The West African writer, painter, playwright, and director Werewere
Liking is considered one of the best literary interpreters of the
postcolonial condition in Africa. Her first work to be translated
into English, these two novels spare nothing in their satirical
portraits of the patriarchal view of African society as they
experiment radically with the novel form.
At once dramatic, lyrical, satirical, and epistolary, It Shall
Be of Jasper and Coral (Journal of a Misovire), subtitled "A
Song-Novel", introduces the "misovire" -- literally defined as a
man-hater but seen by Liking as the figure of a time when gender
differentiation will be irrelevant to discovering the fullness of
what it means to be human. The misovire recounts the story of the
inhabitants of Lunai, a squalid fictional village in Africa. The
novel's action occurs on two levels, as the misovire contemplates
writing a journal, and through that heralds the creation of a new
Instead of holding the daily entries of a conventional diary,
this journal is to be composed of nine "pages", each dedicated to a
specific theme, from creativity and art criticism to friendship and
the importance of raising children to be balanced human beings. The
musings of the misovire, interspersed with the dialogue of two
comical characters named Babou and Grozi, bring together a powerful
polyphony of modern Africa. While bitterly critical, the journal
ends on a hopeful note, as the misovire prophesies the birth from
the sea of a new African who "shall be made of jasper and
In Love-across-a-Hundred-Lives, the narrator tells the story of
Leto, her brother, who is preparing to hang himself when his
grandmother Madjo appears. Hesecretly expects her to dissuade him
from suicide, but instead she encourages him, urging him to make
his final action a success that will make up for all his earlier
failures. As he continues to knot the rope that will be his noose,
Madjo tells Lem stories of their ancestors, of legendary and
historical African figures; interwoven are the voices of Lem
himself, of the narrator, and of her sister Gol. When Lem is
finally ready to conclude his act, he no longer wants to die. Madjo
has accomplished her mission to make Lem a man in the most complete
and most noble sense of the word, whole and strong enough not only
to survive but to give of himself to others.
In addition to illustrating the formal innovations for which
Liking is increasingly known and celebrated in Africa and the
francophone world, these two novels establish a discourse with
icons of African literature such as Leopold Sedar Senghor and
Cheikh H. Kane, debunking many myths about the continent that
produced them. With Liking's refreshingly iconoclastic writing
driving their message, It Shall Be of Jasper and Coral and
Love-across-a-Hundred-Lives introduce a fascinating African
literary voice to the English-speaking world.
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