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Bâ, Mariama.


So Long a Letter (1989)

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Front matter

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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Main te t


Dear Aissatou,

I have received your letter. By way of reply, I am begi i g this diary, my prop i my distress. !ur lo g associatio has taught me that co fidi g i others allays pai . "our prese ce i my life is by o mea s fortuitous. !ur gra dmothers i their compou ds were separated by a fe ce a d would e#cha ge messages daily. !ur mothers used to argue over who would loo$ after our u cles a d au ts. As for us, we wore out wrappers a d sa dals o the same sto y road to the $ora ic school% we buried our mil$ teeth i the same holes a d begged our fairy godmothers to restore them to us, more sple did tha before. If over the years, a d passi g through the realities of life, dreams die, I still $eep i tact my memories, the salt of remembra ce. I co &ure you up. 'he past is rebor , alo g with its processio of emotio s. I close my eyes. (bb a d tide of feeli g) heat a d da**leme t, the woodfires, the sharp gree ma go, bitte i to i tur s, a delicacy i our greedy mouths. I close my eyes. (bb a d tide of images) drops of sweat beadi g your mother+s ochre,coloured face as she emerges from the $itche , the processio of you g wet girls chatteri g o their way bac$ from the spri gs. -e wal$ed the same paths from adolesce ce to maturity, where the past begets the prese t. .y frie d, my frie d, my frie d. I call o you three times. 1 "esterday you were divorced. 'oday I am a widow.

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.odou is dead. 0ow am I to tell you1 ! e does ot fi# appoi tme ts with fate. 2ate grasps whom it wa ts, whe it wa ts. -he it moves i the directio of your desires,

it bri gs you ple itude. But more ofte tha ot, it u settles, crosses you. 'he o e has to e dure. I e dured the telepho e call which disrupted my life. A ta#i 3uic$ly hailed4 2ast4 2ast4 2aster still4 .y throat is dry. 'here is a rigid lump i my chest. 2ast) faster still. At last, the hospital) the mi#ed smell of suppuratio s a d ether. 'he hospital,,,distorted faces, a trai of tearful people, $ ow a d u $ ow , wit esses to this awful tragedy. A lo g corridor, which seems to stretch out e dlessly. At the e d, a room. I the room, a bed. ! the bed, .odou stretched out, cut off from the world of the livi g by a white sheet i which he is completely e veloped. A trembli g ha d moves forward a d slowly u covers the body. 0is hairy chest, at rest forever, is visible through his crumpled blue shirt with thi stripes. 'his face, set i pai a d surprise, is i deed his, the bald forehead, the half,ope mouth are i deed his. I wa t to grasp his ha d. But someo e pulls me away. I ca hear .awdo, his doctor frie d, e#plai i g to me) a heart attac$ came o sudde ly i his office while he was dictati g a letter. 'he secretary had the prese ce of mi d to call me. .awdo recou ts how he arrived too late with the ambula ce. I thi $) the doctor after death. 0e mimes the massagi g of the heart that was u derta$e , as well as the futile effort at mouth,to, mouth resuscitatio . Agai , I thi $) heart massage, mouth,to,mouth resuscitatio , ridiculous weapo s agai st the divi e will. I liste to the words that create arou d me a ew atmosphere i which I move, a stra ger a d torme ted. Death, the te uous passage betwee two opposite worlds, o e tumultuous, the other still. -here to lie dow 1 .iddle age dema ds dig ity. I hold tightly o to my prayer beads. I tell the beads arde tly, remai i g sta di g o legs of &elly. .y loi s beat as to the rhythm of childbirth. 5ross,sectio s of my life spri g i volu tarily from my memory, gra diose verses from the 6ora , oble words of co solatio fight for my atte tio .

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8oyous miracle of birth, dar$ miracle of death. Betwee the two, a life, a desti y, says .awdo B9. I loo$ i te tly at .awdo. 0e seems to be taller tha usual i his white overall. 0e seems to me thi . 0is redde ed eyes e#press forty years of frie dship. I admire his

oble ha ds, ha ds of a absolute delicacy, supple ha ds used to trac$i g dow ill ess. 'hose ha ds, moved by frie dship a d a rigorous scie ce, could ot save his frie d.


.odou 2all is i deed dead, Aissatou. 'he u i terrupted processio of me a d wome who have +lear ed+ of it, the wails a d tears all arou d me, co firm his death. 'his co ditio of e#treme te sio sharpe s my sufferi g a d co ti ues till the followi g day, the day of i terme t. -hat a seethi g crowd of huma bei gs come from all parts of the cou try, where the radio has relayed the ews. -ome , close relatives, are busy. 'hey must ta$e i ce se, eau,de,colog e, cotto , wool to the hospital for the washi g of the dead o e. 'he seve metres of white musli , the o ly clothi g Islam allows for the dead, are carefully placed i a ew bas$et. 'he Zem-Zem , the miracle water from the holy places of Islam religiously $ept by each family, is ot forgotte . :ich, dar$ wrappers are chose to cover .odou. .y bac$ propped up by cushio s, legs outstretched, my head covered with a blac$ wrapper, I follow the comi gs a d goi gs of people. Across from me, a ew wi owi g fa bought for the occasio receives the first alms. 'he prese ce of my co, wife beside me irritates me. ;he has bee i stalled i my house for the fu eral, i accorda ce with traditio . -ith each passi g
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hour her chee$s become more deeply hollowed, ac3uire ever more ri gs, those big a d beautiful eyes which ope a d close o their secrets, perhaps their regrets. At the age of love a d freedom from care, this child is dogged by sad ess. -hile the me , i alo g, irregular file of official a d private cars, public buses, lorries a d mopeds, accompa y .odou to his last rest =people were for a lo g time to tal$ of the crowd which followed the fu eral processio >, our sisters,i ,law u do our hair. .y co,wife a d myself are put i side a rough a d ready te t made of a wrapper pulled taut above our heads a d set up for the occasio . -hile our sisters,i ,law are

0er behaviour is co ditio ed) o will touch the head of a y wife who has bee sti gy.odou. bac$ from the cemetery. good husba structi g it. . his u cle.+ +. i which . his frie ds. law si g a chorus of praises cha ted at the top of their voices.+ +. the wome prese t.+ +. good .. 'his is the mome t dreaded by every . beyo d her possessio s she gives up her perso ality. . good brother.+ [Page @ ] +. . the widows. file past the family grouped arou d us. i formed of the wor$ i ha d. his father. get up a d throw some coi s o to the flutteri g ca opy so as to ward off evil spirits. her dig ity. 'hey offer their co dole ces pu ctuated with praises of the deceased. the fre3ue cy of our gifts fi d their &ustificatio a d reward today..ay he regret his earthly stay i his heave ly bliss. at ease as much i a suit as i a cafta .law re&oices. becomi g a thi g i the service of the ma who has married her.. his gra dfather...uslim.. his mother. +. -ith the same ease a d the same words.. .odou+s ew mother. a d our sisters..ay ?od forgive him.i . his gra dmother. the lio . the me . they celebrate twelve mater ities a d three. 0avi g washed their ha ds i a bowl of water placed at the e tra ce to the house.odou.+ +. champio of the oppressed. As for ourselves. we have bee deservi g. !ur sisters. .hearted. the mome t whe she sacrifices her possessio s as gifts to her family. u faithful or i hospitable. .law% a d.. his brother. frie d of the you g as of the old..odou..i .+ +. I ote with outrage this desire to level out. his male a d female cousi s.i . !ur patie ce before all trials.i . his sister.e egalese woma . his au give e3ual co sideratio to thirty years a d five years of married life.odou.ay the earth rest lightly o him4+ . worse still.i .

the poor. sweets. all that could be spoilt. ha d slaps. 3uic$ly covered up agai . who was popular. his childhood playmates o the football grou d. 'he latest bits of gossip are e#cha ged. e#altatio of humility. Also passed arou d are large bowls of red or white rice. the same comi gs a d goi gs of frie ds. coo$ed here or i eighbouri g houses. of faith. .ats of all sorts are spread out everywhere there is space. while s$illed ha ds distribute to the crowd biscuits. I the wome +s cor er. his compa io s i the trade u io struggles. . 'he Siguil ndigale / come o e after the other. 2rie ds who have ot see each other for a lo g time hug each other oisily. 'hey are there. has mobili*ed a bu**i g crowd. 'he ame of the deceased. relatives. 5omforti g words from the 6ora fill the air% divi e words. welcomed i my house that has bee stripped of all that could be stole . loud tal$. &udiciously mi#ed. the u $ ow . othi g but oise. . .y tears flow a d my voice &oi s wea$ly i the ferve t +Ame + which i spires the crowd+s ardour at the e d of each verse. stride t e#clamatio s. war i gs agai st evil.ome discuss the latest material o the mar$et. poig a t. 'hey are there.'hey are there. the first offeri gs to heave for the peaceful repose of the deceased+s soul. .etal chairs hired for the occasio ta$e o a blue hue i the su . or duri g bird hu ts. 'hey laugh heartily a d roll their eyes a d admire the e#t perso +s boubou . 'he smell of the la h 7 cooli g i the calabashes pervades the air. cola uts. e#citi g. water a d curds are served i plastic cups. impressive promises of pu ishme t or &oy. her origi al . Perhaps they remember the stiff body. 'he me +s group eats i [Page A ] sile ce. his classmates. e#hortatio s to virtue. reso a t laughter. !thers i dicate where they got their wove wrappers from. Iced fruit &uices.hivers ru through me. whe they used catapults. " ! the third day. tied up a d lowered by their ha ds i to a gapi g hole. divi e i structio s.

she remai s a stra ger i these circles.odou+s relatives ope a e#ercise boo$. .+ . sugar. a d as I have bee . 'he 2all family+s griot A is proud of her role as go. A disturbi g display of i er feeli g that ca ot be evaluated ow measured i fra cs4 A d agai I thi $ how ma y of the dead would have survived if. recalls the purpose of the gatheri g) a ceremo y for the redemptio of a soul. more &ostli g i order to hear a d see better. I the eve i g comes the most disco certi g part of this third day+s ceremo y.i . oil.way of usi g he them. As for her sile t.i .odou+s compa io for thirty years. . 'oday it is made co spicuously i ba $ otes. 'hey have co tributed the large sum of two hu dred thousa d fra cs to +dress+ us. I former times this co tributio was made i $i d) millet. mil$.pad.ore people. I receive the greater share of mo ey a d ma y e velopes. It is a debt to be repaid i similar circumsta ces. +! e hu dred thousa d fra cs from the father+s side. corporatio s. As I come from a large family i this tow . 2atimi. before orga i*i g these festive fu eral ceremo ies. 'he voice is 3uic$ly forgotte a d the brouhaha begi s all over agai . a to blac$e ha ds a d feet by drawi g geometrical figures o 2rom time to time a e#asperated ma ly voice ri gs out a war i g. carefully records my ta$i gs i a ote. Dewly admitted i to the city+s bourgeoisie by her daughter+s marriage. 'hey reappear after their deliberatio . 'he regard show me raises me i the eyes of the others a d it is Bady . < "esterday. 'he ta$i gs are carefully recorded.savi g prescriptio or paid for hospitali*atio .Baw =. (ach group displays its ow co tributio to the costs. rice. 'he sudde calls from our sisters. Bady .odou+s> a d her daughter have a oteboo$. as I am a schoolteacher o frie dly terms with the pupils+ pare ts. haggard child.i . flour. livestoc$. with ac3uai ta ces at all levels of society. she too reaps ba $ otes. i creasi g i volume. a d o o e wa ts to give less tha the other.Baw+s tur [Page C ] to be a oyed. accordi g to blood ties.other. my you ger sister. areas. they offered us some e#celle t thia ry @ to 3ue ch our thirst. ?roups are formed accordi g to relatio ships. a role ha ded dow from mother to daughter.betwee bri g her out of her stupor. the relative or frie d had bought the life.

griots . I see a old woma . as must the gifts of . goldsmiths. Afterwards comes the processio of old relatives. gra dchildre of Damel .y hori*o lighte ed. 'hiaroye or Pi$i e.odou+s gra dchildre . represe ted by the offspri g of all his male a d female cousi s. 'herefore accept this mo ey. she empties i to a plastic bag the left. 'hus our family. But o e of you is o more. 0er smili g face tells of the pleasa t day she has &ust had. who have i herited royal blood. overs of red [Page F ] rice. depe di g o the perso leavi g.odou. she mutters betwee teeth redde ed by cola uts) +Bady.+ . pai sta$i gly topped. for he would fre3ue tly give me a sac$ of rice.he cou ts the otes. ?radually the house empties.ta di g upright.adiodio. balls of crumpled paper. o e by o e. her eyes meeti g my disapprovi g loo$. whom I used to call Ebag of riceE. -hat a bala ce sheet for a day4 . I weep with you for .+ 'he share of each widow must be doubled. $ept with such pai sta$i g care. sometimes a ba $ ote. C .he wa ts to ta$e bac$ proof of this to her family. the e ds of her boubou tied behi d her. death is &ust as beautiful as life has bee . u pleasa t a d auseati g. 'he +goodbyes+ followi g o e after the other at a i fer al rate are irritati g because they are either simple or free) they re3uire. !il stai s o the walls. 'oday is ot a happy day. shows them rou d a d co cludes) +I have much to say about you ta$e away with them a wad of otes. livi g perhaps i !ua$am. -ho is she1 -here is she from1 Be t over. blue a d pi $. we who will eed material support. sometimes a coi . are blac$e ed. old ac3uai ta ces. 5ola uts spat out here a d there have left red stai s) my tiles.i . 'he smell of stale sweat a d food ble d as trails i the air. laob!s with their ho eyed la guage.+ .+! e hu dred thousa d fra cs from the mother+s side. a d leave us utterly destitute. . you worthy widows of a worthy ma .

. chewi g stic$s wedged betwee teeth. Bight attire showi g off slim waistli es.ha d mar$et. white or flowered shawls. as well as the la*y. it+s the same story o the eighth a d fortieth days. H At last4 Phew4 'he visits of co dole ce co ti ue) the sic$.y heart co curs with the dema ds of religio . the ew brassiGre or the o e bought at the seco d. 5hild. I live i a mo oto y bro$e o ly by purifyi g baths. I have e ough memories i me to rumi ate upo . the cha gi g of my mour i g clothes every . Alo e. -hat the is the sig ifica ce of these &oyous. promi e t bac$sides. A d yet we are told i the 6ora that o the third day the dead body swells a d fills its tomb% we are told that o the eighth it bursts% a d we are also told that o the fortieth day it is stripped. come to fulfil what they co sider to be a sacred duty. heavy smell of i ce se a d of gongo . whe those who have +lear ed+ belatedly ma$e up for lost time. 'he walls that limit my hori*o for four mo ths a d te days do ot bother me. :eared si ce childhood o their strict precepts. stride t laughter.o day a d 2riday. ot soil the state of purity i which I must live. for they smac$ of bitter ess. ami g ceremo ies may be missed but ever a fu eral. will retur to her . F loud voices.I5AP villa. i stitutio ali*ed festivities that accompa y our prayers for ?od+s mercy1 -ho has come out of self. I e#pect ot to fail. [Page H ] . .Alas.i terest1 -ho has come to 3ue ch his ow thirst1 -ho has come for the sa$e of mercy1 -ho has come so that he may remember1 'o ight Bi etou. those who have &our eyed or have merely arrived late.ay their evocatio 'ill tomorrow. my co.wife. 5oi s a d otes co ti ue to pour o the bec$o i g fa . A d these are what I am afraid of. I hope to carry out my duties fully.

A d fur iture from 2ra ce for his ew wife a d fur iture co structed by local carpe ters for Bady . accordi g to the spiteful. 'he family meeti g held this mor i g i my sitti g.awdo B9% my daughter a d her husba d Abdou. i . who is eve thi er% old 'amsir. Ac$ owledgeme t of debts1 A pile of them) cloth a d gold traders. delivery grocers a d butchers. he chec$ed the trade u io revolt.I5AP villa. my frie d. is at last over. large sitti g. 0e re&ected us. four bedrooms. a three.odou+s flat.i .# Aissatou.other. [Page 1I ] 0old o . -ith co ster atio . 0is promotio to the ra $ of tech ical adviser i the . perhaps I am bori g you by relati g what you already $ ow. . 'hese e#posures crudely e#plai a ma +s life.odou+s betrayal. Bi etou. built at his ow e#pe se at the bottom of the seco d courtyard for Bady . I have ever observed so much. Dead without a pe y saved. pi $ a d blue.Baw. I measure the e#te t of . 'he star attractio of this +strippi g+) the origi s of the elega t . 0e mapped out his future without ta$i g our e#iste ce i to accou t. "ou ca easily guess those who were prese t) Bady .purchase i stalme car. could ot co trol the mire of e#pe ses by which he was e gulfed. two bathrooms.other. home. 'he mirasse comma ded by the 6ora re3uires that a dead perso be stripped of his most i timate secrets% thus is e#posed to others what was carefully co cealed. . because I have ever bee so co cer ed. her brother a d her daughter. a d the "mam from the mos3ue i his area% . 0is aba do me t of his first family =myself a d my childre > was the outcome of the choice of a ew life.i . i e#cha ge for which.i istry of Public -or$s.

havi g withdraw Bi etou from school.other. eve after .ecca to ac3uire the titles of Alha#a a d Alha#i % which e3ually e abled Bi etou to e#cha ge her Alfa :omeos at the slightest de t. Dow I u dersta d the terrible sig ifica ce of . As for my daughter. five thousa d fra cs to the . Although the title deeds of this house bear his ame. out of the estate. Bady .other. to sit for her baccalaur!at . he co ti ued the mo thly payme ts of seve ty. .odou+s aba do me t of our &oi t ba $ accou t. where I live. 'he list supplied by Bady . which had e abled him to pay for Bady . ac3uired by our &oi t savi gs. who was very gifted. . 'he you g girl. she waved about a bailiff+s affidavit. that listed all the co te ts of the .other.I5AP Jilla.Baw a d her husba d to visit . I was ot at all pleased by this display o either side. 'hese payme ts were to go o for about te years before the house would become his.odou.Baw a d eve sig ed a paper committi g himself to payi g the said amou t. determi ed to remove her from the critical a d u spari g world of the you g. wic$edly.i . A d the . for she firmly believed that the payme ts would co ti ue.other. . 0e wa ted to be fi a cially i depe de t so as to have e ough elbow room. 2our millio fra cs borrowed with ease because of his privileged positio . I sult upo i &ury4 .Baw bra dished the paper.o as to establish his rule.i .i .Baw a d Bi etou made o me tio of certai [Page 11 ] ob&ects a d items of fur iture. "ou $ ow that I am e#cessively se time tal.I5AP. 0e therefore gave i to all the co ditio s of the graspi g Bady . it is o etheless our commo property. he paid her a mo thly allowa ce of fifty thousa d fra cs. dated the very day of her father+s death. &ust li$e a salary due to her. wa ted to co ti ue her studies.odou+s death. which had mysteriously disappeared or had bee fraudule tly removed.i .oreover.'his house a d its chic co te ts were ac3uired by a ba $ loa gra ted o the mortgage of +Jilla 2alle e+. Daba.

all those who are dru $ o their wealth% tremble. . beside your visible deformities. I thi $ of all the bli d people the world over. bor of abdicatio . [Page 1/ ] I repeat. -as it mad ess. I tha $ ?od for my eyes which daily embrace heave a d earth. o soo er bor tha orpha ed. a obscure heroism. tur arou d.. I thi $ of the suc$li g baby. I thi $ of the bli d ma who will ever . I thi $ of huma desti y.. I will vibrate. health. cruelly motivated. my legs will carry me slowly a d I shall agai have arou d me the iodi e a d the blue of the sea. irresistible love1 -hat i marry Bi etou1 er co fusio led . I thi $ of all the lepers the world over. compared with your lame tatio s.odou 2all to 'o overcome my bitter ess. those upo whom fate has bestowed favours. tomorrow it will leave my body. (ach life has its share of heroism. u $ ow i the mai stream of history. A horde powerful i its repug a ce a d revolt. If today moral fatigue ma$es my limbs stiff. wea$ ess. relieved. what are moral i firmities from which i a y case you are ot immu e1 'hi $i g of you. movi g i dar$ ess.y efforts ca ot for lo g ta$e my mi d off my disappoi tme t. ever upsetti g established order. 'he . . with a dead ma who o lo ger has a y hold over my desti y1 5ombi i g your despair. health. !h. despite your miserable co ditio . live i me. you could have s atched the bread that your hu ger craves. wasted by their disease. you could have bee ave gers a d made them tremble. I thi $ of all the paralysed the world over. what is my 3uarrel. Jictims of a sad fate which you did ot choose. 'he star a d white cloud will be mi e. I will stretch out. !h. "our stoicism has made you ot viole t or subversive but true heroes. of re u ciatio a d accepta ce u der the merciless whip of fate. I probably left you asto ished by my disclosures.$ -he I stopped yesterday. 'he breath of wi d will agai refresh my face. draggi g themselves about.

