Kourouma, Ahmadou

1927–2003
African novelist

Ahmadou Kourouma, a celebrated writer, is the author of two of the most famous African novels in French. In his work he criticizes postcolonial governments and one-party political systems. He also describes the despair felt by many Africans when independence failed to fulfill their expectations. These themes have appeared in many works written by French-speaking Africans.

Born in IVORY COAST, Kourouma studied accounting in France. In the 1960s he worked for several years in banking and insurance in ALGERIACAMEROON, and TOGO. His first novel, The Suns of Independence, appeared in 1968. Set in the newly independent nation of “Ebony Coast,” it follows the misfortunes of Fama Doumbouya, an honorable but weak man. Fama becomes the chief of a poor village where he tries unsuccessfully to restore the traditional customs. He is eventually arrested and dies after an encounter with border officials.

Kourouma’s second book, Monnew: A Novel (1990), looks at the life of Djigui, the king of Soba. Djigui assumes power just before the French conquer the region. Later, he cooperates with the colonial authorities. When Soba achieves independence, Djigui’s son Bema seizes power. Bema establishes one-party rule and so deceives his people. In addition to their political and social commentary, Kourouma’s novels feature a lively literary style and a unique blending of French and the indigenous Malinke language. (See also Literature.)