Mongo Beti

Throwback Thursday: Cameroonian writer Mongo Beti.

In a continuation of the Throwback Thursday series highlighting some of the best writers from the 20th century, we introduce to you Cameroonian writer Mongo Beti.

Mongo Beti was the penname of Alexandre Biyidi Awala who was born in a village 55 kilometres from Yaoundé, Cameroon on June 30, 1932. The writer, who also used the pen name Eza Boto, was influenced by the currents of rebellion sweeping Africa in the wake of World War II. He carried these views into the classroom, and was eventually expelled from the missionary school in Mbalmayo for his outspokenness. In 1945, he entered the Lycée Leclerc in Yaoundé. Graduating in 1951, he went to France to continue his higher education in literature, first at Aix-en-Provence, then at the Sorbonne in Paris.

Beti began his career in fiction with the short story Sans Haine Et Sans Amour (Without hatred or love), published in the periodical Présence Africaine, edited by Alioune Diop, in 1953. His first novel Ville Cruelle (Cruel City), under the pseudonym Eza Boto, followed in 1954, published over several editions of Présence Africaine. His 1956 novel Le Pauvre Christ De Bomba (The poor Christ of Bomba) created a scandal because of its satirical and biting description of the missionary and colonial world. Under pressure from the religious hierarchy, the colonial administrator in Cameroon banned the novel in the colony. This was followed by Mission Terminée (1957) (which won the Prix Sainte Beuve in 1958), and Le Roi Miraculé (1958).  He took a decade long break from writing following the assassination of Cameroonian leader Um Nyobe by French forces in 1958.

In 1972, he returned to writing with Main Basse Sur Le Cameroun, Autopsie D’une Décolonisation (Cruel hand on Cameroon, autopsy of a decolonisation) which was promptly censored by the French Ministry of the Interior. It took four years for the ban on the book to be lifted after much lobbying from the writer and its editor. In 1974, he published Perpétue and Remember Ruben which was the first in a trilogy exploring the life and impact of Um Nyobe. He would follow these with La Ruine Presque Cocasse D’un Polichinelle (1979), Les Deux Mères De Guillaume Ismaël Dzewatama Futur Camionneur (1983), La Revanche De Guillaume Ismaël Dzewatama (1984), also Lettre Ouverte Aux Camerounais Ou La Deuxième Mort De Ruben Um Nyobé (1984) and Dictionnaire De La Négritude (1989).

In 1991, Mongo Beti returned to Cameroon, after 32 years of self-imposed exile where he published La France Contre L’Afrique, Retour Au Cameroun (1993) where he chronicled his visits to his homeland.

He died on October 8, 2001 as a result of acute hepatic and kidney failure which remained untreated for lack of dialysis.

Here is a list of some of the many books written by the legendary Cameroonian writer;

  • Ville Cruelle (1954).
  • Mission to Kala (1957)
  • Mission Terminée (1957)
  • Le Roi miraculé (1958)
  • King Lazarus (1960)
  • Main Basse Sur Le Cameroun, Autopsie D’une Décolonisation (1972)
  • Remember Ruben (1974),
  • Perpetua and the Habit of Unhappiness (1974),
  • La Pauvre Christ De Bomba (1976)
  • La Ruine Presque Cocasse D’un Polichinelle (1979)
  • Le Temps De Tamango (1981)
  • Les Deux Mères De Guillaume Ismaël Dzewatama Futur Camionneur (1983),
  • Lettre Ouverte Aux Camerounais Ou La Deuxième Mort De Ruben Um Nyobé (1984)
  • Lament For An African Pol (1985),
  • Dictionnaire De La Negritude (1989)
  • La France Contre L’Afrique, Retour Au Cameroun (1993)
  • L’Histoire De Fu (The History of the Madman) (1994)
  • Branle-Bas En Noir Et Blanc, 2000.

This blog was compiled with the help of the Mongo Beti page on Wikipedia. You can learn a lot more about the writer on the same page.

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