In this text, Kourouma proceeds through the process of intralingual translation in order to transpose not just the lexes of his native tongue into the French language but also the worldview that sustains his mother tongue.
The "Malinkelization"of French begins right from the title of the novel--"Les soleils des indépendances". The expression "les soleils" is a calque on the Malinke language. Ngalasso defines the term "calque" in the following terms:" Le calque est un mode d'emprunt par traduction de la forme d'une langue étrangère à la langue dans laquelle se tient le discours (métalangue)..." (37). [A calque is a form of borrowing by translating the form of a foreign language into the language in which the discourse takes place (metalanguage)....] The word "soleils" has to be put back into the Malinke cultural context to discern its full signification. The Malinke use this word to designate the duration of a given hegemony. It is in this sense that the narrator talks of "les soleils des indépendances" (7-8, 15,141), "les soleils de Samory" (142), les soleils des Toubab" (142), "les soleils du parti unique" (141) etc. In its pluralized form, the word "soleils" signifies "season" and by extension "epoch" or "era". Kourouma's title could be translated as "the era of independence". Sensing that the ambiguity in the title could blur comprehensibility, he comes to the assistance of the reader with a translation: "l'ère des indépendances" (7). The pluralization of the word "soleils" derives from Malinke usage and may not be quite clear to the non-Malinke. As Borgomano observes: "Le titre introduit donc un trouble délibéré dans la langue française ordinaire" (19). [Thus, the title introduces a troublesome element in standard French]. What Kourouma does in Les soleils des indépendances is not the interlingual translation activity of replacing Malinke words with their French language equivalents.What he does is think in Malinke and then imagines how best to render his modes of thought in French. Recourse to Malinke thought patterns is evident in the narrator's invitation to the reader to say it in Malinke: "disons-le en malinké" (7). [to put it in Malinke] (The Suns of Independence, 3). Kourouma resorts to this mode of expression as if to give the impression that he is more at ease with the Malinke language than he is with French. He seems to suggest that the French language has to be made to bear the full weight of his Malinke worldview. Exasperated by the heat of the harmattan sun, Fama utters profanities, some in French; and others in Malinke: "Fama se récriait: Bâtard de bâtardise! Gnamokodé! Et tout manigançait à l'exaspérer.Le soleil! Le soleil! Le soleil maléfique des Indépendances..." (9). [Fama grumbled: `Hell and damnation! Nyamokode! Everything conspired to exasperate him. The sun! the sun! the cursed sun of Independence...] (The Suns of Independence, 5). The Malinke word "gnamokodé" is a translation of the French word "bâtardise". The reader is left wondering why Fama would say the same thing in two languages. Kourouma uses the technique of linguistic ambivalence to underscore the diglossic context in which the novel is crafted. By having his protagonist speak in both French and Malinke, he drives home the point that his readers are expected to be both bilingual and bicultural.
Kourouma's desire to "Malinkelize" French is evident in his constant use of Malinke cultural referents as seen in the following example: "La colonisation, les maladies, les famines, même les Indépendances ne tombent que ceux qui ont leur ni (l'âme), leur dja (le double) vidés et affaiblis par les ruptures d'interdit et de totem"(116).[Colonial rule, illness, famine, even Independence only strikes those whose ni and ja, whose soul and spirit double are empty and weak because they haven't respected their totem](The Suns of Independence, 77). The word "dja" harbors more meaning than the French word "âme". In the Malinke perception of life and death, this word translates the belief that the separation between body and soul at death is short-lived. The Malinke believe that the spirit and flesh are reunited after death. In this regard, the French word "âme" would not fully translate the Malinke concept of "dja" because according to Western Christian mythology, there is permanent separation between body and soul at death except in instances of resurrection of bodies.
Kourouma straddles two cultural spheres. He is virtually at the crossroads of languages. He cannot be faithful to the one without, per force, betraying the other. Like the polygamous husband in a dubious romantic relationship, Kourouma has to make love with both his wives--French and Malinke.