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    Independence Acquired: Hope or Disillusionment?Author(s): Mildred MortimerSource: Research in African Literatures, Vol. 21, No. 2, Dictatorship and Oppression (Summer,1990), pp. 35-57Published by: Indiana University PressStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3819278 .

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    IndependenceAcquired-H o p e o rDisillusion-m e n t ?MildredMortimer

    Ahmadou Kourouma'sLes Soleils des Independancesnd MouloudMammeri'sLaTraversee

    R eflecting social andpolitical realities of the post-independenceerain which the colonizerhas beenreplacedbyapoliticalelite, both Maghrebianand sub-SaharanrancophoneAfrican literatureof the pasttwo decadeshavetransformedhe theme of disillusionment.Where the colonizerwas once thesole object of criticism,now African technocrats,cadres,and governmentofficials are depicted exploiting the masses they had promised to uplift.Concurrently,African writingreveals a growinginterest in oratureand in-creasedexperimentationwith formandlanguage,thusrevealinga shift awayfromthe linguisticconformity mposedby the Frenchcolonial school.Althoughfrancophoneiterature f the Maghrebandsub-SaharanAfricasharea common origin,the faitcolonial,France's olonial presencein Africa,representativewriters rom these two areashave rarelybeen in dialoguewitheach other,and critics have tendedto keep them separate.Suggesting hat itis time for a change, Hedi Bouraouiwrote that: "leschercheursont travaillesur la notion de negritudeet maghrebinite;nous sommes aujourd'huia larecherche d'une definition de l'africanite"(1989, 43). By undertakinga* Reproducedwith permission rom MildredMortimer:ourneysThroughheFrenchAfricanNovel(Portsmouth,NH: HeinemannEducationalBooks, Inc., 1990).

    35

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    36 I ResearchnAfricanLiteraturescomparative tudyofAhmadou Kourouma's esSoleils es ndpendances1970)and Mouloud Mammeri'sLa Traversee1982), I proposeto contributeto anascent north-southdialogue nitiatedbycriticsthat includeBouraoui, saac-Celestin Tcheho, andJacquesChevrier.Kouroumaand Mammeri hare a commoncommitment to expose cor-ruption,repression, ndhypocrisynpost-colonialAfrica.Both seek toreaffirmthe vitality of oral tradition. Kourouma's ama and Mammeri'sMouradarebothill-equipped or ifeinpost-independenceAfrica:Fama,a Malinkeprince,lacks the skills, such as literacy,for success in modem Africa. Mourad,anAlgerian technocrat, refuses to compromise his revolutionary ideals.Kouroumaassumes the role of griot, adoptingoral narrativestructuresandinfusingFrenchprosewith Malinkeexpressions o relate the adventuresof aprotagonistnextricablybound to orature.Mammeri,a realistwhoseprosecanbe characterizedas poetical and philosophical,reworksa literarytraditionembracedby Andre Gide, Isabelle Eberhart,and Ernest Psichari,Frenchwritersfor whom travel in the Saharabecame a metaphorfor spiritualdis-covery.1His protagonist is bilingual (francophone/berberophone),highlyliterateanddeeply respectfulof oral tradition.

    Prince of a Vanishing Kingdom:Ahmadou Kourouma'sFamaBy focusing upon Fama, the disinheritedMalinke prince, Kouroumabreaks he patternof writerswhoportray ulturalhybrids n African iterature.Indeed,by presentingan illiterateprotagonist n a societywhereliteracyis a

    prerequisite o joining the rulingelite, Kourouma xploresthe psychologicalandsociologicaleffectsof marginalityn a context that differs romthe earlierworksof writers ike CamaraLayeand Cheikh HamidouKane.Whereastheirprotagonistsstruggle to integrate newly acquiredEuropeanlanguage andtechnology with traditional African social and spiritualvalues, Kouroumaportrays he plight of the individualwho has been left behind. Unskilled inmodem technology as well as illiterate in French-"analphabete comme laqueued'un ane"(23) [asilliterateasa donkey's ail (14)]-Fama cannot jointhe rulingelite in the new era of the "sunsof independence."He representsthe disgruntleddisplacedmasses uredfromthe villageto the city bypromisesof opportunityonly to encounteran ever-deepeningpoverty.Fama lives in a topsy-turvyworld. In fact, "le monde renverse"(92)becomes a metaphorfor the protagonist's ondition.2In Fama'smind, inde-pendence is the root of all evil, responsible or his misfortunesand those of hissociety as a whole. With the coming of independence to his country,thehereditaryMalinkeprinceof Horodougouhas been deprivedof all his formerprivileges.The reader nitiallyencountersFama n the capital city,farfromhis

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    MildredMortimer 1 37village of origin;here the prince without a kingdomis reduced to acceptinghandouts as praise-singerat Malinke funerals.In addition,he is plaguedbysterility,believing incorrectlythat his wife, Salimata, is responsiblefor thecouple's ack of an heir.In LesSoleilsdesIndependances,ourouma ses elements of oraltraditionto alter the relationshipbetween the narratorand the readingpublic, and tostretch the limits of conventional French syntax. This transformation sapparent n the opening passageof the novel:

    I1yavaitune semaine u'avaitinidans acapitaleKoneIbrahima,deracemalinke, u disons-le n malinke;l n'avaitpassoutenuunpetitrhume.... (7)

    [Oneweekhaspassed ince IbrahimaKone,of the MalinkUace,had methisendin the capital ity,or to putit inMalinke: e hadbeendefeatedbya merecold.... (3)]RosemarySchikoranotes severaloralelementsin thissentence:the formulaicopening ("IIy avait une semaine"),the euphemisticverb ("avait fini"), thereferences to the capital and IbrahimaKone that go unexplained but areunderstoodby those who share the narrator'sulturalcontext, the use of thepronoun "we"to bridgethe gapbetween narratorand audience, and finallythe proverbialexpression,borrowed rom the Malinke language("IIn'avaitpassoutenu un petit rhume")(72). Bysubstituting"avaitfini"for"est mort"the narrator stablishesa linguisticpattern,the simulationof Malinkespeech.Kourouma hus assumes he narrativevoice of the griot,and althoughlimitedby the written word on the printedpage, he attempts to recreate both thespontaneityof oralperformanceand the characteristic nterchangebetweenperformerand audience.The theme of the introductorypassage s centralto the work.The novelopenswith the funeralofone Malinke,anevent thatwillberepeated wo moretimes before the novel closes with the death of the protagonist,Fama. Thedemise of the obscure Kone Ibrahima is significant because his death isrepresented n the text as a circular ourneythat leads to an eternal return.According to Malinke belief, the human spirit experiences an endlesslyrecurrentcycle of life and death. Ibrahima'spiritis thereforebound to comeback to life again: "Elle a marchejusqu'au erroirmalinke ou elle ferait lebonheurd'une mereen sereincarnantans un bebemalinke"(emphasismine)(8) [ [it]walked back to the Malinkehomeland,there to bring oy to a motherthroughreincarnationasa Malinke infant (4)].3Thus,Kouroumanforms hereader at the outset that the narrationwill unfold within the frameworkofMalinke tradition. In addition,narrativetime accommodatesthe storytellerwho transformst as he seesfit. Ibrahima'spirittravelsto his villageandback,a distanceof 2000 kilometers, n the blink of an eye.4

