At the occasion of the recent publication of Senegalese philosopher Souleymane Bachir Diagne’s book ‘African Art as Philosophy: Senghor, Bergson and the Idea of Negritude’ (originally published in French in 2007) and listening to this interview where he speaks about his new book, ‘Bergson Postcolonial’, I intended to write a short post wondering why it often takes years before important work by African authors (both fiction and non-fiction) that is originally published in French becomes available in English — if at all. Browsing through English news and culture blogs focussing on ‘all things African’, one does find a lot of visual work (by francophone artists, fashionistas or musicians) because that work is easy to blog and reblog (Tumblr & co), but when it comes to engaging with French opinions and writings… it’s a desert out there.
It’s hard to shake off the feeling the result is a virtual and cultural space consisting of two separate worlds missing out on each other’s written work. Short, a post on why French African authors matter and why they are often absent on English platforms.
Until I came across the argument above, by Souleymane Bachir Diagne himself, who expresses their importance far more eloquently than I could have. (As a scholar of Léopold Senghor’s work and as a friend of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Diagne couldn’t leave them out of the argument.) In English.
I’ll still make that list of French works which I believe need to be translated and read — another day.