An African writer and literary critic shared his experiences and problems with African literature Wednesday in Shippensburg University’s Grove Hall Forum.
Amadou Koné is a professor at Georgetown University who researches African oral and written literature and has published six novels. His novel, “Le Pouvoir des Blakoros,” won the Léopold Sédar Senghor Foundation’s Best African Novel Award.
Koné’s lecture was sponsored by the French cultural studies minor, the English and sociology/anthropology departments and the international studies program.
When Koné was young, he enjoyed creative writing and playing soccer. He said he was not playing soccer to become a professional, but he was simply enjoying himself and there was nothing on his mind other than what he was doing.
“Listening to traditional folktale in my family and reading when I went to school had a similar effect on me,” Koné said. “These activities gave me a deep sense of pleasure. The pleasure to dream, to imagine, to stimulate my mind.”
Koné said he began writing his first novel in middle school and finished it in high school. His goal of the novel was to write about his friends and himself, as well as their goals, concerns and dreams in life. He did not care if his novel was published or if anybody would ever read it — he wrote it because it gave him the same feeling that playing soccer did.
Koné’s third novel, “Le Pouvoir des Blakoros,” was written about the lives of peasants and corruption of politicians and civil servants of the political administration in Africa.
“My intent was to wake them up so they could refuse to be exploited,” Koné said.
However, the people Koné was talking about did not speak or read French. He began to think about why one would write and who they write for.
Instead, Koné wrote “Les Coupeurs de tête” which was directed at the peasantry of Africa. Because of its simplicity, Koné said this novel is now read in middle school classes. The novel describes Africa in the 1980s and problems in politics at the time.
It is not easy being an African writer, Koné said, because it is necessary for writers to express their culture in foreign languages. The difficulty is some concepts of African culture cannot be expressed in French.
“It is practically impossible to express the culture and imagination of people in a foreign language,” Koné said.
Koné reiterated how it is important to ask who is writing and who the audience is. Some writers talk about themselves as an African writer from an outsider’s perspective. The African public is small, he said, and to be known outside of Africa you need to write in a European language.
“The African writer is, in some ways, an exotic writer,” Koné said. “What does it mean to be an African writer? Well, it is an African who writes.”