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    38 I ResearchnAfricanLiteraturesIn this setting,Fama s introducedas a comic,pitifulintrusion,claimingthe ambiguous tatusof princeand vulture:

    Lui,Fama, e dans 'or,emanger,'honneurt les femmes!Eduquepourpr6ferer'ora l'or,pour hoisiremanger armi 'autres,t couchersafavoriteparmi entepouses!Qu'etait-il evenu?Un charognard....(10)[He,Fama, or to gold, ood nplenty,honour ndwomen!Bortoprefer negold oanother,o choosebetweenmanydishes, o bedhisfavourite f a hundredwives!Whatwashe now?A scavenger.... (5)]

    Arriving ate at the funeral,Fama nterruptshe ceremonywhen he is angeredby a griotwho publiclyshameshim by drawingattention to Fama's ardinessandlinkinghis familyto a far ess illustrious ne. Justas the openingsentenceestablished he oral dimensionof the novel withgreateconomy,the firstscenedeftlyplaces the protagonist n his social context. Throughoutthe novel, hewill be psychologicallydisoriented,angrilyblamingothersforhis own misfor-tunes. He will also be in constantphysicalmovementin the city,in the village,or travellingbetween the two.In "le monde renverse,"Fama's opsy-turvyworld, the journey motifassumesa unique configuration,emphasizing he contrast between city andvillageas Fama ourneysbackand forth between them.Famadoes not journeyoutward, ncounter a seriesof adventures, nd return o the point of departureto facereintegration the destinyof the travellingheroin most oralnarrative)or rupture(the fate of the protagonist n the modem Africannovel). Fromaimlesswandering n the capital, interruptedby prayersand funerals,Famatravels wice to hisvillage, Togobala,and back.He undertakes he first ourneyto attendhis cousinLacina's uneralandthe second to returnhome to die inhis village.The secondjourney s interruptedwice. First,Fama s imprisonedin the capital.Later,he is mortallywoundedat the frontierbetween the Boisd'Ebenes C6te d'Ivoire)andNikinai (Guinea) ashe tries to reachTogobala.Another transformationn Fama's opsy-turvyworld involves the con-cept of threatening space. In traditionaloral narrative,the bush is oftendepicted as a frighteningplace. As Daniel Kunene explains, "out there is ajungle. The hero who turs his back on the courtyards nd cattle-folds andgrazingieldsof hishomeisentering hisjunglewithallitsbeastsandmonsters"(189). InFama'sworld,however, he capital,hishome of twentyyears,not thebush,representsdanger.With no identitycard,no partyaffiliation,no meansof employment,and no powerof the pen, Fama s as vulnerable n the capitalto post-independence"beastsand monsters"as the orphanof oralnarrativeshad been when bravingthe challengeof bush orjungle.The dangerof life inthe city is well illustratedwhen hungrybeggarsattack Fama'swife, Salimata,becauseshe unexpectedlyrunsout of the soupshe sells in the market.

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    MildredMortimer 1 39It is understandable hat Fama idealizes he village, where in an earliererahe would have beenpatriarch,whilecastingaspersionon his "vingtansde

    sottises dansla capitale"(99) [twentystupidyears n the city (66)]. Incontrastto the security, amiliarity, ndpowerhe would have enjoyedin the villageofTogobalabefore the colonial era, the capital city representsdisorientation,danger,and powerlessness or him. Moreover,geographicallyand politically,Famais a foreigner n the capitalcity.The village of Togobala s situatedinthe savannah, in the dry grasslandsof the interior, far from the capital(Abidjan), a city in the southernequatorialzone noted for its lush tropicalclimate,itsbeaches,and itslagoons.Inaddition,Togobalaiesacross he borderin Nikinai.There is, however, a discrepancybetween Fama'smemories of hisbirthplaceandthe actualvillagewhich hasfalleninto extremepovertyand isalmost abandoned.

    Huitcasesdebout,debout eulement, vecdesmurs endillesdutoitausol, le chaumenoiret vieuxde cinqans.Beaucoup petrir t a couvriravant le grosde l'hivemage.L'etable 'en face vide; la grandecasecommune, uetaientmisa l'attacheeschevaux,nesesouvenaitmemeplusde l'odeurdupissat.Entre es deux, a petitecasedescaprinsquicontenaitpouroutettout: roisbouquetins,euxchevres t unchevreaufameliquest puants estines etreegorges ux etichesde Balla.Enfaitd'humains,eude brasravailleurs.uatre ommes ontdeuxvieillards,neuf emmes ontseptvieillottes efusant emourir.110)[Eight uts tillstanding,ust hat, heirwalls rackedrom oof oground,their ire-blackenedhatchat least iveyearsold.A lot there o plasterand roofbefore he rainsreally tarted.The stableacross he waywasempty,and the greathut wherehorseshadbeen tetheredhadbynowforgotten ven the smellofhorse-piss. etweenhe twostood he smallhutforgoats, hatnowcontained llinall: hreebilly-goats,wonanny-goatsand a kid, scrawny ndsmelly, ntendedas offeringso Balla'sfetishes.As forhumanbeings, hereweren'tmanyable-bodied orkers.Fourmen,two of themold,andninewomen, evenof themoldwomenwhohadsomehowmanagedo avoiddying. 73)]

    Thisdescriptionof adeteriorating, epopulating, ll-nourishedworld ssimilarto Ousmane Sembene'sportrayalof the city of Thies in LesBouts de boisdeDieu, for both its tone and its emphasisare upon visual imagesthat denotepoverty.WhereasThies is acemetery orindustrial ociety'srottingandrustingdebris, Togobala is a ghost town. Kouroumacompiles an inventory thathighlights paucity:eight huts, six animals, thirteen villagers.He contrastsTogobala's mptinesswith Abidjan'sdensepopulationandanimation.This isevident in the market whereFama'swife Salimatasells her wares.Here theaccumulationof soundsadds to the animation:

    Partoutrouillaitt criait'animation umatin, ur equai estravailleursdebarquante hataient,espiroguierst lespecheurs'affairaientt les

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    40 I ResearchnAfricanLiteraturesmarchandesendaient lacrime.pouvanteesaresvacarmes,esnudescriardes e chauves-sourist detisserins'6chappaientesmanguiers,esfromagerst despalmiers uiserraientesblancsmmeubles.48)[Themorningwasaliveandhumming ithactivity:n thewharf,workerswho hadjust landedwerehurrying ff,boatmenandfishermenwerealreadyusy,womenhawkedheirwares. rightenedy heuproar,loudsof batsandweaver-birdsose creechingrom hepalms ndmango-treesclustered bout hewhitebuildings.31)]

