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Mariama Bâ, ou les allées d’un destin: Mame Coumba Ndiaye
I have always said –speaking of Mariama Bâ – that she had written too few books. This weak bibliography does not prevent the work she has left us from being very dense.  Who has not read over and over Une si longue lettre, sighing at the reading of the correspondence between Ramatoulaye and Aissatou, or cursed Modou, the husband embedded in a mid-life crisis? Or mourned the so tragic destiny of Mireille in Un chant écarlate, the mother of the baby neither black nor white, niouloul xéssoul. Mame Coumba Ndiaye, daughter of Mariama Bâ, poses as a critical spectator of her mother’s life, describing her as a woman ahead of her time, refusing any compromise and defying all proper etiquette. When her career as a novelist took off, critics were adamant, describing her as a “feminist” (pejorative term at the time), who advocated modernity.  Whereas in private, Mariama Bâ was, before all, a mother. The author plunges us into the everyday life of a mother in charge of raising nine children (most of whom are girls), worried that she may not understand them.

Un chant écarlate: Mariama Bâ
Long after closing the book, I remained still, the phrases, expressions and paragraphs whirling in my head and refusing to leave.  And I came to the conclusion that Mariama Bâ was a writer with such a genius who unfortunately got taken from us too soon … as readers, but also as women. For whether it is in Une si longue lettre or in the work I am talking about – Un chant écarlate –  Mariama Bâ places women at the heart of her narration. She approaches the complexity of love from a rather interesting vantage point that warrants attention.  Through the couple formed by Ousmane and Mireille, she highlights this woman who, infatuated by love, will not hesitate to leave everything behind her to follow Ousmane in his country. Oblivious to the fact that ideological differences will win over the promises they had made to one another.  Speaking of Ousmane, he would be tempted between his sense of modernity and his desire not to deny his origins, he would choose the latter one and under pretense of cowardice, will not hesitate to forget all that he had promised himself not to do. And he will deceive without blinking and will disregard everything he believed in … Edifying on the relationship between man and woman and the fact that one can’t truly foresee things in advance when it comes to falling in love …

The Best of Everything: Rona Jaffe
There’s some Mad Men in the dialogues and descriptions, there’s some similarities with Edith Wharton’s novels as well. There is an embryo of what will be seen years later in series like Sex and the city. Feminine complicity, alcohol galore, sleeping around … But there is also more of this  weight of the man’s point of view, this confinement of women, often forced to surrender to the advances of their bosses under the threat of being fired, also kindly  encouraged to have an abortion and in secret, please.  It ‘s amusing because even if it only presents itself as an unpretentious book – which was an incredible best-seller at the time– it actually is a fictionalized painting, but very realistic of New York’s society in the fifties, in my opinion. A must-read (by all women who think of themselves as a bit “modern”)!

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