ba &o music i dormitories tra sformed i to da ce floors. !live.. I $ ew you were the o e I was waiti g for. "ou could fathom every thought. "ou $ ew ma y u defi able thi gs. o 3uestio . but the waves of a imme se sad ess brea$ i me4 . o ce agai . 'he pressure of your ha d became more te der. the very mome t you bowed before me. A d yet. above all. But my despair persists. to thi $ that twelve times over I carried his child. I thi $. (verythi g i me gave i a d our relatio ship e dured over the school years a d duri g the holidays. 'all a d athletically built.armed ma has to bear. you $ ew how to be te der.Jille is the cou tryside still gree from the last rai s.coloured s$i due to your dista t . As we da ced. your ess or wea$ ess1 0eartless ess or irresistible love1 -hat i er torme t led . stre gthe ed i me by the discovery of your subtle i tellige ce. a celebratio of youth right i the middle of ature. of your readi ess to help.ebi$ota e1 Po ty. to thi $ that I gave him thirty years of my life. I thi $ of the cross the o e. co versatio s held alo g the rows of gera iums or u der the thic$ ma go trees. what did +t he do to ma$e me his wife4 [Page 17 ] % Do you remember the mor i g trai that too$ us for the first time to Po ty.odou 2all. I lovi g someo e else. which glorified you a d sealed our relatio ship. . as$i g me to da ce. o 3uestio . he bur ed his past. more possessive. be t over my ow . hairli e already recedi g. of course.Jille. every desire. but my ra cour remai s.see his child+s smile. . of your . the teachers+ trai i g college i . Jirility a d fi e ess of features harmo iously ble ded. 0e dared to commit such a act of disavowal. both morally a d materially. But..odou 2all to marry Bi etou1 A d to thi $ that I loved this ma passio ately. 'he additio of a rival to my life was ot e ough for him. 'he same happy smile lit up our faces.oorish blood. of your embraci g se sitivity.

ofte the colour of ew ho ey.e would call us . your buttress. . accordi g to your letters. you lived there as a recluse. "our i troductio of your frie d . the u iform of your school.+ "ou also used to complai of the sombre ess of the s$ies. for a mother ca i sti ctively feel where her child+s happi ess lies. which suffered o mediocrity. there were very few of us.he could see i you o ly the eter al $ha$i suit.+ A d you retur ed i triumph. All she remembered of you were your visits. to separate us1 . "ou would e d with a stri g of e dearme ts a d co clude by reassuri g me) +It+s you whom I carry withi me. you preferred obscure wor$. "our achieveme t did ot stop there. "ou are my protecti g blac$ a gel. bei g the first pio eers of the promotio of Africa wome . too polished. the abu da ce. she said. attachi g little importa ce to the glitter that met your regard% but you grasped the deep se se of a history that has wor$ed so [Page 1< ] ma y wo ders a d of a great culture that overwhelmed you. I o lo ger laugh whe I thi $ that she fou d you too ha dsome. .he ofte spo$e of the wide gap betwee your two upper i cisors) the sig of the primacy of se suality i the i dividual. Because. "ou would fi ish by sayi g that your studies were your staff. if o ly to hold your ha d tightly so that I may forget hu ger a d thirst a d lo eli ess. this gracious deliberate slow ess characteristic of Africa. A d you would use that time to +stuff+ my head. the white woma +s adva tage over the blac$ woma lies i the variety of her colour. -hat did +t she do. which charmed your eyes.ambitio . o leavi g school. Agai . Aissatou. 'he you left for 2ra ce a d. -ith a degree i law4 I spite of your voice a d your gift of oratory. to the showi ess of the lawyer. less well paid but co structive for your cou try. to the disadva tage of more i teresti g you g people. "ou missed the swi gi g hips of blac$ wome wal$i g alo g the paveme ts. -ould I could 3uic$ly fi d you. from the o . u der which o coco ut trees waved their tops. le gth a d soft ess of her hair. "ou were sic$ at heart at the dogged rhythm of the life of the people a d the umbi g effect of the cold. therefore with ple ty of time to waste. It was this ambitio which led you. gree . 'he mil$y comple#io of the wome had o hold o you.awdo B9 i to our circle was to cha ge the life of my best frie d. too perfect for a ma . 'here are also the eyes which ca be blue. 3uoti g from your letters) +! the strictly physical pla e. I o lo ger scor my mother+s reserve co cer i g you. "ou were idle. to prepare o your ow for the two e#ami atio s of the baccalaur!at . co sidered too lo g.

ow that age a d .ha ded1 & Aissatou. 'o lift us out of the bog of traditio . pi $. cultivate our perso alities. Bet us hear the walls of our school come to life with the i te sity of our study. full of hope. 'ogether. 0ow I thi $ of her4 If the memory of her has triumphed over the i gratitude of time. ow that flowers o lo ger smell as sweetly or as stro gly as before. with our loose blouses. our &oi t prayer. Dothi g differe tiated us. our wrappers. while the eve i g so g. 'he word +love+ had a particular reso a ce i her.ali $e o e from ?ui ea. 2rie dships were made that have e dured the test of time a d dista ce. leavi g us empty. to ma$e us appreciate a multitude of civili*atio s without re ou ci g our ow . . to raise our visio of the world. with the beds impeccably made.[Page 1@ ] scatter. I will ever forget the white woma who was the first to desire for us a +u commo + desti y. stre gthe our 3ualities. characters. !thers labelled us devils. those that have burst miserably li$e soap bubbles.he loved us without patro i*i g us. gree . blue. let us recall our school. Bet us relive its i to#icati g atmosphere at ight.he $ ew how to discover a d appreciate our 3ualities. 0ow ma y dreams did we ourish hopelessly that could have bee fulfilled as lasti g happi ess a d that we aba do ed to embrace others. to develop u iversal moral values i us) these [Page 1A ] were the aims of our admirable headmistress. .brai ed. ma ers a d customs. apart from specific racial features. ow bro$e up i to auto omous republics. which was based o a e tra ce e#ami atio for the whole of former 2re ch -est Africa. with our plaits either sta di g o e d or be t dow . -e were true sisters. But ma y wa ted to possess us. the colours of the flowers everywhere i the compou d% pi $ the colour of the dormitories. made possible a fruitful ble d of differe t i tellects. blue a d yellow. 'he admissio policy. superstitio a d custom. a veritable rai bow) gree . to ma$e up for our i ade3uacies. desti ed for the same missio of ema cipatio . yellow. ra g out. the 2o girl from Dahomey a d the .

u der the sarcasm of my surprised sisters. why should I follow my mother+s fi ger poi ti g at Daouda Die g. -or$i g as a Africa doctor at the Polycli i3ue. without pomp.wives. ra gi g from a sac$ of rice. I ca still hear the a gry rumours i tow ) +-hat. before the pai ful i dig atio of my frustrated mother. still a bachelor but too mature for my eightee years. 0is villa. rece tly graduated from the Africa . appreciated i that period of war pe ury. A co troversial marriage. sometimes fre *ied music.+ .awdo B9. he was well.> +I the desire to marry a Eshort s$irtE come what may. before her former co. But I preferred the ma i the eter al $ha$i suit.+ =.+ +. co tai i g its pleasa t dri $s. u der the disapprovi g loo$s of my father. to the frivolous gift for me. to the record player. dai tily wrapped i paper a d tied with ribbo s. it is because the path chose for our trai i g a d our blossomi g has ot bee at all fortuitous. which e#uded sometimes la gorous.awdo+s father was dead. perched o a roc$ o the 5or iche faci g the sea. It has accorded with the profou d choices made by Dew Africa for the promotio of the blac$ woma . [Page 1C ] 8 'he came your marriage with . Kseful prese ts for my mother.awdo+s mother is a Dioufe e. from the refrigerator. was the meeti g place for the you g elite. a 'oucouleur marryi g a goldsmith+s daughter1 0e will ever Ema$e mo eyE. this is what o e gets.edici e a d Pharmacy. Dothi g was missi g.i e. -hat a i sult to her. i our tow struc$ dumb with asto ishme t. a $uelewar 1I from the .chool of . free from frustrati g taboos a d capable ow of discer me t. Daouda Die g also $ ew how to wi hearts.mature reflectio have stripped our dreams of their poetic virtue. to. !ur marriage was celebrated without dowry. ' a d $ ew how to use his positio to adva tage.

Aissatou. 0e emphasi*ed his total commitme t to his choice of life part er by visiti g your father. 0e would spea$ of your father as a +creative artist+. chases. twists. (ve though the primary schools are rapidly i creasi g. which he melts. +"ou should see him breathe over the flame.+. ( tra ce i to seco dary school is o pa acea for the child at a age fraught with the problems of co solidati g his perso ality. 'his life would a imate the flame. with the discovery of the various pitfalls) drugs. +. $ ow o ly to the i itiated a d tra smitted from father to so . . happy to have +moved i the right directio +. A d the gold spec$s i the showers of red spar$s. sometimes red. the metal of the d&i s. "et it is ecessary. with the e#plosio of puberty. ot at home but at his place of wor$. As soo as your elder brothers left the huts of the circumcised. sometimes blue. wa# or wa e at his comma d.+ 0is chee$s would swell with the life from his lu gs. they moved i to this particular world.+ . 0ard is the climb up the steep hill of $ owledge to the white ma +s school) $i dergarte remai s a lu#ury that o ly those who are fi a cially sou d ca offer their you g o es. 'he u iversity has its ow large umber of despairi g re&ects. 'hey leave out i the streets a impressive umber of childre because of the lac$ of places. the whole compou d+s source of ourishme t. wea$e ed as he was by the daily dose of carbo dio#ide he i haled wor$i g i the acrid atmosphere of the dusty fumes.awdo remai ed firm. vagra cy. But what about your you ger brothers1 'heir steps were directed towards the white ma +s school.chool tur s our girls i to devils who lure our me away from the right path.arriage is a perso al thi g. depe di g o what the wor$ dema ded. refi es. a d the pressure of ha ds o the bellows there would ma$e passers. se suality. a d the u couth so gs of the appre tices pu ctuati g the stro$es of the hammer here.awdo would add. +"ou should see him. pours. your father $ ew all the rites that protect the wor$i g of gold.+ A d I have +t recou ted all. which [Page 1F ] would rise or tur rou d. for this is what sharpe s a d cha els the you g o es+ atte tio a d se sibilities. access to them has ot become a y easier. 0e would retur from his outi gs illumi ated. ?old is his medium.+ he retorted to a yo e who cared to hear. flatte s. (ach professio has its code. 0e admired the ma . But . he would say triumpha tly.

I tolerated his sisters.hould we have re&oiced so wholeheartedly1 -ere we ot begi i g to wit ess the disappeara ce of a elite of traditio al ma ual wor$ers1 (ter al 3uestio s of our eter al debates. . the phlegm e#pertly secreted u der my carpets. -e were full of ostalgia but were resolutely progressive.-hat will the u successful do1 Appre ticeship to traditio al crafts seems degradi g to whoever has the slightest boo$. who too ofte would desert their ow homes to e cumber my ow . at close 3uarters. 'he horde of the &obless swells the flood of deli 3ue cy. 'he dream is to become a cler$. 'he trowel is spur ed. as their childre romped arou d o my chairs.hould we have bee happy at the desertio of the forges. a d she would leave satisfied. the shoema$er+s shops1 . 9 . without reacti g. -e cou ted the possible losses. 0is mother+s re&ectio did ot frighte him. But we $ ew that othi g would be as before. her supremacy i this beautiful house i which she did ot live. -e all agreed that much disma tli g was eeded to i troduce moder ity withi [Page 1H ] our traditio s. we deplored the +hard sweat+ that would be i evitable. 'hey would loo$ o . &ust to show off her so +s social success but particularly so that they might see. 'or betwee the past a d the prese t. -e e#perie ced the tiffs a d reco ciliatio s of married life. especially if her ha d closed over the ba $ ote I had carefully placed there. I compromised with his people. he the so of a pri cess a d you a child from the forges. I loved .awdo raised you up to his ow level. 0is mother would stop by agai a d agai while o her outi gs. 'hey allowed themselves to be fed a d petted. I would receive her with all the respect due to a 3uee . . we suffered the social co strai ts a d heavy burde of custom. !ur lives developed i parallel. always fla $ed by differe t frie ds.odou. the wor$shops. I our differe t ways. lear i g. I tolerated their spitti g.

tightly shut i with their hurt dig ity. 'hey forgot the source of this easy life% first up i the mor i g. "ou would lame t to me) +"our family. coo$i g. we would revive the da ces of yester.i . . -hat ca I do1+ -hile . he would visit us a glass of cold water a d would leave. limited i their way of thi $i g. +-ith your two housemaids4+ they would say with emphasis. who were crushed u der their duties. their mome ts of leisure a d allowed themselves to be loo$ed after by their husba e3ually arduous. . Aissatou. 'ry e#plai i g to them that othi g is do e if you do ot step i . As for me.i . 'hey saw me dashi g arou d the house after a hard day at school. sugar to gs. always wor$i g. !thers. must be reco ciled. last to go to bed. .law believed me to be spared the drudgery of housewor$.awdo+s mother pla ed her reve ge. e vied my comfort a d purchasi g power. vegetable grater.i . of which both halves. a d co se ted to wasti g useful time i futile chatter. do everythi g all over agai ) clea i g up. 'here are the childre to be washed.But hardly would she be out tha she would thi $ of the ew ba d of frie ds she would soo be da**li g. 'hey would go i to raptures over the ma y +gadgets+ i my house) gas coo$er. 'he wor$i g woma has a dual tas$. I $ ew how to smile at them all. the husba d to be loo$ed after.ome of my did ot e vy my way of livi g at all. -ithout self. 'hey appreciated their comfort. with the costs shared e3ually. that you have to see to everythi g.i .co scious ess. after repeati g his prayers for the protectio of the house.y respects you. their peace of mi d. iro i g. a d held i tur s i the differe t homes. 'ry e#plai i g to them that a wor$i g woma is o less respo sible for her home. we lived) 5hristmas (ve parties orga i*ed by several couples. "ou must treat them well.ore ofte tha without sitti g dow . 0e would accept [Page /I ] ot.odou+s father was more u dersta di g. "ou. 0ow does o e go about this1 'herei lies the s$ill that ma$es all the differe ce to a home. you forsoo$ your family. they loo$ dow o me from the height of their lost obility. . .

which also leads to Dgor a d further o to "off airport. -e would go o to the road to !ua$am. coloured. la guid ta gos. tempted by the be evole t caress of the iodi*ed bree*e a d the warmth from the su +s rays. overloo$i g the ocea . -hat a crowd o public holidays4 Dumerous families would stroll about. K der the wo deri g ga*e of the $ids. aively pai ted ca oes awaited their tur to be lau ched i to the waters. they had escaped the movi g s are of the sea. washed by the waves a d swolle with water. sometimes a veritable ha gi g garde spread out u der the clear s$y. ! the fi e sa d. thirsty for space a d fresh air. without embarrassme t. fre *ied rumbas. a sheer wor$ of art wrought by ature. 'hey would da ce i the hollows of the waves. spade a d buc$et i ha d. I their hollows small pools of blue water would gliste . ?ree ery. o e of the most beautiful i -est Africa. where old bearded fisherme repaired their ets u der the sil$. others would wri g out their soa$ed clothes a d mop their faces. ! ce more. blac$ or ochre. -hile some of them would gather together the wriggli g catch.cotto trees. -e rediscovered the old beati gs of the heart that stre gthe ed our feeli gs. [Page /1 ] -e would also leave the stifli g city to breathe i the healthy air of seaside suburbs. !ur favourite spot was Dgor beach. 'he idle would sleep u der spread parasols. full of light from the s$y a d su . the boats would become more disti ct from o e a other as they drew earer. :ou ded or poi ted roc$s. -e would wal$ alo g the Da$ar 5or iche. 'here is othi g more beautiful tha a fish . the live fish would flip up as the lo g sea s a$es would curve themselves i wards. -e would recog i*e o the way the arrow road leadi g farther o to Almadies beach. People would u dress. 2isherme would gaily furl their sails a d draw i their tac$le.year) the lively begui e. would build a d demolish the castles of their imagi atio . Da$ed a d s otty childre played i complete freedom whe they were ot frolic$i g about i the sea. situated ear the village of the same ame. At first simple poi ts o the hori*o . the would la*ily let themselves be dragged alo g. A few childre . I the eve i g the fisherme would retur from their laborious outi gs.

"ou had a he ru built. :ei vigorated. ?ree leaves a d brow ed leaves.smelli g pomegra ates.a gal$am remai s the refuge of people from Da$ar. "ou grew ma y flowers i a few cor ers. the a closed pe for sheep. bottomless a d u limited ature refreshed our souls. health. . a bathroom. [Page // ] its eye clear a d fresh. 'his oasis lies o the road to :ufis3ue. . Depressio a d sad ess would disappear. "ourself. 0eavy ma goes weighed dow the bra ches. a $itche .a gal$am. 'he you ger set. i the farm . i particular. K der our feet the a ts u tiri gly built a d rebuilt their homes.awdo+s mother had loo$ed after the farm before her so +s marriage. those who wa t a brea$ from the fre *y of the city. 'he sea air would put us i good humour. gave protectio from the su . divide. 'he memory of her husba d had made her attached to this plot of la d. sudde ly to be replaced by feeli gs of ple itude a d e#pa sive ess. 'he pleasure we i dulged i a d i which all our se ses re&oiced would i to#icate both rich a d poor with health. Do you remember the pic ics we orga i*ed at . group. .&ust out of water.uccule t sapodilla stood e#t to sweet. -e would buy a good selectio at bargai prices for the house. where their &oi t a d patie t ha ds had discipli ed the vegetatio that filled our eyes with admiratio . ew grass a d withered grass were strew all over the grou d. meditatio a d the letti g off of steam by childre . with their i terlaci g leaves. 0ow &ealously we guarded the secret of simple pleasures. with golde or silvery scales a d beautiful blueish gli ts4 0a ds would sort out.awdo B9 i herited from his father1 . you added the small buildi g at the far e d) three small. Pawpaws resembli g breasts of differe t shapes hu g tempti g a d i accessible from the tops of elo gated tru $s. !ur commu io with deep. ope spaces are co ducive to rest. has bought la d there a d built cou try reside ces) these gree . simple bedrooms.givi g remedy for the daily te sio s of life. 5oco ut trees. we would set out for home.