    Bysimulating he filmingandrecordingofsightsand sounds n cityandvillage,Kourouma,ikeSembene,becomes the cameraman reatinga socialdocumen-tary.Moreover,as witnessand narrator f events, he emergesasagriotaswell.Although Sembene depictsfeats of heroism and becomesthe praise-singer fthe people, Kouroumapulls together the various elements that form theportrait of a tragic figure. K.R. Ireland comparesFama, the disinheritedMalinkeprince, to Hamlet,the melancholy princeof Denmark,but he statesthat, althoughHamlet has the capacityto set things right,Famahas neitherthe will nor the abilityto do so (79). Once Fama sstrippedof his illusionsandlearns hatcorruption snot confinedto the citybutpermeates he countrysideaswell, he can choose only one form of escape-death.Examining he structure f the novel,wenote thateachpartof it revolvesarounda death and the ritualof burial:IbrahimaKone, Lacina,the sorcererBalla,and finallyFama.The Malinkeprince's rajectory eads to lucidityandto reconciliation with death when he finally admits that in all aspects-biological, political, economic, social-his life is plagued by sterility. Hismarriageis barren. The ruling political party will not admit him. He iseconomicallyunproductive;he lives fromSalimata's arningsas soupvendorin the market.Inotherwords, heprincehas becomea socialoutcast,abegging"vulture" t socialgatherings uch as funerals.5Finally,Fama'sate is to be the last of his line. In this vein, his constantreferenceto "batarddes batardises"16) [Damnall the bastards! 9)] whenspeakingof the presentrevealshis alienationfromaworld n which his family'spast glory has been forgotten. Salimata and Fama are both victims of thepresent, iving in povertyin apoorAfricanneighborhood,presumablyTreich-ville in Abidjan. Unable to producean heir, they cannot envisage a future.With no successor, he barrencouple is cut off from the promiseof modern-izationand westernization;n fact, their situationportendsincreasedaliena-tion forthis Malinkeprincewhoseupbringing, omportmentand world viewrenderhim anachronisticand obsolete in the new era.For this reason,Famaspeaksof "unevie qui se mourait,se consumaitdans la pauvrete,la sterilite,l'Independanceet le parti unique!" (29) [a life that was dying out amidstpovertyandbarrenness, ndependenceand the one-partysystem!(18)].His wife Salimataadjustsbetterthan he does to modem life in the city.Hermoring chorestakeher to the market,whereshe sellsher waresandbuys

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    MildredMortimer I 41provisions,and then home to preparea meal for herselfand Fama.This busyschedule contrasts with Fama'sempty one. Unemployed, his boredom isrelievedonly by daily prayers,aimlesswandering,and occasional funerals.Salimata appearsprimarily n the firstpart of the novel where she ispresentedin four distinct ways.First,she functions as metaphor; he barrenwifeis yet anotherexampleof the sterilitythatpermeatesFama's ife.Second,by assuringfood on the table, she maintains the reality principle. In thetopsy-turvyworld,she has become the familyprovider.Third,she transformsthejourneymotif into aspatial-temporalxperience.As Salimata'smind shiftsback and forth between present and past, she involuntarilyrecalls her pastexperience of excision, rape,and subsequent rauma.The ordeal leaves herafraidofall menexceptFama,herimpotenthusband.Finally,Salimataassumesthe roleof archetypalvictim, treatedcruelly n two socio-politicalspheres, ntraditionalandmodernAfrica,as well asin twogeographicalocations,villageand city.The attackon her by beggarsat the marketplace n the city mirrorsthe rapeshe had experiencedearlier n the village (either by a jealousgenieorby the sorcererTiemoko).Thus,Salimata s depictedas the victim of cruelgods-"elle avait le destin de mourir terile"(80) [shewas fatedto be barrenuntil she died (52)]-and as a victim of cruel men, sorcerers n the village,beggarsn the city.In this binaryworld,FamaandSalimatadiffer n their attitudestowardthe past.WhereasSalimatarelives apersistentnightmareof excision andrape,Fama dreams of past glory.Kourouma uxtaposesone sleepless night withanother: n partone, Salimata,unable to sleep, evokes memoriesof excision.In parttwo, Famaspendsa sleeplessnight recallingthe historyof his familydynasty.

    Although Part Twoof Les Soleilsdesindependancesepeatsthe openingscenebyintroducing he death of a Malink--Cousin Lacina ollowsIbrahimaKone to his final restingplace-it departs romPart One by abandoning heearlierfocuson a dualconsciousness;Salimata all but disappears s the storyofFama'sourney o Togobalaunfolds.Upon the death of CousinLacina,Famareturnsalone to Togobala o become rulerof his tiny kingdom.As the novel progresses,Fama's patial-temporal angesurpasseshat ofhis wife. Forexample,when Famatravels to and from the village, he leavesSalimatabehindin the city.Furthermore,whereasSalimata'sourneys n timetakeher backonly as faras the excision ceremonyof her youth,Famarecallsthe distantmythic past (the arrivalof Souleymane,founderof the tribe);theperiodof colonization(the reignof the Malinke eader,Samory,when warandtrade flourished);the immediate past (transition from colonialism to "lessoleilsdes independances").Finally,onlyFamarecountsdreamandprophecy,both of which foreshadowhis own end.Fama'srecollection of the prophecy made to his ancestor,Bakary, spresentedat a critical point in the narrative.It occursmidway throughthe

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    42 I ResearchnAfricanLiteraturesnovel, in a temporalandpsychological imbobetweenpastand future.Bakaryprophesies he end of his dynastysometime afterhis reign:

    IIseferaunjourou le soleilne secouchera as,ou desfilsd'esclaves,esbatardsieront outes esprovincesvecdes ils,desbandes tduvent,etcommanderont,utoutserapleutre, honte... (102)[Itwillendwhen he sunnever ets,whenbastardsnd onsofslavesbindalltheprovincesogetherwiththreads,ibbons ndwind,andruleoverthem;wheneverythingscowardlyndshameless.... (68)]

    Famainterprets he prophecyas confirmation hat he will be the last of theDoumboyachiefs.Dreams,however,functionin twoways.First, heybringthe protagonistcloser to death. Fama is arrested ornot alertinga politician of a dreamthatwarnsof impendingdanger.Arrested orthis"oversight,"he imprisonedFamaagesconsiderably,becomesdisoriented,and loses the will to live. Set freebypresidentialpardon,he recalls that death had been his sole companion inprison(193); his only wish upon release fromprisonis to return to Togobalato die. This experienceisreminiscentofFa Keita's ncarceration n Sembene'sLesBoutde boisdeDieu,but whereasFaKeitastruggleso maintainhis spiritualvalues,Famafearsthat he will lose his life in prisonandnot be able to fulfillhis mission,to returnto the villageto die.Second, dreamsprovidetemporary scape.In dreamandhallucination,for example, Fama can flee reality by mounting the white steed that firstbelongedto Souleymane,founderof the dynasty.ApproachingTogobala orthe firsttime in twenty years,he recallshis childhood. The imageof the horse,symbol of nobility, appears:"Son enfance! son enfance! Dans tout il lasurprenait,a suivant a-bas res oina l'horizon ur e coursierblanc ...." (104)[Hisyouth! His youth! He came upon it everywhere, aw it gallopingon thewhite charger arawayon the horizon.... (70)1.6 n prison,Famadreamsheis ridingthe animal:

    A califourchonurun coursierlanc,Fama olait,plutotnaviguait,boubou lancauvent,I'etriert l'eperon 'or,une escortedevoueepareed'or'honorait,eflattait.VraiDoubouya! uthentique! eprincedetoutle Horodougou,e seul, e grand,e plusgrand e tous.(178)[Astride whitecharger,amawas lying rratherloating, iswhiterobeflutteringnthewind,hisstirrupsndspurs fgold,escorted yathrongofgold-bedeckedourtiers. trueDumbuya! uthentic!TheprinceofallHorodugu,heonlyone,thegreat,hegreatest fall.(118-19)]

