La quête de la liberté chez Mongo Beti, écrivain africain

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Mongo Beti, whose real name is Alexander Siyidi Awala, was only 22 years old when he developed his own concept of "freedom". His ideas became public by way of his contribution to the African journal Présence Africaine, published in Paris in the 1950s. Mongo Beti is of the opinion that Africans could enjoy freedom only once independent of their colonial masters. According to Mongo Beti, the colonial masters exploited Africans economically, dominated them politically, and alienated them generally. This work is an analysis of "the quest of freedom by Mongo Beti, an african writer". As regards the approach taken in this work, I will not be following the prevailing mode wherein the author is divorced from his work; rather, I will focus on Mongo Beti as a writer and as an activist. I believe that the knowledge of the life details of an artist can only enrich one's comprehension of his work. The dissertation comprises three parts. The first part focuses on Mongo Beti as a writer and dissident; on his militancy in various organisations such as Amnesty International. It also considers censorship of his works. The second part is a study of Beti's Journal Peuples Noirs - Peuples Africains (PN-PA), a radical Journal with readership and contributors in both France and Africa. PN-PA, owing to its ideological stance, proved a source of irritation to powerful Western nations like France and United States of America. Journals have, traditionally, not been the subject of study in their own right; rather, they were considered a platform for expressing opinions. In this work, I make an attempt to treat PN-PA as an object of study in its own right. The approach is a sociological one. It will enable me to clarify the position of the novelist. The third part of the dissertation analyses Mongo Beti's ten novels, published between 1954 and 1994. The major themes of the novels, namely: the role of missionaries during the colonial period; the conflict between Western and African cultures; analysis of the "myth of Ruben"; and the criticism of dictatorships, are covered in four chapters. It is further argued in part three that there is a clear connection between Beti's writings and the social and political destiny of Africa. The various themes from his works can be divided into four periods: colonial; postcolonial; "the Guillaume" series of novels, and lastly the novel L'Histoire du fou, which indicates a new tendency. The concluding part of the dissertation examines the question of the Institution of African literature, with Beti as a case study. The expression "'Institution of African literature" includes, amongst others, situations whereby African writers are compelled to publish their works outside their native lands, or to rely on foreigners for resources to get their works published. It is argued that such dependence has a marked impact on, among others, the content and accessibility of works by African writers. By focusing on Mongo Beti as an example, it is shown that the activist and the writer are brought together when the question of the Institution of African literature is raised. It is not the purpose of this work to render an apology for Mongo Beti, or to equate him with Francophone Africa or Africa; rather, Beti is merely a case study: an example to illustrate the quest for freedom.