Guinée, les cailloux de la mémoire
Paris. Editions Karthala, 2003. 257 p., ill., maps
Guinée, les cailloux de la mémoire (Guinea: The Stones of Memory).
Karthala “Tropiques”. 2003
The Ivorian writer Ahmadou Kourouma, who had a sense of history, dreamed of writing an historical novel about Sekou Toure, after having incarnated Felix Houphouët-Boigny and Nyassimbe Eyadema in his novel, En attendant le vote des bêtes sauvages (Waiting for the Wild Beasts' Vote). Indeed, Sekou Toure is an important figure in contemporary African history. For some, he is a hero who dared to say “no” to General de Gaulle in 1958, becoming, by that act, the first chief of state of an independent francophone country; for others, Sekou Toure is a bloodthirsty leader who decimated his country's elite through his own paranoia. This is doubtless why he fascinated Ahmadou Kourouma. Without claiming to be a professional writer, Nadine Bari has devoted several books to totalitarian Guinea. Throughout these texts, she tried to define Sekou Toure's character and the historical and cultural context in which he reigned for decades.
In her first work, Grain de sable, combat d'une femme de disparu (Grain of Sand: Battles of the Wife of a Disappeared Man), 1983, she writes of her struggle to find out what happened to her husband, arrested in 1971 and dead a year later after being savagely tortured. In Noces d'absence (Absent Nuptials, 1986), she shows how totalitarian power insidiously insinuates itself into the consciousness of couples, families, etc. In 2002, she published Chroniques de Guinée (Chronicles of Guinea), an essay on Sekou Toure's aftermath. She revisits the 1960s in her most recent work, relating the story of Thierno Mouctar, a friend of her husband, escapee from the sinister Camp Boiro.
Next to Thierno Mouctar, his Czech spouse, Milena, materializes more than the story of a couple. Les Cailloux de la mémoire retraces the sorrowful destiny of an entire generation (her own), those who were in their twenties at the time when Africans gained their independence; a generation that dreamed of a glorious future, of a fertile north-south solidarity, but who eventually became disillusioned as Independences devoured their own children.
Thus in this book, we meet two couples, Thierno/Milena and Abdoulaye/Nadine. After Abdoulaye's death and Milena's departure for Prague, Nadine and Mouctar, deprived for thirty years of their spouses, fall unexpectedly in love with each other. When Thierno died in 2002, Nadine wrote Guinée, les cailloux de la mémoire, taking care to specify:
« The author regrets to specify that, unfortunately, the characters all existed and the facts are sadly exact. For the reality of the Revolution surpasses the fruit of imagination. »
An ode to love, to memory, a testament to post-colonial Africa's disappointments, les Cailloux is a fine piece of literature, remarkably well-written.
[Errata — 1. Ahmadou Kourouma satirizes Sékou Touré in Waiting for the Wild Beasts as mercilessly and hilariously as he does Eyadema and Houphouët. He calls him alternatively Nkoutigui Fondio, the-man-in-white, the dictator of the Republic of the Mounts, the avenger of Emperor Samori Touré, the Responsable suprême, etc. The novel devotes long passages to Camp Kabako (i.e., Camp Boiro) and its torture room, nicknamed “Cabine technique” by the torturers. A scene describes an execution by firing squad.
Ahmadou Kourouma stresses that Nkoutigui was called the first football player, the first doctor, the best agriculturalist, the best husband, the most pious and best Muslim…
Last, Waiting for the Wild Beasts' Vote draws a parallel between Nkoutigui Fondio and Tiékoroni (Felix Houphouët-Boigny), who is portrayed as the shrewd little old man, the-man-with-the-soft-hat. The comparison concludes that the two dictators were mirror-reflection of each other.
2. Djibril Barry was arrested on August 29, 1972, not in 1971. He died in the following weeks —not a year later— from torture wounds and while being transfered from Kankan to Conakry. Captain Kolipé Lama headed the escort squad. He failed to assist the mortally injured prisoner, who succumbed on the road. Oddly, the captain became minister of justice in the cabinet of Colonel Diarra Traoré, prime minister and head of the government (April-December 1984).
3. Thierno Mouctar Bah was a Camp Boiro survivor, not an escapee from the “Tropical Gulag.” Sékou Touré ordered his “liberation” after 7 years of detention —and torture. But his release was conditional. For just like any former political prisoner, his fate remained uncertain as the threat of reincarceration hanged over his head until the death of the dictator on March 26, 1984 at the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio. — Tierno S. Bah]
Table des matières
- Les exigences de la Révolution
- La crasse et la liberté;
- Ruses et perfidies
- Un homme très courtois
- Tribulations tchèques
- La djinna
- Thierno Ibrahima dans l'Histoire de la Guinée
- Deuxième tour
- Premier avertissement
- Saison des pluies
- Le 30 juillet
- Envie de vivre
- La grand-mère
- La nuit d'Emile
- Une femme à venir ?
- Le 18 octobre
- Troisième tour
- Le fils de Jan
- Une terre endormie
- Filles de la Révolution
- Salle TF
- Vivre après la prison
- Une femme neuve
- Des débuts difficiles
- Le Grand Manitou
- Décès de l'immortel
- Le 3 avril
- Baumes étrangers
- La fuite en Italie
- Vengeance ou paix ?
- Nuit extrême
- Dernière demeure
- Carte de la Guinée
- Extrait de la généalogie de la famille Bah
- Vie de Mouctar et vie politique de la Guinée
- Plan du Camp Boiro à Conakry
- Plan de la forteresse de Kindia
- « Aveux » de Mouctar et de ses deux frères