    Thus, dreamsprovidethe illusion of powerand glorythat have been deniedbyreality.InFama'smagination,he becomesSouleymane, he founderof thedynasty,not the last of the lineage.At the sametime, dreams reehim fromhis prisoner's ell, allowinghim to ridefreely.They alsogranthim the respect

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    MildredMortimer 1 43of his people-a respectthat eluded him in life. The vision of the white horseappearsor the lasttime as Fama iesclose to death."Fama uruncoursierblancquigalope,trotte,sautille et caracole.IIestcomble,il est superbe"204) [Famaon a white chargergallops,trots,leapsandprances.He is radiantandfulfilled(135)]. Fama's scape through imagination s escapist,but it is also strategic.An aid to survival n prison,the vision of the white horse is a key element inhis final journeytowarddeath.Several intercessorsappearin the novel. The sorcererBalla, the griotDiamourou,andFama'sriend,Bakary, ll attemptto guideand counselFama,but he refuses o heed their advice.Although Ballaadviseshim not to returnto the capital, he does so and is subsequentlyarrested.Upon Fama'sreleasefromprison,Bakarywarnshim to stayin the capital.Famanevertheless eavesfor the village and is mortallywoundedby the sacredcrocodile at the bordercrossing.In prison,Fama recalls Balla'swordsbut explainswhy he cannot heedthe intercessor's dvice:

    Lesparoles e Ballan'ontpaseteecoutees,parcequ'elles icochaient urle fonddesoreillesd'unhomme ollicitdpar ondestin, e destinprescritau demierDoumboya.176)[Balla's ordswentunheeded, ecauseheybounced ffthe eardrumsfa man uredonbyhisfate, hefateordainedor he lastof theDumbuya.(117)]

    Famaconsidershimself to be apawnof destiny, or he doesnot believe thathecan escapehis fate.7As he approachesthe end of the journey,Fama achieves lucidity,thepainful knowledge that he and his world are obsolete, partly because theancient Malinke warrior astehas no place:La colonisationa banniet tue la guerremais favorise e negoce,lesIndependancesnt casse e negoceet laguerre e venaitpas.Etl'especemalinke,estribus,aterre,acivilisation emeurent, ercluses,ourdeset aveugles.. et steriles.21)[Thecolonialperiodoutlawed nd killedwar,butfavouredrade; nde-pendenceruined rade,and therewas no signof war.So the Malinkespecies, ribes,andandcivilization,wasdying: rippled, eaf,blind...andsterile. 13)]

    In addition,Fama is the victim of a corruptelite that has lost touch with thepeople: "Ces jeunes gens debarquesde l'au-delades mers ne pensent pluscomme des negres"(172) [Theseyoungmen back frombeyondthe seasdon'tthink likeAfricansanymore(114)]. Thus,Kouroumaatirizesboth the victim,Fama,and the society in which he is sociallyandeconomically marginal.

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    44 I ResearchnAfricanLiteraturesThe novelist alsoskillfullyaltersthe relationshipbetween narratorandreaderby borrowingthe oral performer's ag of tricks.8By making use of

    dialogue, repetition, songs, proverbs,and questionsto engage the audience,Kourouma'sriot-narratornvolves the reader rom he firstpagesof the novel.9Placing the readerbefore a supernatural vent like IbrahimaKone's two-thousand-kilometerourneyin the blink of an eye, the narrator urs to thereaderto exclaim: "Vousparaissez ceptique!"(7) [Youseem sceptical (3)].Rhetoricalquestionsalsoencourage he reader's esponse.Unaveugle, uepouvait-il voir?Rien.Unvieillard ux ambes onfleesde douleurs,quand pouvait-onarriveravec lui?Peut-etreau soleilcouchant.Un Cafre ont efrontnefr6le amaisesol,qu'allait-ilfaire?Rienderien.(118)[A blindman-what couldhe see?Nothing.An oldmanwithswollenaching egs-when would heyarrive herewithhimalong?Perhaps tsunset.A Kaffirwhose orehead ever ouched heground-whatwouldhe dothere?Nothingandnothing. 78-79)]

    In this same vein, comic, often salacious,comparisonsevoke the reader'slaughter.Thus, a political partydelegate sent to Togobala s "indomptable,comme le sexe d'un ane enrage"(141) [unmanageableas a mad donkey'serection (4)].Kouroumausesproverbs o reinforce he Malinkeculturalcomponentofthe novel, encouragingthe readerto enter into the narrator's ulturalcon-text.10 For example, when describingthe difficult (but comical) situationconfronting Fama, who brings a second wife, Mariam, to his first wife'shousehold,Kouroumatates:"Onne rassemble asdes oiseauxquandon craintle bruit des ailes"(195) [Don'tgatherbirdstogetherif you fear the soundofwings (106)]. By comparingthe noise of bird wings flapping to co-wivesquarrelling, Kourouma treats a sociological reality of Malinke culture,polygamy,within a WestAfricanruralcontext.11Kourouma's se of proverbsrooted n nature erves o accentuateFama's ssociationwithvillagelife,whichcorrespondso his preference orTogobalaover the capital.The novelist introduces Malinke songs to furtheremphasizethe oralqualityof the novel:Homalheur!Homalheur!Ho malheur!Si l'on trouveunesourisurunepeaudechatHomalheur!Homalheur!Ho malheur!Tout e monde altque amortest ungrandmalheur.194)[Ho,sorrow!Ho,sorrow!Ho,sorrow!Ifyoufinda mouseona cat-skinHo,sorrow!Ho,sorrow!Ho,sorrow!Everyone nows hatdeath s sorrow.129)]

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    MildredMortimer I 45Travelling romthe capitalto Togobala or the lasttime,Famarecallsthissongwhich issungbyMalinkes n time of trouble.As Fama ourneyscloserto death,the songreinforces he trajectoryand foreshadows is demise.Like the mousein the song,he will meet a violent death.Finally,Kouroumauses another element of oral tradition,the tale em-bedded n the narrative.Forexample,Balla the sorcerer ecountshis defeat ofthe bufle-genie,he buffalospirit.It is a colorful tale of pursuit n which Ballaand the spiritgothrougharapid eriesofmetamorphoses.Granting he animistthe role of storyteller,Kouroumauses his digressivetale to emphasizetheimportance of the supernaturalwithin the context of Malinke animism.Moreover, the embedded story accentuates the open-ended quality ofKourouma'sarrative.AlthoughFama's eathisforeshadowed,he digressionsthat markthe narrativein the formof tales, anecdotes,proverbs,and songserve to create a kaleidoscopeeffect.12This technique simulatesthe spon-taneity of oral performance n which a given storyteller may lengthen orshorten the tale byhis choice of episodesordigressions.In a varietyof ways,Kourouma ltersthe relationshipbetweennarratorandreader,between the written and the spokenword.13By assuming he roleof griot,he depicts a traditionalprotagonistwhose contact with Europeanculture s minimal,and in the processof doingso,he succeeds n revolutioniz-ing francophoneAfricanprose.

