Oral Literary and Historic Echoes from the Novel, Bound To Violence, by Yambo Ouologuem

Malian author, Yambo Ouologuem’s most well-known novel Sure to Violence first printed in 1968 satirically portrays Africa earlier than and through colonial subjugation while assessing the function of native overlords who in league with Arab slave sellers, bought their topics into bondage. After profitable the distinguished French literary prize, Prix Renaudot, Yambo obtained a lot media consideration, being broadly reviewed, showing on T.V. exhibits and being interviewed and featured in lots of outstanding publications and with the e-book being translated into quite a few languages. .

Regardless of allegations that it contained supplies drawn from different works, Sure to Violence has been broadly learn and acknowledged as a beautiful e-book which this author himself affims makes fairly a compulsive in addition to a gripping story although with too horrible revelations to make.

Born in 1940 in Bandiagary within the Dogon nation, in Mali to a ruling class household, Ouologuem, the one son of a land proprietor and faculty inspector, rapidly learnt a number of African languages and gained fluency in French, English and Spanish. After matriculating at a Lycee in Bamako [capital of Mali] Yambo went to France to proceed his schooling at Lycee de Charenton in Paris after which continued his research for his doctorate in Sociology. Upon returning to his residence nation within the late 70’s he was made director of a Youth centre close to Mopti in central Mali the place he remained till 1984. He has led a secluded non secular life within the Sahel ever since.

This novel, his first and solely, has been broadly hailed as the primary actually African novel. ‘It fuses legend, oral custom and beautiful realism in a imaginative and prescient arising authentically from black roots.’ He attracts on the historical past and tradition of the good medieval empire of Mali through which Nakem was central within the 13th century, and dominated onwards by the Saif dynasty, whose rule was characterised by ruthlessness marked with bloody and tragic adventures. After a quick, violent fresco depicting Nakem’s previous, the story strikes into the 20th century with the Saifs nonetheless in energy. However when the French arrive as colonizers, they unwittingly turn out to be puppets of their astute fingers. However nonetheless these native rulers proceed to dominate by shadowy and occultic means.. Scenes of violence and eroticism, of sorcery and black magic seem as pure components of human exercise there. From this frightful and horrific background emerges the e-book’s primary protagonist, Raymond Spartacus Kassoumi, the son of slaves who was despatched to France to be educated and groomed for a political publish which may nicely be the subsequent step to his turning into one other puppet to the Saifs.

Ouologuem goes on to indicate how the traditional African emperors, the Moslems, and eventually the European colonial directors had been accountable for the black African’s ‘slave mentality.’ They produce’negraille’ a phrase coined by Ouologuem himself to point this servility. His skepticism over the potential for liberation by way of battle was additionally pronounced.

The primary a part of the novel compresses the historical past of the primary seven hundred years of the Nakem Empire ranging from across the yr 1200 A.D. with brutality, violence, oppression and corruption,. Slavery iwas additionally widespread there with ‘100 million of the damned … being carried away. This went on together with :’ Cannibalism: ‘one of many darkest options of that spectral Africa …’

The Arabs had conquered the land [settling over it ‘like ……and the common black] man … suffers for it. Faith – Islam -is abused so as to consolidate and hold energy. It ‘grew to become a method of motion, a political weapon.’

The temporary second half captures the approaching of the whites on the shut of the 19th century. The empire is ‘pacified and divided up by the Europeans, with the French controlling no matter stays of Nakem. Hope that life will enhance is seen as:

Saved from slavery, the [negroes] welcomed the white man with pleasure, hoping he would make them neglect the mighty Saif’s meticulously organized cruelty.

However the exploitation continues unabated as both sides makes use of the blacks to go well with their very own ends. The Saif stays influential and highly effective even beneath the French administration while the subjugated commoners nonetheless have little likelihood of dwelling tolerable lives.

A lot of the e-book, contained within the third part titled ‘Night time of the Giants’, is about within the first half of the 20 th century the place horrific incidents such because the Saif’s indiscriminate wielding of no matter energy he has left, a number of ugly violence just like the Saif’s curious assassination approach by way of skilled asps proliferate.

