SO LONG A LETTER

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Written by award-winning African novelist Mariama Ba and translated from the original French, So Long a Letter has been recognized as one of Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century. The brief narrative, written as an extended letter, is a sequence of reminiscences—some wistful, some bitter—recounted by recently widowed Senegalese schoolteacher Ramatoulaye Fall. Addressed to a lifelong friend, Aissatou, it is a record of Ramatoulaye’s emotional struggle for survival after her husband betrayed their marriage by taking a second wife.

This semi-autobiographical account is a perceptive testimony to the plight of educated and articulate Muslim women. Angered by the traditions that allow polygyny, they inhabit a social milieu dominated by attitudes and values that deny them status equal to men. Ramatoulaye hopes for a world where the best of old customs and new freedom can be combined.

Considered a classic of contemporary African women’s literature, So Long a Letter is a must-read for anyone interested in African literature and the passage from colonialism to modernism in a Muslim country.

Winner of the prestigious Noma Award for Publishing in Africa.

The Author

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Mariama Bâ (April 17, 1929–August 17, 1981) was a Senegalese author and feminist, who wrote in French. Born in Dakar, she was raised a Muslim, but at an early age came to criticise what she perceived as inequalities between the sexes resulting from African traditions. Raised by her traditional grandparents, she had to struggle even to gain an education, because they did not believe that girls should be taught. Bâ later married a Senegalese member of Parliament, Obèye Diop, but divorced him and was left to care for their nine children.

Her frustration with the fate of African women—as well as her ultimate acceptance of it—is expressed in her first novel, So Long a Letter. In it she depicts the sorrow and resignation of a woman who must share the mourning for her late husband with his second, younger wife. Abiola Irele called it “the most deeply felt presentation of the female condition in African fiction.” This short book was awarded the first Noma Prize for Publishing in Africa in 1980.

Bâ died a year later after a protracted illness, before her second novel, Scarlet Song, which describes the hardships a woman faces when her husband abandons her for a younger woman he knew at youth, was published.

The historian Nzegwu has contended that Bâ’s life was rich in events. Bâ was born in Dakar, Senegal, in 1929, into an educated and well-to-do Senegalese family where she grew up. Her father was a career civil servant who became one of the first ministers of state. He was the Minister of Health in 1956 while her grand father was an interpreter in the French occupation regime.

After her mother’s death, Bâ was largely raised in the traditional manner by her maternal grandparents. She received her early education in French, while at the same time attending Koranic school.

Bâ was a prominent law student at school. During the colonial revolution period and later, girls faced numerous obstacles when they wanted to have a higher education. Bâ’s grandparents did not plan to educate her beyond primary school. However, her father’s insistence on giving her an opportunity to continue her studies eventually persuaded them.

In a teacher training college based in Rufisque (a suburb in Dakar), she won the first prize in the entrance examination and entered the École Normale. In this institution, she was prepared for later career as a school teacher. The school’s principal began to prepare her for the 1943 entrance examination to a teaching career after he noticed Bâ’s intellect and capacity. She taught from 1947 to 1959, before transferring to the Regional Inspectorate of teaching as an educational inspector.

Bâ was a novelist, teacher and feminist, active from 1979 to 1981 in Senegal, West Africa. Bâ’s source of determination and commitment to the feminist cause stemmed from her background, her parents’ life and her schooling. Indeed, her contribution is of absolute importance in modern African studies since she was among the first to illustrate the disadvantaged position of women in African society. Bâ’s work focused on the grandmother, the mother, the sister, the daughter, the cousin and the friend, how they all deserve the title “mother of Africa”, and how important they are for the society.

Mariama Bâ felt the failure of African liberation struggles and movements. Her earliest works were essays she wrote while at the École Normale. Some of her works have now been published. Her first work constitutes essentially a useful method of rejection of the “so-called French assimilationist policy”.

Bâ advocated urgent consideration and reinvigoration of African life.

This consideration and reinvigoration is essentially founded on the social construct of the relationship between man and woman. Indeed, there is an unequal and unbalanced power in the male/female relationship. According to her, these facts can help us become aware of Africa’s needs for societal change, a change more political than merely making speeches.

As a divorcee and “a modern Muslim woman” as she characterized herself, Bâ was active in women’s associations. She also ardently promoted education. She defended women’s rights, delivered speeches, and wrote articles in local newspapers. Thus, her contribution is significant because she explained and described the disadvantaged position of women in general and especially married women.

Bâ also had vision and determined commitment. She felt African people should reduce the deleterious impact of their culture. Women are plunged both psychologically and financially in a sensual indulgence and complete lack of regard for the consequences of men’s actions on families. They are completely blind. These facts led Bâ to believe in her mission to expose and critique the rationalisations employed to justify established power structures.

She thought that distortions of cultural thought and institutions are made to demonstrate masquerades as “tradition” and “culture”. Men and Women have been seduced into accepting the continuation of these “customs”. People should be “persuaded of the inevitable and necessary complementarity of man and woman”.

