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Mongo Beti : his works and his contribution to the African novel Carline, Mary 1973

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C . I MONGO BETI : HIS WORKS AND HIS CONTRIBUTION TO THE AFRICAN NOVEL by MARY CARLINE B.A. , Victoria University of Manchester, 1968 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in the Department of French We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA May, 1973 In presenting t h i s thesis i n p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree that the Library s h a l l make i t f r e e l y available for reference and study. I further agree that permission fo r extensive copying of t h i s thesis fo r scholarly purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by h i s representatives. It i s understood that copying or publication of t h i s thesis for f i n a n c i a l gain s h a l l not be allowed without my written permission. Department The University of B r i t i s h Columbia Vancouver 8, Canada A B S T R A C T Mongo Beti i s the pseudonym of one Alexandre B i y i d i , a novelist from the ex-French Cameroun, who wrote the body of his work in the 1950s, before his country gained i t s independence. His four novels, V i l l e Cruelle, Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, Mission Terminee, and Le Roi Miracule together constitute a detailed portrait of l i f e in the Cameroun under colonial rule. In this thesis I have attempted to set forth as clearly as possible Beti's opinions on the actions and philosophies of colonial administrator and Christian missionary alike, and on the effects which these have had upon his fellow-Camerounians. To analyse the justice of his opinions, I have referred to contemporary and more recent criticism of these two facets of Europe's "African adventure." It is my contention that, though mordant in his satire of the Christian religion in Africa, though angrily c r i t i c a l of colonialism's " c i v i l i s i n g mission", Beti i s never less than honest in his evaluation. Equally honest are his portrayals of his fellow-Africans, for he does not succumb to the temptation to present them as more noble or long-suffering, or as, in any way, other than they are. I have commented upon the i n t r i n s i c worth of the novels themselves, and have attempted, briefly, to suggest the position and importance of Beti's brand of social realism in the history of the African novel, indicating my reasons for believing that his work s t i l l has relevance today. TABLE OF CONTENTS Pages Introduction 1 - 3 Chapter I - Colonialism 4 - 1 8 Chapter II - The Christian Religion 19-37 Chapter III - African Society 3 8 -53 Chapter IV - The Four Novels 5 4 - 7 1 Concluding Remarks 72-77 Notes 78-84 Bibliography 85-88 m m m m m m m m m m - 1 -INTRODUCTION In 1953, in an article i i i Presence Africaine entitled "Problemes de l'etudiant noir", Alexandre Biyidi of the French Camerouns, then a young student i n Paris, declared himself free of any ambition to write a novel, a task, he said, exceeding his powers. In the very same issue however, he published a short story under the pseudonym of Eza Boto, and, in the four years from 1955 to 1958, he produced four novels: - V i l l e  Cruelle, Le Pauvre Christ de Boiiiba, Mission Terminee and Le Roi Mifacule, the last three using the name, Mongo Beti, with which he was to become known in the literary world. In 1960, in an interview with Lilyan Kesteloot, Beti admitted that many young African writers entered the literary scene only because circumstances pushed them to do so, and cited Presence Africaine and the p o l i t i c a l situation in their own countries as two of the main influences. Succumbing to these influences, and stung by the erroneous, derogatory conceptions of his countrymen held by the metropolitan French, Mongo Beti accepted the role of spokesman for his people. By the early 1960's, however, confessing himself disillusioned with literature, i t s power to influence and achieve results, Mongo Beti abandoned his literary career and has since published only polemical articles. Throughout his four novels - the inspiration for two of which, Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba and Mission Terminee, can be seen already in the above-mentioned a r t i c l e - the author maintains an unchanging attitude towards several institutions or groups of people: colonialism which he loathes and savagely attacks; the Christian religion which he mocks pi t i l e s s l y ; and the elders of his own people for whom he reserves a - 2 -contemptuous hatred. Nor does his thinly-concealed scorn for women vary much from novel to novel. What does change is the tone, which becomes steadily more pessimistic and bitter, and the content which nears polemical writing, as Beti records the accelerating process of decay of traditional structures. Never in the mainstream of the "negritude" movement, Beti provides no solutions for a developing Africa, no visions of a future synthesis i n which western and non-westera (African and non-African cultures w i l l meet in harmony. He approaches his subject matter as a social c r i t i c , an observer who spares neither the colonialists nor his own people the lash of his irony. Beti i s not a master of the art of writing. Most of the weaknesses in his works appertain to structure and style. However, each novel has i t s strengths too, as I hope to i l l u s t r a t e . Mongo Beti has contributed to Afjrican literature vivid evocations of characters and situations i n Cameroun under colonial rule, made a l l the more memorable because of the superbly ironic treatment he gives his subject matter. In the following pages, I shall discuss only those aspects of colonialism' , the Christian religion, and the position of the African under European rule which are commented on, directly or indirectly, i n Mongo Beti's novels. To examine the justice of his accusations and portrayals I have thought i t necessary to include both contemporary expressions of French aims and policies in the colonies, and post-facto criticism; (in the wider sense of the word) of these aims and policies. I do not pretend to deal with any one of these vast topics in their entirety, nor, in the case of the f i r s t two, to pass judgement on their overall success or failure. - 3 -A problem of nomenclature arose in this thesis. The English "blacks" had a derogatory connotation which the French "les noirs" did not, so i n most cases I have avoided the former. In the few instances where i t seemed appropriate to use i t , no offence was intended. I have used the term* "Bantu" in i t s widest sense, as refening to peoples through-out Central and South Africa, including the southernmost part of Cameroun (vide R. Oliver, "The Problem of the Bantu expansion", Journal of African  History, VII, 3 (1966), pp. 361-376). I trust that this use of the term w i l l not be found confusing. - 4 -CHAPTER I COLONIALISM "La domination imposee par une minorite etrangere, racialement et culturellement differente, au nom d'une superiority raciale (ou ethnique) et culturelle dogmatiquement affirmee, a une majoriteaautbch-tone* materiellement inferieure; l a mise en rapport de civilisations heterogenes: une c i v i l i s a t i o n a machinisme, a ecoriomie puissante, a rythme rapide et d'origine chretienne s'imposant a des civilisations sans techniques complexes, a economie retardee, a rythme lent et radicale-ment 'non-chretiennes'; le caractere antagoniste des relations intervenant entre les deux societes qui s'explique par le role d'instrument auquel est condamnee l a societe domineej l a necessite, pour maintenir l a domination, de recourir non seulement a l a "force0mais encore a un ensemble de pseudo-justifications et de comportements stereotypes 11 (Description of the "colonial situation". Georges Balandier (1)). The colonial conqueror needed no further proof of his superiority than that afforded by his victories; nor did the f i r s t settlers who cultivated virgin lands need to be reminded of their usefulness. Their successors in Africa, however, and non-settler expatriates, did not enjoy such an enviable position of psychological security. If the intermittent French policy of assimilation, a policy which desired to produce black Frenchmen who would assume their rightful place within the republic of liberty, fraternity and equality, had been vigorously pursued, there was no reason why, after a certain lapse of time for 'development', the African should not have become a French citizen equal in every respect to his European counterpart. Of course this did not happen. The Europeans in the colonies, though a numerical minority, were never a sociological minority, but rather remained dominant because of their material superiority and a legal system introduced to maintain their interests. - 5 -Assimilation was the o f f i c i a l policy only of the most strongly Republican French governments, the more conservative regimes favouring paternalism. What is more, assimilation proved far too costly to apply on a mass scale, and attempts at i t s implementation were often balked by administrators on the spot. Instead, efforts were directed towards creating a strongly Gallicised e l i t e who would help to diffuse French culture among the masses (2). The Europeans in the colonies had everything to lose i f real assimilation took place: "le colonialiste n'a jamais decide de transformer l a colonie a 1'image de l a metropole et le colonise a son image. II ne peut admettre une t e l l e adequation qui detruirait le principe de ses privileges. (3). In an attempt to justify his continued privileges, to ensure their permanence, and to explain away the insufficient development of the indigenous population, the colonialist had recourse to a number of theories, of which the most important and effective were racist. No doubt a subconscious rather than a deliberately Machiavellian procedure, the practice of rac i a l stereotyping had i t s roots i n fear, for example fear of loss of a favoured position or fear of revolt by those injustly treated. "Au fond de ce colonialisme on trouve surtout l a peur. La peur sous des formes sordides: e f f r o i de perdre ses privileges economiques ou sociaux." (4) The procedure consisted of seeking out the differences between colonial and colonized of making value judgements on them to the advantage of the colonial and the detriment of the colonized_ and l a s t l y , of making these differences absolute by affirming their definitive character and doing