0ow faithfully we served our professio . we had lear ed how to practise it well at the demo stratio school. 'his army. hot pepper. ever decorated. carried away i their furl a bit of ourselves. A d we stuffed ourselves with fruits withi easy reach. i tellectual or ma ual. our $ owledge of psychology a d method. .. 'o warp a soul is as much a sacrilege as murder. A army without drums.. deserves co sideratio . forever vigila t. (ach professio . ever praised. Bi$e all appre tices.. A d we dra $ the mil$ from coco uts. A d we lived. a d how we spe t ourselves i order to do it ho our. does ot allow for a y mista$e. i the lesso s we gave.0ow warm the shades over the camp beds4 'eams for games [Page /7 ] were formed o e after the other amid cries of victory or lame tatio s of defeat.crowded classes. A army forever o the move. li$e that of the $i dergarte level. brea$i g. a d life is both body a d mi d. everywhere pla ts the flag of $ owledge a d morality. would be roasti g over the wood fire. I those childre we set i motio waves that.. seaso ed with white pepper.form a oble army accomplishi g daily feats. wide $ owledge or the patie ce of a a t. as at u iversity level. !urs. [Page /< ] 1' . we represe ted a force i the e ormous effort to be accomplished i order to overcome ig ora ce. 'eachers. A d we told +&uicy stories+4 A d we da ced about.. humble teachers i humble local schools. -he we stood i fro t of our over. roused by the stride t otes of a gramopho e. "ou do +t &o$e with life. 0ow we loved this priesthood. without gleami g u iforms. a few steps away from our ow . thwarti g traps a d s ares.. A d the lamb. where e#perie ced teachers taught the ovices that we were how to apply. whether it re3uires pai ful physical effort or ma ual de#terity. garlic. butter.

co ti ued the wor$ begu . very short dresses displayi g shapely legs) a whole ge eratio sudde ly became aware of the ridiculous situatio festeri g i our midst. Did these i termi able discussio s. 'he su helmet wor over the atural protectio of our $i $y hair.filled pipe i the mouth. that made wor$ lighter a d life more pleasa t. 'here was u rest i Dorth Africa. i e#orably. (verybody was readi g ewspapers a d maga*i es. compleme ted each other or were va 3uished. -ith i depe de ce achieved. o e of domi atio . . for he had +t the time. 0is reputatio as a good doctor was growi g% he remai ed the priso er of his missio i a hospital filled to capacity with the sic$.odou rose steadily to the top ra $ i the trade u io orga i*atio s.. 0is sloga was) what+s the use of tau ti g with the impossible1 !btai i g the +possible+ is already a victory. white shorts &ust above the calves. 0e sought practical improveme ts i the wor$ers+ co ditio s. [Page /@ ] 0istory marched o . the other of i depe de ce. Brave me we t to priso % others. -e remai ed you g a d efficie t. but people relied o his practical realism. for people were goi g less a d less to the ative doctor who speciali*ed i brewi g the same co coctio s of leaves for differe t ill esses. for we were the messe gers of a ew desig . . 0is poi t of view was ot u a imously accepted. 'he debate over the right path to ta$e shoo$ -est Africa.awdo could ta$e part i either trade u io ism or politics. duri g which poi ts of view co curred or clashed. 0e focused his efforts o poi ts that were easily satisfied. It was the privilege of our ge eratio to be the li $ betwee two periods i our history. 0is u dersta di g of people a d thi gs e deared him to both employers a d wor$ers. followi g i their footsteps. smo$e. determi e the aspect of the Dew Africa1 'he assimilatio ist dream of the colo ist drew i to its crucible our mode of thought a d way of life.

a d. . who saw you resple de t beside her so . . oddi g her head. 'his bleedi g of the cou try for reaso s of pure va ity. developed cou try. or so much hospital e3uipme t lost4 . a practical ma .. [Page /A ] 11 I $ ow that I am sha$i g you. A d we said that over a d above the u avoidable opti g for such. was &ust a waste of mo ey. -e were scali g the heights. but your mother.awdo+s mother.he lived i the past. who saw your mother fill out a d dress better. she believed firmly that blood carried with it virtues. . A d. Jery early. amo g other thi gs.he clu g to old beliefs. I heard people repeat that all the active forces i the cou try should be mobili* .such a model of society. a d. that I am twisti g a $ ife i a wou d hardly healed% but what ca I do1 I ca ot help rememberi g i my forced solitude a d reclusio . +. .ey abou to others. she would repeat that humble birth would always show i a perso +s beari g.o ma y tarred roads4+ "ou a d . i fusi g it with ew blood.o ma y mo thly wage i creases4 . But he cursed the hasty establishme t of too ma y embassies. i . she lost .odou. led his u io s i to collaboratio with the gover me t. who saw her so goi g more a d more fre3ue tly to your father+s wor$shop.ear ers i mi d.i e) Diouf. such. 'o be productive i the crowd was better tha crossi g o e+s arms a d hidi g behi d imported ideologies. . dema di g for his troops o ly what was possible. u aware of the cha gi g world. Bei g stro gly attached to her privileged origi s. A d life had ot bee $i d to .awdo would liste to him.he bore a glorious ame i the . .we wit essed the birth of a republic. which he &udged to be too costly for our u der. your mother.he is a desce da t of Bour. a d. such as the fre3ue t i vitatio of foreig ers. with his wage.such a party.o ma y thought more a d more of her reve ge. the birth of a a them a d the impla tatio of a flag.a y of us rallied arou d the domi a t party.i e.awdo+s mother is Au ty Dabou to us a d . he would repeatedly growl. what was eeded was atio al u ity. .

her dear husba d% bravely, she brought up her eldest so .awdo a d two other daughters, ow married ... a d well married. ;he devoted herself with the affectio of a tigress to her +o e a d o ly ma +, .awdo B9. -he she swore by her o ly so +s ose, the symbol of life, she had said everythi g. Dow, her +o ly ma + was movi g away from her, through the fault of this cursed daughter of a goldsmith, worse tha a griot woma . 'he griot bri gs happi ess. But a goldsmith+s daughter4 ... she bur s everythi g i her path, li$e the fire i a forge. ;o while we lived without co cer , co sideri g your marriage a problem of the past, .awdo+s mother thought day a d ight of a way to get her reve ge o you, the goldsmith+s daughter. ! e fi e day she decided to pay a visit to her you ger brother, 2arba Diouf, a customary chief i Dia$hao. ;he pac$ed a few well chose clothes i to a suitcase that she
[Page /C ]

borrowed from me, stuffed a bas$et full of various purchases) provisio s a d foodstuffs that are dear or rare i the ;i e =fruits from 2ra ce, cheese, preserves>, toys for ephews, le gths of material for her brother a d his four wives. ;he as$ed .odou for some mo ey, which she carefully folded a d put away i her purse. ;he had her hair do e, pai ted her feet a d ha ds with he a. 'hus dressed, ador ed, she left. 'hese days, the road to :ufis3ue for$s at the Diam iadio crossroads) the Datio al 1, to the right, leads, after .bour, to the ;i e,;aloum, while the Datio al / goes through 'hies a d 'ivaoua e, cradle of 'id&a ism, towards ;ai t,Bouis, former capital of ;e egal. Au ty Dabou did ot e &oy the be efit of these pleasa t roads. 8ostled i the bus o the bumpy road, she sought refuge i her memories. 'he di**yi g speed of the vehicle, carryi g her towards the place of her childhood, did ot preve t her from recog i*i g the familiar cou tryside. 0ere, ;i dia, a d to the left, Pope gui e, where the 5atholics celebrate -hitsu . 0ow ma y ge eratio s has this same u cha gi g cou tryside see glide past4 Au ty Dabou ac$ owledged ma +s vul erability i the face of the eter ity of ature. By its very duratio , ature defies time a d ta$e its reve ge o ma . 'he baobab trees held out the gia t $ ots of their bra ches towards the s$ies% slowly, the cows moved across the road, their mour ful stare defyi g the vehicles% shepherds

i baggy trousers, their stic$s o their shoulders or i their ha ds, guided the a imals. .e a d a imals ble ded, as i a picture rise from the depths of time. Au ty Dabou closed her eyes every time the bus passed a other vehicle. ;he was especially frighte ed of the big lorries with their huge loads. 'he beautiful .edi atou,.i aouara mos3ue had ot yet bee built to the glory of Islam, but i the same pious spirit, me a d wome prayed by the side of the road. +"ou have to come away from Da$ar to be co vi ced of the survival of traditio s,+ murmured Au ty Dabou. ! the left, pric$ly shrubs bordered the Ddiassa e forest% mo $eys darted out to e &oy the light. 'hiadiaye, 'atagui e, Diouroupe, the Ddioudiouf, a d
[Page /F ]

fi ally 2atic$, capital of the ;i e. Puffi g a d steami g, the bus bra ched off to the left. 8olts a d still more &olts. 2i ally Dia$hao, the royal Dia$hao, Dia$hao, cradle a d tomb of the Bour,;i e, Dia$hao of her a cestors, beloved Dia$hao, with the vast compou d of its old palace. 'he same heavi ess tortured her heart o each visit paid to the family domai . 2irst of all, water for ablutio s a d a mat o which to pray a d to meditate before the tomb of the a cestor. A d the she let her ga*e, mar$ed with sad ess a d filled with history, roam over the other tombs. 0ere, the dead a d the livi g lived together i the family compou d) each $i g, retur ed from his coro atio , pla ted two trees i the yard that mar$ed out his last resti g place. 2erve tly, Au ty Dabou i to ed the religious verses, directi g them at the tombs of the dead. 0er face wore a tragic mas$ i this place of gra deur, which sa g of the past to the sou d of the d#ou-d#oungs , the royal drums. ;he swore that your e#iste ce, Aissatou, would ever tar ish her oble desce t. Associati g i her thoughts a ti3uated rites a d religio , she remembered the mil$ to be poured i to the ;i e 11 to appease the i visible spirits. 'omorrow, i the river, she would ma$e her offeri gs to protect herself from the evil eye, while at the same time attracti g the be evole ce of the tours . 1/

:oyally received, she immediately resumed her positio as the elder sister of the master of the house. Dobody addressed her without $ eeli g dow . ;he too$ her meals alo e, havi g bee served with the choicest bits from the pots. Jisitors came from everywhere to ho our her, thus remi di g her of the truth of the law of blood. 2or her, they revived the e#ploits of the a cestor Bour,;i e, the dust of combats a d the ardour of thoroughbred horses. ... A d, heady with the heavy sce t of bur t i ce se, she drew force a d vigour from the a cestral ashes stirred to the eclectic sou d of the oras . ;he summo ed her brother. +I eed a child beside me,+ she said, +to fill my heart. I wa t this child to be both my legs a d my right arm. I am growi g old. I will ma$e of this child a other me. ;i ce the marriage of my ow childre , the house has bee empty.+

[Page /H ]

;he was thi $i g of you, wor$i g out her ve gea ce, but was very careful ot to spea$ of you, of her hatred for you. +Bet your wish be fulfilled,+ replied 2arba Diouf. +I have ever as$ed you to educate a y of my daughters, ot wa ti g to tire you. "et today+s childre are difficult to $eep i chec$. 'a$e you g Dabou, your amesa$e. ;he is yours. I as$ o ly for her bo es.+ ;atisfied, Au ty Dabou pac$ed her suitcase agai , filled her bas$et with all that could be fou d i the village a d is dear i tow ) dried couscous, roasted grou d ut paste, millet, eggs, mil$, chic$e . 0oldi g you g Dabou+s ha d firmly i her right ha d, she too$ the road bac$ to tow .


As she ha ded me bac$ my suitcase, Au ty Dabou i troduced you g Dabou to me% she also i troduced her at the homes of all her frie ds. -ith my help, you g Dabou was admitted i to the 2re ch school. .aturi g i her au t+s protective shade, she lear ed the secret of ma$i g delicious sauces, of usi g a

iro a d wieldi g a pestle. 0er au t ever missed a opportu ity to remi d her of her royal origi , a d taught her that the first 3uality i a woma is docility. After obtai i g her primary school certificate, a d after a few years i seco dary school, the older Dabou advised her iece to sit the e tra ce e#ami atio for the ;tate ;chool of .idwifery) +'his school is good. "ou receive a educatio there. Do garla ds for heads. "ou g, sober girls without earri gs, dressed i white, which is the colour of purity. 'he professio you will lear there is a beautiful o e% you will ear
[Page 7I ]

your livi g a d you will ac3uire grace for your e try i to paradise by helpi g at the birth of ew followers of .ohammed, the prophet. 'o tell the truth, a woma does ot eed too much educatio . I fact, I wo der how a woma ca ear her livi g by tal$i g from mor i g to ight.+ 'hus, you g Dabou became a midwife. ! e fi e day, Au ty Dabou called .awdo a d said to him) +.y brother 2arba has give you you g Dabou to be your wife, to tha $ me for the worthy way i which I have brought her up. I will ever get over it if you do +t ta$e her as your wife. ;hame $ills faster tha disease.+ I $ ew about it. .odou $ ew about it. 'he whole tow $ ew about it. "ou, Aissatou, suspected othi g a d co ti ued to be radia t. A d because his mother had fi#ed a date for the weddi g ight, .awdo fi ally had the courage to tell you what every woma was whisperi g) you had a co,wife. +.y mother is old. 'he $ oc$s a d disappoi tme ts of life have wea$e ed her heart. If I spur this child, she will die. 'his is the doctor spea$i g a d ot the so . 'hi $ of it, her brother+s daughter, brought up by her, re&ected by her so . -hat shame before society4+ It was +so as ot to see his mother die of shame a d chagri + that .awdo agreed to go to the re de*,vous of the weddi g ight. 2aced with this rigid mother moulded by the old morality, bur i g with the fierce ardour of a ti3uated laws, what could .awdo B9 do1 0e was getti g o i years, wor out by his arduous wor$. A d the , did he really wa t to fight, to ma$e a gesture of resista ce1 "ou g Dabou was so tempti g. ... 2rom the o , you o lo ger cou ted. -hat of the time a d the love you had i vested i your home1 ! ly trifles, 3uic$ly forgotte . "our so s1 'hey cou ted for very little i this reco ciliatio betwee a mother a d her +o e a d o ly ma +% you o lo ger cou ted, a y more tha did your four so s) they could ever be e3ual to you g Dabou+s so s.

awdo. could ot recog i*e herself i the so s of a goldsmith+s daughter. [Page 71 ] I a y case. tha the ho our a d chagri of a $uelewar . .awdo did ot drive you away. so that his mother +would ot die+.'he griots spo$e of you g Dabou+s so s. a y ho our1 'his was ta tamou t to as$i g whether you had a heart a d flesh.+ "ou were threate ed through your flesh) +Boys ca "ou too$ o otice. to +fulfil a duty+.+ .awdo+s mother.+ "our so s did ot cou t. 0ow much greater you proved to be tha those who sapped your happi ess4 "ou were advised to compromise) +"ou do +t bur the tree which bears the fruit. o the bed that used to be yours. did ot produce the desired miracle% they did ot divert you from your decisio . 0e did his duty a d wished that you would stay o . a o e. "ou chose to ma$e a brea$.way &our ey with your four so s. could a goldsmith+s daughter have a y dig ity.awdo. (very other ight he would go to his mother+s place to see his other wife. Ah4 for some people the ho our a d chagri of a goldsmith+s daughter cou t for less. 'hese commo place truths. . . I remember the e#act words) ot succeed without their father. much less. e#alti g them) +Blood has retur ed to its source. i clear view. a pri cess. "ou g Dabou would co ti ue to live with his mother% it was you he loved. which before had lowered the heads of ma y wives as they raised them i revolt. leavi g this letter for .

Pri ces master their feeli gs to fulfil their duties. Do e of his acts is pure charity. 'he power of boo$s. If you ca procreate without lovi g. "ou set yourself a difficult tas$% a d more tha &ust my prese ce a d my e courageme ts. boo$s saved you. your choice+. accept a desti y that oppresses them. to be tolerated for reaso s of duty+. Do e is pure bestiality. your love. i sile ce. At that mome t you tumbled from the highest ru g of respect o which I have always placed you. the I fi d you despicable. . Ai++ato. I am strippi g myself of your love. ma is o e) great ess a d a imal fused together. Goo()*e. however little that may be. is u acceptable to me) o o e side. A d i stead of loo$i g bac$wards. +you g Dabou. I will ot yield to it. I say that there ca be o u io of bodies without the heart+s accepta ce. is the i ter al orderi g of our society. you loo$ed resolutely to the future. "ou had the surprisi g courage to ta$e your life i to your ow ha ds. the o ly worthy garme t. "ou wa t to draw a li e betwee heartfelt love a d physical love. which ma$es a disti ctio . merely to satisfy [Page 7/ ] the pride of your decli i g mother. 8u#tapositio of . this marvellous i ve tio of astute huma i tellige ce. your ame. +your life. Jarious sig s associated with sou d) differe t sou ds that form the word. me. they sustai ed you. I go my way. "ou re ted a house a d set up home there. 'hat. o the other. I ca ot accept what you are offeri g me today i place of the happi ess we o ce had.awdo. "our reaso i g. A d you left. 0avi g become your refuge. briefly put. +!thers+ be d their heads a d. 5lothed i my dig ity. with its absurd divisio s.

'hey e abled you to better yourself. +. you. the i fle#io s i his voice harde ed.awdo.there was o possible compariso betwee yourself a d you g Dabou% you. 'he . Is it true1 Is she arou d1 0ow is she1 -hat about my so s1+ I did ot a swer . they gra ted) e#ami atio s sat a d passed too$ you also to 2ra ce. a d through him all me ..words from which spri gs the idea.omebody told me he+d see you with Aissatou yesterday. +.awdo. 0istory. who could always fi d the right words with which to ma$e him rela#.awdo1 -hat did +t he say1 +I am completely disorie tated. 'hought. "ou are [Page 77 ] developi g i peace.. But. as your letters tell me. 2or . so beautiful a d so ge tle. -he he spo$e of you.ole i strume t of i terrelatio ships a d of culture.awdo.+ I did ot liste to .y house is a suburb of Dia$hao.e egalese (mbassy i the K ited .tates. (verythi g there is dirty. "ou ma$e a very good livi g.awdo $ ew it. who $ ew how to mop your husba d+s brow. his wit.. whose te der ess for him was so deep a d disi terested. A d . "our departure had truly sha$e him. your bac$ resolutely tur ed o those see$i g light e &oyme t a d easy relatio ships.awdo. A d . Bife. you.chool of I terpreters.+ I had o pity for .awdo1 0e re ewed his relatio ship with his family. . 0is sad ess was clearly evide t.a d . 'wo boys had already bee bor . But his disillusio ed air. . you. which railed at everythi g. from which you graduated.. u paralleled mea s of givi g a d receivi g. led to your appoi tme t i to the . "ou g Dabou gives my food a d my clothes away to visitors. -hat society refused you. I fi d it impossible to get a y rest there.cie ce. remai ed a e igma to me. "ou ca +t cha ge the habits of a grow ma . did ot i the least preve t the periodic swelli g of you g Dabou+s belly. . 'hose from Dia$hao i vaded his house) those from Dia$hao sustai ed you g Dabou. the bitter criticisms of his home. Boo$s $ it ge eratio s together i the same co ti ui g effort that leads to progress. I loo$ for shirts a d trousers i the old places a d I touch o ly empti ess.

[Page 7@ ] . proof of his i timate relatio s with you g Dabou. to &ustify himself. 'he importa t thi g is what there is i the heart% that+s what u ites two bei gs i side. 'ruth is ugly whe o e a alyses it. there you were. 'his fact demo strates the force of the i sti cts i ma .+ 'hus. "ou did ot care about . But to u dersta d what1 'he supremacy of i sti ct1 'he right to betray1 'he &ustificatio of the desire for variety1 I could ot be a ally to polygamic i sti cts.> +Drive to the limits of my resista ce. 'here you were. . i deed. co trary to all predictio s. at the poi t where the heart lies. .. . for the sa$e of +variety+.rs3uo% =0e struc$ his chest.. me are u faithful to their wives.awdo. regardless of his level of i tellige ce. o ce a d for all. was I to u dersta d1 0ow I e vied your calm ess duri g your last visit4 'here you were. a i oce t victim of a u &ust cause a d the courageous pio eer of a ew life. "ou u dersta d. "es.-he faced with this visible fact. I say EmaleE to emphasi*e the bestiality of i sti cts. i sti cts that domi ate him..+ +"ou ca +t resist the imperious laws that dema d food a d clothi g for ma . he reduced you g Dabou to a +plate of food+.awdo would twist with a ger. Accept reality i its crude ugli ess. 0is loo$ was li$e a whip) +Boo$ here. I was irritated. 'hus.lough off [Page 7< ] this surfeit of dreamy se time tality. 0e was as$i g me to u dersta d. 'hese same laws compel the EmaleE i other respects. a d must forgive% she must ot worry herself about Ebetrayals of the fleshE. It+s a terrible thi g to say. do +t be a idiot. "our so s were growi g up well. the past crushed be eath your heel.. the . I satisfy myself with what is withi reach. A wife must u dersta d. -hat. 0ow ca you e#pect a ma to remai a sto e whe he is co sta tly i co tact with the woma who ru s his house1+ 0e added as illustratio ) +I saw a film i which the survivors of a air crash survived by eati g the flesh of the corpses. . rid of the mas$ of sufferi g.

