would abandon French forever, and he has returned to it, suggesting that the act of using an African language is not so much about "decolonizing the mind" (to quote the best-known work advocating the use of African languages instead of those of colonizing nations) as finding alternative means of expression in a language in which he feels more comfortable.21 [End Page 85]

French and vernacular languages in Fatou Diome's translingual imagination

Having lived in France since 1994, and known success since the beginning of this century, Fatou Diome is without doubt the best-known Senegalese female writer outside of Senegal. Rivalled in popularity within Senegal only by Sow Fall, Diome has been writing bicultural if not bilingual texts depicting African lives in France as well as Senegal since the publication of her 2003 novel Le ventre de l'Atlantique. Her best-known work and the only one translated into English, this text is a remarkable account of an unusually gendered migration. Rejected by her parents and raised by her maternal grandparents, the main protagonist Salie is mocked by society for her illegitimate status and is happy to leave her native island, Niodior, for Strasbourg. Salie is portrayed as more successful than most of the male Senegalese migrant characters who appear in this novel. The mobile woman is hard-working, thrifty, and charitable enough to provide for those at home, while living an ascetic existence of her own. Importantly though, she is free from the duties and expectations that would be placed upon her in Senegal.

After this novel, Diome, who is lauded for her intelligent use of high-register French, as was her countryman Léopold Sédar Senghor, gained a contract with large publishing house Flammarion and published four more novels in polished French.22 It is perhaps surprising then that her last novel with this publisher, the 2013 Impossible de grandir, returns to the character of Salie and contains large passages in other languages. I view this revision of her depiction of Salie through a multilingual prism as a reflection of Diome's desire to produce a multilingual text as an homage to her Sereer ethnic background, about which, to paraphrase Moura, she is "hyper specific." In this work, she depicts the situation of French among other languages in contemporary Senegal, juxtaposing her written French with words from other languages alongside evocations of music, a medium through which translingualism has long been present.23 Contrary to the sometime tensions and controversies surrounding language debates in Senegal, especially involving French and African languages, Diome celebrates linguistic variety as a source of inspiration in this work, while underlining that multilingualism is an important matter of survival and liberation.

Music is central to Diome's writing, as she has stated in many public presentations.24 West African music in African languages is evoked on many occasions in Impossible de grandir, which shows how Diome's French-language literary creation is shot through with the inspiration of other languages. Specifically, she cites the Gambian Mandinka-language band Ifang Bondi's [End Page 86] album Saraba "qui évoque le retour au pays" as taking her back to her native Senegalese village Niodior.25 Thus her French writing is inflected with multilingual musical lyrics. Yet music takes her both home and away from home, as Diome's itinerant desire, her wish to move constantly beyond the strictures of the languages she grew up with, is expressed in the epithet, taken from a Paco de Lucia song line from a language of the Atlantic to which she often refers (Castilian Spanish): "yo soló quiero caminar." This line can be interpreted as "I only want to walk along" when the accent is placed on the final rather than penultimate "o" but also as "I want to walk alone" when the accent is placed on the other "o," as it often is, to add to the ambiguity consistently at play in this novel.26 The song thus expresses Diome's autonomy from communities and from one single language, as she goes beyond French, Sereer, and Wolof in this repeated slogan. However, this text also shows a deeper understanding that moving beyond her linguistic heritage does not, nor cannot, mean leaving it behind. Diome associates her mother tongue with constant movement and work as she describes herself, once again in solidarity with female workers: "Dans cette pirogue, je chante avec les rameurs: lafi, lafi, lafi! kôr mama, lafi! Rame, rame, ramez. . . Dans ma pirogue niominka, à la cale avide, je trime avec [. . .] les coupeuses de bois" (Diome 193). The text depicts a Salie who is haunted by a character named "La Petite" who reminds her constantly of her ethnic heritage and language. La Petite can often be read as her African voice, but specifically her Sereer language voice, which supersedes any requirements that she write in pure French. La Petite eventually stops Salie from going to a party held by her French acquaintance Marie-Odile. La Petite orders, "Salie, souviens-toi. Salie, reviens!," and Salie reveals, "Dès que cet ordre me parvenait, mes pensées se rendaient au Sénégal, plus facilement que chez Marie-Odile" (157). Her refusal to be taken as an object of exotic fascination by Marie-Odile becomes a demand upon the reader to recognize the specificity of the Sereer culture from which she emanates, and the individuality of her Franco-Sereer artistic production. In particular, to provide a history of the acquisition of (albeit imperfect) Francophone status for women in her family and constant co-existence of French with Sereer, Salie provides the humorous example of her Aunt Titare:

Son Altesse sérénissime des esbroufes, Dame Titare, mixait, dans sa bouche de morue, un résiduel de français, goût bouillabaisse frélatée, dilué avec un fricassé de sérère complexé [. . .]

Hey, tiens, va m'acheter un kilo de bisteak, du tiga dégué, un chou et de belles carottes, dépêche-toi, c'est pour le mafé du déjeuner. Pour le dîner: tu me récupères les dorades chez la poissonnière, je lui avais dit, c'est pour le firiire; du pain, deux baguettes de plus que d'habitude, [End Page 87] z'ai des zens qui viennent dîner. Et, surtout, n'oublie pas la salade, des tomates, des poiwrons et des créwettes, ce sera pour le hors-d'éve.

Les hors d'éve! Après une telle bonne femme, que pouvait-on encore sortir d'Ève? Puisque ses dédaigneuses lèvres étaient inaptes à prononcer hors d'œuvre [. . .] Ce galamitas qu'elle essayait de retenir aurait certainement causé des migraines à Léopold Sédar Senghor. Cet enfant des nuits du Sine qui ne cessait de louer la fluidité musicale et la précision du sérère, ainsi que la courtoisie et les délicates nuances du français, serait certainement attristé par un tel massacre des langues qui ont fait de lui un élégant poète.

Malheureusement, Titare n'était pas en mesure de partager les exigences littéraires d'un Senghor, mais, tenant à son français bancal comme les convertis à leur livre saint, peu lui importait ce que l'Académie française pouvait reprocher à ses amphigouris


Here Senghor, the defender of French in Senegal and arch-standardizer of proposed lexicons of African languages, is mentioned in an ironic manner: Salie's Aunt Titare, a common person, spoke in ways that would have caused him migraines. Diome's narrator suggests that Titare's "massacre" of languages is typical of the multilingual muddle in which the everyday person finds themselves in contemporary Senegal. The narrator insists that Titare, interested as she was in simply getting by in life, was not bothered by any criticism she might have received from linguistic purists, and Diome is certain to include a reference to the Académie Française here. She reminds readers that the Académie's decrees are far removed from the concerns of everyday users of the French language from different, less literate parts of the world, who employ versions of French alongside other languages in an "adulterated bouillabaisse."

Although she mocks her at times, Diome often defends Titare, who, though pretentious, contributes to her upbringing in the same way as her grandmother did. Diome explains Titare's language as being due to a lack of education, but she points out that she was imitating "une remarquable génération de femmes qui sortaient des universités, révendiquaient l'indépendance dans tous les domains" (154). French guarantees her access to another sphere "voltigeant dans une sphère supposée hors de la portée de son peuple marin" (154), and she gains a self-confidence through her linguistic métissage, no matter how precarious the foundations on which it is based: "Du haut de son trône imaginaire où elle bombait la poitrine" (154). This description of Titare can thus be read as a tribute to both the educated and the less educated generation of Senegalese women who came before Diome, who used the 'liberating' language of French as well as their own languages to move ahead.27

From a sprinkling of Sereer in her other texts, Impossible de grandir contains a very "liberal sparkling" of the language.28 For example, "Sounkoutou nding," an expression linked to self-worth in Sereer, is repeated throughout the text. Diome mixes languages to play on the connotations of certain French [End Page 88] expressions. She points out that in French the connotation of "éducation de grand-mère" is one of receiving an old-fashioned upbringing, whereas she insists her grandparents provided a key foundation to her identity (217), instilling in her the respect of "Sounkoutou Nding" and a sense of battle like a true "Guelwaar" (Sereer warrior). Later in the text, the origin of the expression "La Petite" is explained, as we learn that Salie was regarded as a "little mother" by her grandfather (a common trait in African traditions). Here we also find a direct homage to Senghor and the transcultural learning by which he was strengthened. This text insists upon the first Senegalese president's specific upbringing in Sereer country. With persistent inclusions of the Sereer language with which the second half of Diome's novel is replete as Salie's uncle declares:

I ndhil, Fapa, vrai, père!