Shrobenius provides one other dimension to the exploitation. Studying recently about Nakem, he comes there to purchase relics, masks and different cultural artifacts. The Saifs themselves contributed to spreading this exploitation and fraud by making up tales and promoting no matter cultural legacy will be procured. Tons upon tons extra are thus donated in direction of the additional unfold and intensification of what grew to become often called ‘Shrobeniusology’. This explicitly exhibits the mechanism by which the brand new elite got here to invent its traditions by way of the science of ethnography. Later after Shrobenius has popularized African artwork in Europe many others got here to buy items. No originals now left, Saif had slapdash copies buried by the hundredweight after which dug out later and bought at exorbitant worth.

Saif made up tales and the interpreter translated. Madoubi repeated in French, refining on the subtleties to the delight of Shrobenius, that human crayfish with a groping mania for resuscitating an African universe – cultural autonomy, he referred to as it, which had misplaced all dwelling actuality;…he was decided to seek out metaphysical that means in all the things…African life, he held, was pure artwork. Then,’…henceforth Negro artwork was baptized ‘aesthetic’ and hawked within the imaginary universe of ‘vitalizing exchanges.’

Then after describing the phantasmic elaboration of some interpretative forgeries by the Saif he broadcasts that ‘…Negro artwork discovered its patent of the Aristocracy within the folklore of merchantile intellectualism..’Thus comes the publicity of the community of fraudsters ranging from Shrobenius himself, the anthropologist, as apologist for ‘his’ folks; that swallows enthusiastically and unquestioningly these exoticized merchandise; African merchants and producers of African artwork, who perceive the necessity to preserve the mysteries that render their merchandise as unique; conventional and up to date elites who require a sentimentalized previous to authorize their current energy. All of them are thus uncovered of their advanced and a number of mutual complicities.

‘Witness the splendor of its artwork – the true face of Africa within the grandiose empires of the Center Ages, a society marked by knowledge, magnificence, prosperity,order, nonviolence, and humanism, and it is right here that one should search the true cradle of Egyptian civilization.

Mockingly, all this earns Shrobenius a two-fold profit on his return residence. He mystified his folks nicely sufficient to get them to lift him enthusiastically to a lofty Sorbonnical chair. He additionally exploited the sentimentality of the coons, who had been solely too happy to listen to from the mouth of a white man that Africa was the womb of the world and the cradle of civilization. The odd blacks thus gladly donated masks and artwork treasures by the tons to the acolyte of ‘Shrobeniusology’.

Ouologuem then goes on to exactly articulating the interconnections of Africanist mystifications with tourism and the manufacturing, packaging, and advertising of African artwork works.

An Africanist college harnessed to the vapors of magico non secular cosmological, and legendary symbolism has thus been born: with the consequence that for 3 years males flocked to Nakem- ..middlemen, adventurers, apprentices, bankers, politicians, salesmen, conspirators – supposedly ‘scientists,’ however in actuality enslaved sentries mounting guard earlier than the Shrobeniusological monument of Negro pseudo symbolism.

Already it had turn out to be greater than troublesome to acquire previous masks, for Shrobenius and the missionaries had had the great fortune to snap all of them up. And so Saif – had slapdash copies buried by the hundredweight or sunk into ponds, lakes, marshes, and dust holes, to be exhumed afterward and bought at exorbitant costs to unsuspecting curio hunters. These three-year-old masks had been mentioned to be charged with the load of 4 centuries of civilization.

Ouologuem on this manner forcefully exposes the connections within the worldwide system of artwork alternate, the worldwide artwork world, and the best way through which an ideology of disinterested aesthetic worth – the ‘baptism’ of ‘Negro artwork’ as ‘aesthetic’ meshes with the worldwide commodification of African expressive tradition which requires the manufacture of Otherness . [ Appiah, Kwame Anthony]

There may be Raymond Spartacus Kassoumi, a baby of poverty who takes benefit of French education and achieves educational success by way of superior research in France. There additionally he experiences failure . He discovers the notably inescapable lengthy attain of Saif. On his return residence his ideas of a triumphant return had been damaged by his discovery that he and his nation had been once more being manipulated by the ruling Saif.