Bi etou was goi g through a metamorphosis. however.daddy. But u li$e i your ow case. . &ewels1+ +Do e of that is worth the capital of youth. a bit shy. I sometimes oticed that .+because it was getti g late. faded i the smo$e from the wood fires. But she was really beautiful i this her adolesce t period. .+ 'he o e day.ecca for her pare ts.+ [Page 7A ] +I agree with you. pure.+ . +A d if the ma i 3uestio offers her a villa.daddy who pays for them. ofte brought some of her classmates home with her.peg dresses. . made oticeably u comfortable by our style of life.+ +Advise her to refuse. i her faded but clea clothes4 0er beauty sho e.odou himself.ost of the time it was the same you g girl. that she loo$s e viously at everythi g I wear% she complai s all day lo g.. a mo thly allowa ce. a car.mili gly. with o ly a few mo ths to go before the bac . I have a sugar. who was prepari g for her baccalaur!at . .y ow crisis came three years after your ow . 8ust imagi e.+ I said. my husba d. 'he problem was rooted i .+ he would say.daddy of the bouti3ue dresses wa ts to marry Bi was i terested i the pair. to marry her off to the sugar.1" . o her retur from school.he was ow weari g very e#pe sive off. 0er shapely co tours could ot but be oticed. frail.the. mum.. Deither was I worried whe I heard him suggest that he should ta$e Bi etou home i the car.y daughter Daba.i . I+ll tell Bi etou ot to give i % but her mother is a woma who wa ts so much to escape from mediocrity a d who regrets so much her past beauty. Daba co fided to me that Bi etou had a serious problem) +'he sugar. the source was ot my family. 0er pare ts wa t to withdraw her from school. she would e#plai to my daughter) +!h. .

they had come loo$i g for .+ A d the . 'hey e tered laughi g. +.+ I followed the moveme t of the haughty lips that let fall these a#ioms. a few days afterwards. -hat was he leadi g up to with these prelimi aries that rather a ou ced a storm1 .+ +-he is the weddi g1+ +'his comi g .odou+s brother. . with . all dressed up a d solem . I told them that . laughi g with them.awdo chimed i agai .daddy. 0e too$ a breath a d co ti ued) +'here is othi g ew i this world. true.he is goi g to marry her sugar. . i a proper house.awdo B9 a d his local "mam . I sat i fro t of them. .+ 'amsir a d . -here had they come from. 0er mother cried so much.he begged her daughter to give her life a happy e d. 'amsir. Bi etou ca her frie ds. as the ma has promised them.odou to carry out a importa t tas$ that o e of them had bee charged with. with its surprisi g co clusio .odou had bee out si ce mor i g.+-hat is importa t is Bi etou herself.u day. loo$i g so aw$ward i their starched boubous 1 Doubtless.+ +'rue. .+ +'rue.u day o which Bi etou was bei g married off I saw come i to my house.+ ot bear the moc$ery of A d i the eve i g of this same . true. Daba re ewed the co versatio .+ said the other two i support.um4 Bi etou is heartbro$e .ome thi gs we may fi d to be sad are much less so tha others.o she accepted. +..he must ot give i .. [Page 7C ] . which ca precede the a ou ceme t of either a happy eve t or a u happy o e. . . 'he "mam attac$ed) +'here is othi g o e ca do whe Allah the almighty puts two people side by side.o their visit was obviously pla ed. A pause. deliberately s iffi g the fragra t odour of i ce se that was floati g o the air. but there+ll be o receptio .

awdo said othi g. crossed over his folded right leg.+ I thought of other abse ces. there is othi g he ca do about it. he is alive for you. tha $s be to ?od.odou. your reactio . especially myself.y mother+s words came bac$ to me) +too perfect. held tightly o to it.u day best1 !r did they wa t to i spire co fide ce with their impeccable dress1 I thought of the abse t o e. I thought of his abse ce.. as if the words were glowi g embers i his mouth) +"es.. 0is shoes. 0e had simply said) +Do +t e#pect me for lu ch. 0e was thi $i g of your letter. 0is family.+ 'amsir+s Adam+s apple da ced about i his throat. the colour of the earth i which they had wal$ed. a mother for .odou 2all.. I ac3uiesced u der the drops of poiso that were bur i g me) +A 3uarter of a ce tury of marriage+. I cou ted bac$wards to determi e where the brea$ i the thread had occurred from which everythi g had u wou d. . all day lo g. 0e praises you for the 3uarter of a ce tury of marriage i which you gave him all the happi ess a wife owes her husba d. which were i te ded to relieve the situatio ) +"ou are the o ly o e i your house. 0e was bei g wary.odou se ds his tha $s. his elder brother. . "ou are the first wife. crudely clarified . to be ho est+. 3uite fre3ue t these days. All he has do e is to marry a seco d wife today.odou1+ A d the "mam . a frie d for . 'amsir ve tured) +.awdo+s a d the Imam+s shoes. 0e was relivi g his ow e#perie ce.Does o e a ou ce bad ews dressed up li$e that i o e+s .+ I completed at last my mother+s thought with the e d of the dictum) +. o matter how dear life is.. tha $ you. +a wife u paralleled+. I thought of the first two i cisors with a wide gap betwee them.odou.+ 'he thor s thus removed from the way. 'he same dust covered . "ou $ ow that we are . o matter how big it is. happily. 0e we t o 3uic$ly.odou+s blood. white 'ur$ish slippers. 0e says it is fate that decides me a d thi gs) ?od i te ded him to have a seco d wife. . 0e $ept his head lowered. who had fi ally got hold of a leadi g thread. i the attitude of those who accept defeat before the battle. for all of us. were covered with a thi layer of red dust. but. the sig of the primacy of love i the [Page 7F ] i dividual. "ou have always held us i respect. 0e shoo$ his left leg. I as$ed with the cry of a hu ted beast) +. a d you a d I were so ali$e.+ Afterwards there were the same old words. -e have &ust come from the mos3ue i ?ra d Da$ar where the marriage too$ place. .

1# Alo e at last. I forced myself to chec$ my i er agitatio . all e#cept . 'ha $ my yet well hidde yesterday u der the guise of trade u io meeti gs. 'ha $ them for the huma e way i which they have accomplished their missio .ome of them did so out of true frie dship for me% others were spiteful a d &ealous of the promotio Bi etou+s mother would gai from the marriage. +I do +t u dersta d.ha$e their ha ds. who correctly &udged the import of the eve t. . would slip to the floor. able to give free rei to my surprise a d to gauge my distress. Ac3uai ta ces from ?ra d Da$ar came rushi g to my house. the "mam .awdo. I forgot to as$ for my rival+s ame so that I might give a huma form to my pai .+ he would say laughi gly. impatie tly re&ected. u der the swirls of i ce se that they were s iffi g o ce agai . 0ow pleased they were. 0e was also o a strict diet. . ta$e the matter lightly. i to this e#tremely poor family. +to brea$ the stomach+s egg. (very ight whe he we t out he would u fold a d try o several of his suits before settli g o o e.e d tha $s to . +a good father a d a good husba d+.mile. ?ive them somethi g to dri $.+ 'hey did ot u dersta d either the e tra ce of . 'he others. bri gi g the various details [Page 7H ] of the ceremo y. &ust as they a ou ced it. I was doi g o ly to help him i his effort to be elega t i his seductio of a other woma . this egg that a ou ced old age.mile. Ah4 Above them out.y 3uestio was soo a swered.awdo. .i . I discovered. . I would have to fold them agai a d put them bac$ i their places% a d this e#tra wor$.odou. . . a +perso ality+. I must ot give my visitors the pleasure of relati g my distress. .odou. . . +a husba d become a frie d+.

-hat would ow be recorded there would hold o love.odou was mil$. after livi g twe ty. 'ell me you+ll brea$ with him. certai ly. wife.he repeated all the ic$ ames Bi etou had give her father) old ma .he had told everythi g) the villa.he had i oce tly co fided her secrets to her rival+s daughter because she thought that this dream. gra deur or hope. Daba+s a ger i creased as she a alysed the situatio ) +Brea$ with him. A overwhelmi g a ger raged i side Daba.he thought she was stro ger tha the ma she was deali g with.belly. spru g from a brai growi g old. . the mo thly allowa ce. the.. promoted to the ra $ of my co.five years with o e ma . Daba was furious.e d this ma away. . . the resista ce that i spires ew attempts at each failure. there is a avala che of faults that comes crashi g dow . the perso who gave her life had bee daily ridiculed a d he accepted it. the offer of a future trip to . 0e has respected either you or me. Do +t get to $ ow it4 :u from it4 -he o e begi s to forgive. But what ca a child do. which was both moral a d material1 Beave4 Draw a clea li e through the past. 'ur over a page o which ot everythi g was bright. .daddy4 . . the pride he i vests i wi i g. co fide ce.ecca for her pare ts.he $ ew that her best frie d was si cere i what she said. li$e ma y others. the solitude that le ds cou sel e abled me to grasp the problem.tart agai at *ero. his te acity before a obstacle. it was I who had had all the cream. whom I must face up to.odou+s stro g will. but at least all was clear. after havi g bor e twelve childre 1 Did I have [Page <I ] e ough e ergy to bear alo e the weight of this respo sibility. her pride wou ded. a d the o ly thi g that remai s is to .he did ot $ ow . Do what Au ty Aissatou did% brea$ with him.+ I told myself what every betrayed woma says) if .odou abse t all ight =was he already co summati g his marriage1>.hy Bi etou4 'he old ma who bought her the ew off.. Beave1 . But the fi al decisio lay with me. 'he rest. sugar. was a lamb slaughtered o the altar of afflue ce.peg dresses to replace the old faded o es was o e other tha . faced with a furious mother shouti g about her hu ger a d her thirst to live1 Bi etou. well. . I had ever $ ow the sordid side of marriage. -ith . pot. mother4 . othi g but water with a vague smell of mil$.Bi etou. a child the same age as my daughter Daba.odou. I ca +t see you fighti g over a ma with a girl my age. would ever become reality. .

a hu dred times better tha his predecessor+. I cou ted the aba do ed or divorced wome of my ge eratio whom I $ ew. . 0is egoistic eye loo$s over his part er+s shoulder. . . a d eve less over who gets it.he i sists) +'here is a sayi g that discord here may be luc$ elsewhere. o the other ha d. my eighbour. as well as ease a d 3uic$ ess of moveme t. 'he misery that was the lot of these wome was rolled bac$ with the i vasio of the ew happi ess that cha ged their lives. o o e ca predict where it will bou ce.y stomach protruded from be eath the wrapper that hid the calves developed by the impressive umber of $ilometres wal$ed si ce the begi i g of my e#iste ce. without strai i g my ear at the slightest oise.+ adds 2armata. despite the agei g of her compa io . what he has with what he could have. +'he o ly thi g that separates you from them. !fte it is grabbed by a u e#pected ha d.+ I stead of liste i g to the reaso i g of my eighbour. . filled out their chee$s.. "ou have o co trol over where it rolls. -hy are you afraid to ma$e the brea$1 A woma is li$e a ball% o ce a ball is throw . I $ ew a few whose remai i g beauty had bee able to capture a worthy ma . ma a d wealth. . the promise of wealth.. showi g the blac$ hollow that sig ifies laughter. 'he play of desti y remai s impe etrable. Beave. restricts his field of te der ess. I $ ew others who had lost all hope of re ewal a d whom lo eli ess had very 3uic$ly laid u dergrou d. to $eep o forgivi g. -hereas a woma draws from the passi g years the force of her devotio . brighte ed their eyes. 'he cowries that a female eighbour throws o a fa i fro t of me do ot fill me with optimism.uc$li g had robbed my breasts of their rou d firm ess. escape from betrayal4 . a ma who added fi e beari g to a good situatio a d who was co sidered +better. I had lost my slim figure. I could ot delude myself) youth was deserti g my body.y eyes too$ i the mirror+s elo3ue ce. or whe the groupi g of their white bac$s seems to say that +the ma i the double trousers+ 17 is comi g towards me. 0e compares what he had with what he o lo ger has. waiti g for a husba d I share. a griot woma who dreams of the ge erous tips due to the go. I loo$ed at myself i the mirror. either whe they remai face upwards. a ma .leep without as$i g myself a y 3uestio s. is the alms of two white a d red cola uts.forgive agai . [Page <1 ] betwee . .

People called her gnac . her husba d+s relatives. a co temporary of .I had heard of too ma y misfortu es ot to u dersta d my ow . emphasi*i g that the vital orga s are i o way disturbed. But Africa is diverse.. o e must profit i te sely from this seco d% it is the sum of all the lost or harvested seco ds that ma$es for a wasted or a successful life. a d did ot bother to hide his adve tures. the Ivoria . o leavi g the Africa . chest.. ma$i g up for lost time.amba Diac$.awdo B9+s. who were aba do ed li$e a wor . I additio . from orth to south or from east to west. a world with differe t reactio s. si ce her husba d ofte visited our household. 0is lac$ of precautio s brought to . as he would say with appreciatio . spe t his time chasi g sle der . 5omi g to . !h. who suffered from o e.were cool towards her because she refused to adopt the . had disobeyed her Protesta t pare ts a d had married .e egalese wome .that o L.uslim religio a d we t i stead to the Protesta t church every ...out or out. who. "ou are luc$y if they do +t tell you that you are wasti g their time with the ever. divided.. despised.operate. was posted to Abid&a . Aissatou. ervous brea$dow 4 Doctors spea$ of it i a detached. Bittle by little. the cases of ma y other wome .your head. 'o overcome distress whe it sits upo you dema ds stro g will. A blac$ Africa .chool of .always the relatives. .dated boubou . 8ac3ueli e truly wa ted to become . 1< a d she fi ally u derstood the mea i g of this ic$ ame that revolted her so. iro ical way. relegated or e#cha ged.e egal a d the Ivory 5oast both havi g e#perie ced the same colo ial power.. it ta$es over your whole bei g.growi g list of your ill esses . she fou d herself i a ew [Page </ ] world.edici e a d Pharmacy. but the moc$ery chec$ed all desire i her to co. 'he same cou try ca cha ge its character a d outloo$ several times over. 8ac3ueli e ofte came rou d to see us. heart.ray ca co firm. throat.. a doctor li$e him. 'here was your ow case.e egal. 0er husba d. -he o e thi $s that with each passi g seco d o e+s life is shorte ed..u day. respecti g either his wife or his childre . liver. 8ac3ueli e. she should have bee able to fit without difficulty i to a blac$ Africa society. Brace o eself to chec$ despair a d get it i to proportio 4 A ervous brea$dow waits arou d the cor er for a yo e who lets himself wallow i bitter ess.e egalese. temperame t a d me tality from that i which she had grow up. A d yet what atrocious sufferi g is caused by ervous brea$dow s4 A d I thi $ of 8ac3ueli e.

co fi ed i side. 0e too prescribed tra 3uilli*ers. tortured by the i sidious pai . Dothi g to be lear ed from the electric readi g of the heart.edici e a d Pharmacy.he fretted. housed either i separate buildi gs or i ad&oi i g o es to facilitate commu icatio . 8ac3ueli e lost weight) . ear the u iversity. effervesce t tablets that could ot allay poor 8ac3ueli e+s distress. the viole t o es bei g co fi ed i the psychiatric hospital at 'hiaroye. despite their umber a d si*e.awdo B9 a d .he co sulted a doctor from her ow cou try. 0e prescribed some tra 3uilli*ers. 8ac3ueli e too$ the tablets. do ot ma age to fill up the hospital+s vast grou ds.awdo liste ed to her heart) othi g wro g there.amba Diac$ +lived it up+. 'he bottle empty. . . 8ac3ueli e was ta$e to 2a 0ospital o the road to !ua$am. he would say.he wrote them a pathetic letter. 8ac3ueli e was i a eurology ward. u der her left breast% she said she had the impressio that a sharp poi t had pierced her there a d was cutti g through her flesh right to her very bo es. 'hey se t their si cere blessi g but could do othi g to lighte the stra ge weight i her chest. she oticed that the lump remai ed i the same place% she co ti ued to feel the pai &ust as acutely as ever. 8ac3ueli e thought of those go e mad. 'hese buildi gs. . 8ac3ueli e complai ed of a disturbi g lump i her chest.amba Diac$ was still livi g fast. who ordered a electrocardiogram a d various blood tests. (agerly.amba Diac$ studied at the . . big. 8ac3ueli e cried% . It was ecessary to e#plai to her that the mad o es were i psychiatric care a d that here they were called the me tally sic$ a d i a y case. othi g ab ormal fou d i the blood. It has ma y departme ts.he thought of her pare ts. of their refusal to co se t to her marriage. i which she [Page <7 ] begged for their forgive ess.8ac3ueli e+s $ owledge the irrefutable proof of his misco duct) love otes. . as they do at the Aristide Be Da tec 0ospital. 'his hospital did ot e#ist at the time . ! e teri g it. chec$ stubs beari g the ames of the payees.chool of . . were ot viole t. bills from restaura ts a d for hotel rooms. where medical stude ts do their i ter ship.

frighte ed a d torme ted. the o ly light.our. for her u married status.a d those of us who we t to visit her lear ed that the hospital also had departme ts for treati g tuberculosis a d i fectious diseases. . all her crushed revolt co ived to attac$ her throat. !ld.tempered. A sore throat. . the pai s you are told of have their roots i moral torme t. 8ac3ueli e+s thoughts tur ed to death. a d would u cover her bac$ for the refreshi g caress of the scarf with white dots. . formed shaggy tufts o her head. as she said. who we t to co sult the ative medici e me for us a d brought bac$ safara 1@ from her visits a d directio s for the sacrifices you 3uic$ly carried out. Aissatou.he waited for it. scoffed maliciously at all the tra 3uilli*ers. . A d it was your mother.he had come therefore.operatio teacher of literature. had [Page << ] preve ted her from ta$i g up her duties a d had brought her here. 0er studies must have bee her o ly form of recreatio duri g her youth. especially whe the patie t from the e#t room came to +chat+. where the te acious. but all her frustrated dreams. . the o ly heave ly grace i her u gracious face. she must have put off a y passio ate adva ces. all her disappoi ted hopes. blue eyes. posted to the BycMe 2aidherbe i . without a y charm. a afflictio as sudde as it was viole t. was the bridge that spa ed the river.mate was a 2re ch 'ech ical 5o. Doctors. for we tried everythi g to draw this sister out of her private hell. her ha d o her chest. protected by a avy. 8ac3ueli e+s room. !fte . she said. it would u cover the coati g of a mi#ture of roots that we poured o her. 0er beautiful but eglected blac$ hair. A teachi g post i .he suffered from sudde flushes.e egal must have correspo ded to her dreams of escape. pi ched over their misery. . Je#atio s suffered a d co sta t frustratio s) these are what accumulate somewhere i the body a d cho$e it.tra ge a d varied ma ifestatio s of euro. I observed her ofte . the o ly poi t of beauty. i visible lump foiled all the ruses. lumi ous. 'he medicatio with which her throat was pai ted gave a blueish ti t to her thi lips.Bouis. -e would laugh at their ways.vegetative dysto ia. beware. co ditio er. which bur ed her terribly at this spot. -he the scarf protecti g it slipped out of place. 'he o ly thi g she $ ew of . 'hi . especially if you are eurologists or psychiatrists. where she was waiti g to be repatriated. It was perhaps her lo eli ess that had made her see$ for a cha t. t. 8ac3ueli e lay prostrate i her bed. . which co trasted with the pale ess of her chest. through which o comb had bee ru ever si ce she bega co sulti g doctor after doctor. a gular eve .he tapped agai st her throat% 8ac3ueli e tapped agai st her chest.he had big.

. A electro. after a mo th of i vestigatio s.amba Diac$ was $i d a d touched by his wife+s brea$dow .odou 2all1 .lowly. I a soft.he was morally uplifted. 'his is e#tremely pai ful.oreover. bravely e dured blood test after blood test.ray of the lu gs. givi g 8ac3ueli e much hope. who e &oyed life. a ma who had ot bee harde ed by co sta t deali g with the most deplorable of miseries.. loo$i g more pitiful a d haggard tha ever before. ot happy. 'hat day. I assure you that there is othi g at all wro g with your head.e cephalogram was carried out. 'a$e courage. :e. -ith his sharp eyes. . . had 8ac3ueli e4 -hy did I recall this frie d+s ordeal1 -as it because of its happy e di g1 !r merely to delay the formulatio of the choice I had made. accustomed to &udgi g. the doctor who was head of the Deurology Departme t as$ed to see 8ac3ueli e. 'he problem is that you are depressed.8ac3ueli e.adame Diac$. .e cephalography.rays have show othi g. [Page <@ ] duri g which her 2re ch eighbour had retur ed to her cou try. go out. always e taili g a lumbar pu cture.+ 'he doctor pu ctuated his words by oddi g his head a d smili g co vi ci gly. she related the discussio to us a d co fided that she had left the i terview already half.he $ ew the heart of her ill ess a d would fight agai st it. which revealed traces of her sufferi g. he e#plai ed) +. a other L. .he fou d i fro t of her a ma whom maturity a d the obility of his &ob had made eve more attractive. -e will give you a series of shoc$ treatme ts with curare to rela# you.cured. reassuri g voice. which i itself was balm to this overstru g bei g. a choice that my reaso re&ected but that accorded with the imme se te der ess I felt towards . A other electrocardiogram. a d either have the blood tests. 8ac3ueli e remai ed co fi ed to bed.a imated. . you had your babies too soo after each other% the body loses its vital &uices. "ou ca leave afterwards.. It the became ecessary to do a gaseous electro. after a mo th of treatme t =i trave ous i &ectio s a d tra 3uilli*ers>. you will overcome. ! e fi e day.he had come a lo g way. . which have +t had the time to be replaced. that is . that of me tal alie atio . 'he L. he loo$ed i to those of 8ac3ueli e i order to discover i her soul the source of the distress disrupti g her orga ism. I short. "ou wish the co ditio s of life were differe t from what they are i reality. there is othi g e da geri g your life. give yourself a reaso for livi g. +"ou must react. a d this is what is torturi g you.