    SaharanOdyssey: Mouloud Mammeri'sMouradWithindependenceromFrancen 1962,Algeriagained heSahara,region largelyunknown to the country's adres,most of whom come fromthe

    North. In Algeriatoday,the North suppliesmodem technologyto the South,which is rich in petroleum.In the processof modernization, he regionhasbeen transformed,but not without hardship.Oil derricks mar a formerlypristine horizon;nomadic Tuaregsface cultural extinction. For the desertpeople, the intruderhas changed costume.The French colonial officerhasbeen replacedby the Algeriantechnocrat.The 1982publicationof MouloudMammeri's ovel LaTraverseetteststo the continued interest on the part of Algerian writersto find literaryinspirationin the Sahara.14For Mammeri,the encounter with the Saharaimplies a recognition of two worlds:one, the oasis where waterassures hatgardensbloom and enablespeople to implanttheircivilization;the other,anunending expanse of barrenstretcheswhere unbridlednature resistshumandomination.As a realist,Mammeriemphasizes he social andpolitical factorsof thisregion facing rapid ransition.His workcontrastswith that of nineteenth-cen-turyFrenchartists, he writerFromentinand thepainterDelacroix,menwhosepredilectionfor exoticismdrewthem to the oasis andto the trackless andsof

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    46 1 ResearchnAfricanLiteraturesthe Sahara. Mammeri, however, echoes the tradition of early twentieth-centuryFrenchwriters, uch as Andre Gide and ErnestPsichari,who used theSahara as background o a personaljourney,Gide focusingon sexual libertyandPsicharion mysticism.15AlthoughAlbertCamus'Algerian andscapesaremainlyMediterranean,several short stories that appear n L'Exilet le royaumeare set either in theSahara or on its periphery.ForCamus'protagonists a French tourist in "LaFemmeadultere,"a missionaryn "LeRenegat,"and a colonial schoolteacherin "L'Hote"), he desert accentuates their solitude.EnglishShowalter notesthat in Camus' universe the desert represents"the mirror of humanity'sexistential aloneness in a barren,meaninglesscreation" (30). Mammeri'sprotagonist,Mourad,comes to experiencethis existential solitude when he,like Camus'protagonists,ventures into the Sahara.La TraverseemarkedMammeri'seturn o the novel afteradecadeduringwhich he devoted his energies to studying and popularizingBerber oraltradition.It is thereforenot surprisingofindtracesof Mammeri'sommitmentto his Berberheritage in the work. For example, the novelist depicts anAlgerian protagonist of Berberdescent, a man bor in the mountains ofKabylia.In contrastto Kourouma's ama,"analphabete omme la queued'unane," Mammeri'sMouradis highly literate. He is a writerby profession.Adisillusioned ournalist iving in Algiersin the late 1970s,Mourad xperiencesdifficulty n independentAlgeriabecausethe nation for which he foughtnowcensors his writing. An allegorical piece entitled "La traversee du desert"expresseshis discontent with modem Algeria and bringshim under sharpcriticism fromhis editor.Inthe guiseof allegory,"La raverseedudesert" epresentsMourad's iewof Algeria'shistoricalexperience.The journalistdepictsa caravanof refugeesfleeingacross he desert; heyare edbytheir"heroes,"whosetask t is to ensurethe group's afety.These heroesarecourageousbut overlyidealistic:"Seulsetexaltes, ils occupaientles joursa tailladerces obstaclestoujoursrenaissants tles nuits a compterles etoiles"(32) [Alone andexalted, they spent theirdaysslashingat obstaclesthat alwaysreturnedand theirnightscountingstars 32)].Inthisarticle,Mourad nformshis readers hatAlgeria'sheroesdiedneedlessly,victims of their own impetuosityand theirneed to sacrificethemselves:"Lesherosprenaientdesrisques nutiles,ilsjouaientavec lesheurescommeon joueavec des osselets, ils ne supputaientpas les obstacles"(33) [The heroes tookuselessrisks; hey playedwith time the waysomeplayknuckle-bones; heydidnot reckon with obstacles(33)]. So rashthat they areincompetent,the heroeswho do not succumbon the journeycannot survivein the oasis, their finaldestination.At journey'send, they either die or abandonthe oasis,which isdepictedasaplaceofperversionandcorruption.Ultimately,the ranksof theseheroes are replaced by imitators, les epigones.The latter, supported byideologues, betraythe cause.

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    MildredMortimer 1 47An articlereflectingthwarted dealismandfrustration,"La raverseedudesert" seloquentandsubversive.The allegory s not at all obscure;Mourad's

    readerscan easily discern the Algerian War in the episode of the desertcrossing.Furthermore,his criticismis double-edged.Mouradcasts blameonthe leaderswho sacrificethemselves unnecessarily,and on the people whofollowblindly.If the martyrs how too muchcourage, he people do not showenough:Le destindes herosest de mourireuneset seuls.Celuides moutons stausside mourir,maisperclus evieillesse,useset, si possible, n masse.Les herossautentd'uncoupdansla mort, ls y explosentcommedesmeteores evoyes,es moutons 'accrochent la vie jusqu'aa dernieregouttedesang. 32)[Thehero s destinedo dieyoungandalone.Thesheep'sateis alsotoperish,butcrippledwith oldage,pantingwithfear,and if possible, nmasse.Heroesumpntodeath,explodingikestraymeteors;heephangon to life to thevery astdropofblood. 32)]The piece pointsto amajorproblemsn society,namelyalack ofgenuine

    leadership.Yet it offersno remedy.Mouradhimself has reachedan impasse.The journalistcalls forchangebecausehe clearlyperceivesabetrayalofvalues,althoughhe himselfhas no alternativeprogramo present.Mouradhas becomethe angryyoungmangrownsomewhatolder,a middle-agedversion of Arezki,the hero of Mammeri'sLe Sommeil ujuste.Also, at the age of forty,Mouradhas neither wife nor family.From the dominantviewpoint in his society,hethus has no more than a tenuous commitment to the future.In this sense,heresemblesFama.Neither of them has anheir;both are the last of their lineage.

    The editor'shostile reception to the articleprovokesMourad'sabruptresignation romthe newspaper, dramaticgestureof refusal o participateanylonger in the system. Self-imposed exile accompanies the resignation asMouraddecidesto "abandon he oasis"and move to Paris.Hisdecision isironicin the sense that he is a formermilitant who had fought againstthe Frenchand is now willing to seek refugein the Frenchcapital. He does, however,postponehis departure o complywith a requestfrom his editor to completeone last assignment orAlger-Revolution.his projectedarticlenecessitates atrip to the desert, for unlike "la traverseedu desert,"it will be factual notsymbolic,an eyewitnessaccount not an imaginaryallegory."La traversee du desert" is a catalyst; it serves as a springboard orMourad'sirst ourney o the Sahara.Seekingtracesof the humanintegrityandpolitical freedomthat eludehim in Algiers,he is accompaniedon his voyageby a team of journalists: wo French,two Algerian.None of them arenativeto this region.Preconceivedideas as well as tensions within the groupdistorttheirvoyage. Serge,a Frenchex-Communistwho isopposedto tradition, ailsto appreciateSaharanculture.Boualem,a Muslimreligiousfanatic, remains