everything in one's power to make sure they became - 6 -so. The contrast between colonized and colonist is seen as that between negative and positive. The former i s "un rien", ungrateful, hypocritical. Reference is never made to individuals but always to the mass in general. This depersonalization helps to keep the colonized at bay, maintains them as a solid, alien group and avoids the necessity of judging each case on it s merits. Thus they1"", that is any given "natives",>are lazy, and, by implication, the colonials are contrastingly industrious, a l l of which conveniently j u s t i f i e s the payment of low wages whereby the colonials make their profits. "Rien ne pourrait mieux legitimer le privilege du colonisateur que son tra v a i l , rien ne pourrait mieux j u s t i f i e r le denuement du colonise que son oisivete." (5) "They" are also irresponsible and cannot be trusted, so should always be supervised by those who can. Positive qualities are proclaimed carried to excess. Mongo Beti clearly illustrates this facet of the colonial mentality. As Lequeux, a colonial administrator from Le Roi Miracule points out, "they" are highly excitable. "Au Vietnam, i l s sont tout a f a i t comme i c i pour ce qui est de l a susceptibilite. Ils s 1entredechirent pour des motifs aussi f u t i l e s . " (p.236). What more logical conclusion to draw than that i t is well that the more self-disciplined European rulers should be supported by sufficient armed might to discourage excessive unruliness? Nor is i t necessary, when meting out punishment, to be as humane as one would be towards white people as, "les negres, i l s ne sentent pas l a douleur", i n the considered opinion of M. Vidal, the administrator in Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba (p.186). Repeated assertions become unquestioned - 7 -and unquestionable assumptions. The endless accusations directed against him often sap the colonized's faith in himself, as Memmi has shown. "Ne sommes-nous pas tout de tneme un peu coupables? Paresseux, puisque nous avons tant d'oisifs?" (6) is the suspicion fostered in the mind of the colonized, who thus gives a certain reality to the mythical portrait of himself painted by the colonial. Beti's villagers show signs of the same inferi o r i t y complex - Sur que nous, on est des zeros," and again, "des moins que rien - comme nous." (7). The logic behind such stereotyping of the colonized is clear. If the colonialist can paint a picture of an African who is in essence inferior and incapable of amelioration, "un autochtone fixe, toujours identique et indecrottable", (8) then his own position of economic, p o l i t i c a l and social privilege i s j u s t i f i e d not only now but for a l l time, that is the relations between colonial and c§3>&fllfc£eS^ are merely a result of what the latter is. and can never be changed. Change was anathema. The colonial not only tried to ensure that the Africans never underwent any, he also avoided any within himself. Having cut himself off bodily from his Western homeland and past, he refused any future evolution of himself in his new country, keeping s t r i c t l y apart from local society. Any communion with the "natives" was dangerous since i t implied opening oneself to a different system of l i f e and values. The buildings of the whites were always well away from those of the Africans, as is that of the missionaries in Le Pauvre Christ de Bbmba '(p.257),-or those of the white administrators of Tanga, in V i l l e Cruelle (p.19). The intellectual and social distance maintained was just as great. When, - 8 -in Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, Father Drummond suggests that Vidal make friends among the Africans, the latter replies "Ah! les Negres? Oh, mon Pere, je ne sais meme pas leur langue! " (p.271) and Lequeux deems i t quite ridiculous that the missionary Le Guen should want to consider himself an Essazam like his flock. (9) A colonial who took i t upon himself to frequent Africans or defend them would have encountered the wrath of a colonial society outraged because threatened. "On l u i prete des gouts depraves, des opinions subversives ou des moeurs inavouables." (10) Very few would care to stand up against the weight of expatriate opinion, for to do so would mean confining oneself uniquely to the company of an alien, indigenous population often hostile, for the best of reasons, to Europeans. Europeans of different origins did not mix socially, either, the main group demonstrating their exclusiveness by treating other Europeans as 'foreigners', a fact Beti notes in V i l l e  Cruelle. "Des c o l l i e r s , des bagues, des bracelets d'or, tout 5 a , c'est pour les femmes qui vont dans les grandes reunions pour danser.... c'est pour les femmes des Francais. Mais une femme grecque ." (p.208) Expatriates were also of more or less importance according to whether or not they belonged to the main group of colonists. Reprisals against an African who had attacked a Greek trader, for example, would.be less severeL than against "les impertinents qui ont eu I'incroyable audace de lever leur patte sur un Francais." (11) Colonial society was s t r i c t l y compartmentalized and the colonialist imposed almost as many restrictions upon himself as upon his subjects. An interested defender of the status quo, he desired change as l i t t l e in himself as in those whom he exploited. - 9 -Unfortunately for the expatriate, colonialism was not directed solely towards economic exploitation. One of i t s most cherished, most sincerely held beliefs was that i t was bringing c i v i l i s a t i o n to the world's disinherited peoples. This is the reason for the presence in Africa of Father Drummond; "Je choisis les desherites," (12) he explains to Vidal. Lequeux maintains that France has brought peace to "ces peuplades desheriteesfrustes, ignorantes du bien et du mai." (13) However, any attempt at ' c i v i l i s i n g ' the "natives" implies an end product radically different from the raw material, whereas, as we have seen, l i f e in the colonies quickly taught the Europeans that i t was to their advantage for the subject peoples to remain essentially the same. "Et pour quelle raison voulez-vous qu'ils changent, Pere? Moi, je les trouve tres bien tels qu'ils sont," (14) says Lequeux in conversation with Le Guen, and again later, "Pourquoi ne pas leur fiche (sic) l a paix, puisqu'ils ne demandent que cela? (15) Reconciling the conflicting aims of colonialism often gave rise to schizophrenic behaviour and utterances from the colonialists. To this day, so Michael Crowder informs us, "the French s t i l l describe their bloody conquest of West Africa, with a l l sincerity, as the establishment of 'La Paix Francaise' 11 (16). Faced with adverse criticism, the colonial would defend himself by reference to the theory of the ' c i v i l i s i n g mission'. That the facts might indicate an influence the direct opposite of c i v i l i s i n g would not, in his eyes, discredit the theory. As Felix Chautemps, onetime French Minister of Colonies, put i t rather succinctly in 1913: "We must admit, however, that this eminent c i v i l i s a t i o n appears only under the aspect of an infernal - 10 -and refined savagery to our subjects; they w i l l need some time to understand that we rob them and k i l l them to teach them to live an increasingly human l i f e " (17) Any criticism of colonialism was received with h o s t i l i t y , since i t implied a criticism of the accompanying c i v i l i s a t i o n too. However, as Chautemps admits, colonisation was often carried out with great cruelty. Mongo Beti must have heard many first-hand accounts of the miseries suffered during the construction of the railway from Otele to Mbalmayo, (his birthplace), which was carried out in the mid 1920's, only a few years before his birth. Although he never deals directly with the brutalities perpetrated against his people by the colonial administration, no doubt his descriptions i n Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba of the building of the old road, and the probable conditions under which the new one w i l l be constructed, owe much to what had happened previously in his own d i s t r i c t . Certainly, the Europeans i n this novel are in no doubt as to the treatment the Africans receive: "on les extirpera de leurs cases, on les conduira attaches ensemble comme un troupeau de betes, etc...", relates Father Drummond. (p.75) And yet, the most the good father had done on a previous similar occasion was to v i s i t the site and baptise and hear the confessions of those dying from ill-treatment and overwork. Vidal, the administrator, feels not the slightest remorse. He, after a l l , i s the man who maintains that "negroes" do not feel pain, and the fact that the Africans w i l l eventually profit from the future road seems sufficient justification, i f indeed any is needed, of what they w i l l suffer beforehand. The road, to him, i s an integral part of " l a c i v i l i s a t i o n que nous voulons implanter -11 -i c i . " (p.262) Vidal has succumbed to the temptation to place future profit, which the road w i l l undoubtedly bring to the European traders who have pressed for i t s construction, and, admittedly, but to a much lesser extent to the Africans themselves, above the immediate welfare of those under his rule, and supposedly, under his protection. "Chaque tentation detourne d'un contact direct avec l a realite coloniale, ou assure, devant chaque interrogation morale qu'un bien superieur (ou convenu tel) compense les maux, parfois regrettables, au prix desquels i l est obtenu." (18) Thus Andre de Perretti describes the "profit" temptation in colonialism, one of the obstacles to honest reflection which contribute to the taking of morally bankrupt decisions. The hypocrisy of individual colonialists mirrors the basic inauthenticity of the colonial situation with.its twin conflicting desires to exploit and to c i v i l i s e . Nowhere is this better shown in Beti's works than in the person of Monsieur le Chef de l a Region, Lequeux, who, in one and the same conversation with Le Guen, the missionary, can remind him of the necessity of maintaining"cette paix bienfaisante" (19) which France has supposedly installed and also accuse him of disturbing i t because "Vous n'avez de cesse que vous n'ayez mis en branle ces gens innocents et inoffensifs en leur inculquant des notions dangereuses.et trompeuses: l a liberte, l'egalite devant Dieu, l a redemption, l a fraternite et je ne sais plus quelles