HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ
Loading...

So Long a Letter (1979)

by Mariama Bâ

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7022413,505 (3.72)70
Recently added byprivate library, elle_em, joseph.cortegerone, lavolonteduZ, jennifersoule, Ibrahimym2, Addae
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 70 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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
  mdbrady | Jun 20, 2014 |
The novel takes the form of a long letter written by Ramatoulaye to her old friend Aissatou, just after the death of Ramatoulaye's husband Modou, looking back over their respective marriages; both women, having invested heavily in their marriages and both truly loving their husbands, were abandoned in favour of a younger wife. The women took different ways out, Aissatou leaving, Ramatoulaye staying - but staying in name only, as her husband deserted her and her children. Yes, I know this happens in other societies too, in the form of adultery and divorce, but what is chilling here is that it is part of the fabric of society, sanctioned by society.

Mariama Ba (1929-1981) was an outspoken critic of the way certain African traditions deprived women of their rights, and this, her first novel, is an expression of her frustration with the condition of women in Africa. Ba gives Ramatoulaye such an eloquent, powerful voice in her letter...and yet in society she is virtually mute. Her dignity in the face of what society expects her to bear is breath-taking.

A beautifully written, quiet but thought-provoking novel. ( )
  rachbxl | Feb 10, 2014 |
[So Long a Letter] by [[Mariama Ba]] is a short epistalory novel written in French by a Sengalese author. It is written from a recent widow to a dear friend and gives a review of their lives. Both women are struggling with the issues of polygamy in this Muslim country, as both husbands had taken a younger wife.
This was very hard on the narrator and her friend, and also on the younger women, who are then stuck with older husbands. In both cases, the younger women’s families pushed the marriages for economic reasons.
The book is well written and interesting, though didactic at times. The women in the novel are educated, and economically independent, and so pretty easy to identify with.
In thinking about the book, I wondered whether it’s worse for a wife to be usurped by a younger woman in a polygamous society, versus what frequently happens in our own culture where men may take a younger wife or mistress. I am not sure. ( )
1 vote banjo123 | Aug 3, 2013 |
"Fate grasps whom it wants, when it wants. When it moves in the direction of your desires, it brings you plenitude. But more often it unsettles, crosses you. Then one has to endure." A woman's struggle and endurance against fate and unfairness is the theme of this short novel in the form of a single, long letter. The writer of the letter is a Senegalese woman of fifty named Ramatoulaye. She is writing to her former classmate and lifelong best friend Aissatou. The occasion is the recent death of Ramatoulaye's husband, Modou.

Ramatoulaye describes briefly the funeral rites, but when she addresses her own feelings she is led immediately to the great resentment in her life: that Modou had recently taken a second wife. She recaps how this came about, and weaves into the story Aissatou's own personal history. Aissatou's husband, Mawdo, has also taken a second and younger wife. But Ramatoulaye is quick to point out that Mawdo did this only under pressure from his own family, whereas Modou's second marriage was a personal caprice. Modou fell in love with his own teenage daughter's best friend, and showered gifts upon the girl's mother so that she would be forced against her will to marry a man at least thirty years her senior. After thirty years of marriage to Modou, and having borne him twelve children, Ramatoulaye feels betrayed, not just by her husband, but by the male sex in general and the society it has built.

Mariama Bâ's novel is a statement of personal loss, grief, and perseverance, but it is also a manifesto for the cause of women's rights in Africa and elsewhere. She takes on the issues directly, saying "Nearly twenty years of independence! When will we have the first female minister involved in the decisions concerning the development of our country?" And later: "Instruments for some, baits for others, respected or despised, often muzzled, all women have almost the same fate, which religions or unjust legislation have sealed." The key issue is polygamy in Islamic states, but she also addresses arranged marriages, equality of education, political freedoms, inheritance laws and customs, and recognition for the economic value of homemaking services.

Aside from its feminist message, So Long a Letter offers an interesting look at how ancient traditions and modern values clash in today's Africa, even among the most highly educated and empowered classes. The characters in the novel are all university-educated professionals living in relative comfort, so the injustices of which Bâ writes are not to be overcome by money or education. I can't help but wonder, though, what Modou's side of the story would have been had the author allowed him to tell it. ( )
2 vote StevenTX | Jul 31, 2013 |
This is a small, poignant novel from Senegal, in the form of a letter from one woman to another, an old friend. It roams through love, marriage, family life, and the particular problems of a polygamous society. The writer is restrained and dignified, but her feelings emerge clearly. ( )
  astrologerjenny | Apr 24, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
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.
First words
Dear Aissatou, I have received your letter.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:58 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
3 avail.
42 wanted
3 pay

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.72)
0.5
1 2
1.5
2 8
2.5 3
3 30
3.5 14
4 48
4.5 5
5 24

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 92,671,875 books! | Top bar: Always visible