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So Long a Letter (Heinemann African Writers Series: Classics) Paperback – 20 Jun 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Heinemann; 1 edition (20 Jun. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0435913522
  • ISBN-13: 978-0435913526
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13 x 0.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 55,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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?It is not only the fact that this is the most deeply felt presentation of the female condition in African fiction that gives distinction to this novel, but also its undoubted literary qualities, which seem to place it among the best novels that have come out of our continent.?-West Africa --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Edwin on 26 Feb. 2005
Format: Paperback
In "So Long a Letter" one gets the deep feelings of an African woman, a middle aged Senegalese school teacher called Ramatoulaye. Ramatoulaye is an educated Muslim mother, who got abandoned by her husband, and who is finally faced with the new position in her life as a widow
In this absolutely magnificent book by Mariama Ba that is written in a poetic flow, Ramatoulaye determinedly adjusts to her changing roles and writes a letter to her close friend Aissatou, who now lives abroad as a single woman. Starting with her classic introduction of, "Our long association has taught me that confiding in other allays pain." Mariama Ba through Ramatoulaye begins her story and takes the reader into the world of Ramatoulaye's culture, her past and her hopes and dreams and forces the reader to confront the purpose of controversial traditions and religions in the lives of people in modern day Africa.
I recommend this book along with THE USURPER AND OTHER STORIES.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 Jan. 2002
Format: Paperback
I read this book as a presecribed text whilst in school in Nigeria. It was an excellent read and portrayed the attitudes of the undeductade natives to the wave of western life styles that they felt was sweeping the country and invading their childrens lives. It also shows the struggle of a woman determined to get an education and better herself and the resentment it strirs up amongst those less fortunate. I couldn't put it down from start to finish.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This short book has a powerful story-line which deals with the major events of a life of a Senegalese woman and takes the form reflections in the form of a letter to a friend, written in middle age over a period of 40 days of mourning for an estranged husband. These cover both the central figure's past and her present as she takes on the challenges of her bereavement with her children and so on.

My main criticism of the book would be the translation, which struck me as generally stilted. How many people speak or write about "mothers of yore" contrasting them with mothers of today? How often are mustaches described as being like circumflex accents?
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Coote on 25 May 2007
Format: Paperback
Mariama Bâ wrote just two novels, So Long a Letter and The Scarlet Song, at the beginning of the 1980s just before she died; So Long a Letter is marginally the better of the two. She deserves to be much better known to English-speaking readers for she was a superbly gifted writer who had a deep influence on later African authors and social commentators. Both novels read more poetically in the original French though The Scarlet Song is currently inexplicably unavailable in that language.

So Long a Letter begins at the funeral of the husband of Senegalese schoolteacher Ramatoulaye and takes the form of a long and moving missive to her best friend Aissatou in which she recounts the painful years of her abandonment by the man to whom she had given 12 children over 25 years of dedicated marriage. It is effectively a critique of the lowly and subservient place of women in a `traditional' society and not of Islam. Ramatoulaye remains a devoted Muslim even when her husband takes a second wife, the school friend of their teenage daughter, using `God's will' (who am I to argue?) as a facile justification for personal treachery. As he showers his new young wife and her vain mother with money and jewellery and humiliating himself in the process, Ramatoulaye is forced ever more into the background and finally abandoned. The rest of the book is concerned with her search for personal dignity as she tries to carve out some sort of life for herself in a society where independent women are regarded with deep suspicion. The fact that she achieved her aim, together with the respect of her family in the dignified way that she handled her humiliation, was in no way thanks to the predatory men along the way who attempted to profit from her vulnerable situation.
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