balivernes." (20) "La Paix Francaise", deprived of such "balivernes" as liberty, equality and fraternity cuts, a sorry figure indeed. Of course, France's right to impose i t s peace, i t s c i v i l i z a t i o n on mostly unwilling indigenous peoples was never questioned. The right of expansion was sacred and economic needs were seen as p o l i t i c a l and moral justifications. However, perhaps more important than these - 12 -considerations, and certainly common to a l l the European colonial nations was a belief that they were bringing to Africa not just a c i v i l i s a t i o n , but the c i v i l i s a t i o n , one which was not only superior to a l l others, but was the only one worth having. The European colonizer and his successor the colonialist were convinced they were working for the greater good of humanity. They held "une conception simpliste et primaire de l a c i v i l i s a t i o n , qui confondait avec des valeurs culturelles, des connaissances scientifiques et des efficacites techniques." (21) And of course they believed that Christianity was the one, true religion. The West's superiority complex did not make for a fraternal dialogue with i t s subject peoples. "Les Europeens, qui pretendent a l'absolu, s'acharnent a nous imposer leur ordre intellectuel et moral," protested Beti in one of his early articles (22). L i t t l e attempt was made to understand the societies encountered; indeed i t was thought there was nothing to understand, that the mind of an African was a tabula rasa on which i t was the colonialist's privilege and duty to write the truths of western c i v i l i s a t i o n . This was a duty said Cardinal Mercier, that "a un moment donne, une nation superieure doit aux races desheritees et qui est comme une obligation corollaire de l a superiority de sa culture." (23) - and these words were s t i l l quoted and considered relevant as late as the 1950s. The same assumptions concerning the respective roles and capabilities of coloniser and colonised underlie these words of Vidal: "Nous sommes en train de manquer 1'occasion d'accomplir de grandes choses. Rien qu'avec ceux-ci, ces Noirs que nous tenons dans nos bras, comme de petits enfants, et dont i l depend de nous qu'ils dementent totalement - 13 -leur destin ..." (24) A l l responsibility for their own development is denied the Africans. If they are children then they require a father-figure, and, a delightful prospect from the colonialist point of view, i f they are going to remain children, then the father-figure must also remain. This indeed i s what M. Vidal envisages: "a mon idee, i l s ne peuvent plus se passer de nous, moralement, intellectuellement, sinon materiellement." (25) The "ne...plus" i s interesting, implying an evolution towards dependency on the part of a people previously independent, and supporting Memmi's views on the question of a 'dependency complex' among the colonised which .Mannoni claimed to have found among the Madagascans and implied was universal in colonial situations. "Voila l a seule parcelle de verite dans ces notions a l a mode: complexe de dependance, colonisabilite etc. II existe, assurement - a un point de son evolution - une certaine adhesion du colonise a l a colonisation. Mais cette adhesion est le resultat de l a colonisation et non sa cause; elle nait apres et non avant l'occupation coloniale." (26) To Vidal, of course, any sign of a dependency complex is welcome, since he admits that "apres avoir goute a l a puissance, je l a trouve plutot delicieuse." (27) The administrator here openly confesses himself in tune with that "volonte de 7p u'±s's an ee11'which Beti mentions elsewhere in his work. (28) Like many an African writing during the 1950s, Beti was anxious for his people to move towards independence, and suspicious of the French government's intentions ever to let this come about. Of course, he was ju s t i f i e d in his suspicions, for the policy pursued by the French in Cameroun was one of partial assimilation only. Even after 1946, - 14 -the deputies intended that "France pursue immediately those aspects of assimilation which would perpetuate French control, and move more slowly with those aspects which would make Africans equals of the French in every way." (29) There was to be no self-government, only self-administration in a framework where metropolitan France remained dominant. Beti's fears on this subject are revealed in the words of one of his characters, Lequeux, the chief administrator from Le Roi Miracule, who epitomizes French policy: "plus que tout autre chose, ce qui nous importe le plus.... n'est ce pas l a perennite de notre presence i c i ? " (p.240) The policy of the supremacy of French interests in the colonies influenced a wide range of act i v i t i e s . Rather than attempting to obtain peace among the various tribes, i t was found advantageous to "jouer de leurs divisions intestines",(30) and to bring into an area people of a different t r i b a l and language group to serve as police. This way, communication was impeded and there was less danger of united action by Africans against the common white master, a fact Banda, of V i l l e Cruelle muses on when he is arrested. "Ils (gardes regionaux) venaient du Nord... Si on prenaient des gars d ' i c i , pour etre gardes regionaux la-bas, peut-etre bien qu'ils seraient aussi insensibles." (p.48) One of the most common justifications of continued French presence was the argument that i t was what the colonized themselves desired. Otherwise, i t was maintained, the Africans, vastly outnumbering the colonialists, would have ejected them. However, i t was to prevent just such an upset of French rule that large armed forces were maintained in the colonies. Reprisals were severe. "Pour un colonisateur tue, des - 15 -centaines, des milliers de colonises ontete... extermines." (31) In a scene in Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, Beti illustrates this aspect of colonial rule. A man with a personal grievance against Father Drummond is attempting to attack him but is held back by his neighbours who " l u i reprochaient de vouloir provoquer de sanglantes represailles sur le pays en tuant un Blanc" (p.170). The maintenance of colonial rule was seen by those on the spot as an 'affaire de force.' "Oui, i l faut pourtant etre realiste, mon Pere. Dams tout 5 a , i l n'y a toujours de positif que l a baxonnette," contends Palmiera, a young administrator fresh from the Colonial <§t£:ho£>l in Paris. (32) Force was used not only as a repressive measure, but also to inter-fere with the traditional authority structures of the Africans. Chiefs who had no traditional rights to the position but who were pliant to the French authorities were imposed on unwilling tribes, a practice Beti mentions twice. The Essazam chief who preceeded Essomba Mendbuga,, (the r o i miracule of the book of the same name), had been nominated by the French: "ce personnage qui n'avait aucune parente avec les Essazam, etait considere par eux comme un usurpateur." (p.8) The chef de canton of Jean-Marie Medza's area, in Mission Terminee, was raised to that position by the French administration, obeyed i t s orders to the letter, flouted the traditional hierarchy of the tribe, and was both hated and feared because of his compliance with the authorities during the times of forced labour, (p.34) The French not only interfered with the election of the chief, but also changed his traditional functions and made him instead the lackey of the administration. He became responsible for collecting - .16 -taxes, recruiting troops and forced labour, checking on anti-French movements, a l l of which "transformed him from the embodiment of the collective w i l l of the community into an agent of some of the most hated aspects of French colonial rule. (33) What is more, Beti informs us, this pernicious situation lasted a long time. Although the Constituent Assembly of 1946 abolished some of the more shocking abuses of the colonial administration such as the indigeriat, a system which had virtually deprived them (African population) of the liberties of criticism, association and movement..." (34), in practice, the o f f i c i a l s actually administering in the colonies s t i l l maintained an iron grip, using for this purpose subservient chiefs, the Beni-Oui-Oui; "les chefs, aides et conseilles par leurs superieurs hierarchiques, savoir les administrateurs coloniaux, avaient mis au point un systeme nouveau d'oppression." (35) Education in the colonies was an issue which caused much ink to flow. Of course, c i v i l i s a t i o n of the Africans and, in particular, the creation of a gallicised e l i t e were tasks impossible to achieve without education. Germany and France vied with each other to produce better educated subjects who would i l l u s t r a t e the superiority of their respective cultures. France was proud of her African 'lyceens' and'dipLomes.' And yet the dangers to colonialism were realised early. In 1763, the Marquis de Fenelon, then Governor of Martinique, had written " L ' i n s t r u c t i o n — est un devoir qu'on leur (les Negres) doit par les principes de l a religion, mais l a saine politique et les considerations humaines les plus fortes s'y opposent. L'instruction est capable de donner aux Negres i c i une ouverture qui peut les conduire a d'autres connaissances.... La surete des Blancs, -r 17 " moins nombreux... exige qu'on les tienne dans l a plus profonde ignorance (36) In the early 1950's, one of the highest o f f i c i a l s in Rabat declared "Notre seule erreur i c i , est d'avoir introduit 1'instruction." (37) The French o f f i c i a l s in the colonies saw the menace to the future which was presented by assured, educated young Africans dreaming of and planning for liberty and independence. In Beti's works i t is once again Lequeux who best illustrates this. He feels an " i r r e s i s t i b l e aversion" (38) for young educated Africans whom he suspects of subversion. He begs the missionary father, Le Guen, not to f i l l the heads of innocent, inoffensive people with such dangerous notions as liberty, fraternity and equality which, he claims, makes communists of them a l l (39) He foresees that l i f e w i l l be much more d i f f i c u l t for future colonial officers precisely because they w i l l have to deal with educated subjects (40) Fear, of course, forms the basis of such arguments, fear of losing one's position, of becoming redundant when one had cherished the notion fhat one was indispensable, fear of violent reprisals from a people