Diokandialé, merci!. . . Petite mère doit savoir que si Senghor, minoritaire par son ethnie sérère et par sa religion catholique, a été le premier Président de ce pays, il ne le doit pas seulement à sa connaissance de la langue des Blancs, mais aussi à son terroir, à ceux qui l'entouraient, à l'éducation qui a fait de lui un homme libre et digne. Là où tous puisaient hier pour boire, qui creuse trouve la source!

I ndhihil tigui, vrai de vrai, dit mon grand-père


Senghor is feted here for his minority status, as well as for the community from which he sprang, but he is also lauded for his learning of another language to complement his Sereer heritage. Thus, Diome's text insists upon Moura's notion of "hyper-specificity," although it is couched in a multilingual setting.

The multilingual setting of Diome's text displays her native Sereer prominently but also draws from and comments critically upon the Wolof language spoken by most people in Senegal. From early in the text, Salie refers to criticism of her "bouche illégitime" (47). Though this phrase would seem to refer to her position as an illegitimate child, it might also refer to her other, African, language, one that cannot be transcribed to the page so easily. The original labelling of her as a "diomi-haram" is also mentioned early in the text, as she is labelled a child of sin (40). This label is doubled later by attacks on her as a "domou-djitlé" (259). However, Diome clarifies that this expression "n'est pas sérère. Les Guelwaar n'étaient pas stupides" (265). An astute reader understands that this expression is from the Wolof language, dominant in Senegal sometimes to the detriment of other local languages, but which Diome barely even deigns to name, although she does associate it here with stupidity.29 Diome thus opposes Sereer to the Wolof language in which she is [End Page 89] labelled an outsider, highlighting the competition between several African languages in Senegal. As Warner states, some critics have taken Wolof as a synecdoche for African languages in Senegal, and other critics have pointed out its linguistic domination at the expense of other languages there (28). However, Diome's mention of this "bouche illégitime" could also refer to her continued use of the French language in spite of demands to write in a supposedly more authentic African vernacular. Salie celebrates the French language and culture, insisting that it has allowed her both to liberate herself and to accept her position as an eternal outsider wherever she goes:

N'étant pas une enfant désirée, je suis arrivée au monde par effraction, m'imposer et m'adapter fait partie de ma condition existentielle. Toujours! Gueule de métèque, déjà parmi les miens, quand je le redeviens chez les autres, point d'étonnement, ce n'est là que simple routine. Étrangère, toujours! C'est même mon ADN, mais toute marginalité assumée devient identité. Avec mes miettes de vie, mes éclats d'ailleurs, j'ai fabriqué une identité composite, permanente intersection entre ceux qui me revendiquent et ceux qui me rejettent. Portant l'Afrique et l'Europe en moi, je suis ce laboratoire où vos différences et vos antagonismes versent dans le même entonnoir


Though Diome views French as the language for the outsider that she is in Senegalese society, she also views it as an important means of connecting her society to the world. In a 2017 interview, Diome defended her choice of French ahead of a language spoken in Senegal, as the vehicle for her literary work, underlining its usefulness as a lingua franca ahead of any preference for an African language, which she feels would result in ethnic privileging:

Les Français sont devenus minoritaires parmi les locuteurs de la langue française. Cette langue-là il faut arrêter de la regarder comme une langue de colon. De toute façon, c'est un retard de penser comme ça. Si je suis traduite au Japon, c'est parce que j'ai écrit en français, c'est aussi simple que ça. Si j'avais écrit dans ma langue maternelle, peut-être que 80% des Sénégalais ne sauraient même pas que j'ai écrit un texte parce qu'il y a beaucoup d'ethnies qui parlent d'autres langues. Donc, si on fait une écriture chacun dans sa langue, on va faire du tribalisme littéraire et on finira avec du tribalisme politique. Moi je regarde le français comme un trait d'union entre tous les peuples africains aujourd'hui. Quand je rencontre une Ivoirienne, c'est ma sœur. Le français, c'est une passerelle, utilisons-le pour nous rapprocher les uns des autres et sortons des complexes d'hier30

