The first work of Francophone African literature, Bakary Diallo's autobiographical novel Force-Bonté (1926), is generally misread as simply an homage to France, the "naive" account of an African colonial soldier. Yet Force-Bonté is neither mere homage nor nonfiction account. Rather, Diallo's volume is an attempt to reconcile the "human" egalitarian values of the republic with the hierarchical values of empire. Confronted with the paradox of a French "imperial republic" and the paradoxical condition of the African colonial soldier, Force-Bonté offers a critique of inequality that is both complicit with and critical of the French imperial project. This ambivalence is epitomized by a passage in which Diallo and his comrade debate the human exploitation of laboring horses—will communication prevent such injustice, or will it continue as long as relationships of domination remain? In its most critical moments, Force-Bonté challenges the colonial identification between "France" and "human" values, while extending those values to relations with nonhuman creatures.


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pp. 182-201
Launched on MUSE
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