long ill-used and despised. The question of education is another facet of the colonial dilemma to exploit? (implying s t a b i l i t y ) , or to ci^jljize (implying change). Or rather, how best to combine the two? And invariably, when the two aims came into opposition, the colonialist chose to protect vested interests, to govern, not for the colony, but for the "prestige de notre grande France", (41) to let a false idea of patriotism supercede humanitarian or moral considerations. Mongo Beti, using as his spokesman, Father Drummond of "Le gauvre Christ de Bomba, insists upon the colonialists coming out from behind their protective screen of ' c i v i l i s i n g intent' and facing the ungarnished truth, "Non, monsieur Vidal, vraiment non! Vous n'etes pas i c i pour - 18 -implanter une c i v i l i s a t i o n : ne vous mentez pas a vous-meme.... Vous etes i c i pour proteger une certaine categorie de gens tres precise, un point c'est tout." (p.262) In the picture he gives in his writings of the colonial presence, Mongo Beti, though bi t t e r l y c r i t i c a l , i s scrupulously honest. His comments and revelations about colonial conduct and attitude towards his people are attested by hi s t o r i c a l and sociological sources. He dwells hardly at a l l on the emotional subject of colonial brutality. His administrators are not sadistic tyrants. They are stereotypes, perhaps, but not caricatures. Their reasons for being i n those particular positions are understandable - a taste for adventure on the part of Lequeux; parental pressure and a liking for power on the part of Vidal. They are not wicked, merely amoral people liv i n g in a society which depended for i t s existence on a periodic dose of amorality (or immorality, depending on one's viewpoint). We are not presented with a l i s t of accusations but shown colonialism in action - suffered and resented by the African people, discussed and mulled over and acted upon by the European administrators and missionaries. For Beti does not make the mistake of turning his novels into polemics, but manages to combine p o l i t i c a l comment with the portrayal of believable human situations. - 19 -CHAPTER II THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION Le Pauvre Christ deBomba, Beti's second novel, which, however, ranks f i r s t in order of merit and importance, was published in Paris in 1956. It provoked a storm of protest and ju s t i f i c a t i o n there, and was banned in the Cameroun where the Catholic hierarchy was very powerful. Anxious and paternalistic prelates and colonial officers pointed out that the Church had overcome serious obstacles to i t s propagation before, and hinted that Beti's attack had i t s roots in ignorance. "Le tableau que decrit M. Beti ne prouve rien: rien qu'un echec dans le temps, a un moment donne," (1) was a typical assurance. One member of the Academie d'e§ Sciences coloniales, want so far as to suggest that, in his opinion, "par le truchement de son jeune heros, M. Beti ecrit une sorte de confession et (qu'il) traverse une crise morale et religieuse comme i l est s i frequent chez les adolescents" (2). Nothing could be further from the truth. By 1956, Mongo Beti was 24 years old, hardly an adolescent. Although his parents were 'fetichistes', he himself had been brought up a Catholic, and educated at a mission school. At age fourteen, he had been expelled because of his 'esprit frondeur' (3) By 1951, when he went to Paris, he had already had several brushes with the ecclesiastical authorities. of The f r u i t neither of ignorance nor'some temporary spiritual c r i s i s , "Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba" i s , rather, the work of a fundamentally a-Christian man who takes a long, hard and superbly ironic look at the effects of Christianity upon his people. It i s an undeniable fact that the Christian religion was brought -r 20 " to Africa by Europeans imbued with the values of Western c i v i l i s a t i o n , and that i t s coming either accompanied or shortly preceded colonisation. Christianity, as a universal religion, preaching universal values should not have allowed i t s e l f to become identified with any one country or c i v i l i s a t i o n , but there is ample proof that such confusion did exist, not only in the minds of the Africans but also in those of the white colonists: "les Noirs sont-ils capables d'adherer definitivement au catholicisme? Ce qui revient a se demander s i les Noirs sont permeables a l a c i v i l i s a t i o n occidentale..." (3) asks a member of the French Academy of Colonial Sciences, for whom Christianity and the West are synonymous. His sentiments are echoed by Vidal, the colonial administrator of Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, " i l s u f f i r a i t que nos Bantous comprennent que notre c i v i l i s a t i o n . . . . ce n'est pas seulement les bicyclettes, les machines a coudre, c'est surtout notre christianisme. 1 1 (p.63) If the colonialists saw themselves as partners with the missionaries in a joint enterprise, then the missionaries for their part did l i t t l e to undeceive them, for 'far from trying to control the flow of ideas from the West, the missionaries positively pumped them into West Africa." (4) The desire to introduce to "heathen" peoples the true religion was at least one of the justifications, i f not indeed one of the reasons given for the colonial enterprise, and colonials and missionaries both considered themselves to be fighting communism. Since Christianity and colonialism were so closely bound together in Africa, i t is not surprising that the Africans saw them as inseparable. The following is the view of an African scholar: "Religion venue d'Occident, el l e gagne les coeurs a l a culture d'Europe et chaque Africain qui y adhere opte solennellement pour l a c i v i l i s a t i o n occidentale..."(5) - 21 -This view held of Christianity as a whole, also applied to i t s individual messengers. To an African, a missionary was f i r s t and foremost a white man. He enjoyed the privileges and respect afforded the dominant group. His personal safety was assured by the colonial administration. The grave charge which Mongo Beti lays at the door of the Christian missionaries i s no less than that of collusion. He points out that they in fact accept unquestioningly a l l the rights and privileges of a ruling class. As a native of Tala reminds his chief who has tried to attack Father Drummond, "Est-ce que tu oublies que tu as affaire a un Blanc?.... Que veux-tu, i l n'oserait pas nous provoquer ainsi, s ' i l ne se sentait appuye derriere l u i par tous ses freres."(6) The promptitude with which a more successful assaillant of Drummond is arrested by Vidal attests to the correctness of the Talan's advice (Ibid.p.179) On the other hand, however, the missionaries refuse to accept responsibility for the abuses of the administration which protects them. Beti accuses them of betraying the very essence of Christianity in that they abdicate their moral responsibility to condemn injustice. His own character, Father Drummond of Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, had done no more than baptise and hear the confessions of men dying from exhaustion while building a road under European supervision (p.75), choosing to care only for their spiritual welfare when to attempt to save their lives would have been to incur the displeasure of the colonial regime. And yet r and here Beti wishes to protest missionary hypocrisy—- , on o.ther -occasions the purely human aspect had taken precedent over the s p i r i t u a l , old women being refused the sacraments because unable to pay the infamous 'denier du culte' (p.47), a dying man made to promise to pay the same before having his - .22 -confession heard (p.50). The latter case is a l i t t l e grotesque to say the least and is undoubtedly more an expression of Beti's anger than a typical example of missionary behaviour. However, reports of serious resistance by missionaries to colonial authorities, when the latters' actions.should have caused any Christian to protest, are few enough to suggest that Beti's accusation of moral cowardice and hypocrisy has grounds in fact. It is sadly true that colonialism and Christianity helped each other to attain their respective goals, in ways which were often completely immoral. Protected by the administration, the missionaries were free to teach a religion which encouraged pacificism, and the respect of due authority: "vous nous protegez et nous deblayons le terrain pour vous, en preparant les esprits, en les rendant dociles," admits Drummond to Vidal (p.268) This complicity which Drummond comes to realise i s a betrayal of the Africans (Ibid), is also brought to our attention by Beti ih V i l l e Cruelle. During a Sunday sermon the priest urges the congregation to give information about a young man who had attacked his "patron". Ignoring the well-known fact that the:patron had continuously cheated his workers out of their wages, but choosing to mention that he had made donations to the mission, the priest urges the people to.tell"par amour pour le Christ, et pour tous les hommes. Sans compter que l a l o i c i v i l e punit fort severement " l a complicite tacite." (p.160) To teach obedience to right and just authority, to advise patient acceptance of inevitable suffering, i s of course not moral turpitude, but to turn a blind eye when acts of injustice are perpetrated or to support a regime which indulges in systematic repression, certainly i s . Beti's contention is that, at c r i t i c a l moments, missionaries acted as white men, - 23 -rather than men of God, that they accepted the ways of power rather than practised the ways of love, and that even when they denounced the abuses of colonial authorities, they continued to profit from them, thus effectively abetting their continuation. This last point is hammered home time and again in the pages of Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba. The only so-called 'good' christians are those who l i v e in the immediate vi c i n i t y of the road and they "vivent dans une terreur perpetuelle a cause des requisitions, des travaux forces, des bastonnades, des t i r a i l l e u r s . . . . " (p.64) Father Drummond is forced to ask himself whether their adherence to the faith i s genuine or whether the misery of their lives drives them to try and find consolation in religion, whether religion i s no more for them than a temporary escape from a joyless existence. Drummond worries over his ina b i l i t y to protect his flock from physical sufferings, but Vidal suggests that his responsibilities l i e only in the spiritual f i e l d : "vous les protegerez spirituellement. Vous leur direz: "Mes chers enfants, acceptez les souffranees de cette vallee de larmes. A votre mort, vous serez largement indemnises." (p.66) What Vidal, who represents the forces of colonialism, asks of the church is to f a c i l i t a t e their task by keeping the African populations docile. He, for his part, knows that the excesses of colonialism provide Christianity with vast numbers of converts who turn to i t either as a balm to suffering or because Christians are sometimes spared these excesses (p.180) But true faith cannot have it s roots in fear. A papal encyclical 'De unico vocationis modo' from as far back as the sixteenth century, makes this perfectly clear: 'la contrainte ne peut pas gagner le coeur des infideles et toute tentative faite pour leur imposer par l a force l'autorite de l'Eglise est contraire - 24 -a 1'esprit de l'Evangile." (7) Drummond, however, is forced to admit that the people he has come to serve, and save, are afraid of him, and he also suspects that he knows the reason " - Pourquoi ont-ils done toujours peur de moi? a demande le R.P.S - On a toujours peur du Bon Dieu, Pere, meme quand on ne l u i obeit pas. - Tu ne crois pas qu'ils craindraient'-. plutot le Blanc que je suis?