Though it offers important comments on debates over literary languages in Senegal, Impossible de grandir is not confined to French, Sereer, and Wolof. Salie reveals her unusual ability (for a native of the Niominka area of Senegal) to speak Mandinka, and the influence of "épopée mandingue" of Gambian kora player Jali Nyama Suso (194–95). Other languages, such as [End Page 90] Arabic (193), Portuguese (166), and German (190) appear in the text, reflecting Salie's cosmopolitan identity, but none of these make incursions in the same way as the specific case of Sereer. Though she notes the ethnic belonging and love for the French language that she shares with Senghor, Diome goes beyond him in her constant inclusion of the Sereer language in this text and her insistence on its specific status within a larger "francophone" Africa. Diome thus uses the final book of her Flammarion contract and the platform she has established in the ten years since the publication of her first novel as a way to laud the universality of French, but also to insist upon the other local languages alongside which it coexists in Senegal. Thus she follows in a line of Senegalese authors by stressing her multilingual heritage by including other languages in her text, but at the same time she makes a rare gesture in including the Sereer language and critique of Wolof as a uniting force. Diome seems to agree with Senghor's preference for French as a literary language, but her inclusion of the "français bancal" of some characters suggests that varieties of language cannot and should not be regulated in the ways that the Académie Française and Senegal's first president attempted. While not advocating a 'breaking' of French in the manner of Kourouma, then, Diome suggests a flexibility in approaches to writing in it. [End Page 91]

Christopher Hogarth
University of South Australia


1. Jacqueline Dutton, "État-Présent: World Literature in French, Littérature-monde and the Translingual Turn," French Studies, 70:3 (2016): 418.

2. Charles Forsdick, "Afterword," Australian Journal of French Studies, 55:1 (2018): 96.

3. Authors such as Bernard Dadié, Abdoulaye Sadji, Ousmane Socé Diop, and Paul Hazoumé, all École Ponty graduates, are established canonical figures in Francophone African writing.

4. The encyclopedia Ethnologue lists forty languages for Senegal,

5. Some claim the number of Wolof speakers is as high as 85 percent of Senegal's population: Ibrahima Diallo, The Politics of National Languages in Postcolonial Senegal (New York: Cambria, 2010), 19. More recently, the Encyclopaedia Britannica estimated it is spoken by a more conservative 76 percent (12.2 million of a population of 15.85 million): "Wolof language,"

6. Diome's latest novel, Les veilleurs de Sangomar, was published by Albin Michel in August, 2019.

7. Tobias Warner makes the vital point that Senghor was not an enemy of writing in African languages, but rather sought "obsessively" to control "the domain of the printed word" in which they were written (150) through a series of decrees in the 1970s that regulated "the writing of African languages intended for the public sphere" (124). The Tongue-Tied Imagination: Decolonizing Literary Modernity in Senegal (New York: Fordham U P, 2019).

8. Steven Kellman, The Translingual Imagination (Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2000), 18.

9. Ousmane Sembene, Les bouts de bois de Dieu (Paris: Presses Pocket, 1960), 19.

10. Quoted in David Murphy, Sembene: Imagining Alternatives in Film and Fiction (Oxford: James Currey, 2000), 236, Sembene responds to the author's question on his decision to write his literary work in French thus: "La question des langues est toujours une affaire politique. Avant tout, les Africains sont pragmatiques. Un Wolof va se dire 'il faut que j'apprenne le français pour trouver un travail.' C'est comme ça que ça se passe. C'est la question économique qui compte avant tout. Pourquoi écrire en wolof si on va interdire le livre."

11. Lise Gauvin, La fabrique de la langue: De François Rabelais à Réjean Ducharme (Paris: Seuil, 2004), 341.

12. Jean-Marc Moura, Littératures francophones et théorie postcoloniale (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2013), 89.

