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So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ

So Long a Letter (1980)

by Mariama Bâ

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (27)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
What does it mean to be a Senegalese woman living in a society dominated by male attitudes? Where does self worth and fulfillment fit in? Just because a society condones polygamy doesn't mean every individual expects it, embraces it, or even wants to practice it. When Ramatoulaye's husband of thirty plus years takes a new (much younger) wife her emotions run the gamut. Baffled (Wasn't she a good wife?). Stunned (They have twelve children together. Wasn't she a good mother?). Embarrassed (What will the community think of her being replaced?). Insecure (Exactly what is her place in society now?). When Madou leaves her a widow, in a long letter to her friend Aissatou, Ramatoulaye recounts her life with Madou. She is, at times, reminiscent and even wistful for a life gone by. In the end, it is a new tragedy that sets Ramatoulaye on a new path of acceptance. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jun 21, 2018 |
My entry from Senegal, So Long a Letter, is an epistolary novel from Ramatoulaye to her friend, recounts the struggles of R's life after her husband has died. She is the first wife and has no recourse after her husband's family and his second wife inherit everything. She uses her words to fill her sense of loss and reflect on the changes in the family, the tradition and the nation of Senegal as it transitioned from an African to a colonized to a modern nation. It is interesting if you are reading post-colonial African or feminist pieces. Personally, I grew a bit weary of the narrator's voice. However, it is still an important story to tell. Readers unfamiliar with Senegalese culture or Islamic culture may have a difficult time connecting some of the more subtle references to culture or fail to grasp the significance of some passages that would have more import for the Senegalese. ( )
1 vote MsKathleen | Jan 29, 2018 |
As a story that shows what it is like to be a woman in Senegal, this is a great novella. Mariama Ba shows aspects of Senegal society that Western women may find more distasteful- polygamy, marrying off teenagers to much older men, and various other disturbing customs- but these unpleasant sides to Senegal are tempered by other more universal and humanizing scenes that make it easy to relate to the characters. I also like the way the author works in themes of feminism and colonialism, not as philosophical arguments, but as everyday questions for an ordinary woman as she goes about her life.

I am not so fond of the structure of this novella, though. I know that the letter structure used in this story has a long tradition, but I find this style of storytelling too artificial. I am not the woman to whom the protagonist is writing and know too little about this unseen recipient to relate to her, so it feels more as if I am snooping, reading someone else's stash of sappy, personal letters that were never meant for my eyes. I am sure my reaction to this style of storytelling is an artifact of my own cultural background, but for me this was enough of an annoyance to not give this book a full 5 stars. ( )
  JBarringer | Dec 30, 2017 |
This is definitely a riveting account of cultural traditions and perceptions in a land very different from our own. Essentially, it is a fictional novel written as a set of letters from one woman to another, outlining the experiences, feelings, and troubles that each are facing. I personally found it to be very intriguing and enlightening as a glimpse of a culture that can only just begin to be understood if one is open to being told about it in such ways. The style is very different from anything I have ever read before, and it does very much leave you initially feeling like the outsider that we all are, struggling to get a handle on what we are assumed to already know, but by the end it begins to feel as though the world being depicted is rather familiar after all, which is a definite sign of great narrative crafting in and of itself. ( )
1 vote TiffanyAK | Dec 31, 2014 |
A moving account, in the form of a letter, of joys and tribulations of a Senegalese woman and her determination to deal with the personal and social changes.

This is a classic book by an African writer, one that I had often seen recommended. I had been slow to read it; however, because I had the impression it would be nothing but the self-pity of a victim. I was wrong. The book does relate problems with which African women must often contend, but Ramatoulaye, the book’s narrator, is not passive. She has an independence and strength that allow her to rely on herself as she raises her twelve children alone. I found her a beautiful and exemplary woman.

The form of the novel is a long letter which Ramatoulaye, a school teacher, writes to her long-time friend, a woman whose life had been similar to Ramatoulaye. The two women had attended school together, married similar men, and had to deal with their husband’s taking second wives. Ramatoulaye’s husband has died and as a new widow she reminisces and grieves at the same time she expresses her anger at her husband’s unfair treatment of her. After a period of happiness together, he took a second wife ignoring her and leaving her responsible for their children. After his funeral, Ramatoulaye faces down her husband’s brother who assumes that she will marry him. She also refuses to become a second wife to a kind, attractive, successful man, in part because she doesn’t love him as she had her husband and in part because she sees polygamy itself as harmful. When her daughters face problems, she stands by them and looks to the future with hope.
Read more: http://wp.me/p24OK2-Zp
1 vote mdbrady | Jun 20, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mariama Bâprimary authorall editionscalculated
Martín Pérez, SoniaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Abibatou Niang, pure and constant, lucid and thorough, who shares my feelings.
To Annette d'Erneville of the warm heart and level head.
To all women and to men of good will.
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Dear Aissatou, I have received your letter.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0435905554, Paperback)

This novel is a perceptive testimony to the plight of articulate women who live in social milieux dominated by attitudes and values that deny them their proper place. It is a sequence of reminiscences, some wistful, some bitter, recounted by a recently widowed Senegalese school teacher. The letter, addressed to an old friend, is a record of her emotional struggle for survival after her husband's abrupt decision to take a second wife. Although his action is sanctioned by Islam, it is a calculated betrayal of his wife's trust and a brutal rejection of their life together.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:53 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A Senegalese school teacher recounts her thoughts and feelings after her husband decides to take a second wife.

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