^ (p. 196, my under-lining) . As Peretti points out " l a colonie constituant un milieu favorable pour les missions, les Chretiens sont tentes de 1'aimer pour cette raison, mame quand i l s en reconnaissent les tares." (8) Beti, however, insists that just recognizing the defects is not enough, that recognition must lead to action in any man of conscience, that however good or v i t a l the missionaries believe the implantation of Christian faith to be, i t cannot ju s t i f i a b l y be obtained at the price of human suffering, that, in fact, the ends do not j u s t i f y the means : "des Blancs vont maltraiter des Noirs et quand les Noirs se sentiront tres malheureux, i l s accourront vers moi en me disant, "Pere, Pere, Pere....", eux qui jusque-la se seront s i peu soucies de moi. Et moi, je les baptiserais, je les confesserais, je les enterrerais. Et ce retournement heureux •>> des choses, je le devrais a la mechancete des Blancs! ... (pp. 200-201) Having seen this clearly that conversion and repression are, at least momentarily, inextricably entwined, Drummond decides to disassociate himself from the process in the only way possible, to remove himself and the power of his religion from the colonial arena. In Beti's eyes, Christianity has failed in Africa, because i t never managed to be anything more than another "white" importation. "Je suis enferme dans ma race - .25 -europeenne, dans ma peau blanche", admits Father Drummond. (p.268) Throughout Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, there are constant indications of the Africans' attitude towards the missionaries.Zacharie, Drummond's cook, for example, sees the priest as a "boss" lik e any other. "Quand i l serait cuisinier chez un commercant grec de l a v i l l e , se comporterait-il autrement?", muses Denis, Drummond's boy (p.29). Others, not in his service, obviously shave the same view, referring to Drummond' as 'le patron' (p.36) They can see l i t t l e difference, i f any, between a priest and the other Europeans, as a catechist explains: "Mon Pere, i l s disent qu'un pretre, ce n'est pas meilleur qu'un marchand grec ou tout autre colon. Ils disent que ce qui vous preoccupe tous, c'est 1'argent, un point c'est tout." (p.40) Drummond lives at quite a distance from the villagers of Bomba, in a f a i r l y luxurious dwelling^plus de vingt pieces!" (p.31) He insists on the payment of the "denier du culte" as s t r i c t l y as any tax collector. His ambitions for the mission include an organ, a tractor and an electric generator. He has proved himself an astute labour contractor, using the women of the 'sixa', a place of retreat for Christian women soon to be married, as unpaid labour to build his church. On a wider scale, he has exploited the people's fear of a h e l l , no doubt graphically described, to obtain free labour from them, saying in effect, "Venez travailler a l a mission, sinon vous irez en erifer", as Vidal points out (p.66) Drummond has enjoyed a position of absolute power as he himself comes to realise unfortunately twenty years too late: "Je me suis mis a jouer les auto-crates. ... Je ne me demandais guere en quoi toutes ces realisations exterieures concernaient le Christ. Bref, je me suis institue administra-- 26 -teur..." (p.265) Like his partners, the colonial o f f i c i a l s , the missionary, in the person of Father Drummond, is accused of being motivated by personal vanity, a liking for power and domination and a desire for material gain. He has therefore no grounds for complaint when told "Oh! to i , tu es un Blanc, Pere!" (p.103) Beti does not only castigate the failings and weaknesses of the missionaries, but also points out that the Christian religion has remained alien to the Africans, or rather that they have never understood i t as the Church understands i t . They have considered i t as just another manifestation of that "force v i t a l e " which Father Tempels has shown to be the cornerstone of Bantu philosophy (9) Zacharie becomes spokesman for his people as he explains this to Father Drummond. 'Les premiers d'entre nous qui sont accourus a l a religion, a votre religion, y sont venus comme a .... une revelation, c'est ca, une revelation, une ecole ou i l s acquerraient l a revelation de votre secret, le secret de votre force, l a force de vos avions, de vos chemins de fer, est-ce que je sais moi.... le secret de votre mystere, quoi! (p.56) For the Africans, conversion was not "une adhesion intime a une verite plus haute, a une morale superieure, mais un transfert d'allegeance a une force plus puissante." (10) Animist thought, making no distinction between spiritual and secular, but seeing the world as a whole consisting of interacting forces, has assimilated Christianity into this mode of thought and connected i t and i t s powers with the western technology which accompanied i t s a r r i v a l . One chief whom Drummond antagonizes conceives of Christ as a forbear of Drummond whom the priest venerates in much the same way he himself venerates his own ancestors. Thus, this Christ person is of no relevance to him: "Jesus-Christ, Jesus-Ohrist...: - 27 -encore un Blanc! ... Jesus-Christ, est-ce que je le connais, moi? Est-ce que je viens te causer de mes ancetres, moi?" (p.101) The Africans have established parallels between their own customs and the European's religious ones which would pain a conscientious Christian. At the death-bed of Essomba, the chief portrayed in Le Roi Miracule, Yosifa, his aunt, takes off a rosary she wears round her neck and places i t "comme un ultime fetiche autour des deux mains du malade." (p.61) The formal r i t u a l of the church, blessings, genuflections, prayers are accepted with l i t t l e comprehension. Pagans and converts alike take part in the Christian ceremonies. "Le mariage a l'eglise les impressionne tous. Vous savez, les r i t e s , les chants, les cloches, les longues traines blanches", Father Drummond reveals to Vidal (11) But, though admitted by Beti, this is in no way meant to reflect badly on the African, for he has the same priest draw attention to " l a sorte de deference, de respect superstitieux que vous autres, colons, temoignez aux missionnaires et en general aux choses de l a religion, meme quand vous ne l a pratiquez pas." (12) In fact, Beti draws a parallel between Drummond and Sanga Boto, a "sorcerer" of some repute in the d i s t r i c t of Tala. When Drummond explains to a monitor the techniques by which men like Boto win over the people, i t is painfully obvious to the reader that he i s , unwittingly, describing the very methods which he himself uses to gain converts:"Des gens comme Sanga Boto sont extremement dangereux. Ils arrivent comme ca, parmi une popu-lation naxve et superstitieuse; i l s se mettent a l a bonimenter en faisant des simagrees, en s'entourant de mystere." (p.123) And when Boto declares that Drummond is no more than a sorcerer, like himself, (p.161) Beti - 28 -undoubtedly means this, to 'support the African interpretation of Christianity. Not only does the Bantu philosophy of ' v i t a l force' explain this unorthodox interpretation of Christianity, i t also explains why the Africans turn away from i t : because, bluntly, Christianity f a i l s to deliver the promised goods. Disillusioned in their expectation that the missionaries w i l l reveal the secret of their magic to them, the people soon learn that^iriSney w i l l obtain for them the instruments of power they desire. The impact of Christianity on the societies with which i t came into contact was far greater than the numbers of converts gained would lead one to believe. Just as the various colonial powers considered they were bringing the light of the one, true c i v i l i s a t i o n to a disinherited people, so the Christian missionaries were inspired by the belief that theirs was the one, true religion. They laboured under the i l l u s i o n that, prior to their coming, the Africans were totally ignorant of God, an implication which the latter resented, as Zacharie protests to Father Drummond, "vous vous etes mis a leur parler de Dieu, de l'ame, de la vie eternelle, etc. Est-ce que vous vous imaginez qu'ils ne connaissaient pas deja tout cela avant, bien avant votre arrivee?" (p.56) More damaging than this arrogance, however, was the belief that, since Christianity was the unique way to salvation, a l l other ways must be destroyed. Ignorant of the African's conception of a harmonious world order, seeing only immorality and superstition where a more impartial, more leisurely, observer might have discerned social structures imbued with spiritual beliefs, the missionaries embarked on a demolition whose results they could not foresee. Tous les missionnaires ne recourentt.pas a l a violence physique - 29 -pour sauver les Africains. Mais lorsqu'ils condamnent sans appel des usages et des croyances qu'ils n'ont pas compris de l'interieur d'un systeme pour eux primitif et meprisable, et qu'ils ont extrapoles et juges a l a lumiere de leur superiority absolue; lorsqu'ils menacent les fideles qui n'echangent pas leur dent de panthere contre une medaille miraculeuse ou un scapulaire, i l s traumatisent des consciences