2rom the o .awdo. I oppositio to me. they represe ted a ma&ority I had to respect. . I chose to remai . did ot try to dissuade me. [Page <A ] I cried every day. A d . aturally.awdo were surprised. I was well aware of where the right solutio lay. who disagreed with my decisio . A d. she let herself be draw towards him. 0is greyi g hair did ot offe d her% she fou d his thic$e i g features reassuri g. 0e forgot about us.y childre . 0e ever came agai % his ew fou d happi ess gradually swallowed up his memory of us. sul$ed. accordi g to the precepts of Islam co cer i g polygamic life. Attempts by frie ds a d family to bri g him bac$ to the fold proved futile. to my family+s great surprise. I+ve told you that there ca be o possible compariso betwee you a d you g Dabou.. who had earmar$ed her as the spouse of her so . u a imously disapproved of by my childre . 1$ Aissatou. without a y shoc$. A d the she loved a d still loves .+ predicted Daba.odou a d . I lived i a vacuum. "ou g Dabou grew up beside her au t. ! e of the ew couple+s eighbours e#plai ed to me that the +child+ would go +all a. who were u der Daba+s i flue ce. you. I had prepared myself for e3ual shari g. eve if their i terests are ot always the same.. 2orewar ed. +"ou have ot fi ished sufferi g. Ksed to seei g him. . could ot u dersta d.3uiver+ each time ."es.chool had ot . respectful of my ew choice of life. my dear frie d. I was left with empty ha ds. my frie d.odou said my ame or showed a y desire to see his childre . But I also reali*e that there ca be o possible compariso betwee you g Dabou a d Bi etou. my life cha ged.awdo. . .odou avoided me. the dig ified solutio .

he would say.he had o time to worry about her +state of mi d+.+ . you g Dabou would ofte triumph with her $ owledge a d e#perie ce% but she sometimes $ ew heartre di g failure% she remai ed powerless. docility a d polite ess. all day a d several times over she would go through the same gestures e ge deri g life. ostalgic so gs $ept you g Dabou breathless. preceded a d domi ated as it was by the stre gth of character of Au ty Dabou. which ights of care a d devotio ca ot decrease.left a stro g mar$ o you g Dabou. medici es.oft ess a d ge erosity. you g Dabou had a professio . i her rage for ve gea ce. that Au ty Dabou wielded her power over you g Dabou+s soul) her e#pressive voice glorified the retributive viole ce of the warrior% her e#pressive voice lame ted the a #iety of the Boved ! e.a del+ . I charge of fre3ue t shifts at the +:epos . had left othi g to cha ce i the educatio she gave her iece. o the outs$irts of the crowded a d badly serviced suburba areas. i the midst of poverty. 'his $i d of oral educatio . . late at ight u der the starlit s$y. It [Page <C ] was especially while telli g fol$ tales. all these 3ualities made you g Dabou pleasa t. with a shrug of his shoulders. 'ales with a imal characters. . all submissive.he saluted the courage of the rec$less% she stigmati*ed tric$ery. Babies passed agai a d agai betwee her e#pert ha ds.he would come bac$ from wor$ raili g at the lac$ of beds that led to the discharge. of the ew mothers% worried about the lac$ of staff. . through the sheer force of repetitio . with deep co cer ) +'he fragile baby is let loose too 3uic$ly i to a hygie ically u sou d social e viro me t. i the midst of ugli ess. . But how ma y mothers are able to accomplish that feat1 I the midst of life. who. poise a d tact. full of charm. the virtues a d great ess of a race too$ root i this child.he thought of the great rate of i fa t mortality. . . too early i her opi io . . has the power to bri g out the best i the adult mi d. faced with the force of death. A d slowly but surely. la*i ess.awdo used to call her +fi ic$y+. [Page <F ] . easily assimilated.ater ity 0ome.he thought) -hat a thrilli g adve ture it is to tur a baby i to a healthy ma . calum y% she dema ded care of the orpha a d respect for old age. i ade3uate i strume ts. A d the . developed i its co tact with it.

'hey also tal$ed of . 'he seductive power of mature age.odou would leave himself wi ded tryi g to impriso youth i its decli e. i tellige t. of silvery temples. which aba do ed him o all sides) the graceless sag of a double chi . People tal$ed of bewitchme t. had ot the least i cli atio for frivolities. was u $ ow to Bi etou.he fou d life hard a d. $i dhearted. Bi etou would ever miss a cha ce of laughi g wic$edly at him. Beautiful. 'hey suggested [Page <H ] Bi guere. with faces deeply scarred with tribal mar$s. frie ds begged me to react) +"ou are letti g someo e else pluc$ the fruits of your labour. she raised her price daily. where the Diola a d . 0e was afraid of disappoi ti g. a elf with sle der arms who with a laugh could ma$e life beautiful or with a pout bri g sad ess. 'hese charlata s lived far away.+ Jeheme tly. the cou try of the Bambara. ?raceful ess a d beauty surrou ded him. he would create daily celebratio s duri g which the bright you g thi g would move.odou would dye his hair every mo th. li$e you. the cou try of the 2ulba. lively. amplified or muted accordi g to the visitor. . she torme ted. As for Bi etou. 0is waistli e pai fully restrai ed by old. Dema di g. A victim.odou e#hausted himself tryi g to provide.old. which was ot her ow . (#iled i the world of adults. by separati g them from evil wome .ad&ago e#cel i magic philtres. bei g a fighter. who had proved themselves by bri gi g husba ds bac$ to the fold. Bi etou had access to ma y of her frie ds+ well. we ofte shared the same problems. -ith determi atio . sure i their scie ce.fashio ed trousers. 3uic$ i ve gea ce through charms as through arms. the gait hesita t a d heavy at the slightest cool bree*e. a d so that there would be o time for close scruti y of him. respo sible a d aware. 5asama ce was me tio ed."ou g Dabou. which . 0er mother was more co cer ed with putti g the pot o the boil tha with educatio . . . A d . she wa ted her priso gilded. those thi gs which before used to be the sap of her life a d which she would bitterly e umerate. (choes of her life would reach me. li$e me4 (ve though she is ot my frie d. -hat she re ou ced. she had grow up i complete liberty i a e viro me t where survival was of the esse ce. she wa ted to be the oppressor. .ali. they recomme ded marabouts .off families a d was sharply aware of what she was sacrifici g by her marriage. called for e#orbita t compe satio s.

ups a d advertiseme ts were placed side by side. Bady . .he o lo ger cou ted the cost of water bought from the 'u$ulor haw$er of the vital li3uid draw from public spri gs.odou fulfilled her e#pectatio s. -as I to de y myself because .i . I would ot give i to the pressure. 0er u steady hut. I was already reproachi g myself for a wea$ ess that had ot preve ted the degradatio of my home. she would eye those already seated. 'hey re&ected this easy attractio . 0er shoes tapped o the grou d. swallowi g up double mouthfuls from the trough offered her. -he . who we t from ight club to ight club. roasted chic$e a d =why ot1> ba $ otes slipped i to the poc$ets of the boubou ha gi g i the bedroom. had grow dim i her memory. [Page @I ] :eality was also Bi etou.fou d happi ess. costly garme t. there would be a rush of outstretched ha ds i to which she placed ba $ otes. 'he se ior wife hitherto eglected.odou+s large car dropped her a d she emerged. a prese t from . 0avi g $ ow poverty. -ith a pout li$e that of a spoilt child. 'he waiters would move aside a d bow respectfully i the hope of a royal tip. ! e motio of her ha d i her bathroom a d delicious &ets of hot water would massage her bac$.odou the table she had chose . .other. she &oi ed the category of wome +with heavy bracelets+ lauded by the griots . 2rom the o .odou had chose a other path1 Do. 0e would thoughtfully se d her wads of otes to spe d a d would offer her. a gold belt. which $ills a y will to fight. 0er family reserved the best place for her duri g ceremo ies a d liste ed to her advice. after his trips abroad.odou o the birth of their first child.other. she re&oiced i her ew.y mi d a d my faith re&ected super atural power. a ou ci g her prese ce. :eality had the face of Bady .Baw emerged from the shadows a d too$ her u faithful husba d bac$ i tow. shi i g rou d her waist. . 'hrilled. .'o act as I was urged would have bee to call myself i to 3uestio . . &ewellery a d rich boubous . -ith .i . with *i c walls covered with maga*i e pages where pi . she would liste to the radio tra smitti g so gs dedicated to her.Baw.he would arrive draped i a lo g. -ith a co temptuous loo$. I loo$ed reality i the face. A other i the $itche a d ice cubes would cool the water i her glass.he held valuable trump cards) grilled meats. she would i dicate to . 0er hu ch about a gilded way of life was bei g proved right. ! e more a d a flame would spri g from the gas coo$er a d she would prepare herself a delicious omelette.

sometimes vigorous a d wild. .+ people admitted.matched people. 'he image of her life.odou would try to follow suit. Bi etou. she would have various bottles li ed up. o the other two well.iam+ she was the o e who lowered her head at the sight of couples graced with othi g but their youth a d rich i their happi ess alo e. Dressed simply.i . It was a grotes3ue co fro tatio ) o o e side. A d the eve i g created a e#treme te sio that opposed two former frie ds.ometimes also. despite my disapproval. would stamp. Bi etou would watch with a disillusio ed eye the progress of her frie ds. potatoes or o io s duri g those periods whe they became rare i the mar$ets% I stored bags of +. li$e a magicia .he was showi g off to the you g people a d wa ted to impress them with her form of success. 'he couples held each other or da ced apart depe di g o the music.i . [Page @1 ] 1% I was survivi g. bro$e her heart. much loved by the . the you g da cers. Daba would go to the ight clubs. a ill. I additio to my former duties. i co testably beautiful a d desirable4 +Bewitchi g. assorted couple. e#cited a d u tiri g. 'he harsh lights betrayed him to the u pityi g sarcasm of some of them. which she had murdered. . 'he purchase of basic foodstuffs $ept me occupied at the e d of every mo th% I made sure that I was ever short of tomatoes or of oil. . . s atcher+. -hat did it matter4 0e had Bi etou i his arms. -he the trumpet blared out. who called him a +cradle. a father a d his daughter. a so .y brai was ta#ed by ew fi a cial gym a d his father. she would appear o her fia cM+s arm% she would arrive late o purpose so as to sit i full view of her father. But whe the mome t of admiratio passed. sometimes slow a d coa#i g. bac$ed by the fre *y of the drums. -or out. . 0e was happy.a wave of her ha d.e egalese.odou+s as well. I too$ over . shouti g their &oy. &ump a d caper about.

'he early shows at the ci ema filled me with delight. . as well as loo$i g for a plumber to deal with bloc$ed si $s. -hat do other husba ds do1 'hey wallow i i decisio % they force themselves to be prese t where either their feeli gs or their i terests co ti ue to reside.. 'hey gave me the courage to meet the curious ga*e of various people. People stared at the middle. the so full of te der ess. I was ofte the o ly woma i the 3ueue. ca thus give healthy pleasure. 'hey deepe ed a d wide ed my visio of the world.odou was e#cisi g me from his life a d was provi g it by his u e3uivocal attitude. li$e marble. 'he lie had ot ta$e root. 'he ci ema. 'hey remai stolid. they s ore deeply. which puts a e d to their torme t4 .y so .aged lady without a part er. tha $s to their cultural value.the brea$ without havi g ta$e the i itiative. while a ger hammered agai st my erves a d the tears I held bac$ welled up behi d my eyes.. feig i g fatigue or ill ess. I lear ed from them lesso s of great ess. 'hey wish o ly that the hours may pass rapidly. I survived. courage a d persevera ce. :eplaci g the loc$s a d latches of bro$e doors. all these were my compa io s. thrillers. 2rom the surprised loo$s. those with a message. comedies. the more grateful I became to . At ight.'he last date for payme t of electricity bills a d of water rates dema ded my atte tio . . I had the solutio my childre wa ted. 'hey did ot $eep me away for lo g from my childre . 0ow 3uic$ they are to greet the liberati g daybrea$.awdo 2all complai ed about bur t. I survived. Dothi g impresses them i their home) the wife all dressed up. the meal tastefully served. I gauged the sle der liberty gra ted to wome . -hat a great distractio from distress is the ci ema4 [Page @/ ] I tellectual films. detective films. 'he more I thought about it. I overcame my shy ess at goi g alo e to ci emas% I would ta$e a seat with less a d less embarrassme t as the mo ths we t by. se time tal films.out bulbs that eeded replaceme t. replaci g bro$e wi dows was a bother. a i e#pe sive mea s of recreatio . I would feig i differe ce.odou for havi g cut off all co tact.

I carried out my duties% they filled the time a d cha elled my thoughts. 2oami g baths. Distressi g awa$e i gs succeeded the ights. I was aba do ed) a flutteri g leaf that o ha d dares to pic$ up. which ope ly tear you apart1 -aiti g4 But waiti g for what1 I was ot divorced . I side..stepped my pai i a refusal to fight it. A ew day a d i creased efforts4 A ew day.y sad ess dissolved. I was aba do ed) a flutteri g leaf that o ha d dares to pic$ up. . . I called eagerly to +a other ma + to replace . therefore. a d I $ ew it..odou appreciate.y love for my childre sustai ed me. At ight the music lulled my [Page @7 ] a #iety. Bi$e opium.. burde some. the void created by his abse ce i this house1 Did . 'hey were a pillar% I owed them help a d affectio . I pitted myself agai st shadows. what ma would have the courage to face twelve pairs of hostile eyes. I o lo ger i terested . -aiti g for what1 It would ot be easy to get my childre to accept a ew masculi e prese ce. 'he coffee warmed the atmosphere. I gave the radio the role of comforter. e#udi g its sweet fragra ce. -ith all the force I had. mutual teasi g a d laughter. !ur commo habits spra g up at their usual times.odou. could they be tolera t towards a other ma 1 Besides. which awa$e ed hope. Did . But my lo eli ess would emerge at ight. I missed dreadfully our ightly co versatio % I missed our bursts of refreshi g or u dersta di g laughter.odou attribute to me more e ergy tha I had to shoulder the respo sibility of my childre 1 I adopted a sprightly to e to rouse my battalio . 'he co ti uity of radio broadcasts was a great relief. I lived the proof of it. I faced up to the situatio bravely. as my gra dmother would have said. past co versatio s. . I missed our daily co sultatio s.. a d waiti g.I was ot deceived.odou. as my gra dmother would have said. ! e does ot easily u do the te uous ties that bi d two people together duri g a &our ey fraught with hardship. I heard the message of old a d ew so gs. i its full measure. bri gi g bac$ to life past sce es. 'he wa deri gs of my thoughts chased away all sleep. . 0avi g co dem ed their father.

the sad ess of a mother who does ot have the mea s to cha ge the course of eve ts. 'he flatte ed clutch glided i the gears. without a y ulterior motive. ! e day.i . It has heights u $ ow to love. . . I obtai ed my drivi g lice ce a d told you about it. 2rie dship resists time. whereas obstacles $ill love. my sister. At the slightest pressure from my feet.I survived. It grows stro ger whe crossed. to speed alo g. Bi$e . 'he arrow space betwee the wheel a d the seat was mi e. sometimes white.other. . of this pai ful aspect of our life. the goldsmith+s daughter. 0e ever accepted the true story.y childre gave cries of &oy whe they lear ed of the approachi g [Page @< ] e d of their tribulatio s.i .y childre laughed at themselves i ma$i g this harsh discovery. my childre ca loo$ the afflue t mother. stifli g my fear. . while . do +t let mum $ ow that it is stifli g i those buses duri g the rush hours. Baw to the four cor ers of tow a d while Bi etou strea$ed alo g the roads i a Alfa :omeo. I did ot trust the accelerator. I would say) -hy should Bi etou sit behi d a wheel a d ot I1 I would tell myself) Do +t disappoi t Aissatou. u believi g. gave me your help while deprivi g yourself. I had to step o the accelerator. I wo this battle of erves a d sang-froid .. 2rie dship has sple dours that love $ ows ot. you. I shall ever forget your respo se. which wearies a d severs couples.odou surprised.. or my &oy a d my surprise whe I was called to the 2iat age cy a d was told to choose a car which you had paid for. I heard Daba advise them) +Above all. I e#perie ced the i ade3uacy of public tra sport. 'he bra$e reduced the forward thrust a d. which remai the daily lot of a good ma y other stude a d the fragile child i the eye i the streets of the tow . i 3uired i to the source of the car. sometimes red.+ I shed tears of &oy a d sad ess together) &oy i bei g loved by my childre .awdo+s mother.coloured 2iat 1/@% tha $s to you. he too believed that a goldsmith+s daughter had o heart. I told you the .odou+s car drove Bady . I told you) a d ow. . -he ever I was childre o the bac$seat of the cream. "ou.y feet lear ed to da ce over the pedals. the car lurched forward. i full. A d I lear ed to drive.

I a other couple alcoholism is the leprosy that g aws away at health. eve whe it+s past. I also $ ow that marriage is ever smooth. I+ve related at o e go your story as well as mi e. I+ve said the esse tial. "our disappoi tme t was mi e. as my re&ectio was yours. "ou may tell me) the path of life is ot smooth% o e is bruised by its sharp edges. the distorted faces of te se players. . It shows up a i dividual+s disordered state through grotes3ue spectacles by which his dig ity is u dermi ed. -ith others it is the lure of easy gai that domi ates) i corrigible players at the gami g table or seated i the shade of a tree. .ope ed your wou d. I gave freely. wealth. a d stops o ly with the last breath of the perso accustomed to shuffli g them. 'he heated atmosphere of rooms full of fie dish odours. 2orgive me o ce agai if I have re.[Page @@ ] 1& I ta$e a deep breath. i situatio s where physical blows become solid argume ts a d the me aci g blade of a $ ife a irresistible call for sile ce. 'he giddy whirl of playi g cards swallows up time. for pai . leaves the same mar$s o the i dividual whe recalled. co scie ce. gave more tha I received. (ve though I u dersta d your sta d. I o e couple the ma may be the victim of a fic$le woma or of a woma shut up i her ow preoccupatio s who re&ects all dialogue a d 3uashes all moves towards te der ess. It reflects differe ces i character a d capacity for feeli g. I have ever co ceived of happi ess outside marriage. I try to spot my faults i the failure of my marriage. I am o e of those who ca reali*e themselves fully a d bloom o ly whe they form part [Page @A ] of a couple. eve though I respect the choice of liberated wome . wealth a d peace.i e co ti ues to bleed.

odou.y social life may have bee stormy a d perhaps i &ured . . that I created a harmo ious sympho y of colours. I cry for . "ou ca testify to the fact that.odou+s trade u io career. I well u derstood his desire to let off steam. I made peace with his family. 'heir success at school was my pride. very logically. his father a d mother a d 'amsir. how much I loved . .odou was o priso er. despite everythi g. may reply) +Affectio s spri g from othi g% sometimes a grimace. A d . still co ti ued to visit me ofte . [Page @C ] 18 . the carriage of a head ca seduce a heart a d $eep it. impose himself o others1 5a a ma whose wife does ot do her &ob well ho estly dema d a fair reward for labour1 Aggressio a d co desce sio i a woma arouse co tempt a d hatred for her husba d. I a word. 'he truth is that. Despite his desertio of our home. hearted I am. 0e fulfilled himself outside as he wished i his trade u io activities.y childre too grew up without much ado. eve without appeali g to a y ideology. I am tryi g to pi poi t a y wea$ ess i the way I co ducted myself. a ma +s success depe ds o femi i e support. I remai faithful to the love of my youth.I loved my house.+ I as$ myself 3uestio s. 5a a ma . I a ticipated his slightest desire.odou. why1 -hy did . his brother. A d I as$ myself. mobili*ed day a d ight i his service. deceived a d flouted by his family. she ca summo support for a y actio . &ust li$e laurels throw at the feet of my lord a d master. "ou $ ow how soft. "ou ca testify to the fact that I made it a have of peace where everythi g had its place.odou detach himself1 -hy did he put Bi etou betwee us1 "ou. Aissatou. 0e spe t his time as he wished. as did his sisters. If she is gracious. a d I ca do othi g about it. I as$ myself.

"ou suit me as a wife.awdo &oi ed him. I celebrated the fortieth day i meditatio . accordi g to custom.tic$i g his head outside. too you g. to get i before . a d further. it is the opposite. the fortieth day of .odou 2all.awdo. that I am ot a ob&ect to be passed from ha d to ha d.+ -hat a declaratio of love. -hat assura ce a d calm aplomb4 I loo$ 'amsir straight i the eye. . I tell my beads. viole t. of mour i g>. I have forgive him. . 'amsir spea$s with great assura ce% he touches. "ou forget that I have a heart. -hile we are prayi g for . full of co ceit. ca i herit the wife.odou+s death. 'his time. 'he i itiated read the 6ora .awdo. he sig alled to . o ce agai . you are thi $i g of future weddi g festivities. the same tics do ated by the i e#plicable law of heredity. +Ah. who has more 3ualities tha you a d who also. 'heir ferve t voices rose towards heave .odou a d 'amsir. +Did you ever have a y affectio for your brother1 Already you wa t to build a ew home for yourself. . as is the custom. "ou are my good luc$. It bursts out.y voice has $ ow thirty years of sile ce. the faithful frie d. 'here is a stri$i g resembla ce betwee . I advised . o my years of marriage. 'amsir1 "our i come ca meet either their eeds or those of your umerous childre . . sometimes sarcastic.odou were ot dead. I shall marry you. sometimes co temptuous.odou. yes4 "our strategy is to get i before a y other suitor. too frivolous. 'he "mam a d . I loo$ at . 'amsir spea$s.+ =I emphasi*ed the word +chose +. you will co ti ue to live here. a mi d. thirty years of [Page @F ] harassme t. I draw my blac$ shawl closer. i a house still i mour i g. I this case. After goi g through the motio s of piety. 'his time I shall spea$ out.> +-hat of your wives. o e of your . the he co cludes) +-he you have Ecome outE =that is to say. "ou do +t $ ow what marriage mea s to me) it is a act of faith a d of love. Ksually it is the you ger brother who i herits his elder brother+s wife.ay ?od hear the prayer I say for him every day. I loo$ at the "mam . I prefer you to the other o e. over a body that is still warm. 'amsir came a d sat i my bedroom i the blue armchair that used to be your favourite. 'o help you out with your fi a cial obligatio s. &ust as if .awdo% he also sig alled to the "mam from the mos3ue i his area."esterday I celebrated. may ?od accept you amo g his chose few. I shall marry you.odou agai st that marriage. the total surre der of o eself to the perso o e has chose a d who has chose you.