Bâ wrote many books openly sharing her thoughts and feelings, including: So Long a Letter (1981), Scarlet Songs (1986), and La fonction politique des littératures Africaines écrites (The Political Function of African Written Literatures) (1981).

http://www.amazon.com/Mariama-Ba/e/B000AP5I02

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Certain Mails Can Give You Tears Of Joy

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I’m sure every writer, once or many times in his or her life time may receive a mail from someone interested in his work or articles. I have received hundreds of mails of admiration over my writings. One of the mails I received recently touched me after reading. I decided to publish it…

As writer, there are certain things you need to keep in mind. You can’t please everyone. Many will like you and others will hate you, but don’t let those little impediments distract your attention or hurt your feelings.

Many writers or bloggers avoid getting into conflict with readers or try to write articles not to offend others, but at times your article will spark controversy, arguments and hatred, when you aren’t expecting it.

I had a big problem on LinkedIn’s platform when I wrote an article entitled ‘Why many Africans are allergic to reading? The aim of the article is to encourage reading, but it turned out to be an article which nearly caused my crucifixion or lynching by some Africans that find the article unsavory.

When you find yourself in such a situation, don’t lose your temper, remain calm and try to explain the significance of the article. You may receive negative comments, yet still be positive. You may lose some followers, but don’t let that bother you, because those that aren’t ready to learn, aren’t also ready to accept any explanation.

This one of my favorite mails last week.

Hi Joel

Just extending my appreciation of your work.  I have read some articles of yours and your interview with Magda Cristina Butucea.  It was poignant!  To know that we still have those who believe in the truth among the profession is consolatory.  I am what you will call a misdirected man (turning 50 soon).

I spent time chasing something I never believed in but thought it was the means to an end – the empowerment of Africans in Europe.  It was a delusion and spent time in prison through malicious prosecutions.  Like you, I loved writing since I was in my primary school years.  I helped write letters for those who could not read to their families who where faraway from their places of work.

I neglected this part of me.  I have decided to spend time doing it now and set up a publishing company with a focus on selling African literature and the creation of educational projects in the form of publications to help spread the truth about our history.  Once again, I am inspired and honoured to read about you.

Best Regards Chez Winakabs

NB. I give thanks to Chez Winakabs. I wish this article will encourage other bloggers or writers experiencing many obstacles to continue writing without ceasing. 

Loganaden Ramalingum: My Letter To CNN’s Christiane Amanpour

Dear Christiane Amanpour of CNN, people like you, William Hague, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Barack Obama and all the others in the West, will never understand Russian Patriotism and Russian Spirit. I can feel how you manipulate people in your programs to suit your American and English masters, how you persuade TV viewers to feel a certain way by showing them particular pictures or pieces of documentary films rather than giving hard facts.

That’s because Westerners don’t really know what’s happening on the other side of the world. Dramatic footage of the situation in Donetsk, Lugansk, Slavyansk and Odessa is tailored to enrage people in the west by appealing directly to their emotions. As they are not really aware of what is going on in Eastern Ukraine, they can’t weigh the pros and cons of the situation and are not subsequently given a balanced view. In other words they are misled by CNN, BBC, ABC and so on. This is because the power of the visual image is very strong and more powerful than the written word.

CNN cuts off Russian diplomat’s remarks in favor of Syria rebels

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, behind one of the media many don’t trust, thus; losing its credibility. They strive to shine, but hold the truth, including Aids and Ebola from the public.

School children in the USA and the UK, for example, don’t know that more than half of Europe and Berlin were liberated from German fascism by the Soviet Union in 1945 and Soviet soldiers hoisted the Soviet flag over Reichstag. The so-called allies opened the second front on 6th June 1944 when the Soviet Army was almost near their threshold. Let the Soviets and the Germans kill each other, then we will come and dictate our conditions. The Soviet Union lost 28 million people in the Great Patriotic War 1941-45.

The people of Eastern Ukraine are fighting for freedom and the right to live together with their Russian compatriots. The two Germanies (FRG and GDR) reunited in 1989 and the Germans are happy to be together again. Similarly, the Crimeans are pretty happy to be back home. The West supports the heavily armed forces of the Kiev junta and the banderovsty (Ukrainian fascists) who are murdering unarmed civilians and burned many innocent citizens of Odessa to death in the Trade Union Complex on 2nd May 2014. Those unarmed citizens are called terrorists by the West.

Dear Christiane, you fled Iran because you were afraid for your life. The Bahais fled Iran because they were afraid for their lives too. The people of Eastern Ukraine have no intention of fleeing their motherland. They are fighting those armed forces of fascist Kiev with their bare hands. They will win because Russian Patriotism and Russian Spirit are deeply ingrained in their minds.

I don’t know whether the Iranian government considers you to be an Iranian patriot or a traitor serving your American and English masters or not. But I’d like to tell you one thing: You look very disgusting on CNN.

I’d like to quote two examples to prove to you that you will never be able to shape my opinion and those around me. American Saints (not terrorists) burned so many innocent Vietnamese ( including women and children) to death with napalm during the Vietnam War in the 60’s and 70’s and Syria has been reduced to ruins and many innocent people have been killed and crippled with the help of the USA. American Presidents are audacious enough to end their speeches with “God Bless America!”

The Writer

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Mr. Loganaden Ramalingum

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mr-Loganaden-Ramalingum/552681568090023