integrees a un autre systeme de valeurs. Ils commetteht une violence morale plus destructive de culture que l a violence physique elle-meme! (13) It is a common complaint against the missionaries that they were not content to watch over the faith of their own f a i t h f u l , but insisted on trying to prevent the "sins" of the non-converted also. And since there was much that the missionaries considered 'sinful' about African l i f e , their interventions were in a larger number of areas. Christianity, and particularly that segment of i t which is Roman Catholicism, is a religion having very s t r i c t taboos against sexual behaviour which i t considers basically unclean unless performed within the sanctity of the marriage bed, and for the sole purpose of procreation. Western European society punished promiscuous women and illegitimate children because they endangered the right to property and wealth of legal heirs. Thus, in Christian Europe, virginity was prized far above f e r t i l i t y . Not so i n rural Africa, where surplus is rare, where more children mean more help to t i l l the land or herd the flock, where a woman is prized above a l l for her a b i l i t y to replenish the tribe with new offspring thus ensuring an unbroken link with the ancestors: "aux yeux de l a tradition africaine, l a procreation est toujours intrinsequement bonne, quelles que soient les - 30 -circonstances dans lesquelles elle s'opere.11 (14) Mongo Beti has nothing but scorn for missionary attempts to introduce his fellow-countrymen and women to the Christian virtue of chastity. The 'sixa' at the Catholic mission of Bomba is ultimately revealed as a disease-ridden brothel serving most of the "Christianised" African men who work for Father Drummond. Drummond's attempts to impress on his flock the evils of unwedded love-making and the scandal of unmarried mothers are seeds which f a l l onto barren ground in fertility-conscious Africa. Beti is even unkind enough to have his missionary make money out of illegitimacy, unmarried mothers having to pay more to get their babies baptised (p.15) The practice of polygamy, a natural consequence of the African's desire for numerous progeny, and reinforced by the custom of sexual abstinence on the part of mothers from the time of giving birth to weaning, was an even greater cause of distress to the missionaries. Their attempts to stamp i t out, in turn distressed the Africans. "Christian insistence on monogamy was to prove one of the greatest obstacles to conversion, and a number of separatist African Churches owe their origin in part to the obstinacy of missionaries insisting that even f i r s t generation converts abandon a l l but their senior wife." (16) Christianity gained only one tenth the number of converts of Islam. Islam not only allowed polygamy, but also sought out the leader of the community, and, by converting him hoped to convert a l l his followers. The missionaries, however, tending to see the chiefs and elders as bastions of pagan influence, tried to combat their influence. Placing individual salvation above a l l else, they tried to keep their converts away from the "bad influence" of those s t i l l pagan, thus attacking the very fabric of a society which depended for i t s existence - 31 -on communal co-operation within a t r i b a l harmony, where the individual mattered only in relation to the community as a whole. Father Drummond is given a frank description of the social harmony which could be the end product of his efforts, " s i l'on t'ecoutait, les femmes quitteraient leurs maris, les enfants desobeiraient a leurs peres, les freres ne se regarderaient plus et bientot tout serait sens dessus dessous." (17) Le Roi Miracule; i s an account of exactly the sort of chaos which Christianity can produce. Consequent upon the "conversion" of Chief Essomba, i t is announced that a l l his wives save one are to be repudiated and sent back to their villages of origin, leaving behind the children they have borne. So, wife is to be separated from husband, mother from child. Women who had occupied a useful and respected position in society are to be reduced to .dishonour-edrejects l i v i n g for the most part among strangers. The outrage f e l t at this state of affairs , by the various tribes into which the women were born, results in a full-scale r i o t among peoples who had managed to liv e in comparative harmony for decades. The pattern is repeated on a smaller scale elsewhere. It is more often women than men who are converted. Their attempts, however feeble, to do as the 'Reverend Pere' commands, to influence their husbands and children against polygamy, to obtain money to pay the 'denier du culte', to stop non-Christian worship, to cease the custom of the marriage payment, a l l these cause f r i c t i o n within the family and the t r i b a l group whose time-honoured way of l i f e i s threatened from within. If they f a i l in the attempt they face the sanctions of the priest, such as the withdrawal of the sacraments. These people are caught between two ways of l i f e , tempted by the newness of the one, unwilling - 32 -to completely sacrifice their belief i n the wisdom of the other, as a woman in Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba reveals. When chastised by Drummond over her daughter's excessive marriage payment she replies: " s i ca avait ete mon affaire, j'aurais donne ma f i l l e sans exiger d'argent, ainsi que tu nous as toujours recommande de faire. Oh! peut-etre bien que j'aurais demande quelques casseroles: nos ancetres ont toujours f a i t ainsi, Pere, i l doit bien y avoir une raison." (p.110) To change their whole way of l i f e in order to embrace Christianity was what the missionaries asked of the African, but more serious than this, they asked him to l i v e according to ideals which he could see they themselves did not match up to. "Et tous les Blancs qui, a l a v i l l e , vivent en concubinage avec de mauvaises femmes, as-tu jamais ete fulminer contre eux? " (18) is the accusing question directed at Father Drummond, who later frankly admits that the Gospel of Christ has failed to change the Europeans: " i l s sont toujours aussi mauvais." (p.201) Beti seems unimpressed by the influence for good of the Christian message. Beti is particularly bitter at the missionaries' treatment of African women. In his very f i r s t a r t i c l e written for Presence Africaine, in 1953, he accuses them of having contributed to the women's subjugation. In a paragraph much more detailed than the note given in Le Pauvre Christ  de Bomba, about the institution known as the 'sixa', (p.15), he angrily describes the dreadful conditions in which they l i v e , and the amount of unpaid labour extracted from them (19). Father Drummond's treatment of African women ranges from bad to despicable. As well as exploiting them as unpaid labour, he has given not one moment of his time to see that they are decently provided for, and admits that his behaviour is typical - 33 -of missionaries of his generation.(20) The net result, for the women, of his missionary activity, has been the continuation of their servitude, and an epidemic of syphilis. Whereas he is only reflecting the prejudice of his own church in considering women second-class converts, Drummond's sadistic punishment of the 'sixa' women for promiscuity (and not the men who engineered and profited by this arrangement) is both individual and shocking. I consider that in an attempt to express his outrage at the treatment of his fellow countrywomen, Beti has exaggerated this episode out of a l l proportion, to such an extent in fact that Drummond, admittedly a stubborn, fiery man on most occasions, suddenly becomes a monster m m m m m m Christianity proved an uncertain ally of colonialism. The administration relied heavily upon i t as a buffer against communism, and conversely considered i t s own continued presence a protection of the missionaries and the faithful against physical attack. As the chief educators in the colonies, the missionaries had a large audience for their teachings and consequently a large influence. "Or les idees chretiennes renferment un venin subtil; elles peuvent insuffler aux convertis, avec le sens de l a justice et de la charite, celui de leurs devoirs et de leurs droits." (21) The doctrine of the equality of a l l men is one of great subversive potential when preached in a situation where the practice of inequality is the order of the day. The colonial powers were not slow to realise this. In 1829, a letter addressed to the Governor of Martinique - 34 -by the Minister for the Navy, contained the following sentence: "II faut faire sentir aux pretres a combien de dangers i l s exposeraient les colonies s i , donnant un sens trop etendu aux sages maximes de l'Evangile, i l s prechaient une egalite qui se trouve en opposition avec les principes constitutifs des colonies." (22) The belief in the precedence of colonial interests over Christian practice could not be expressed ;' more clearly. The too l i t e r a l interpretation by missionaries of the concepts of liberty and equality was considered not merely a betrayal but a stab in the back from an a l l y who would seem to have temporarily forgotten i t s common aim with colonialism, that i s , to make colonialism work. Anger at just such a betrayal is expressed by Lequeux, the administrator^ in Le Rpi Miracule against Father Le Guen who insists on the individual liberty of members of his flock; "Au fond, qu'est-ce qui vous differencie de l'agitateur communiste?"