"ou. more viole t tha ever) +'amsir. a other sells fruit. . [Page @H ] 19 Aissatou..+ . eve i my mour i g clothes I have o peace of mi d. +. 0e u derstood fully that he+d bee defeated.top4+ But you ca +t stop o ce you+ve let your a ger loose. purge yourself of your dreams of co 3uest. the third u tiri gly tur s the ha dle of her sewi g machi e. spo ta eity.top4 .hut up4 . 'amsir4 +A d the there are Daba a d her husba d. adve ture. to his ge erosity.odou 2all a d Bi etou.y house shall ever be for you the coveted oasis) o e#tra burde % my Etur E every day% 1A clea li ess a d lu#ury. -hat promotio for you4 "our frie ds are goi g to loo$ at you with e vy i their eyes. poverty. After 'amsir. obeyed at the croo$ of a fi ger. 'o his maturity I had preferred i e#perie ce. "ou remember Daouda Die g. to his stability. my former suitor. +.hut up4 . you ta$e it easy.+ 'he "mam prayed ?od to be his wit ess. 'hey have lasted forty days. who have demo strated their fi a cial acume by buyi g up all your brother+s properties. 'hus I too$ my reve ge for that other day whe all three of them had airily i formed me of the marriage of . Daouda Die g. .awdo sig alled with his ha d for me to stop. to his gravity. I co cluded. abu da ce a d calm4 Do.. the revered lord.wives dyes. I shall ever be your wife. . I shall ever be the o e to complete your collectio .uch profa e words a d still i mour i g4+ 'amsir got up without a word.

Although a deputy at the Datio al Assembly. the .of course. I the e velope that he gave 2atim there was a large sum of mo ey. 0ow much I preferred his emotio to 'amsir+s co fide t arroga ce4 0is trembli g lips betrayed him. as much to put him at ease as to re ew the dialogue that had for so lo g bee cut off. sayi g a great deal. was par$ed o the opposite paveme t. 8ust o the threshold of old age. to sig ify +It+s all right. After 'amsir.odou+s fu eral. 0is car. that male Assembly4+ . [Page AI ] 2or the last three years he had comma ded atte tio i the political race through the sobriety of his actio s a d the precisio of his words. 0e was elega tly dressed i a suit of embroidered brocade% he remai ed the same well. with its disti ctive coc$ade i the atio al colours. he had resisted the repeated attac$s of time a d e#ertio . groomed ma .odou.+ said challe gi gly. whe ever by cha ce we met agai ) o e ever forgets a first love. -here he is co cer ed. I believe to be true what he used to tell us &o$i gly. 0e replied briefly.. But my last 3uestio provo$ed a shrug of the shoulders. elimi ated that memorable day whe I 3uelled his lust for co 3uest% after 'amsir. I ca still hear her persuasive voice advise me) a woma must marry the ma who loves her but ever the o e she loves% that is the secret of lasti g happi ess. shaved.y 3uestio s came u i terrupted. 0is lightly silvered hair gave him u 3uestio able charm. Daouda Die g had $ept himself well. meticulous a d close. with gestures that le t weight to his opi io s..0e came to . he remai ed accessible. I we t o ) +It must be all right. Daouda Die g. 0is loo$ swept over my face. A d his loo$ was i siste t. compared with . 0e wore his social success boldly but without co desce sio .awdo a d . a ca didate for my ha d4 Daouda Die g was my mother+s favourite. I too$ refuge i ba alities) +0ow is Ami ata =his wife>1 A d the childre 1 A d your cli ic1 -hat+s it li$e at the Datio al Assembly1+ .

Imagi e a large umber of wome i the Assembly. -e laughed oisily together. "ou destroy. -hat a ridiculous ratio4 Dot eve o e for each provi ce. to e3ual opportu ities. to educatio . you wa t to seduce. 'he right to vote is a importa t weapo .I said it teasi gly. scepticism rears its head i the political field. go up i flames. had wo my mother+s co fide ce4 +But you wome . you wa t to ma$e a stri$e. rolli g my eyes rou d. we are stimula ts4+ A d I pressed o ) +I ma y fields. "ou wa t to ma$e it a closed shop a d you huff a d puff about it. Ah4 those teeth. egoism emerges. . everythi g would e#plode. the gai s wrested from the lesso s of history. you wa t to arouse i terest4 Daouda was o fool. Daouda. you are li$e mortar shells. +But Daouda. -e have a right to e3ual well. a ope . -e have a right. the co strai ts remai % but Daouda.paid employme t. I saw agai his beautiful set of teeth. we have ta$e adva tage of the otable achieveme ts that have reached us from [Page A1 ] elsewhere. which I fou d stimulati g. :amatoulaye4 -hy this iro ical stateme t a d this provocative epithet whe there are wome i the Assembly1+ +2our wome . commu icative laugh.+ A d we laughed agai .+ Daouda laughed. -ri $li g my brow. set close together. I comme ted) +But we are ot i ce diaries% rather. a d without s$irmishes. created by the lo g years a d my former refusal to marry him. 0e $ ew very well that I wa ted to relieve him of his embarrassme t a d to draw bac$ the curtai of sile ce a d co strai t that separated us. which we ought to be able to pursue to the furthest limits of our i tellectual capacities. "ou demolish. old beliefs are revived% but Daouda. A d ow the 2amily 5ode has bee passed. capped with the circumfle# acce t of a blac$ moustache. restori g to the most humble of wome the dig ity that has so ofte bee trampled upo .till very critical. &ust as you have. (ter al woma ) eve i mour i g. four out of a hu dred deputies. combed a d very slee$. -hy. +.

fu dame tal root..+Dearly twe ty years of i depe de ce4 -he will we have the first female mi ister i volved i the decisio s co cer i g the developme t of our cou try1 A d yet the milita cy a d ability of our wome . -ome have raised more tha o e ma to power. especially a admirer4 I had remai ed the same :amatoulaye . why should they thi $ of the wome 1 It is o ly huma to give yourself the larger portio of the ca$e whe you are shari g it out. :amatoulaye1 "ou are echoi g my speeches at the Datio al Assembly. i A d I co ti ued) +-he will educatio be decided for childre o the basis ot of se# but of tale t1+ Daouda Die g was savouri g the warmth of the i er dream he was spi i g arou d me. I drew Daouda Die g alo g with my ardour. If me alo e are active i the parties. but his true love for his fellow ma . Developi g a . the o ly o e to i sist o cha gi g the rules of the game a d i &ecti g ew life i to it. But I had the impressio that more tha my ideas. Do o e is well. I was bolti g li$e a horse that has lo g bee tethered a d is ow free a d revelli g i space. where I have bee called a Efemi istE. 0e was a upright ma . the &oy of havi g a i terlocutor before you. ot eve those of us who are co sidered to be secure a d fi a cially sou d. a bit of a rebel. ob&ects to be moved about. 5o sider the situatio of every o e of the cou try+s citi*e s. it was my voice that captivated him. -ome are the atio +s primary. compa io s to be flattered or calmed with promises. whe i fact all our savi gs go towards the mai te a ce of a avid electoral clie tele which believes itself to be our promoters.. -ome should o lo ger be decorative accessories. a d each time the situatio dema ded.+ Daouda liste ed to me. their disi terested commitme t. +-hom are you addressi g. have already bee demo strated. the urge to redress wro gs a d i &ustice. [Page A/ ] from which all else grows a d blossoms. your childre to public life.ce tred i your reactio . your class. It was ot love of show or mo ey that had drive him towards politics. As for me. (ve you who are protesti g% you preferred your husba d. I am ot. +Do +t be self. he would fight for social &ustice. Ah. -ome must be e couraged to ta$e a $ee er i terest i the desti y of the cou try.

. +-e eed mo ey. I am spea$i g of the whole ra ge of material a d moral poverty. but you have o co trol over it..+ he repeated. 'here was a sudde flood of light.+ he said. arms stretched. A y i itiative that e ables regio al i vestme ts a d tra sformatio s is welcome. It came through the ve etia bli ds i the sitti g. !' . +I came to discuss somethi g else. a d !usma e chuc$led. 0e smiled a d ope ed the door. medici es. got up. 0e did ot dare to stay too lo g. +'ill tomorrow.+ Dight fell 3uic$ly from the s$ies. Better livi g re3uires roads. a mou tai of mo ey. Daouda Die g did i deed come bac$ the e#t day. my mater al au ts were visiti g me a d he was preve ted from e#pressi g himself freely. dece t houses. well aware of the co strai ts of my situatio . But u fortu ately for him. to &ustify his late ess1 . 0e smiled) eat rows of good teeth. cli ics. 0e lifted !usma e up towards the lamp. (very discussio is profitable. which we must get from others by wi i g their co fide ce. I am o e of those who advocated that i depe de ce celebratio s should be rotated a ually amo g the regio s. A mome t later the hummi g of his powerful car carried him homewards. his wife a d cousi .cou try is ot easy. I heard his footsteps recede. 'he more respo sibility o e has. "ou led me i to a political discussio .e egal will ot go far despite all our determi atio . . 'ill tomorrow. Daouda. wells. i a hurry to dar$e me a d thi gs. -ith &ust o e rai y seaso a d our si gle crop. 'he mue%%in +s i vitatio to the Timissprayer was persuasive% !usma e stood o tiptoe a d flic$ed o the switch. 0e let him dow . [Page A7 ] -hat will he say to Ami ata. the more o e feels it% poverty brea$s your heart. a d fortu ately for me.

Daouda grabbed hold of this little slip of a ma . a d which is ot paid i hard cash. from the first to the last day of the mo th. [Page A< ] . I+ve ta$e a refreshi g bath. a flower i bloom placed i a vase. !usma e appeared. elsewhere a pai ti g with appropriate colours. 'o be a woma 4 'o live the life of a woma 4 Ah. a d your Assembly1 A d what about !usma e1+ 0eari g his ame. 'he clea li ess of my body pleases me. 'heir compe satio remai s the pile of well iro ed. hu g up i the right place. the gay $itche filled with the smell of stews. sweet. (ve decidi g o the me us is ot easy if o e thi $s of the umber of days there are i a year a d of the fact that there are three meals i o e day. without stoppi g for breath) +0ow are you1 A d the childre . -e have lear ed the hard way.a agi g the family budget re3uires fle#ibility. I ca feel its revitali*i g effect. 5lea clothes replace my crumpled o es. clea li ess is o e of the esse tial 3ualities of a woma . the shi i g tiled floor o which the foot glides. 'he domestic wor$ they carry out. soothes me. Aissatou4 'o ight I am restless.smelli g washi g. his mouth a d chee$s covered with the chocolate he mu ched all day lo g.'oday is 2riday. vigila ce a d prude ce i performi g the fi a cial gym astics that se d you from o e more or less da gerous leap to a other. Daouda came bac$. 0e bega right at the doorway. through my ope pores. I thi $ that as she is the ob&ect of attractio for so ma y eyes. is esse tial to the home.coloured o e of the seco d. a d it is still ot over. which. i the same to e of voice as I had used at our first meeti g. 'he smell of soap surrou ds me. 'hose wome we call +house+. 'he most humble of huts is pleasi g whe it is clea % the most lu#urious setti g offers o attractio if it is covered i dust.wives deserve praise. A outfit of blue brocade had replaced the grey outfit of the first visit a d the chocolate. 'he ma ageme t of the home is a art. 0e let him go with a frie dly tap o his buttoc$s a d a picture boo$ i his . 'heir sile t actio is felt i the least useful detail) over there. 'he salt of life is also love. 'he flavour of life is love. who struggled a d $ic$ed his legs about.

I shall come bac$ tomorrow at the same time.. especially whe all arou d us. 'he ope i gs it has created are co siderable.fou d happi ess% will you accept1+ I ope ed my eyes wide. shouti g with &oy. ot i asto ishme t. Differe ces produce co flicts. Jery reaso ably. +Do visitors1 I shall lead the discussio today .. I ope my arms to you for ew. EfreedomE a d what have you. +Do +t thi $ that I critici*e &ust for the fu of it. the deputy co cluded) +Do +t give me a a swer immediately. separatio has made it $ee er% time has co solidated it% my adva ce i years has purified it.. (ach of us has the weight of the EpastE to help us i u dersta di g each other.. to our right a d to our left. a d for the seco d time i my life. my ow .party systems have bee imposed. it would lead to a appalli g collectivism. !ur i cipie t democracy. [Page A@ ] EstruggleE. 'he bush radio has i formed me of your refusal to marry 'amsir. o e. .eparatio . Is it true1+ +"es. have come to as$ for your ha d . a d . all those e#pressio s that float about me daily. which may be be eficial to the developme t of a cou try if they occur amo g true patriots.wor words. after you are out of mour i g. but with my head. I have the same feeli g for you as I had before. which is the heart of your actio .. A si gle party ever e#presses the u a imous view of the citi*e s..a woma ca always predict a declaratio of this $i d. ( ough. ra to show his prese t to the household. 'heir sweet ess.+ . I refuse to go alo g with you. i tur . I love you dearly. of course. I am head of a family. . your marriage. which have for lo g bee used a d are still bei g used. rather. Biste to me. :amatoulaye. those well. o e of these has bee able to sap my love for you. as your political secretary claims. If all i dividuals were made i the same mould. I deed.e egal offers a ew prospect of liberty regai ed. of which I had bee deprived for years.ha ds. had ta$e root i me. appeals to me.. Aissatou.. whose o ly ambitio is the happi ess of the citi*e .+ 0e laughed maliciously. 'hi $ about my proposal. I appreciate all that. :amatoulaye.ocialism. "ou are a widow with you g childre . i to#icated me) I feel o shame i admitti g it to you. Ah yes.+ +I. which is cha gi g the situatio of the citi*e a d for which your party may ta$e much credit. I from the male Assembly. li$e the other day. !usma e. is the e#pressio of my deepest aspiratio s if it is adapted to the realities of our life. I have had my fill of EdemocracyE. +But e ough of politics.but i a $i d of stupor.

how far from my thoughts you were4 'he [Page AA ] restless ess with which I was struggli g a d which you had foresee did ot i the least sig ify the a guish of love. +I have give the recomme ded alms of two white a d red cola uts. a d the least agreeme t of her predictio s with reality thrilled her. i the rece t past. !1 'omorrow1 -hat a short time for reflectio . dashed i after him. "our shade protects me. "ou watch over it. the pout of the stubbor lips. but a easily i terpreted symbol.he bli $ed her deep. Daouda we t away. 2armata. as if embarrassed by his ow revelatio s. "ou water it. but I am ot carried away by it% my euphoria.+ she co fessed to me. . I could read him li$e a ope boo$ i which each sig was a symbol. "ou do +t fell the tree whose shade protects you. pierci g eyes that were always tryi g to probe i to mysteries. who saw o ly the best i people a d ig ored the rest. I am touched by the si cerity of words. rich ma with the Edouble trousersE see i the cowries. +I met the stro g. the griot woma . especially whe that life has $ ow . bor of the hu ger a d thirst for te der ess.+ Dear 2armata.+ .y eighbour.he was always tryi g to see i to the future with her cowries. for the decisive commitme t of a life. e#cited.A d. the bitter tears of disappoi tme t4 I still have a visio of the i tellige t eye of Daouda Die g. . after flashi g a smile at me. . 0e gave me five thousa d fra cs.y heart o lo ger beats wildly i the whirl of the spo$e words. fades away as the hours da ce past. . +!ur desti ies are li $ed. which co trasted with the ge tle ess ema ati g from his profou dly charitable perso .

+'his letter must be give to him perso ally.he was happy. !ur curre ts are opposed. -ife a d childre . 0is wife a d cousi . had said) +"our mother was right. 'he proposed celebratio does ot tempt me. Daouda is wo derful. Daouda Die g+s reputatio for serious ess has already bee established.o of his. But heart a d mi d ofte disagree. placed by this dutiful ma o a pedestal of respectability. I have o defi able reaso . I se t 2armata. with a sealed e velope for him. a d this embarrassed me. [Page AC ] A good husba d1 "es.+ All the trump cards4 But what do these cou t for i the u co trollable law of attractio 4 . . has ever me tio ed a y goi gs. -hat guer 1C gives five thousa d fra cs today4 Daouda has either e#cha ged his wife or aba do ed his childre % if he has come bac$ loo$i g for you.+ 2or the first time.y mi d appreciates the ma . whom he married five years after my marriage out of his duty as a citi*e a d ot out of love =a other male e#pressio to e#plai a atural actio >. It is ot that the prese ce of my you g childre poses a problem% he could have filled the role of the father who had aba do ed them. the griot woma of the cowries. Before leavi g. 'he dead have o ly the weight co ceded to them or the weight of the good they have do e. it is because he loves you% he ca loo$ after you a d your family. away from his wife a d childre . But I always acted alo e% she . 'hirty years later. Public rumour. to be able to say yes4 It is ot that the memory of the deceased lies heavy withi me.y heart does ot love Daouda Die g. 'hi $ about it. a old woma burde ed with a family. 0e ever accepted a y ho our without associati g his wife with it. 0ow I should have li$ed to be galva i*ed i favour of this ma . .I ca ot put out a y flags. 0e i volved her i his political actio s. the griot woma of the cowries. I was tur i g to 2armata for help. with the followi g i structio s. my ow perso al refusal is the o ly thi g that co ditio s me. has bor e his childre . his umerous travels. Accept. offered him a e viable refuge. . the outcome of his ow effort.o as ot to hurt him u der my roof. so wic$ed a d thirsty for gossip where perso alities are co cer ed. 2armata. you. havi g dreamed of this role right from our youth. the various spo sorships for which he was ca vassed a d which i creased his electoral co stitue cy.

lo g. despite the i te se ravages of sufferi g. his colleagues. I ca offer you othi g else. patie tly waited her tur a d. "ou are chasi g after a woma who has remai ed the same. ig ora t of the cruel message she was beari g.y co scie ce is ot accommodati g e ough to e able me to marry you.&ust li$e a y +vulgar ac3uai ta ce+.. 'here was a stop for the cars rapides &ust a few metres from his doorstep. 2armata. who love me still.he was thrilled. . pulls me towards you.. o ce i fro t of Daouda i the co sulti g room. (steem is ot e ough for marriage.. e abled Daouda Die g to co ti ue practisi g his professio . &ustified by your ma y 3ualities..awdo B9 a d . A d the the e#iste ce of your wife a d childre further complicates the situatio . Daouda. o ly i formed. whe o ly esteem. Daouda read) Daouda..was ever a participa t i my problems..amba Diac$. such as . . so much the better% but what i se sitivity. eve though you deserve everythi g. she would complai .I do +t doubt it. Daouda+s cli ic was ot far from the Jilla 2alle e. ta#i g. set up with a ba $ loa gra ted by the state to those doctors a d pharmacists who e#pressed the desire for it. therefore. a d they are ot two [Page AF ] a pe y either% they are more useful i their professio tha a ywhere else% if they ca combi e their &ob with other activities. "ou who have loved me. .try to u dersta d me. 'his cli ic. I ca ot lightly bri g myself betwee you a d your family. to give up loo$i g after others for somethi g else4+ 'hus would Daouda e#plai himself to our mutual frie ds. whose s ares I $ ow from e#perie ce. Aba do ed yesterday because of a woma . she ha ded the e velope over to him. 0e had u derstood that a doctor could ot aba do his call) +A doctor+s trai i g is slow.

bit his lips a d sighed. Dear Daouda.-a*e [Page AH ] 2armata. Daouda put dow my letter.+ Aissatou. please accept it. 0is crestfalle face cried it out to me. the i &ustices that weigh dow their co scie ces i retur for the ephemeral &oys of cha ge. told me how her smile soured o her face as Daouda read. It is with i fi ite sad ess a d tear. It is with great pleasure that I shall co ti ue to welcome you to my house. I am sure you are motivated by love. . ?od will pu ish you . 5almly. he stuffed a e velope with a wad of blue otes. a love that e#isted well before your marriage a d that fate has ot bee able to satisfy."ou thi $ the problem of polygamy is a simple o e. 'he i sti ct a d observatio brought a loo$ of sad ess to her face. 0e scrawled o a piece of paper the terrible words that had separated us before a d that he had ac3uired duri g his medical course) +All or othi g. the lies. +Bissimilai4 Bissimilai4 1F -hat was it you dared to write a d ma$e me messe ger of1 "ou have $illed a ma . who had smiled i ha di g over her letter. creased his forehead. for Daouda wri $led his eyebrows. Daouda Die g ever came bac$ agai . 'hose who are i volved i it $ ow the co strai ts.hall I hope to see you agai 1 Ramato. "ou have re&ected the messe ger se t to you by ?od to reward you for your sufferi gs.filled eyes that I offer you my frie dship. Adieu.