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    48 I ResearchnAfricanLiteraturesobsessedwith the mission of spyingon his Frenchcompanions, he infidels, norder o safeguard is nation's reasure, etroleum.Amalia,a French ournaliston a mission to study the petroleum industry,appearsmore interested inseducingher male travelingcompanionsthan in completingher assignment.Souad, an Algerian journalistand the group'ssecretary, pends more timerecordingAmalia'sexploits than collecting her notes fora futurearticle.ForMourad, he journeyto the Sahararesults n personaldiscoveryandtransformation hat have political,psychologicalandspiritual mplications nhis life.16As Mourad ourneys hroughthe desert,stoppingat oasistowns,heundergoesa tripleinitiation. He learnsto appreciate he people, the nomads,and the sedentaryvillagers.Inaddition,he gains insightinto the poweras wellas the dangerof the tracklesssands.Finally,the desertcrossingrepresentsajourneyto self-understanding nd ultimatelya preparation or his eventualdeath, the finalcrossing.The novelist places in opposition two journeys:one, "la traverseedudesert," he other,the assignment o the Sahara.The first s a lineartrajectoryof a caravanthat crosses the desert,whereasthe second is a circularvoyagefrom Algiers to the desert and back. In point of fact, the second journeycontains a subtext,for Mammeri ntroducesa thirdvoyage,the protagonist'sjourney to self-understanding. t leads Mourad,like Fama before him, toreconciliationwith death.The journeyto self-understanding, psychologicaltransformation hatoriginates n a physicalexperience,has alreadyappeared n Mammeri'spre-vious works. Mokrane(LaCollineoubliee),Arezki (LeSommeildujuste),andBachir(L'Opiumt lebaton)all embarkuponthe journey hat leadsthem awayfromthe mountainvillagesof theirbirth.At firstuntutoredand ill-prepared,they returnhome wiser and moremature.In the colonial worlddepicted inMammeri's arlierworks,they also becomepoliticallyawareof theirpositionassecond-classcitizens.FromLaCollineoubliee 1952) to L'Opium t le baton(1965), Mammeri'sprotagoniststbecome increasinglyacculturatedas theyenter more fully into the modem world. WhereasMokraneand his fellowvillagers in the first novel have little knowledge of a world beyond themountains,the protagonistof the thirdwork,Doctor BachirLazrak,s barelyattached to his native Kabylia.In post-colonialAlgeria,however,Mourad sneither Mokrane,the naif setting out to discover the world, nor Bachir,awesternizedcolonial subject. At the opposite end of the spectrumfromKourouma's ama,he issophisticated,well-educated,verbal,politicallyastute.Central to this Saharanexperience is Mourad's entiment of solidaritywith the Tuaregwho, like himself,areBerber,althoughtheir nomadictradi-tions arevirtuallyunknown to his people, the Kabylesof the north.Linkedtohisrespect orthe peopleisMourad's wareness f the changesthathave cometo the desert.The Saharano longerrepresents refuge ornomadictribesmen,for it has become a giant oil field.The modernizationand industrialization f

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    MildredMortimer I 49Algeriahave largely destroyedthe old wayof life. The novelist'sdescriptionof Hassi-Messaoudattests to the transformation: Airconditionne, goudron,beton, fleurspousseessurde la terrerapportee" 68) [Air conditioned,pavedroads,concrete,flowersbloomingon imported oil (68)]. The tensionbetweenthe irretrievablepast and the impoverished present is representedby thecontrastbetween memoriesofgraceful amelsandsightsof awkwardumberingtrucks:

    InAmenas eutdireentouaregelieudesmeharis. en'etaitplusqu'unederision.A laplacedes meharis 'antan n ne voyaitplussur e plateaudesole que les massespoussivesdes grandscamionsocre, qui brin-quebalaientansapoussiereomme 'enormesannetons veugles.69)[InAmenasmeans nTuareghegathering laceof cameldrivers. hatwasa meremockery.nplaceof the cameldrivers fyesteryearoucouldsee on the desolateplateau nlythe broken own rames f largeochre-colored rucks hatteeterednthe dust ikeenormouslindbeetles. 69)]

    ForMourad, he disappearance f camel caravans rom oasis townsrecallstheloss experienced in another geographicalcontext. When MouradreturnstoTasga, his Kabyle village, he finds the old men, like Saharan camels,anachronisticvestiges of yesteryear.Moreover,when the elders do not greetMouradas was customaryin the past, he becomes painfully aware of thefragilityof their world:

    Un de cessoirslallaitventer rop ort-et laplacedeTasgaeraitbalayeede leurscarcassesnachroniques,t de toutce quiavaitfait le tissudeleurs ours,de leur oies,de leursmanques, e leurs eveset de leurs iresil ne resterait ien, le vent emporteraitusqu'auxmotsaimes,qui lesavaientbercesoute eurvie,etbientotceserait, 'etaitdeja,comme 'ilsn'avaientamais xistS. 54)[Oneof theseevenings hewindwouldblow oostrong-andtheTasgacentral quarewouldbeswept leanof theiranachronisticarcasses,ndnothingwouldremainof anything hathad formed he fabricof theirlives, heir oys, heir osses,heirdreams,heir aughter. he windwouldevencarry way he words heyloved,those that hadcradled hemalltheir ife,andsoon it wouldbe, infact t wasalreadyhecase-it wasasiftheyhad neverexisted. 54)]

    Linkedby ethnicity, although separatedgeographically,KabylesandTuaregsexperience the same plight; in post-colonial Algeria, their cultural life isthreatened. Their resistance to Arabizationplaces them in opposition togovernmentpolicy.In addition,their traditionsaremenacedby technologicaltransformations, ike the replacement of camels by trucks and by culturalchanges, such as those signalled by the Arabic and Europeanmusic thatemanatesfromtheir transistorradios.As Kabyles eave mountainvillagestoseek greater economic opportunity in Algiers and in France, Tuaregsare

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    50 I ResearchnAfricanLiteraturesenticedbythe economicopportunities f fixedwages n the modem industrialsector,particularlyn the petroleum ndustry.Economic and social transfor-mationsareclearly hreatening heirtraditionalwayoflife. Ifnone ofMourad'scompanions(FrenchorAlgerian)reactto the journeythe wayhe does, theirresponse s attributable n partto the fact that, unlike Mourad, hey arenotrepresentatives f people facingradicalcultural ransformation nd,perhaps,culturalextinction.As ajournalist,aprofessional bserver,Mourad ecordsbothpositiveandnegative aspectsof life in the Sahara. When he leaves the paved road andtravels on camels rather than in jeeps, he meets proud, courageouspeople,discoversa beautiful andscape,andfindsdesert raditions n theformofahellils,oasisfestivals.17Yet he alsoperceivesthe persecutionand the povertyof thedesertpeople,as well as thejunkandrubble hatmoder technologyhasstrewnaboutin the sand.Several times Mourad and his journalist companions encounter thegovernment authories' hostile attitude toward the Tuaregnomads. Theirapproach to the desert people is evident in the words of one Algerianbureaucratwho explains:"lesTouaregs nt leurschameaux, eursviolons, leurdesertet leursamuletteset ilssontheureux,alorsqu'on esy laisse.Nousdisonsnon! Nous disons qu'il faut arracher es Touaregsa leursviolons" (84) [TheTuaregshave theircamels,theirviolins, theirdesert,andtheirtalismans,andthey arehappy.Letthem be. But we sayno! Wesaythat we have to tearthemawayfromtheir violins (84)].In their effort to separate he Tuaregsrom their violins and to force analien systemof valuesupon them, the authoritiesclaim to be forginga senseofnationalunity by imposing he stampof Arab and Muslimupon peoplewhoboasta differenthistoricaland cultural egacy.Since this approachresemblesthe repressionof cultural identity that is occurring in Mammeri'snativeKabylia, he reader s temptedto replaceTuaregwith Kabyleand extend thephrase"IIfaut arracher es Touaregsa leurs violons" metaphorically o theBerbers f Kabyliaas well.Mourad'sourney hrough he desert sfilled withpoignant episodesthatconfirmthe government'spolicyof repression.When a schoolteachertries toteach Eluard's oem "Liberte"o the nomad school children,they burst ntotears,fully awarethat they arebeing systematicallydeprivedof their liberty.Mouradmeets aTuaregboywho wants to be a chauffeur o he can remainfreeto travelthe roadsas his ancestorshad done.Finally, he journalistencountersBa Salem, a celebratedsinger at the ahellils festivals). Stricken with theamdouda,he wish to die, Ba Salem withdraws romlife;his death marks heend of awayof life and foreshadowsMourad's ate.Mammeri had alreadyraisedthe problemof societies facing culturalextinction in LeBanquet,a tragedy et amongthe Aztecs, and in the accom-panying essay,"La Mort absurdedes Azteques."Written in 1971, these two

