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So Long a Letter (African Writers Series) by…

So Long a Letter (African Writers Series) (original 1980; edition 1989)

by Mariama Ba

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Title:So Long a Letter (African Writers Series)
Authors:Mariama Ba
Info:Heinemann (1989), Paperback, 96 pages
Collections:Your library

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So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ (1980)


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English (24)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  All (27)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  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
  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 |
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 |
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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.

(summary from another edition)

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