In Patrice Nganang’s Trilogy, Cameroon’s Past Is Still Very Present

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The household story mirrors a nationwide historical past of silences and betrayals: The 2 are inevitably, and tragically, linked. “The Cameroonian soul is a battlefield,” one character observes; one other beseeches God to listen to his “prayer of this bloodied land, of this household whose very coronary heart was caught up within the pulsations of a rustic.” The story additionally displays Nganang’s personal maturity, he says.

“Households are difficult, and it’s a novel I may by no means have written in my 20s,” he says. “I believed, ‘Let me write a novel that speaks to the age I’m now.’”

Nganang, who’s chair of Africana research at Stony Brook College, borrowed from his personal life for the novel — from the each day rituals of suburban America to the lyrical descriptions of his hometown, Yaoundé, his “psychological panorama.” Yaoundé, certainly, gives an evocative leitmotif all through the trilogy: Nganang lovingly explores the town, neighborhood by neighborhood, as some areas flourish and others sink into squalor over time. The epitaph to “When the Plums Are Ripe makes his perspective clear: “The world is my nation, Cameroon is my topic, and Yaoundé my area of definition.”

There’s one other overlap, too. The identify “Tanou,” he says, means “father of historical past” or somebody “who creates historical past in addition to narrates it.” It occurs to be one in every of Nganang’s many pet names. “Tanou” additionally refers to a cultural operate, one which he has embraced on social media, as a self-proclaimed “Concierge of the Republic” (a nod, he says, to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s sign-off, “Citizen of Geneva”).

“I might by no means have written this guide if I hadn’t been on social media,” he says, describing the numerous testimonials that Cameroonians all over the world have shared with him, which have fueled his posts and knowledgeable his novel. “It modified me and altered the panorama of my writing as a result of it made it attainable for folks to truly hear what I wish to say.”



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