13. Rainier Grutman, "L'écrivain bilingue et ses publics: Une perspective comparatiste," in Axel Gosquet and Modesta Suarez, eds., Écrivains multilingues et écritures métisses: L'hospitalité des langues (Clermont-Ferrand: Presses universitaires Blaise Pascal, 2007), 38.

14. The long-standing rivalry between nationally-endorsed versions of African languages in Senegal and those recommended by linguists is ongoing and is the subject of chapter four in Tobias Warner's 2019 book, 123–51.

15. Alain Ricard, Littératures d'Afrique noire: Des langues aux livres (Paris: Karthala, 1995), 152.

16. Jaime Hanneken, Imagining the Postcolonial: Discipline, Poetics, Practice in Latin American and Francophone Discourse (Albany: State U of New York P, 2015), 38–40.

17. Jean-Marc Moura, Exotisme et lettres francophones (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2003), 201.

18. For an account of Sembene's clashes with Senghor over such issues as the orthography of Wolof, as well as Senghor's tight control of a language policy that continued to privilege French in postcolonial Senegal, see Warner's chapter "Senghor's Grammatology: The Political Imaginaries of Writing African Languages" (123–51).

19. For example, Ndao had to wait until 1999 for a series of poems he wrote in Wolof in the early 1960s to be published in very limited numbers by a cultural institute and a local development organization as Séex Aliyu NDAW, Lolli (woy), taataan (woy) (Dakar: IFAN, Enda, 1999). Ndao's first novel, written in Wolof in 1967, was not published in its original language until 1993, by the same cultural institute, the IFAN Chiekh Anta Diop as Cheikh Aliou Ndao, Buur Tilleen (Dakar: IFAN Cheikh Anta Diop, 1997). Tobias Warner provides a compelling examination of Ndao's career and the French and Wolof versions of Buur Tilleen (166–78).

20. Boubacar Boris Diop, L'Afrique au-delà du miroir (Paris: Philippe Rey, 2007), 171.

21. Diop took it upon himself to translate his 2003 Wolof novel Doomi golo into French as Les petits de la guenon, which was published in 2009 (with some differences, as Warner discusses [203–32]) and has published all his fictional work in French since his sole Wolof-language novel. His continued engagement with Wolof is displayed in his conversion of Doomi golo into a radio play in 2014 and his translation of Aimé Césaire's Négritude classic Une saison au Congo into this language as Nawetu Deret in 2016.

22. In a recent article in the newspaper Le monde she is lauded for the "fougue et sensibilité" of her writing. "Fatou Diome": 'la rengaine sur la colonisation et l'esclavage est devenue un fonds de commerce,'"

23. For a series of linguistics-focused studies on practices of moving between languages in music, see H. Samy Alim, Awad Ibrahim, and Alistair Pennycook, eds., Global Linguistic Flows: Hip Hop Cultures, Youth Identities, and the Politics of Language (New York: Routledge, 2009).

24. "J'écris toujours avec de la musique" Diome claims,

25. Fatou Diome, Impossible de grandir (Paris: Flammarion, 2013), 37.

26. On page 207, for example.

27. The narrator associates her reading of Simone de Beauvoir in her French language school as an inspiration to rebuke her uncle's mistreatment of her (241).

28. To paraphrase Rainier Grutman, "Refraction and Recognition: Literary Multilingualism in Translation," Target, 18:1 (2006): 19.

29. In a 2019 interview with Le monde, Diome comments that the Sereer and Wolof languages have very different notions of the status of children born out of wedlock: "l'idée 'd'enfant illégitime' n'existait pas chez les Sérères animistes jusqu'au milieu du XIXe siècle et la domination des religions monothéistes. Jusque-là, au contraire, avoir un enfant des fiancés avant le mariage était le meilleur moyen de s'assurer que le prétendant était fertile. C'était même une tradition dans l'aristocratie sérère notamment, où la lignée était matrilinéaire. 'Domou djitlé,' qui signifie 'enfant illégitime,' est une expression wolof, qui n'existe pas en sérère." "Fatou Diome: la rengaine sur la colonisation et l'esclavage est devenue un fonds de commerce."

30. "Fatou Diome: 'Il faut arrêter de voir la langue française comme une langue de colon,'"

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