Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Book Review: The Fortunes of Wangrin

Unfortunately, a 600-page biography of Billy Graham (also a very interesting read) has prevented me from finishing this book for class this week. However, in the 80+ pages I did read, I was really enjoying this story of an African man, Wangrin, promoted to the rank of Interpreter to a French Commandant, who shamelessly abuses his power as he walks the fine line between cultures. When I have a free moment, I would love to finish this book!

My professor, Abiola Irele, has contributed the introduction to the English translation. Today in class, he illustrated the parallels between the character of Wangrin and traditional stories of "trickster" figures. (See Eshu below).

Here's a synopsis from Development Gateway:

Wangrin is a rogue and an operator, hustling both the colonial French and his own people. He is funny, outrageous, corrupt, traditional, and memorable. Just as Wangrin is a representative character at a time of transition, Hampate Ba's book bridges the chasm between oral and written literature. The stories about Wangrin are drawn from traditional oral sources, but through the power of the artistic imagination of this gifted writer, the materials have been transformed into something wonderful and new.

Amadou Hampate Ba (1901-1991) was a distinguished Malian poet and scholar of African oral tradition and precolonial history.

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