(pr24*l) ,, he asks,, pointing out furthermore that the Vietnamese communists who k i l l e d his own parents were graduates of the mission schools, "Des Chretiens comme seuls vous autres missionnaires savez en fa i r e . " (p.243) Beti, through Father Drummond of Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, makes mock of fears of communist subversion. "Des groupements subversifs marxistes-leninistes dans ce pays! Oh! l a l a , laissez-moi r i r e . " (p.273) He points out, furthermore that even were such fears j u s t i f i e d , they cannot morally be used to excuse missionary support for the present regime once the missionaries have realised that i t is unjust and exploitative in i t s dealings with the Africans. "Meme s i c'etait vrai... je ne vais pas vous servir de gendarme a v e i l l e r sur votre ordre moral," (ibid.), Father Drummond firmly assures M. Vidal, who had pleaded for the missionary to - 35 -join with the colonial administration to fight "l'hydre'-bolchevique" At the end of Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, Father Drummond, a man who had preached the gospel with a f a i r dash of paternalism, admits failure in his mission because he has not managed to prevent the Christian message from being interpreted as an integral part of colonialism. At the end of Le Roi Miracule, Father Le Guen, who had assimilated himself quite well into the lives of his flock and who considered himself an Essazam like them, is removed from his Mission at the request of the colonial administration which considers him to have diverged gravely from the ideal that colonialism and Christianity are merely different aspects of a common venture, to have betrayed "l'unicite fondamentale de l a mission dont nous (admainistra-tors and missionaries) avons ete charges." (p.253) Beti's message is clear. Christianity has failed because, despite attempts to be more than just 'white' - "je ne suis pas un Blanc pour vous; je ne veux pas etre un Blanc pour vous", protests Drummond, (23) - or even to be almost "Black" -Le Guen refers to himself and his flock as 'nous les Essazam' (24) - despite these attempts, Christianity has remained a white man's importation which either has not tried to disassociate i t s e l f from colonialism or has been balked in the attempt. The judgements of some on the effects of Christianity in Africa are severe: "By attacking a l l that was fundamental to African society -respect for elders, obedience to the chief as the source of the corporate w i l l , the practice of polygamy, marriage payment (which linked the bride's family with the groom) - and by attacking i n i t i a t i o n ceremonies which consisted not only of features repugnant to the Christian, but a sound - 36 -educational programme, the missionaries produced converts for whom the d i f f i c u l t i e s of individual adjustment to a socio-political structure incapable of realising Christian ideals became insuperable." (25) Beti himself is less severe, i t is true that he concentrates on the negative aspects of Christianity in Africa - the misunderstandings, the ridiculous-ness of some of i t s attempts - and certainly i t is not in his novels that we should look for those wise, selfless missionaries diligently setting up hospitals, preserving local languages, and art, trying to appreciate the African's philosophy of l i f e , who certainly existed. However, his missionaries are real, f a i r l y sympathetic people, with a genuine affection for their flock, capable of inspiring loyalty among their chosen servants. While noting the detrimental effects of Christianity, Beti seems less convinced (at least in his novels) than many outside observers of the extent of damage done and the permanency of the effect. When interviewed, in 1960, by Kesteloot, he admitted that "tout compte f a i t , les missionnaires sont encore les blancs les moins nuisibles a l'Afrique." (26) Beti's African characters are resil i e n t people who usually end up doing things their own way after a l l . He considers their adhesion to Christianity as merely 'toute f ormelle^/tfieir f i d e l i t y to the old customs too deeply ingrained to be destroyed. He describes them as 'une vase deja cuite' (28) wh,ich the missionaries w i l l try, in vain, to remold. It is true, however, that in 1958, we find him r a i l i n g furiously against the Catholic Church which he accuses of interfering in the p o l i t i c a l l i f e of Cameroun (29) Perhaps he had underestimated the pervasive influence of Christianity, perhaps his novels were meant as a denial of that influence, even a plea not to take i t too seriously. Certainly, Beti lacks the sympathy of the believer. He cannot - 37 -really see the point of Christianity in Africa, where he considers i t eminently unsuitable. His feelings on the matter can perhaps best be summed up by these words of Father Drummond: "Ces braves gens ont bien adore Dieu sans nous. Qu'importe s ' i l s l'ont adore a leur maniere ... Pourquoi nous obstiner a leur imposer notre maniere a nous?" (30) - 38 -CHAPTER III AFRICAN SOCIETY The effects of colonialism upon African society have been many and varied. No doubt more w i l l be recognized and some w i l l be re-interpreted with the passage of time, but what now seems undeniable is the radical change which colonialism brought to Africa and the impossibility of any return to the former structures. A victorious Europe brought with i t the fruits of i t s technological advances. Mechanised power, western medecine, new methods of agricultural exploitation and transport, and modern weapons, a l l contributed to change the tempo and qualify of l i f e . The factory created a new proletariat. European money resulted in a different conception of both wealth and power than that hitherto held. The result was a weakening of the traditional authority structures, a falling-offffrom the former, communal ways of society. The young, schooled in the tenets of Western nationalism and positivism, turned to Western symbols of social prestige such as money and education. Confident in their capacity to be independent and to l i v e off the profits of their own labour, young Africans could, for the f i r s t time, envisage, outside the closed, inter-dependent society of their tribe or village, a l i f e which was not only possible but also attractive. Many l e f t to find work in towns, and many more, among those who stayed behind, no longer respected the authority of the chiefs and elders. This conflict^between old and young generations, a direct result of colonisation, has done more to hasten the demise of traditional Africa than any other single - 39 -factor, for the young, by rebelling against the past, have ensured that very l i t t l e of i t s wisdom would f i l t e r through into the future. Mongo Beti set his f i r s t two novels in the "belle epoque" of colonialism, the late 1930s, and his later two about ten years after that. Perhaps this was too early for the f u l l extent of the impact of colonialism to have been f e l t , especially in a country like Cameroun with a relatively short colonial history. Perhaps Beti chose to ignore some of the signs of radical change, or just to concentrate on portraying those persons least affected by or most resistant to change. He does not paint a suffering indigenous population. His Camerounian characters undergo no more humiliations than do his French characters, and those they do undergo are rarely a result of the colour of their skin. Norr are his principal Camerounian characters divided beings, torn between two cultures. The Christian wives of "pagan" men found in Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba are undoubtedly in a d i f f i c u l t position, but they are very minor characters and Beti is interested, not in them, but in what their situation can reveal about the attitudes and understanding of his main character, Father Drummond. Most of the African people Beti describes display a fondness for the old ways and a f a i r degree of robust resistance to the changes taking place around them. One of the main exceptions to this general rule, is the new urban proletariat whom Beti describes quite vividly in V i l l e Crueller Tanga is a tragic town, at least for the Africans who l i v e there, who, ignored by the colonial authorities unless they cause trouble, are nevertheless infected with the same fever as the expatriates - the lust for money. - 40 -Divided l i k e most colonial towns into a "decent" European area and a poverty-stricken African area, Tanga is the scene of frenetic work activity by the Africans in the former section during the daytime, and equally frenetic merry-making in their own section at night. The latter activity i s an attempt both to rise above the miserable poverty in which most of them l i v e , and to escape the feelings of loneliness which they experience despite, or perhaps because of, their large numbers. Having arrived in the town, many lose track of their original intentions in going there, whether i t was for more money, a new experience, or, in the case of a young man like Banda with some education, a desire to escape the authority of chiefs and elders. Instead they get swept up in the hustle and bustle of daily survival. The people seem lost and bewildered? "Etonnes de se trouver s i nombreux ensemble, i l s etaient non moins etonnes de cet etrange isolement de foret vierge ou i l s se sentaient individuelle-ment." (p.21) Living among strangers, forced to act as individuals, the permanent residents soon cease to be shocked by a way of l i f e i n which the traditions of communal solidarity have no place. It takes the eyes of a newcomer to see that individualism has bred selfishness and insensitivity to others: "Certains, assez peu nombreux, trouvaient impensable que l'on danse dans une case, alors que dans l a case voisine on pleurait un mort dont l e cadavre n'avait meme pas encore ete mis sous terre: ecoeures, i l s s'en retournaient tout simplement dans leur village, ou i l s parleraient de l a v i l l e avec tristesse, en se demandant ou a l l a i t le monde." (p.23) The inhabitants of Tanga drink too much and fight to the death over t r i f l e s , they also display "un certain penchant pour le calcul mesquin, pour l a - 41 -nervosite.... et tout ce qui excite le mepris de l a vie humaine." (p.20) They have become a parody of themselves - 'solidaires' only when drinking together, cordial only on the surface (p.68). Already those who have achieved a certain modicum of success, maintain a distance between themselves and their less fortunate companions, laying the foundations of a new *petit bourgeois' class. Those who have not been so lucky are bitter at their failure: "ces pauvres gens exhalaient l'amertume de leur deception: i l s avaient tant espere en arrivant a Tanga! 11 (p.73) Lured by the expectation of wealth and an easier l i f e , the new urban Africans have, for the most part, not achieved their dreams, and tragically, have in the process lost something of incalculable worth: "Cette imperturbable serenite devant les vicissitudes eventuelles de l a vie, c'est probablement l a plus grande perte que nous ayons faite, nous de la v i l l e , en quittant nos villages, nos tribus, nos cadres; car nous ne 1'avons plus, cette sagesse: i r t i t e s , ambitieux, pleins d'illusions, exaltes, nous sommes les dupes eternelles. 