According to David Ndachi Tagne, the "mild controversy" surrounding the origins of Cameroonian literature is due to a complex colonial history during which the French and English took over from the Germans after World War I. Overall, the French dominated literary output during the 20th Century, although it is to the German and English missionaries, and especially the local intelligentsia that one must look for the introduction of writing in the area, i.e., the production of texts in Douala, in English and later in German. For example, Sultan Ibrahim Njoya who dominated intellectual life in the Bamum region at the end of the nineteenth century, invented his own alphabet and wrote several volumes devoted to Bamum law, knowledge and customs. It was only in the 1920s that this writing was abandoned when the French destroyed his press machines, closed all his schools and imposed their own language and educational material. Rudolph Douala Manga Bell was another intellectual who was to become a prominent figure in his country. After studying law in Europe, he returned to Cameroon where he became chief of the Doualas, but like so many others, he ended up being summarily executed by a colonial administration unwilling to undertake juridicial negotiations with an African lawyer. It was at this time that Joseph Ekolo published his impressions of Europe under the title Wie ein Schwarzer das Land der Weiszen ansieht (Vision of the White World from a Black Perspective).
In 1932, Jean-Louis Njemba Medou published Nnanga Kon in Boulou, a book that is sometimes considered the first novel written by a Cameroonian author.
Among the first Cameroonian authors to write in French were Isaac Moumé Etia who wrote a few short stories in the 1920s and 30s and Louis Pouka Mbague who was highly praised in Paris in the 1940s and 50s. His line "Oh France, you are our only hope [...] you are the black person's salvation", encapsulates the essence of his work.
What has generally become known as the first generation of Cameroonian novelists, refers to a group of authors whose mission is a critical and close analysis of colonisation. Mongo Beti (alias Eza Boto), René Philombe, Francis Bebey and Ferdinand Oyono (in his youth), are perhaps the best known representatives of this period. The second generation of writers is grouped around writers expressing their confusion and who, in spite of their pessimism, desire to see their country come out of the socio-economic stagnation which followed the euphoria of the first years of Independence. Mongo Beti started writing again after a silence of fifteen years with his Autopsie d'une décolonisation [A Decolonisation Dissected] while other writers such as René Philombe, Pabé Mongo, Yodi Karone, Paul Dakeyo, David Ndachi Tagne, Joseph-Jules Mokto, Paul Tchakoute and many others expressed the horror of those bloody régimes whose ruthless pursuit of power became a feature of African politics.
If Marie Pauline Thorbecke's memoirs Auf der Savane : tagebuch einer Kamerun-reise, published in 1914, Marie-Claire Matip's very short autobiography and Thérèse Kuoh Moukouri's excellent novel written in 1956 (and published in 1968) are not considered, one must wait for the years of Independence to see women novelists make their appearance. Among the first are Marie-Thérèse Assiga Ahanda and Lydie Dooh Bunya as well as women playwrights, Rabiatou Njoya and Werewere Liking (who moved to the Ivory Coast). In recent years, several Cameroonian women have added their contribution to the corpus of Cameroonian writing, and Calixthe Beyala has established herself as a very successful author on the international scene. Over the past few years, a fair number of new cameroonian authors have attracted considerable attention from the critics. Among them Brigitte Tsobgny Amours tyranniques (2006), Léonora Miano Contours du jour qui vient (2006) and Elizabeth Tchoungui Je vous souhaite la pluie (2006), etc.
Marie-Thérèse ASSIGA AHANDA Philomène BASSEK Virginie BELIBI Monique BESSOMO Calixthe BEYALA Angeline Solange BONONO Marie Claire DATI SABZE Lydie DOOH BUNYA Marie Félicité EBOKEA Stella V. I. ENGAMA Brigitte Ondoa ESSONO Nathalie ETOKE Marie-José EVEZO'O MVONDO Elizabeth EWOMBE-MOUNDO Mercédès FOUDA Corinne HAPPY Marie-Angèle KINGUE Thérèse KUOH-MOUKOURY Marie-Claire MATIP Marie Charlotte MBARGA KOUMA Léonora MIANO Evelyne MPOUDI NGOLE Justine NANKAM Alix NDEFEU Jeanne NGO MAI Geneviève NGOSSO KOUO Marie Julie NGUETSE Régine NGUINI DANG Josette Evelyne NJOCK Rabiatou NJOYA Jhoyce OTO Grâce-Emmanuelle PEH Evelyne PELERIN NGO MAA Elizabeth TCHOUNGUI Brigitte TSOBGNY Atë-Maïs VILLEDIEU WEREWERE LIKING YONKO-NANA-TABITHA Julienne ZANGA Delphine ZANGA TSOGO
The University of Western Australia/French
Created: 05 Jun 1996
Last updated: 10 Nov 2006
Archived: 25 Oct 2008