French Tropicalism

When it comes to engaging with French language opinions and writings in English, it’s a desert out there.

Image Serigne Diagne. Via Flickr CC.

Recently the University of Chicago Press published ‘African Art as Philosophy: Senghor, Bergson and the Idea of Negritude‘ by Senegalese philosopher Souleymane Bachir Diagne (originally published in French in 2007). It is how I found myself listening to this interview with Diagne 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 initially published in French becomes available in English – if at all.

Browsing through English news and culture blogs focussing on ‘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). Still, when it comes to engaging with French language opinions and writings, it’s a desert out there.

It’s hard to shake off the feeling that the result is a virtual and cultural space 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 below, 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 I believe need to be translated and read. Another day.

Further Reading

Between two evils

After losing its parliamentary majority for the first time, the African National Congress is scrambling to form a coalition government. The options are bleak.

Heeding the call

At the 31st New York African Film Festival, young filmmakers set the stage with adventurous and varied experiments in African cinema.