Some hope nevertheless comes from the temporary concluding part ‘Daybreak’. Abbe Henry, the hunchback priest obsessed by the tragedy of the Blacks, half-crazed with the christian obligation of affection is humbly lovely because the despair of a Christian soul is now a bishop. The final part consists virtually completely of a dialogue between Abbe Henry and Saif, each philosophical discourse and energy battle. This Saif seems vanquished, however Ouologuem reminds us:

one can not assist recalling that Saif, mourned three million occasions, is endlessly reborn to historical past beneath the new ashes of greater than thirty African republics,

Utilizing numerous components of oral literature Ouologuem enriches the narrative in exploring a large span of African historical past to ascertain how Africa was like earlier than and after the onslaught of the Arab and European slave sellers and colonizers. there

Oral literature enriches the feel of Ouloguem’s narration thus giving it its vivacity, its uniqueness, its semblance of authenticity and its immediacy. Given the large span of African Historical past explored encompassing nicely over 700 years from 1202 to 1947 the narrative technique has of necessity to exceed the bounds of the standard. The narrative thus reads like an epic oral story instructed from a communal perspective. The reader thus feels as if he’s listening to a story being associated by a Griot which begins like a legend being instructed within the village sq.:

Our eyes drink the brightness of the solar and overcome, marvel at their tears. Mashallah! battle bismillah!… To recount the bloody journey of the nigger… – disgrace to the nugatory paupers – there can be no want to return past the current century, however the true historical past of the Black begins a lot earlier, with the Saifs, within the years 1202 of our period, within the African Empire of Nakem, south of Fezzan lengthy after the conquests of Okba ben Nafi al-Fitri

The figurative expressions as ‘our eyes drink the brightness of the solar’, the frequent interjections and exclamations in the midst of sentences and the non secular incantations give the work its distinctive oral Griot-like timbre. In studying, we may simply think about ourselves listening to the emphatic and dramatic supply of the story teller. By way of his incantations and his feedback interlarding the story, he exhibits his emotional reactions to the small print being narrated, thus giving us the phantasm of being a part of an viewers keenly listening within the village sq. with our consideration being drawn, because it goes on, to explicit particulars. This impact may greatest be seen in how our consideration is drawn to the best way the black commoners are ill-used:

They promised their serfs, servants and former captives that, pending the hostilities which the neighbouring tribe was little question plotting, they’d be ‘seemed upon – hear! – as provisionally free and equal topics.’ Then, as soon as peace was restored among the many numerous tribes, for the battle had failed to interrupt out – out – hee – hee – the identical notables promised the identical topic that after…hum…hum…a quick’ apprenticeship of pressured labor, they’d be rewarded with the Rights of Man…. As to civil rights, of them no point out was made. Halleluyah.

The interjections all through this passage are tinged with mockery in addition to scorn. The reader is thus alerted to the insincerity of the guarantees.. The narrator’s dismay is captured within the closing exclamation: ‘Halleluyah!’

Ouologuem then invokes the lofty and grandiose model and custom of the African chronicler, the Griot.:

How in profound displeasure,with perfumed mouth and eloquence on his tongue, Saif ben Isaac al – Heit endeavored to mobilize the energies of the fanatical folks towards the invader; that finish he unfold experiences of day by day miracles all through the Nakem Empire – earthquakes, the opening of tombs, resurrections of saints, fountains of milk bobbing up in his path, visions of archangels stepping out of the sundown, village girls drawing buckets from the nicely and discovering them stuffed with blood; how on one in all his journeys he remodeled three pages of the Holy Guide, the Koran, into as many doves, which flew on forward of him as if to summon the folks to Saif’s banner; and with what diplomacy he feigned indifference to the gods of this world: in all that there’s nothing out of the odd.

