The Cameroon, country of letters if there is one, will it delight this year’s Goncourt with the presence of the writer Djaïli Amadou Amal among the writers selected for the final? Remember, Djaïli Amadou Amal is this Cameroonian writer who was named winner of the first edition, in 2019, of the prize Orange of the book in Africa (POLA) for his novel Munyal, the tears of patience (Proximity, 2017). According to Véronique Tadjo, personality member of the jury, what caught the jury’s attention was “its ability to create a very homogeneous world”. “She manages to show us the strength of these women in the stifling daily life,” she said. They are strong women who, while remaining attached to their beliefs, seek to assert themselves. ”
What about in this novel?
“Munyal”, patience in the Fulani language, is also the basis of Fulani culture, of its values, Pulaaku. A cardinal virtue, but also the other name of resignation and submission. “You cannot go against the will of God. Everything that happens to us is his doing ”, hammer out fathers and mothers. “At the end of patience, there is heaven”, adds the Fulani proverb. Heaven, perhaps, hell on earth too. Because nothing resists the munyal, if not the misfortune it creates. So we urge more munyal Ramla, Hindu and Safira, the three heroines who weave the award-winning novel with their voices. Three voices for three women which intertwine a long feminine lament. Three women in sorority polyphony which tells the misfortune of forced marriage and tradition. Munyal in front of the destructive anger of the drugged husband, Munyal in front of the caprice of the husband who wants a younger wife, Munyal in front of the co-wife, first in title, who takes a dim view of the arrival of the so young rival. Munyal until death.
It is in this setting that these three women will evolve. In the foreground, there is Ramla, the gifted. The refractory too. Ramla who balances between his good education and this “repressed desire for revolt”. The one who feels so “different”. By his taste for studies and by his distaste for imposed matrimonial matters. Ramla who wants to be a pharmacist and continue in Tunis or elsewhere. His hand is however given to Alhadji Issa, the most important man – hear the richest “- in the city. Rich, but already married. Ramla will be the second wife. Then there is Hindu, her half-sister, married the same day to her drugged and violent cousin. Neither of them can refuse the marriage, because their disobedience could immediately lead to repudiation for their mother, “rather three times than”. Then according to tradition, hell and paradise for the father are suspended from the actions of the daughters. To obey is to assure his father a life beyond the grave full of serenity, because do not we repeat among the Peuls that “each step of an unmarried pubescent girl is recorded in the ledger and entered as a sin for his father ”. Finally, there is Safira, Issa’s first wife. The second marriage of the man she has lived with for 20 years will push her to extremes. Beware of the humiliated woman who will nevertheless find in this humiliation the courage of a slow emancipation.
The place of women in our societies challenged
The novel carefully details the hypocrisy of a society that advocates absolute submission to women under the pretext of patience. But a Sioux patience, of that which binds the man, the husband, to the nets of female spells; and if these are not enough, those of the marabout will provide for them. “Be a slave to him and he will be your captive,” slips Ramla and Hindu’s uncle when the time comes to marry them, one to a rich man, the other to his cousin Mubarak. It is the men, their father and uncle, who will preside over the final councils for their first steps as young wives. The counseling scene resembles the immolation of two young girls on the altar of traditions. One cries, the other clenches her teeth and is silent. They are now would love, newlyweds.
The polygamy described in detail by Djaïli Amadou Amal turns marriage into a trench warfare. A fight whose only outcome is total surrender. Hushed war between wife and husband; open war between the co-wives, the atmosphere of a gynoeceum with knives drawn in and out all at the same time. War against daada-saare, or “mother of the house”, the first wife, who has de facto authority over the other co-wives. Wars between half-brothers and sisters who will take sides, from the children’s games, for their mother. War everywhere, but codified. Each act of life of these women is regulated by the walande, implicit code which governs until the turn for each wife to have access to the sovereign husband. In Djaïli Amadou Amal’s novel, destinies more than existences collide with implacable traditional and religious laws
Munyal is a novel which inscribes its characters in the inevitable social, traditional and religious nets. But in each of these women can be guessed a path made of refusal, resistance, impatience as the ultimate rebellion to oppose resignation. In her novel, which has not yet found a French publisher, Djaïli Amadou Amal becomes a storyteller and weaver. While letting the voices of her characters arise, Djaïli Amadou Amal is a storyteller who, while letting the voices of her characters arise, also makes his own heard, in a subtle whisper. Interview.