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The Suns of Independence [Paperback]

Ahmadou Kourouma , Adrian Adams
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: £10.95 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Aug 2000
THE SUNS OF INDEPENDENCE, considered a masterpiece of modern African literature, enables the reader to gain unique insight into African culture and conflicts. Through Fama and Salimata, the husband and wife at the heart of the story, Kourouma conveys the confusion that torments many Africans when a traditional and a later, more materialistic culture collide. The last of the Dumbuya princes who had reigned over the Malinke tribe before the European conquest, Fama seeks a place for himself within the new hierarchy of bureaucrats and border guards. Salimata, haunted by memories of a ritualistic excision and a brutal rape, searches for the means to have a child who will pass on the Dumbuya legacy to future generations. Interwoven with tales and proverbs from the ancient Malinke traditions, this modern novel brilliantly captures the struggles, desires, and dreams of a people in a West African country living through the tumultuous days of Independence.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Holmes & Meier Publishers Inc; New Ed edition (1 Aug 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0841907471
  • ISBN-13: 978-0841907478
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.7 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 728,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Suns of Independence 3 Jan 2010
Format:Paperback
The Suns of Independence
Paperback
136 pages
Published by: Africana Publishing Company
ISBN: 0841907471

The last of the Dumbuya princes of the Malinke tribe is dying. It is his lineage. It threatens to break with him if he does not have a child. Fama is his name, the Dumbuya prince who, along with his wife Salimata, takes center stage in Ahmadou Kouroumas "The Suns of Independence".

Suddenly divided between two new nation states in West Africa the Dumbuya prince rule is faced with a double-edged crisis of legitimacy and identity. On one side he has to continue his threatened lineage, and on the other hand he has to reestablish his claims to power as a prince.

It began with the French colonial powers who brought in their own version of a modern slave rule, complete with immigrant workers and a strict suppression of traditional power structures.

But Fama's troubles didn't end with the French back on the boats and left adrift. A new independent state rose with a one-party system that hailed independence as Independence, turning the concept into a fetish, as if Independence itself is a country you can inhabit.

This new direction once again undermined the power of Fama's lineage, making people question the validity of his claims. And with a paranoid regime in power the likes of Fama become the local edition of the French revolution aristocracy, finding themselves at best jailed or at worst simply just disappearing.

But Fama is not completely without any social capital, and after having spent 20 years in the capital of the country he decides to head back to his homeland to seek out a role to which the city will not ascribe him.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic novel of post-colonial Africa 9 Jan 2001
By Bruce Whitehouse - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is an excellent novel that poses some tough questions. What future awaits African nations? Are African peoples doomed to corruption and oblivion by their unfortunate encounters with European colonization? Is it possible for ancient tradition to coexist with modern values?
The answers, according to Kourouma, appear none too optimistic. His hero, Fama Dumbuya, stubbornly resists corruption of his personal mores by the new ideas that have transformed his society. Although he is usually cantankerous and disagreable, he is also devout, often funny, and always tries to do the right thing. But he can never reconcile his past and his upbringing with the modern world, and in the end he fails to find an equilibrium; he even fails to leave behind any offspring that might bring hope for the future.
Kourouma's narrative is especially powerful when he deals with Fama's wife Salimata, whose past is a psychological minefield of female genital mutilation, exploitation and abuse. Salimata is one of the most memorable characters in African literature. Like her husband, she struggles admirably to negotiate a way in the world, but also like him she can't rise above the muck that's holding her down. Things have fallen apart; the center did not hold.
As discouraging as it might be, "The Suns of Independence" is still an expertly crafted novel which forces its readers to examine the pitfalls facing modern African societies. You might disagree with the author's pessimism, but you can only credit his storytelling ability.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Novel Of NEO-Colonial Africa 15 April 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The primus independence of many of the African countries was betrayed again by those who colonized her. Setting up the governments with African officials who were only cover-ups for their European masters. The time which Kourouma writes about in "THE SUNS OF INDEPENDENCE" is Neo-colonial for this reason, to refer to it as post-colonial implys that it is no longer colonized and it obviously is in the novel.
The protagonist in his first novel, like that of his second (Monnew), is somewhat of an anti-hero of royalty. He curses the French and the recent indepence even moreso claiming that he would rather have existed in colonial times (13). By showing us the absurdities of both the colonizers and some of the kings they deprived Kourouma points to the more humane way of running a country.
Like in "Monnew" Kourouma captures the African female in all of her glory with the female protagonist Salimata. The strength of her character is incredible and inspiring to examine. By dealing with the idea of female oppression (in terms of genital mutilation and many other forms) Kourouma points out that they are the true heroes of Africa growing in fertility among the oppression of the colonizers as well as the men they loved and cared for.
"THE SUNS OF INDEPENDENCE" comes highly recommended as a literary masterpiece. A novel, unfortunately like many of the African greats, that is highly under read by incredibly valuable as a work of art ready for consumption.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE MALINKELIZATION OF FRENCH IN AFRICAN FRANCOPHONE LITERATURE 24 Nov 2010
By Vakunta - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars The end of an age 14 Jun 2013
By E. Strickenburg - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Based on the title of this book, I expected a triumphal story of an African country becoming independent of colonial rule. Instead I found the story of an impoverished prince, the last legitimate heir to a tribal royalty, navigating the uncertain and treacherous waters of his country's independence. At one point he even comments that he hadn't fully realized the implications of fighting against French colonial rule - that the sapling growing in the shade of a branching oak longs for more room to grow, but when the oak is cut down it suddenly realizes how much protection from the wind it had received from the larger tree.

It's a strange tale. We see Fama, a man clinging to the past honor of his family line, but also seeing the present degeneration and insignificance of his tribe in a brave new world. Alongside him is his wife Salimata: a beautiful woman longing for a child, yet haunted by her past of botched female circumcision and rape. The book also deals with the layered nature of spirituality in the West African experience. On the surface, the characters live the lives of good Muslims, their days divided by calls to prayer and their speech and greetings peppered with references to Allah and his mercy. Yet when faced with desperate circumstances, the older pagan practices seep through, and we find the characters wondering whether the older paths of sorcery and fetishes might not hold more power over their daily lives.

I was surprised, however, to find an African author writing passages that used the colors "black" and "white" as metaphors for good and evil. In so many postcolonial and civil rights writings, authors speak of the damage done by associating the colors of skin with attributes of morality and value. So I found it surprising to find deceit described as people having souls blacker than their skin and words whiter than their teeth. ("Les Malinkés ont la duplicité parce qu'ils ont l'intérieur plus noir que leur peau et les dires plus blancs que leurs dents.") It's a powerful image, but I found it troubling all the same, though it fits in with the folklore tone of the book as a whole. Kourouma makes bold use of color and physical attributes in his descriptions, and uses numerous references from the animal kingdom to make the tale seem almost fable-like.

Ultimately, this book is about the end of an age. About how some things can't survive the upheavals of colonialism and independence. About how people and traditions can come through such changes as mere ghosts of themselves, blinking in the sunlight of an unrecognizable world.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 18 July 2014
By William Patrick Boggs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
One of the best African fiction novels I've read.
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