-hy ot flowers. I was refusi g the easy way because of my ideal. .. eve i its logic of co cer . gratify Daouda Die g. of Daba+s age eve . you g me i search of adve ture to occupy their leisure. . you wa t to choose a husba d li$e a eightee . ! ce more. Its cut suited me well. . 1H "ou trample upo your luc$) Daouda Die g. I wore it agai . "ou have refused great ess4 "ou shall live i mud. I moved easily i it.. of your ow age group. . there were o more barriers betwee the suitors a d me. could ot hold good for me. &ust li$e i the films1 +Bissimilai4 Bissimilai4 "ou so withered. But there is mo ey i the e velope.+ . as o e wears a familiar garme t. you will bite your fi gers. I wish you a other . +-ho do you ta$e yourself for1 At fifty. . despite 2armata. which a mome tary flash had brighte ed briefly. +"ou boast of reaso s.y successive refusals gave me i tow the reputatio of a +lio ess+ or +mad woma +. a d you refuse4 . 0e offers you security. Bife will spri g a surprise o you a d the . 'amsir a d Daouda havi g bee re&ected. with &ust o e wife. a doctor.for ot havi g followed the path towards peace. [Page CI ] . .adame wa ts her heart to miss a beat. I do +t $ ow what Daouda has writte . a childhood compa io through the lo g associatio of our families.odou to ma$e you shed tears of blood.uch was 2armata+s tirade o her retur from her missio .a y wome .he thoroughly upset me. would wish to be i your place.year. 'he truth of this woma . I we t bac$ to my lo eli ess.old girl.y heart is with him. I wa ted +somethi g else+.ay ?od satisfy. A d this +somethi g else+ was impossible without the full agreeme t of my heart. love. 0e is a true samba linguere /I from the olde days. I the watched fili g past a d besiegi g me old me i search of easy reve ue. a deputy. a rich ma . :amatoulaye. you have dared to brea$ the wolere . "ou spea$ of love i stead of bread.

+:emember. 2or five years you deprived my mother a d her twelve childre of their breadwi er.odou+s estate. . :emember. "ou made her my mother+s rival.. a d she as$ed for mercy.i .I5AP villa we t to my daughter.other. who. -hat did it matter to her what was bei g said1 . belo ged to me. your victim.odou+s clothes) those that I recog i*ed because I had chose a d cared for them% a d the others . I produced the receipts. But Daba is li$e all the you g.he was already dead i side . .. Bi etou1 I differe ce itself. . 'he co te ts. As for Bi etou. .y mother has suffered a great deal.Baw a d her daughter were theirs by right.up of a you g wolf. she is a victim. with time. a d to support this claim. the fat share ac3uired by my daughter Daba a d her husba d a d put at my disposal.-ho let loose this greedy pac$ of hou ds after me1 2or my charms had faded with the ma y mater ities. from the seco d part of his life. :emember. Pac$ up. with the bailiff+s affidavit i ha d..y so .. 'here remai ed .. ever si ce her marriage to . 0ow ca a woma sap the happi ess of a other1 "ou deserve o pity. I feel sorry for her. I fou d it difficult to imagi e him i this get.he was bei g stripped.i .+ Bady .Baw laid dow o the table the adva ce for the .. re ewed two years ago. cried. [Page C1 ] 'he &ewels a d prese ts give to Bady . 'he story of the Jilla 2alle e was easy to relate) the la d a d buildi g represe ted a ba $ loa gra ted te years ago o the security of our &oi t salaries. 'hey had led the fight for the distributio of ..i . 'he . listed the co te ts a d bought it. . Bady .odou. .he did ot wa t to move out. Ah4 the i herita ce. . without pity.i .other. 'hey were distributed to his family.other. with the tears.Baw sobbed. I was your daughter+s best frie d.I5AP villa a d five years+ re t..

!usma e is si# years old. 'hey clash fre3ue tly whe the time comes to retur corrected essays.+ 0e has the privilege of bri gi g me all your letters. A d you tell me of the +e d+. 0e e#ults i it. which rela# me. -orries have give me wri $les% my fat has melted away. dista ce.y eyes will discover the slightest cha ge i you. as well as mutual memories have co solidated our ties a d made our childre brothers a d sisters. -he we meet. It begi s i my soul a d weighs dow my body.awdo 2all. my eyes. :eu ited. +( d or ew begi i g+1 . 'hese caressi g words. +It+s Au ty Aissatou. holds out your letter to me. I calculate. my last bor .he is bac$ from the Blaise Diag e seco dary school. will we draw up a detailed accou t of our faded bloom. . 'ime. are i deed from you. where she has bee represe ti g me i a swer to a summo s. I have already totalled up my ow % my seclusio has withered me. 0ow does he recog i*e them1 By their stamp1 By their e velope1 By the careful writi g. 'he esse tial thi g is the co te t of our hearts. 'omorrow is i deed [Page C/ ] the e d of my seclusio . . my voice. which a imates us% the esse tial thi g is the 3uality of the sap that flows through us.!! I feel a imme se fatigue. . the sig s o our bodies will ot be importa t. A co flict betwee my so . "ou have ofte proved to me the superiority of frie dship over love. !usma e. or will we sow ew seeds for ew harvests1 I hear Daba+s footsteps. A d you will be there withi reach of my ha d. I ofte tap agai st bo e where before there was rou ded flesh. !usma e e &oys his fi d. a d his philosophy teacher. characteristic of you1 By the sce t of lave der ema ati g from them1 5hildre have clues differe t from our ow .

there is a substa tial age gap betwee Daba a d . Dow our society is sha$e to its very fou datio s. :ight from 2orm ! e. Because of this. 'his. with upright mi ds full of i te se 3uestio i gs that stuc$ withi our i er selves. +Phased out+ or +outdated+. . 'his clash.As you $ ow. Pollutio seeps i through hearts as well as i to the air. 5ultivate yourselves i stead of protesti g. our husba ds were great me . will be at the mercy of the mar$er. his teacher $ oc$s off o e or two mar$s. . 'he teacher ca ot tolerate a blac$ comi g first i philosophy. for a few commas omitted. true. Aissatou. ot without pai .awdo 2all complai s. It is ot everythi g. It is your choice. eve if success eluded their grasp% o e does ot easily overcome the burde s of a thousa d years. a yo e you fi d suitable. A diploma is ot a myth. has moved up to first positio . But it crow s $ owledge. which Daba is tryi g to resolve. 'he dream of a rapid social climb prompts pare ts to give their childre more $ owledge tha educatio . Daba was ready to tell the teacher off. a d ot ours. he has bee top of his class i this sub&ect% but this year for every capital letter forgotte . -he you are adults.. -hat is importa t is the e#ami atio paper. 'hey led the struggle of their lives.awdo 2all. . for a misspelt word. a d o o se se. is the third withi si# mo ths i this form. Do o e will have a y say over him.5laude.awdo 2all has a remar$able gift for literary wor$. they must be based o $ owledge bac$ed by diplomas. too. 8ea . o matter how u happy the outcome of our u io s. But I calmed her dow . But all four of us were made of ster stuff. wor$. a white boy who has always come seco d. . tor betwee the attractio of imported vices a d the fierce resista ce of old virtues. if your opi io s are to carry weight.o why fight a teacher for o e or two mar$s that ca ever cha ge the desti y of a stude t1 I always tell my childre ) you are stude ts mai tai ed by [Page C7 ] your pare ts. that will direct the cou try. -or$ hard so as to merit their sacrifices. perhaps eve +old fogies+. Bife is a eter al compromise.. we belo g to the past. 'his always e ds i a 3uarrel a d a summo s. A d . the result of two miscarriages. 'omorrow. you will be able to elect to power a yo e of your choice.

Bife holds ma y surprises.teacher co flict. Do) I prefer my ow associatio .he reaso s everythi g out. where there is either rivalry or schism. -he I discuss it with her. 2or a lo g time me will co ti ue to have the power of decisio .+ I se se the te der ess growi g betwee this you g couple. smili g with all her teeth at a missio successfully accomplished. but i a political party it is rare for a woma to ma$e a easy brea$. But whe I loo$ at the fruitless wra gli gs eve withi the ra $s of the same party.+ . a ideal couple. prompt to react whe scor ed ho our dema ds redress1 -here is the vigorous pride that guides a whole commu ity towards its duty1 'he appetite to live $ills the dig ity of livi g.I observe the you g. whereas everyo e $ ows that polity should be the affair of wome . -e are give tas$s accordi g to our abilities i our activities a d orga i*atio s that wor$ towards the progress of wome .awdo 2all. I fear for Daba. -hy ot1 'he wife ca ta$e the i itiative to ma$e the brea$. lighthearted. most especially.arriage is o chai . . Do. I am ot afraid of ideological struggle.. discuss everythi g so as to fi d a compromise. &ust as I have always imagi ed. . All the same.. . But you try to side with a stude t agai st his teacher4 Daba is here beside me. that child. 'he headship cha ges every year. either malice or &ostli g for positio % there are o posts to be shared. Daba does ot fi d household wor$ a burde .through. 'he headmaster of the school certai ly u dersta ds the . whe I tell him he +spoils+ his wife) +Daba is my wife. whe I see me +s greed for power. 0er husba d coo$s rice as well as she does% her husba d who claims.awdo 2all. . why should he remai 1 It may be Abou =her husba d>% it may be me. "ou ca see that I digress from the problem of . or positio s to be secured. (ach of us has e3ual opportu ity to adva ce her ideas. It is mutual agreeme t over a life+s programme.he is ot my slave. or my serva t. I prefer ot to participate.he ofte tells me) +I do +t wa t to go i to politics% it+s ot that I am ot i terested i the fate of my cou try a d. -here are those bright eyes. she shrugs her shoulders) +.o if o e of the part ers is o lo ger satisfied with the u io . 'hey ide tify [Page C< ] with each other. !ur fu ds go towards huma itaria wor$% . that of woma .

.+ . It is Aissatou. Despite his frie d . 'he others ca ma age well e ough o their ow . Daba.he had her ow opi io s about everythi g. simply from havi g had to struggle..awdo B9 who comes to my aid duri g the serious ill esses.we are mobili*ed by a milita cy as useful as a y other. Aissatou is helped i her tas$ by Amy a d her twi sister Awa. of course. 'hey are mischievous a d play tric$s o everybody. !" . cared for. that child . why are they so differe t i character1 'he up$eep a d educatio of you g childre do ot pose serious problems% washed.he reaso ed everythi g out.y worries pale whe I recall my gra dmother. my eldest child. colds. I praise him very si cerely for the help he gives me...y twi s are so similar that I sometimes co fuse them. at o matter what hour.+ . I ca still wa$e him up.with. who fou d i popular wisdom a appropriate dictum for each eve t. Aissatou washes the you gest o es) !mar.odou+s desertio of our home. . fed. Ami ata wor$s [Page C@ ] better tha Awa. she still had to carry out her share of the duties) +Ah. But she has time to die. Physically so similar.he would lame t whe . supervised. (ve though I critici*e him for his wea$ ess. the early daily battle agai st sores. who has ta$e over from her the ru i g of the house. I loo$ at her. whose o ly reward is i er satisfactio . i which I e#cel. headaches. It is . who has helped me so admirably with her brothers a d sisters.y grow childre are causi g me a great deal of co cer . if o ly I had a bed o which to lie dow . my ow are growi g well. . but it is a healthy milita cy. whom she is trai i g. . which bro$e up your relatio ship. a d !usma e% your frie d. despite her sleepi ess.+ . your amesa$e. .he li$ed to repeat) +'he mother of a family has o time to travel. eight years old.

with the same defe sive or distrustful reactio s. "aci e a d Diey aba. for I try. . A woma +s teeth blac$e ed with tobacco i stead . the truth of my gra dmother+s prophecies) +'he fact that childre are [Page CA ] bor of the same pare ts does ot ecessarily mea that they will resemble each other. smo$i g i their bedroom. Arame a d "aci e ta$e after me. at first ha d. as much as possible.mac$i g. trousers. bei g early the same si*e. tops. comprehe sio there. behi d the closed door.+ A d here I am today. I would poi t to the three beds i her room. to respect their privacy. . But to gra t themselves the right to smo$e4 'hey were dumbfou ded before my a ger. (verythi g about their ma er showed that they were used to it) their way of holdi g the cigarette betwee their fi gers or raisi g it gracefully to their lips.+ +Bei g bor of the same pare ts is &ust li$e spe di g the ight i the same bedroom. 'he u e#pected ess of it gave me a shoc$. I irritatio . 'hey savoured their pleasure greedily. as well as by a multitude of similarities% they form a bloc$. . I thought a child was bor a d grew up without a y problem.. 'he other ight I surprised the trio =as they are popularly $ ow >.ay ?od gra t that you e#perie ce what I have go e through. People say that Diey aba. A woma +s mouth e#hali g the acrid smell of tobacco i stead of bei g fragra t. a oys the older o es. 'hey are bou d by their frie dship a d willi g ess to help. my gra dmother would offer some solutio s) +Differe t perso alities re3uire differe t forms of discipli e. which is successful with the very you g o es. +goi g through+ &ust that e#perie ce. A d these you g ladies i haled a d e#haled while doi g their lesso s a d their homewor$.trict ess here.+ 'o allay the fear of the future that her words might possibly have aroused. I have ever had to i terve e i their co flicts. of i hali g li$e co oisseurs. before my other childre % they swop dresses. she would say) +"ou have your life before a d ot behi d you. 'heir ostrils 3uivered a d let out the smo$e. I though o e mapped out a straight path a d that he would step lightly dow it. 'he trio has a reputatio for hard wor$ at school.+ 5ourageous gra dmother. I drew from your teachi g a d e#ample the courage that galva i*es o e at the times whe difficult choices have to be made.ischievously. 'he erves daily u dergo severe trials4 But that is the mother+s lot. Arame. I ow saw.

which co stricted a d hampered i stead of liberati g. .mud+.y gra dmother+s wise words came to mi d) +"ou ca feed your stomach as well as you please% it will still provide for itself without your $ owi g. 0e pu ctuated the ri gi g of the bell with the same i structio ) +-hoever does ot live here should scram. with a bell i his ha d. I who wa ted to co trol everythi g.i ce my daughters wa ted to be +with it+.+ I did ot mi d bei g a +stic$. 'here was a eed for some reorga i*atio to stop the rot. at a certai age. 0ow did they ma age the feat1 I co sidered the weari g of trousers dreadful i view of our build. 'hey received male a d female frie ds. Did they also dri $1 -ho $ ows.udde ly I became afraid of the flow of progress. o e vice leads to a other. a d I could ot agree to its use.y gra dfather did ot allow you g people i his house.the. I tried to pe etrate their relatio ships) I created a favourable atmosphere for se sible behaviour a d for co fide ce. . I wa ted my daughters to discover it i a healthy way. I accepted the additio of trousers to their wardrobes. a boy or girl ope s up to love. K 3uestio ably. At te o+cloc$ at ight. I was aware of the harmful effects of tobacco. which is ot that of slim -ester wome . +2or a ew ge eratio . A d the result is that u der the i flue ce of their circle they have ac3uired the habit of smo$i g.of spar$li g with white ess4 "et their teeth were white. without feeli gs of guilt.y gra dmother would perhaps have suggested. 'here were argume ts to &ustify my behaviour. he would war visitors of the closure of the e tra ce gate. 'hey we t to the ci ema without me. . But I gave i to the rush towards this fashio .i . as it re&ected alcohol. I let my daughters go out from time to time.+ I had to do some thi $i g.+ As for myself. 'rousers acce tuate the ample figure of the blac$ woma a d further [Page CC ] emphasi*e the curve of the small of the bac$. secretive ess or degradatio . Does it mea that o e ca +t have moder ism without a loweri g of moral sta dards1 -as I to blame for havi g give my daughters a bit of liberty1 .y co scie ce re&ected it. A d I was left i the dar$. . . . a ew method.

'hey are i a pitiable state) tor clothes. othi g else cou ts. . bodies covered i dust from a fall. I did ot imagi e that the childre had set up a playi g field. amulets rou d the ec$. alo g with three other small boys. I was o the loo$out for its odour. $ ees bleedi g be eath the shorts. I am sorry. especially i the .edi a. he offers his e#cuses) +I saw the childre too late while ma$i g a left tur . a red wou d o his leg.auled by the childre for whom he has became the target. especially at ight.+ I am pleasa tly surprised by the you g motorcyclist. si ce it is a o e. I tried to bra$e. all tied up. I $ ow from e#perie ce the difficulty of drivi g i tow . he is visibly ta$e abac$ by so much hostility. Its favourite hidi g place was the toilet. it would tease my ostrils a d the disappear. but ot agai st him.ta di g o the vera da. white glasses. 'he grey dust from the road covers his de im outfit. ! e of the boys supporti g him e#plai s to me) +A motorcyclist $ oc$ed dow .see$ with my watchful ess. I railed. I vai . I see my so s Aliou e a d . I thought I would have a clear road.2rom the o .ometimes the ob&ect of their passio is a thic$ rag ball. 'here is a large hole i the right sleeve of . I hit the sto es mar$i g the goal post. It played hide. -e were playi g football. your two so s also fell. ! ce they have ta$e possessio . .+ A you g ma with lo g hair. -he I fell. [Page CF ] !# 'oday I was ot able to fi ish my eve i g prayer as I wa ted to) cries from the street made me &ump up from the mat o which I was seated. 'hey will da ce arou d the [Page CH ] ball li$e devils.a a d iro ic. which co trast with his slove ly appeara ce.alic$ arrivi g i tears. .alic$ a d Aliou e.alic$+s sweater% the arm o the same side ha gs dow limply. with &au ty shameless ess. But it o lo ger dared to e#pose itself ope ly. 'he tarred surface is a favourite area for childre . moves forward. It . rele tlessly. . I a polite to e a d ma er.way street.

go. But tomorrow. !ff you go. 'he little boys of the area disapprove of my reactio . I sei*e the opportu ity to tell him off) +'he road is ot a playi g field. -hy. child. more ofte ill tha good. loo$i g for co solatio . . 5lea i g them up. . you g ma . still s iffi g. Nuic$. i additio . &ust as is the $ettle for my ablutio s. disorderly ope i g is made for him. 3uic$ly closed up agai i the hustle. Ah. 'hey wa t the ma +at fault+ to be pu ished% I give them a tic$i g. 'hese orga s. It droops u aturally. +Nuic$. carry out the same fu ctio s.+ Aissatou dresses 3uic$ly a d speedily helps . his composure% a small. 'hey slipped away as I was prayi g.+ Aissatou.o ma y devastati g wars4 A d yet ma ta$es himself to be a superior bei g. childre 4 'hey cause a accide t a d.does +t matter4 'he driver+s o ly recourse is his bra$es.. . . I thi $ of the ide tical ature of me ) the same red blood irrigati g the same orga s. li$e your brother. whether the i dividual be white or blac$. his hor . they wa t to pu ish.y so s are to blame.he ta$es care of the stra ger a d the of Aliou e.alic$ to clea up a d cha ge. (verythi g u ites me . you g ma .o what do we do1+ . 'he dried blood from the wou ds leaves dar$ a d repulsive stai s o the grou d. do they $ill each other i ig oble wars for causes that are futile whe compared with the massacre of huma lives1 .wool for your wou d.+ [Page FI ] Aliou e complai s) +But there is o playi g field i the area. your amesa$e. Aliou e. eve louder.others wo +t let us play football i the compou ds. wait a mome t while I get you some spirit a d cotto .alic$+s ha gi g arm loo$s to me as if it is bro$e . watch out4 "ou will have some bo e bro$e .or rather. Behi d him the shouts begi agai . I go bac$ to my place o the mat decorated with a picture of a mos3ue i gree . . reserved for my use o ly. situated i the same places. bri gs methylated iodi e a d cotto . the . I what way is his i tellige ce useful to him1 0is i tellige ce begets both good a d ill. go to Aissatou4 'a$e him to hospital. ! the co trary. +It+s ot your fault.. 'he same remedies cure the same ill esses everywhere u der the su .awdo. "ou got off lightly today. pushes !usma e aside so as to ta$e his place beside me. If you ca +t fi d . which I refuse him.

