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Guinean literature at a glance
A few reference books
To find out more on Guinea
In his introduction to Guinean literature, the author Tierno Monenembo states that "with rare exceptions, orality has been the basis of Guinean culture [...] the vehicle of knowledge and wisdom". If we exclude the use of esoteric writing of Tomas, it was the Arabian alphabet that popularised writing in Guinea. Moreover, a transcription of the Peul language in Arabic characters appeared during the course of the 18th century, but this expansion of the literary genre was seriously interrupted by the invasion of the colonial forces.
The French occupation of the Rivières du Sud [Rivers of the South] was almost complete by the end of the 19th century in spite of the wars of resistance led by the local people and by the legendary Almamy Samory Touré. Literature written in French, however, only emerged at the end of World War II with the appearance of Keïta Fodeba's poems and the publication of Camara Laye's L'Enfant noir [The Black Child] (1953). Although disparaged by Mongo Beti for his stereotypical description of Africa, this novel was praised in some quarters for its fine analysis of the character's psychological journey. During the following decades, many other authors appeared on the Guinean literary scene : Mohamed Alioum Fantouré, Jkibril Tamsir Niane, Williams Sassine, Roger Goto Zomou, Camara Kaba 41 and, even more recently, Kiri di Bangoura and Cheick Oumar Kante. The numerous writings of Sékou Touré who plunged the country into disarray after wresting it from the grip of colonialism should also be mentioned, but they are of more historical than literary interest.
Although female Guinean writers are still few in number, they have also published several interesting books : the novel D'un Fouta-Djalloo à l'autre by Sirah Baldé de Labé, one of the first female primary teachers in the old Peul Kingdom of Fouta-Djalloo when the region still was under French rule ; two autobiographies, one by Kesso Barry, the daughter of the last Almamy, and the other by Nadine Bari whose husband was assassinated by Sékou Touré ; short stories by Marie Bernadette Ouédraogo Tiendrébéogo and publications by Aïssatou Barry who was a veterinarian. Also worth mentioning are Le Mariage par colis, a novel published in 2004 by Binta Ann and, a year later, Bilguissa Diallo's Diasporama, an excellent social portrait of a family living at the intersection of two continents.
Please note: Authors' cultural heritage and identity extend beyond their association to a specific location [see Angèle Bassolé Ouédraogo's réflexions autobiographiques and Achille Mbembe "Afropolitanisme" Africultures 66 (2006), pp.9-15.].
Sirah BALDE DE LABE
Koumanthio Zeinab DIALLO
Mariama Kesso DIALLO
Marie Bernadette TIENDREBEOGO
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The University of Western Australia/French
Created: 05 June 1996
Modified: 10 November 2006
Archived: 25 October 2008