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    MildredMortimer 1 51worksmark the centenaryof the Frencharmy'svictoryagainstKabyleresis-tance and expressMammeri'sbelief that the defeat of the Aztecs by Cortesforeshadowed ater global victories of Western materialismand technology.The Spanishconquestin sixteenth-centuryMexico not only inauguratedhetriumphof the Occident-a triumph hat ultimatelyreached the heart of theSahara;t also fostered he West's efusal o respectalterity.As Mammeriwritesin "LaMort absurdedes Azteques":

    La penseeoccidentaleest paressenceunifianteet reductrice.Elle ainvente e dieuunique t devastateur,e dieu aloux. In'ya deplaceenelle que pourune seule verite.Pourelle le crimede l'autre 'est sonalterite;'autre sttoujoursntolerable.16)[Wester thought s essentially nifying nd reductive. t invented heunique nddevastatingod, hejealous od.Ithasonlyroom orasingletruth. nits viewthe crimeof the other s itsalterity;he other salwaysintolerable.16)]

    Having adoptedWestern echnology,post-colonialAlgeriahasassumed tsbiastowarddifferenceas well. In the name of bringingabouta unifiedsociety,themodem state often ignoresethnic diversitywithin the country.In his portrayalof Mourad,Mammeri nitiallydepictshim as an evolue,a WesternizedAfrican who distanceshimself fromhis traditionalcompatriots,studyingthem with the objectivity of the social scientist. In this role, thefictionalcharacterresembles he author,who is himselfan anthropologistanda novelist. At the sametime, Mouradassumes he role of "ecrivain-touriste,"the writer inspiredby his travels.Arriving a century after FromentinandDelacroix,he records he death throesof a civilizationrather han the vibrantculture that greetedhis Frenchpredecessors.However,the SaharanodysseytransformsMourad romscientific observer o participant.Once he recognizeshis affinitywith the BerberTuaregs, e can no longermaintainhis objectivity.All threats to Saharancultureby technology,materialism,andpost-colonialgovernmentpolicyrekindlehisfears, emindinghimof theprecariousituationof his own Kabyleculture. In this sense, Mourad'sourneyfrom Algiers toTamanrasset nd back is an innerjourneythat evolves into a personalquestfor new faith.

    Once Mourad ecognizes his innerquest,the twojourneys hathadbeenplaced in oppositionat the beginningof the novel-the journalist'sallegoryand the Saharan journey-begin to converge. Neither Mourad nor the"heroes"he depicts in "Latraverseedu desert"successfullycomplete the"crossing"romrevolution to a new life "in the oasis."Unlike his impetuousheroes, however,Mouradgainslucidity.At the end of his stayin the Sahara,his awareness hat the Berbersof the south aremenacedby the sameforcesthat afflict the Berbersof the north enableshim to recognizethat he is trulythe representativeof a dying civilization.The lucidity that resultsfromhis

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    52 I ResearchnAfricanLiteraturesphysicalandspiritual ourney ulminatesn his finaldecision o return oKabylia,lesmainsnues,couvert ubourous ancestral"180)[myhandsbare,wearingheancestral urnoose180)].Yetdespitehisfinaldesperate ttemptto return ohis ancestralomeland,Mouradeaves heSahara avingearnedthepainful ruth hat he hasnowhere o go.The desertoffershima glimpseoftruth,not illusion,but t grants imonlytemporaryefuge.Thenovel thatbeginsn disillusionmenthusends ndeath, orafter eturningo thevillageofhisbirthnKabylia,Mouraduccumbsothe feverhe hadcontractedntheSahara.Adrift,hecannot urn ofaith or olace,orhe shares either he Islamicfervor f Boualem orthe Christianmysticismf Foucauld. etBoualem,hereligious ealot,and Mourad oth leave the Sahara tripped f all illusions.Boualemdoesnot findthe religious urityhe has beenseekingamong hedesert people; Mourad does not encountereither the resistance (tomaterialism,opolitical epression)rthe culturalitality hathewas eeking.TheTuaregestivals e observesultivatenostalgiaora lostculture, uttheydo not generateaithin the future.As Jean-Claude atin(1982)explains,"Mouradstle visiteurdessables, laqueted'amesmortes"823)[Mouradsthevisitor o the desert andsnsearch f dead ouls 823)].Inkeepingwith the themeof desert rossing sajourneyo self-under-standing,Mammeri orrowswo structurallements rom traditional ralnarrative:he intercessornd he trialof initiation.Mourad'sntercessors BaSalem, herenownedingerattheahellils,hedesert estivals.BaSalem sananachronism, poet in an increasinglyationaland technologicalworld.Followinghe deathofhiswife,BaSalemgivesMourad lesson nrenuncia-tion,in withdrawingrom he world.WhenMourad,efeated hysicallyndspiritually,eturnso Kabyliaather hanflying o Paris,he is followingBaSalem's athofrenunciation,orhe isallowing imselfo die.Havingestablishedhe Saharan rossingas a unifyingelementwithsymbolic imensions,MammeriestsMourad yforcinghim to confront hedanger f death n the desert.Whenhe leavescamp o takea walk,Mouradloseshis way,only to be rescued ometimeaterby a Tuareg uide.18 hisepisode,whichMammerirew ssentiallyromhisownexperience,llows imto accorda metaphysicalimensiono the Saharanourney.Mourad imselfacknowledgeshefragilityflife nthisarid, ilent andscape:II egardautourdeluipour ssayer e sereperer;'etaitdans ous es sens e memeamoncelle-mentde rochesaiguees, lanteesdroit ous alune" 115) [He ookedaroundhimtrying o gethisbearings;verywheree found he sameheapofjaggedrocks,positioneduprightunderthe moon (115)].At this moment,he isexperiencinghe existential olitude hat Camusdescribesn L'Exil t leroyaume. his passage lsorecalls cenesfromMammeri'sarlierworks nwhicha solitary rotagonistlsoconfrontshe immense owerof nature. nMammeri'sirstnovelLaColline ubliee,orexample,Mokraneoseshisway

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    MildredMortimer I 53in the mountainsand dieswhile trying o crossasnow-capped idgeon his waybackto his village.Fordinga turbulentriver n an attemptto eludethe police,Arezkiin Le Sommeil ujustenearlydrowns n the swift current.And Bachirin L'Opium t le baton,convalescingalone in a mountaincave followinganambush n which he almost lost his life, emerges o discoverthe beautyof hissurroundings.n each instance, the protagonistexperiencesa spiritual rans-formation.