ome hours later Aissatou a d . the griot woma of the cowries. Dow thi . i order to $eep her sle der figure. o ce agai . 'he disappeara ce of her plump ess dates from this period. I had certai ly oticed your amesa$e+s sudde loss of weight.awdo B9.y mi d focused o somethi g else. But puberty also tra sforms adolesce ts% they grow fatter or thi er. she would poi t out i the &umble of cowries a you g preg a t girl. Aissatou refused to regai weight. it ever lets go of me agai . she swam i her trousers a d.alic$ retur from the hospital where. de ied it. Bittle !umar did tell me o e day that Aissatou used to vomit i their bathroom every mor i g while bathi g him. said it was the water mi#ed with toothpaste that she spat out. her lac$ of appetite. how dearly childre ma$e o e pay for the &oy of bri gi g them i to the world4 8ust as I thought. I aturally ascribed her light i ta$e of food a d her distaste for certai foodstuffs to this ew ma ia. But Aissatou. whe 3uestio ed. chec$ed by . wore o ly dresses.awdo has ta$e good care of them. A d the . taller. !umar o lo ger spo$e of vomiti g. the swelli g of her breasts) all i dicatio s of the child she was carryi g. or her $ee powers of observatio had simply served her well. shortly after her father+s death. . very cleverly led me to this discovery. . 'his is my luc$) o ce misfortu e has me i its grip. Aissatou. (ach time she cast her cowries to cut short our discussio s =we had divergi g poi ts of view o everythi g>.alic$+s plastered arm tells me that the droopi g arm had i deed bee bro$e . my frie d) it ever rai s but it pours. -ith heavy sighs. she would breathe a +0m+ of disco te t. Public rumour had spurred her o perhaps. . !fficers i charge of tow pla i g must ma$e provisio for playi g fields whe they are developi g ope spaces. Ah. Aissatou had had a viole t attac$ of malaria.0is comme t is valid. to my great &oy. is three mo ths preg a t. your amesa$e. 2armata. [Page F1 ] . .

a oyed by my aivetM. she swept i to Aissatou+s bedroom. for there has bee a theft1 -ho is behi d this i &ury. ?ather up your mud. . li$e a coo$i g pot a d its cover lid. for i &ury it is. 2armata said boldly) +Nuestio your daughters. i tears. I followed their la guage dispassio ately. Boo$ at this o e. Aissatou does ot de y her co ditio . ad&usti g itself to the other. they i dicate a you g girl. overlapped. . was sile t.+ I was dumbfou ded. ... who had calmed my a ger duri g the cigarette usual.tale chi $ filled the wi owi g fa .all who. without a y weapo s with which to defe d myself. it mea s there is somethi g there. "ou would ever have got out of this situatio . as she tal$ed. 2armata se t away !usma e. 'he two groups of cowries are separated) 'his i dicates a u attached woma . Aissatou followed her. was ow i dulgi g i a eve more da gerous game1 . A mother must be pessimistic. collided.+ A d her ha d threw dow . white side up. -ater a d sa d have bee mi#ed% they have become mud.ovi g li$e a ga*elle with delicate limbs. . 'heir tell. 'he first 3uestio that comes to mi d o discoveri g such [Page F/ ] a co ditio is) who1 -ho is behi d this theft.he would show her to me. 'he girl+s co ditio was ma$i g the woma suffer. A d the . 'he child is i the belly. loo$4 'his separate cowry. I say. I closed my eyes. 'hey fell away from each other. a triumpha t gleam i her eye. "ou guessed othi g.erciless fate had surprised me agai . very soo became simply Iba. I have saved her by e#posi g the matter. If they have i sisted for so lo g. to reveal distress. But as the cowries are small. -ho has dared1 -ho1 -ho1 Aissatou me tio ed a certai Ibrahima .he was elo3ue t) +Boo$. a d the same group of two cowries always remai ed separate. afraid that I would cha ge my mi d. .he came out. (very day 2armata would i sist a bit more o the +you g preg a t girl+ of her cowries. the gossipy cowries. I g awed at my to gue. who was estled withi myboubou . . o e eve i g.0ow could I guess that my daughter. I accepted the propositio . hollow side tur ed upwards. I. :amatoulaye. I was flushed a d breathless. loc$ed the door a d declared) +'he cowries ca ot always be wro g. so pro e to chide. It forms o e body with its mother. a #ious.he did ot dare co fide i you. agai a d agai . ope ed them agai .+ -orried by the rele tless repetitio .

0e had refused the services of o e of his mates who wa ted to +help+ him. he had decided to deprive himself for the mai te a ce of his child. Iba sometimes we t to meet her at school whe she did ot +come dow + at lu ch time. . my lo g years of lo eli ess. so efficie t i every way. I reali*ed how close I was to my child. 0er life a d her future were at sta$e. . . After Daba.hearted gift of herself to this lover who had succeeded i u iti g i this heart my image a d his ow .he was fully aware of the serious ess of her actio . -ho decides death a d life1 ?od.he heard my i er self give way. her to gue pi $. (verythi g had happe ed aturally betwee them. I saw her o ce more. I overcame my emotio . as pride would have me do. 'he oldest should set a e#ample. At this mome t of co fro tatio . 'o ma$e my bei g a defe sive barrier betwee my daughter a d a y obstacle. from a bro$e voice accompa ied by much s iffi g but without a y regret4 Aissatou be t her head.Bewildered. ewly spru g from me. so ma y fi e 3ualities allied with such behaviour4 Iba is a law stude t at the u iversity. followi g upo my aba do me t. 0e loved her. . ! e is a mother to lighte the dar$ ess.y teeth g ashed i a ger. o e is a mother i order to u dersta d the i e#plicable. so te der with me.. li$e a lifebuoy. I could ot aba do her.hood. whe [Page F7 ] thu der sha$es the earth. a d these were . I recog i*ed her i her whole. co scious of the pai crushi g me% I remai ed sile t. ! e is a mother to shield whe light i g strea$s the ight. her ti y face creased u der her sil$y hair. . I loo$ at my daughter. $ic$i g about. whe mud bogs o e dow .. the i destructible bo d be eath the avala che of storms a d the duratio of time. Iba $ ew of her co ditio . the Almighty4 A d also. . Iba had ot dema ded a ythi g. Aissatou lowered her eyes.y ha d supported my tired head. 0e had i vited her o two occasio s to his room i the u iversity halls of reside ce. :ememberi g. 'he umbilical cord too$ o ew life. . co sideri g my rece t widow. as at every mome t of crisis i my life.. I recog i*ed the u var ished truth of her story. so well brought up. I sought refuge i ?od. she was the oldest of the successio of daughters. 'hey met at a frie d+s birthday celebratio . so ready to help i the house. 'hough he was o a scholarship. had ot forced her. ! e is a mother i order to love without begi i g or e d. Aissatou lowered her eyes..he co fessed her li$i g for him4 Do. the te der a d co soli g attitude of my daughter duri g my distress. I lear ed everythi g at o e go.

I felt terribly sic$. . It was eager to blossom. 0ow could she have lived alo e with her secret1 I was traumati*ed by the effort a d s$ill employed by this child to escape my a ger whe ever she felt fai t or whe ever she too$ over from me beside my troublesome you gsters. "ou g Aissatou shall have a appoi tme t with the doctor.y decisio to help a d protect emerged from the tumult. the miracle she was carryi g. . her pai . . a d here was this girl who had give herself to a pe iless stude t. ot later tha tomorrow. Adopt a attitude that you . It vibrated. 5ourage4 'he rays of light u ited to form a appeasi g bright ess. ?lutted with optimism. ! e is a mother so as to face the flood. as I caressed the bur i g brow. 'he life that fluttered i her was 3uestio i g me. 2armata was asto ished.he cho$ed o sobs.he cried. Do doubt about it) she will ever $ ow what to e#pect from [Page F< ] me.powerful co sideratio s. overridi g all taboos a d assumi g greater importa ce i my heart a d i my mi d. 'he story of the 2iat whetted her appetite a d credited you with fabulous wealth. you who would give her a lot of mo ey at the future weddi g of your amesa$e. who would ever be grateful to her. the passio of her bei g. her si cere repe ta ce. dema di g protectio .he dreamed of festivities. the torme t of her thoughts.he wished for threats) I forgave. . I had ot suspected the crisis of her co scie ce. I too$ myself i ha d with superhuma effort.he e#pected waili g) I smiled.he had dreams of sumptuous marriage celebratio s for Aissatou. I felt sic$. I was the o e who had ot bee e3ual to the situatio . 'he shadows faded away.he wa ted stro g reprima ds) I co soled. with a force multiplied te fold by paga revolt a d primitive te der ess. Aissatou. Pai fully. . -as I to threate . her a guish1 -as I1 I too$ my daughter i my arms.he used to si g your praises. .he reproached me for my calm) +"ou have mai ly daughters. It gai ed stre gth as I wiped the tears. already tied to my steps li$e a shadow. . which would compe sate her for my ow meagre uptials whe she was a you g girl. I held her tightly. . . 'o give a si er so much atte tio was beyo d her. . i the face of my daughter+s shame.

shoes polished. was loo$i g out for s3ualls. -e will co ti ue with our studies. 0is pu ctuality pleased me. "ou will see. :amatoulaye..all was i deed the embodime t of the roma tic you g lover. that I thi $ I $ ow you already. !$ Ibrahima . your close ess to her. to let you $ ow.+ 0ere the . a d Aissatou has told me so much about you. I am ot &ust loo$i g for e#citeme t. . who was prese t duri g the discussio . I will marry Aissatou. "ou will see. I regret what has happe ed. I wa t her to be the o ly o e..y mother will loo$ after her child. 0ow to reply1 ..he as$ed) +"ou were really the first1+ +"es. Ibrahima . But with remar$ably beautiful eyes. was all I wa ted to hear. te der i the caseme t of his lo g eyelashes. . If you agree. velvety.all tomorrow. Pleasa t features.. It was I who had summo ed him.+ co firmed Iba .hould I agree readily to his propositio s1 2armata. a d I oticed his clea li ess with relief) short hair combed. If Aissatou ca do EthisE. I wo der what your trio of smo$ers will do. Do treacherous gaps. the smile as $eep up. "our daughter is my first love. I $ ow what a daughter mea s to her mother.+ I will i deed see whe I as$ to meet Ibrahima . I let my ga*e rest o the set of his teeth. . 'all. o the whole. 0e pleased me. 0e must be a orderly ma a d therefore without deceit. co cise a d well said. . . ! e would li$e to see them i a woma +s face . ails scious about it.all e tered my room at the appoi ted time. but it was he who started the co versatio ) +0ow ma y times I have wa ted to arra ge [Page F@ ] this discussio .mother your daughter with caresses.all. simply dressed. -ithout bei g self.

while my daughter+s swolle belly would poi t a accusi g fi ger. a d for Aissatou to dress i loose clothes. .+'he ..all himself ra o ris$ of bei g e#pelled from the u iversity. -hat was to be do e to preve t my daughter+s e#pulsio from school1 I told Iba . war your mother. Perhaps he already $ ew her well e ough by ame a d character to remai politely sile t. 0e would remai +flat+ . I accepted my subordi ate role. After this fi al year. A A ew family was bei g bor before my very eyes. 0e too had give some thought to the problem. 'he ripe fruit must drop away from the tree. marriage. .be1 'here would be o cha ge i him.he was o lo ger u der my protectio . could +t you have waited u til you had a good &ob before ru i g after girls1+ Ibrahima .all heard the griot woma +s remar$s without showi g a y irritatio . .he had better save a lot of mo ey to compe sate my iece. &ust to let the mo ths go past.y daughter+s boyfrie d had wor$ed it out logically a d remi ded me of Daba+s clear ess of mi d. as if I were agai bri gi g her i to the world. 'he esse tial thi g was ot to pa ic.y ow preoccupatio s were very differe t from those of 2armata. .he belo ged more to her boyfrie d. Ibrahima . A d eve had he still bee at school. -e were right i the middle of the school year. Aissatou would the &oi the fi al. -e or I shall go to see her tomorrow to a ou ce your crime. I felt that my child was bei g detached from my bei g. 'he child would be bor duri g the holidays. who would i form the school of his positio as father.. At that mome t. -he will there be a le ie t law to help erri g schoolgirls whose co ditio is ot camouflaged by lo g holidays1 [Page FA ] I added othi g to all this careful pla i g. At the begi i g of the followi g school year the baby would be two mo ths old. . .year class.all of my fears.

0e offers . .all. 0is pare ts. who have give up the street for my compou d. . i formed some time ago by the vigila t 2armata.awdo 2all his logic a d clarity i discussio s of the topics of his essays..all urges Aissatou o i her lesso s a d homewor$. 0ow I li$e to liste to this slow rhythm4 A ew substa ce is tryi g to graft itself o to the household.he ever misses a opportu ity of hitti g out at him) +0as o e ever see a stra ger u tie a goat i the house1+ K perturbed. .all comes every day a d gives each of us what he ca . . 'he trio greet him correctly but without e thusiasm.alic$+s arm is still i plaster. A d reassuri g habits regai asce da cy.. Ibrahima .ay ?od smooth the ew path of this child+s life. discusses curre t eve ts with me. 'hey begrudge him for havi g. does ot brea$ i its tur 4 But the trio =Arame. +shameless+. reassuri g habits regai asce da cy. Ibrahima . . 'he trio are hostile to his i vitatio s. also come rou d to see us a d are a #ious about Aissatou+s health. Aissatou+s mar$s improve) there+s a silver li i g i every cloud4 2armata fi ds it difficult to accept Ibrahima .. 0e is ot too proud to play with . 8ust as lo g as his leg. 0e has his girlfrie d+s success at heart. which ca ot $eep away from the ball. "et what a path4 !% Aissatou.y heart beats mo oto ously u der my blac$ wrappers.. Ibrahima . .. 0e see$s out my compa y. 0e provides chocolate regularly for !umar a d !usma e. whom she [Page FC ] describes as +coc$sure+.alic$ a d Aliou e. "aci e a d Diey aba> refuse to accept this +i trusio +.all tries to adapt. 0e does ot wa t to be respo sible for a y regressio whatsoever. sometimes bri gs me maga*i es a d fruit.

. that the i dividual disti guishes himself from the a imal. 'hey remove a y thor or pebble that might hi der the progress of their childre towards the co 3uest of all forms of liberty4 I apply myself pai fully to this ecessity. [Page FF ] Perhaps the trio $ ew already. -hat does o e gai from pleasures1 (arly agei g. I address myself to the trio. . a e#pressio of love. !f us all. Aissatou. It is through his trol. I had the impressio that I was sayi g the obvious. . .marital +wa deri gs+. preve t it.dow . I will ta$e precautio s. I let out a sigh of relief.others of yore taught chastity. I felt that I had emerged i to the light after a lo g &our ey through a dar$.. I have fi ally decided to broach the problem of se#ual educatio .. . his ability to reaso . I was the most vul erable. 'hey help to limit the damage a d. caught me u awares.. arrow tu el. I emphasi*e the sublime sig ifica ce of the se#ual act. A profligate life for a woma is i compatible with morality.y words fell u easily o my female audie ce. .I e vy you for havi g had o ly boys4 "ou do +t $ ow the terrors I face i deali g with the problems of my daughters. o doubt about it. A lo g sile ce. 'he e#iste ce of mea s of co traceptio must ot lead to a u hi dered release of desires a d i sti cts. 0ow I had hesitated earlier4 I did ot wa t to give my daughters a free ha d by offeri g them immu ity i pleasure.y chopped se te ces aroused o special i terest. All the same. (ach woma ma$es of her life what she wa ts. 2or the trio+s faces registered o surprise.oder mothers favour +forbidde games+. to choose.. better still. his power of attachme t. A d the trio disappeared. 'heir voice of authority co dem ed all e#tra. the twi s bei g still too you g. I further stressed. 'he world is upside. debaseme t. . 2rom ow o . your amesa$e. I i sist that my daughters be aware of the value of their bodies.

I remai persuaded of the i evitable a d ecessary compleme tarity of ma a d woma . especially as I have obtai ed a e#te sio of my widow+s leave. I am ot i differe t to the irreversible curre ts of wome +s liberatio that are lashi g the world. ofte mu**led. all wome have almost the same fate. I strume ts for some. . respected or despised. I a alyse the decisio s that decide our future.!& 'ill tomorrow. the rete tio of co 3uests difficult) social co strai ts are ever. I reflect.y reflectio s determi e my attitude to the problems of life. a d male egoism resists.y heart re&oices each time a woma emerges from the shadows.prese t. I might as well sum up ow. I wide my scope by ta$i g a i terest i curre t world affairs. I $ ow that the field of our gai s is u stable. imperfect as it may be i its co te t a d e#pressio . my frie d. Bove. . I ca ot help u burde i g myself to you. baits for others. which religio s or u &ust legislatio have sealed. 'his commotio that is sha$i g up every aspect of our lives reveals a d illustrates our abilities.y ew tur of mi d is hardly surprisi g to you. 'o love o e a other4 If o ly each part er could move si cerely towards the other4 If each could o ly melt i to the [Page FH ] other4 If each would o ly accept the other+s successes a d failures4 If each would o ly praise the other+s 3ualities i stead of listi g his faults4 If each could o ly correct bad habits without harpi g o about them4 If each could pe etrate the other+s most secret . remai s the atural li $ betwee these two bei gs. . -e will the have time to ourselves.

aware or u aware. Despite everythi g.hope still lives o withi me. . . to see you ta$e part i the search for a ew way. steami g bowl i to which you will have to accept that other ha ds dip. It is from the dirty a d auseati g humus that the gree pla t sprouts i to life. I have ta$e a bet with Daba . 'oo bad for me if o ce agai I have to write you so lo g a letter. u ited or separated. a d I ca feel ew buds spri gi g up i me.disappoi tme ts a d humiliatio s . 'he success of a atio therefore depe ds i evitably o the family. 'he atio is made up of all the families. a d.hau ts to forestall failure a d be a support while te di g to the evils that are repressed4 'he success of the family is bor of a couple+s harmo y. be eath your sceptical pout. I war you already.. perhaps I will feel you vibrate. &ust as before.table... as the harmo y of multiple i strume ts creates a pleasa t sympho y. 'he word +happi ess+ does i deed have mea i g. I would so much li$e to hear you chec$ or e courage my eager ess. chair. . -hy are +t your so s comi g with you1 Ah.agai . their studies. Ksed to livi g far away.. . the . for$. But I will ot let you have your way. you will say. I will spread out a mat. you will wa t. Be eath the shell that has harde ed you over the years. ! it there will be the big.. rich or poor. I have ot give up wa ti g to refashio my life.. will I see you tomorrow i a tailored suit or a lo g dress1 I+ve ta$e a bet with Daba) tailored suit. as before..... your easy carriage. .ore co ve ie t. does +t it1 I shall go out i search of it.. plate.o..

poet. 7 [2oot ote 17 A ma i -ester . 7 [2oot ote 1I Pri cess of the . $ eaded millet flour% it is coo$ed i steam. 7 [2oot ote H Buildi g society i the 5ap. 7 [2oot ote 1/ I visible compa io s.e egalese food prepared from roughly $ eaded millet flour.uburbs of Da$ar. 7 [2oot ote 7 .sorcerer. part. of a y atio ality. 7 [2oot ote 11 K dergrou d river. 7 [2oot ote C . . who is part. 2n tran+-ation Mo(. 7 [2oot ote / 2orm of co dole ce that also e#presses hope of moral recovery. Le+ No. 7 [2oot ote A Blac$ Africa . 7 [2oot ote < It is the duty of the husba d+s sisters to buy his widow+s mour i g clothes.weet. which is coo$ed i water a d eate with curds.-a*e .musicia . 7 [2oot ote F .i e. clothes.e egal =Da$ar a d e viro s>./e--e+ E(ition+ A0ri1aine+ 198' . which co structs houses for sale or re t.e egal.Jert departme t of .34 Bo(45T6oma+ 1981 NOTES 7 [2oot ote 1 A i vocatio that i dicates the serious ess of the sub&ect to be discussed.smelli g a d stimulati g powder. capital of . 7 [2oot ote @ A dri $ prepared by mi#i g sugared curds with well.

7 [2oot ote /I A ma of repute. 7 [2oot ote 1C Doblema .7 [2oot ote 1< . 7 [2oot ote 1@ Bi3uid with super atural powers. 7 [2oot ote 1H !ld frie dship. 7 [2oot ote 1A 'he statutory visit that every polygamous ma must ma$e to the bedroom of each of his wives i tur .omeo e who comes from the hi terla d% i -est Africa ( glish. 7 [2oot ote 1F Begi i g of the first sourate of the 6ora . +bushma +. which has passed i to ge eral speech% the e#pressio de otes surprise. .