On this grand sweep of a sentence Ouologuem provides pressure to the eloquence of Saif ben Isaac al- heit whose ‘profound displeasure’ allied ‘with perfumed mouth and eloquence’ mobilized the folks to frenzied and fanatical onslaught towards the invaders. By way of parallel constructions and repetitions he additionally exhibits the prowess of the Saif in spreading a propaganda of terror to additional give vent to the furore of the folks in attacking the invaders.

Ouloguem additionally creates the impression of narrating legends based mostly on factual historic occcurences. That is by way of his fixed recourse to historians and griots as urged in: ‘ Afterwards, wild supplications was heard from the village sq….Then pious silence and the griot Kituli of cherished reminiscence ends his story as follows .’and ‘The results of his audacity are associated by Mohamed Hakmud Traore descended in an unbroken line from griot ancestors and himself griot within the present-day African Republic of Nakem-Zuiko.’ The impression is thus usually given of a teller sifting by way of the varied particulars from numerous sources to get on the kernel of the reality. Many a time he would point out this by both naming the varied griots and historians involved or by merely introducing them as ‘in line with one model’ ‘in one other model’, ‘nonetheless others claimed that’ and so forth. His lack of ability to get one genuine report on Isaac al – Heit is defined thus:

At this level custom loses itself in legend for there are few written accounts and the variations of the elders diverge from these of the griots, which differ from these of the chroniclers.

By way of his feedback and non secular incantations, the narrator conveys the impression that he and his viewers share widespread norms and values. A shared ancestral background can also be alluded to by way of his frequent recourse to such phrases as ‘our period’

Ouologuem repudiates the negritudinist glorification of Africa’s previous by portraying it as an never-ending cycle of violence, greed, debauchery and exploitation, as reaffirmed within the title Sure to Violence and on this extract from an interview of Ouologuem by Linda Hiecht:

….black folks in Africa had been oppressed. He has enemies too amongst what they all black aristocracy, and the black man by no means was a Negro earlier than the black aristocrat bought him as a slave. It was the black aristocrat who made black folks turn out to be Negroes. If you happen to take a look at all the historical past, you discover there have been three phases of oppression: blacks oppressing blacks, Arabs oppressing blacks,and whites oppressing blacks. Look, it took me loads of braveness to jot down this e-book which is about oppressors who had been my circle of relatives and I did my greatest to be as common as attainable.

Ouologuem’s place is then not like Armah’s anti-negritudinist. For he holds Africans as a lot accountable for the indignities they suffered because the international forces,Arabs and Europeans. Thus, he neither idealizes nor endorses both get together. His African world has no political system. Conventional faith too appears absent right here. Every little thing is left in a state of chaos and turmoil with the rulers utilizing folks at will. The system of justice evident in Two Thousand Seasons couldn’t be seen right here. Abnormal persons are frequently being misused by the notables. Immoralities of the worst sorts are broadly practiced. The historical past of Africa is thus proven as one never-ending stream of violence which in flip saved them beneath such dread that they had been scared stiff of even rebelling. Thus Appiah’s submission that it’s a repudiation of nationwide historical past makes a lot sense although maybe it might be extra apt as a denunciation of racial or continental historical past.




Appiah, Kwame Anthony , In My Father’s Home

Ouologuem, Yambo, Sure to Violence, translated by Ralph Manhein, A Helen and Kurt Woolf Guide, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc, New York, 1971

Palmer, Eustace, The Development of The African Novel, Heinemann

Academic Books , London, 1979

Smart, Christopher[ed], Yambo Ouologuem Postcolonial Author,Islamic Militant, 1999

‘De l’histoire a sa metaphore dans Le Devoir de Violence de Yambo Ouologuem ‘

By Josias Semajanga in Etudes Francaises, vol 31, no1,and many others[1995]

‘Fiction and Subversion’ by A. Songolo in Presence Africaine no 120 [1981]

Interview of Yambo Ouologuem

‘Ouologuem’s Blueprint for ‘Le Devoir de Violence” by E. Sellin in RESEARCH IN AFRICAN LITERATURE 2 [1971]

Source by Arthur Smith