    Shortly before his death, Mouradhas an imaginaryconversationwithAmalia, the Frenchjournaliston the Saharanexpedition:Un deserteur,u'est-ce uec'est?C'estquelqu'un uivit audesert, itMourad.Ouquiy meurt?C'est amemechose.(127)[A deserter, hat s that?It is someonewho ives nthedesert, aidMourad.Ordiesthere?It's he same hing.(127)]

    This play on wordssuggests hat deserteurefersboth to the nomads who arefacingextinction and to the urban-dwellingAlgeriantechnocratswho haveabandonedthe ideals of the Algerianrevolution. Mouradbelongsto neithergroup,but the termappliesto him aswell;he is a "deserteur"n the sensethathe hasbeen profoundly ransformed yhis experiencein the desert.La Traverseeontinuesa literary raditionthat beganin the nineteenthcentury when French writersfound inspirationin a Saharanodyssey thatbecamea metaphor orspiritualdiscoveryand transformation. he crossingofthe Sahara tillservesas ametaphor orself-discovery ecausemenandwomentodayneed to retainthe visionof a world n which the eternalexists.Weddedto the notion of a return o the desert s the romantic mageof the wanderingnomad and the dream of recreatinga life of freedomin a regionof limitlessspace.Mourad haresthis dreamwhen he undertakeshis Saharanodyssey.Bythe end of his voyage,however,he isvanquishedbothphysicallyandspiritual-ly.He isdefeatedphysically succumbingo the fevercontracted n the Sahara)becausethe desert s,asW.H.Audenwrote,the Omegaof temporalexistence:powerful, imitless, ndifferent o man(71). He isconquered piritually ecausehe refuses o compromisewith a societythat embraceshypocrisyandpoliticalrepression.Hisdisillusionmentconfirmed,Mourad,ike Fama, oses his will tolive.

    Hope or Disillusionment?When stripped of their illusion, Kourouma'sFama and Mammeri's

    Mouradbothchoose the sameformofescape,death.Inthe courseofhis travels

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    54 I ResearchnAfricanLiteraturesto and fromhis village,Fama earns hatcorruptionpermeates he countrysidein the new era of independence.Mouradoseshis illusionsbecausethe Saharaoffersno respitefrom the corruption,hypocrisy,poverty,andrepression f thecapital.Forbothprotagonists,he journey o lucidityresults n the recognitionof theirmarginality.LesSoleilsdesIndependancesnd LaTraversee repessimis-tic works.Exposingthe corruption,greed,and cruelty in a one-partystate,Kouroumaportraysa tragichero whose traditionalworldview and comport-ment make him anachronistic.Satirizingthe new intelligentsia-Algeriantechnocratswho have replacedFrench colonial administrators-Mammeriexposescultural nsensitivityand crassmaterialismn the post-colonialera.19Both writersurgearejectionof the cynicismthatgoeshandin handwithgreedandcorruptionandthey call for areturn o the idealismthat initially inspiredliberationmovementsin colonial Africa.

    NOTES1 SeeVatin(1984).2 As an exampleof thisreversal,Michelmanpointsout the negative imagery

    of thesun,"lessoleilsdesIndependances alefiques,"sbeing n contrastwith thetraditionallyeneficial un(93). Ironically, ouroumasreturningo a negativeuseofsunimageryhat recalls similar seof sunimageryna classical olonialistext,PierreLoti'sLeRoman 'unSpahi.3 As Schikora xplains: Death,nAfrican ntology, epresentsjourney,passingnand,atthe same ime,rapprochementith hosewhoprecededneintime.Havingonceexisted,a beingneverceases o exist" 196).4 Foradiscussion f time nthenovel,seeIreland.5 CallingFama"la teriliteaitehomme,"M'Lanhoroiews heharmattan,dry, terileSaharanwind,as ametaphororFama'sondition 52).6 Forastudyof animalmageryn thenovel,seeChemain, 5-55.7 The protagonist'snsistenceupon predeterminedate leadsOhaegbu oconsider imatragic igure-"livreaudestinhostile,mplaccable,ui 'ecrase"255).8 Julienmakesa similarpointin discussinghe workof BiragoDiop,whofrequentlymakesuse of the following echniques f oral art:dialogue, epetition,questioninghenarratee,isting, ongsandrefrains,tiologicalndings. heexplainsthatDiopdoesnot incorporatell theseelementsntoevery ale.His successiesinthe selectionoftechniques3).9 Joseph elieves hatthenarratairereceiver)s not a reader uta listenernanoral ituationuchasadialogue etween wo solated ersonsragatheringroundagriot 71).10SeeSchikora, avergne,ellin,andEmeto-Agbasiereoradiscussionf theroleofproverbsn thenovel,andFinneganesp.390-425) orageneral iscussion fAfricanproverbs.11Finneganttributesrequentomparisonsithnature o ruralulture atherthanto somemystical ffinitywithAfrican loraand auna 405)12 Sellin concludeshatthiskaleidoscopeffect sdueto the Africanwriter'spredilectionorepisodes: Recemmentettepredilection our 'episodiqueembleavoirassume ne formeplusoumoinsautochtone ul'ontologie fricaine'emportesura traditionran.aiseousune ormeoutefoisomanesqueuauparavant'Africain

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    MildredMortimer 1 55se contentaitpeuou proud'adaptera visioncreatrice ux formes pisodiquesejatraditionalis&s,ourainsidire,parVoltaire, esage,Gideet toutunlignageitteraired'oeuvrespisodiques,pistolairest quitenaientdujournal"38).13 CitingNiane'sSounjatandOuologuem'seDevoir eviolencesexamplesof workshatusethegriot-narrator,ichelmantates hatKouroumasthefirst o doso ina sustainedmanner95).14 See Haddadand Mortimer.15See Gide (1902, 1944)and Psichari1920).Fora studyof the colonialexperiencen theFrenchnovel,seeHargreavesndAstier-Loutfi.16Mammeri rites f his ownreaction oasimilarxperience:Auxportes udesertemepresentaisansprejuges articuliers:ipeurmythique inonplusappetitd'unexotismeacile,avecsimplementedesirderencontrereshommesqui,commetoujours,ne seraientni tout a fait les memesni vraimentdifferents""Tenereatavique,"14).17 In LAhellil uGourara,Mammeriranscribednd translatedntoFrenchthesongsof the festivals.18 The episodealso recallsSaint-Exupery'serredes Hommes nd MalekHaddad'set'offrirainegazelle.othworksllustrateuman ulnerabilitynthedesertandemphasizehefragilityf linksofcommunication.19There s a poignantpost-scripto LaTraversee.ollowingiots n October1988, heAlgerian overnmentroposednewconstitutionranting reater oliticalfreedom or its citizens.In February989 a plebescitewasheld. TwodaysafterAlgerians oted to approvehe constitution,MouloudMammeriwaskilledin anautomobile ccident.Woulduturepolitical ventshavetransformedhe pessimismexpressedn LaTraverseento the tempered ptimism haracteristicf Mammeri'searlierworks? hosewho knewMammerihrough iswritingsointhosewhoknewhim personallyn profound egret hat a new chapterwill neverbe written.Aneloquent pokesmanorpluralityndfreedom fexpression,MouloudMammeri illbesorelymissed,butnotforgotten.

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