|About the Book|
A book of considerable power and complexity from the pen of Cameroons greatest modern writer, Mongo Beti (1932-2001). The complexity comes in part from a naive narrator, a young African who is utterly devoted to a French priest and is inclined to view the latter in an idealistic light despite the gradual revelation of the sordid reality the priest has unwittingly facilitated. The character of the priest, filtered through this distorting narrative vision, is difficult to evaluate. After struggling obsessively for twenty years against local African traditions of polygamy and sexual license, he begins to doubt his own power to transform lives and even comes to question the entire colonialist enterprise. Nevertheless, the priest remains an extension of colonial power and metes out vicious beatings to get the truth from young women his mission is supposedly nourishing and protecting. And the truth he extracts is devastating: a brothel has been operating out of his mission for years with the collaboration of his most faithful aids. Unwittingly he has established a structure that feeds the very habits he so roundly condemns. Alternating between blindness and insight, cruelty and tenderness, the priest remains an enigma. Beti seems to be saying that this good man is still a part of the colonial apparatus and quite naturally uses his prerogatives as a wielder of harsh authority, which most natives simply do not dare to challenge. This disturbing novel is a must read for all who wish to come to terms with colonialism and the peculiar role of the Church in the projection of White power.