1 1 (1) The rural tribes which Beti describes present a less depressing spectacle. Beti obviously feels sympathy towards, even pride in those of his people who have stayed defiantly themselves and are s t i l l feared for their unruliness. Each of his novels contains just such a "peuple farouche". Resistant to the new ways, these tribes, the Bamila, the Tala, the Kala and the Essazam s t i l l retain much of the cohesiveness of old. The scene in Mission Terminee which describes an unusual contest between the young men of Kala and those of another village i s vibrant with l i f e (pp.40 - 43) A sport which is scarcely remembered in more westernized villages here 42 -"etait encore en pleine v i t a l i t e . " (p.41) The young people of Kala display a strong affection for their native village: "Vive Kala, village de 1'elite", they cry (p.51) There i s no indication of any desire on their part to leave i t . The old traditions of hospitality which had broken down under the stress of urban l i v i n g in Tanga, are here maintained. Even in Kala, however, new attitudes are making inroads. Wealth and education are becoming rivals to traditional authority positions as indicators of status. The hospitality shown the young lyceen, Jean-Marie Medza, would formerly have been considered excessive for one of his age and wisdom, but i t s reasons l i e in the young man's education and place of residence: "Ce n'est pas tous les jours que nous voyons i c i un garcon instruit comme t o i et qui habite l a v i l l e par-dessus le marche." (p.73) Medza is not only a rare creature for the Kalans, he i s also seen by them as a possessor of power since the Europeans have taught him the 'secrets de leurs ancetres." (p.91); in other words he has received a European education. He is considered to share in the prodigious force which the colonialists have shown they possess, and is therefore worthy of respect. He i s a surrogate "white": "Vois-tu, pour t o i les Blancs ce sont les vrais, puisque tu comprends leur langue, mais nous qui n'avons pas ete a l'ecole, le Blanc, c'est t o i f i l s , parce que to i seul peux nous expliquer tout ce que nous ne comprenons pas", (p.96) ±s how the villagers explain to Mezda their conception of him. Unfortunately, the rise in prestige of western education is accompanied by a simultaneous decline in the practice and even the knowledge of African education. One of the results of Jean-Marie's education is to - 43 -have alienated him from an African way of thinking and of li v i n g . He may be conversant with the geography of New York, but he lacks the s k i l l s of everyday l i v i n g which his village cousins take for granted, and he feels himself a victim of progress and c i v i l i s a t i o n , robbed of his youth and v i t a l i t y by his schooling: "J'aurais donne tous les bachots du monde pour nager comme le Palmipede, danser comme Abraham le Desosse.... boire, manger, r i r e en securite, dans 1'insouciance, sans me preoccuper de seconde session, n i de revisions, n i d'oraux." (p.88) However, Beti's attitude towards the r i v a l claims of old and new is ambiguous. While he casts serious doubts on the worth of western education he also mocks the attempts of Medza's uncle to impress upon him the importance of " l a communaute de sang" (p.126), implying that, in this instance at least, the ties of kinship are merely an aid to exploitation. And elsewhere in this novel, he points out again what a serious burden the extended family can constitute for i t s most successful member, in that other members expect to liv e off him. (p.45) Beti has l i t t l e but contempt for the livin g symbols of African tradition, the chiefs and elders. His chiefs are mostly aging satyrs whose courage in defending their people against colonial abuses is suspect. (2) Only Essomba of Le Roi Miracule is a sympathetic figure. Beti's attacks on the elders are many and scathing. Le Roi Miracule, especially, i s riddled with references to their senility, inanity., greed and general uselessness. They are slow to take action, given to much eloquent but needless talk, and though insisting on the respect due their position in the tribe, when a situation arises which requires some decision to be taken, they prefer to prevaricate un t i l someone else assumes the responsibility. - 44 -Thus, when the chief's wife, Makrita, announces that he has fallen i l l , the elders of Essazam indulge in a flurry of useless suggestions. "Makrita.fit victorieusement front a ces seniles assauts.... E l l e se chargea de soigner le Chef. Ils (the elders) renoncerent un peu vite a leurs projets, auxquels on eut pourtant pense qu'ils tiendraient -i l s etaient, au fond, soulages." (p.37) Not only the elders, but the age-old structures for dealing with the policing of the tribe, the settling of disputes, are called to account by Beti, for example the "palaver," 'qui debouche sur 1'inaction et le statu quo«" (3) The palaver which he depicts at the end of Le Roi Miracule is a complete farce, in which the elders seize the opportunity to outdo each other in flowery speeches and ridiculous pantomime gestures which rarely i f ever have anything to do with the business at hand. "La palabre.... ne f i t pas un seul pas de plus a 1'affaire, ainsi qu'il f a l l a i t d'ailleurs s'y attendre." (p.218) Contempt for and rebellion against the outdated elders and chiefs comes from the young, and i s of two kinds. In the f i r s t category, there is the impatient, ir r i t a t e d reaction of the young of the Ebibot clan, who want to see action taken to solve the dispute over the chief's wives, in Le Roi  Miracule (p.162). There is the spontaneous opposition of the youth of Kala to the chief the^e (4), which is not explained but appears to be a case of dislike by them of this particular individual. Neither of these two groups appears to have any set of rules or values which they would like to see replace the traditional ones. In the case of the Ebibot, their anger is merely frustration that the old ways no longer work. That they do no longer work is directly attributable to the colonial presence. Although the Essazam of Le Roi Miracule have not - 45 -suffered much interference from colonial administrators, they do have two European priests li v i n g in their midst, with a l l the trappings with which the latter have surrounded themselves - a bicycle, a motorbike, a truck, a harmonium. They know of the existence of new towns, of hospitals. More important than a l l this, however, they know that they are no longer masters in their own land, that they no longer have the right to settle their own disputes without the interference of the colonial authorities in cases where the latter should consider the af f a i r had got out of hand. The authority of the elders is not grounded in reality, and thus i t s outward trappings are no more than a pretense, an empty sham. The greatest threat to the old ways comes not from these young people who rebel but do not seek radical change, but from the western-educated young who rebel and do_ (the second category of youthful rebellion). This disaffected youth Beti incarnates in Le Roi Miracule in the person of Kris. Educated at the Lycee Marechal-Leclerc, noted for the insubordination of i t s students (p.210), Kris is an ambitious young man who has his sights set on the 'baccalaureat 1. He has lived in the towns, and, forced to support himself, knows only too well the importance of money. He is imbued with western materialist philosophy, an individual interested only in the new symbols of prestige, - education and money. He is exasperated by the slowness of Essazam: "ce bled pourri de vi e i l l a r d s croulants" (p.123). His opinion of the elders is that they are 'de tristes emmerdeurs, o i s i f s , gourmands, inutilement bavards 1, and "ce qui subsiste de plus honteux, de plus revoltant de notre passe." (p.131) He is part of that "educated e l i t e . . . . discontented with the traditional social structure, despising the occupation of farmer, and anxious to get to the town away from the shackles of their traditional environment" - 46 -which Michael Crowder explains was the end product of the mission schools (5). Kris has no illusions about the glory of Africa's past ' s i toutefois nous en avons un, car moi je n'en sais rien," (p.131) is ignorant of and uninterested in new African nationalist parties, displays good business sense and an "individualisme outrancier".(p.128) In contrast to Kris, Beti gives us Bitama, also a student. Bitama, less egotistical than his fellow-student, i s interested in a new p o l i t i c a l party, the Parti Progressiste Populaire (which is very probably meant to represent the Union des Populations du Cameroun, eventually banned for i t s insistence on Camerounian independence). In a passage which is the nearest Beti ever comes to an endorsement of "negritude", Bitama points out the loneliness of the educated African thrust into western literature and c i v i l i z a t i o n , and emphasizes the need for African heroes, 'on est noir, mais on a beau chercher autour de soi, l i r e dans les li v r e s , scruter le visage des hommes celebres, eh bien, rien a faire! On ne trouve personne a sa ressemblance." (p.127) Bitama c r i t i c i s e s Kris for playing the colonials' game by d i s t i l l i n g alcohol and is the only character in Beti's novels to defend the right of.African womentto respect. His opinions on the elders could not be more different from those of Kris. "Puis i l s en vinrent a parler des vi e i l l a r d s sur lesquels Bitama ne t a r i i s a i t pas de louanges, exaltant leur sagesse, leur vertu, leur science de l a tradition, leur sens de la solidarite, toutes qualites proprement negres." (p.130) That Beti disagrees with him is obvious from his depiction of the elders of Essazam. In an ar t i c l e written in 1958, he returns again to the theme of "ces jeunes dont tout observateur serieux sait qu'ils ne peuvent plus s'accommoder de l a tribu n i de ses valeurs" (6) and yet - 47 -who, nevertheless, profess a love of the traditional way of l i f e , and try to reorganize themselves to recapture i t . He sees this as "un effort desespere et fievreux pour se guerir du dechirement qui mutile leur generation." (Ibid) Beti notes the growing materialism of his countrymen: "Une bicyclette, un phonographe, des assiettes de faience, des chaussures de cuir, voila leurs seules preoccupations." (7), and shows that a growing concern to be considered c i v i l i s e d in the way the colonialists see c i v i l i s a t i o n , is a factor in breaking down solidarity. The desire to have a road into their d i s t r i c t , so as no longer to be treated as "pequenauds" by other tribes who already have one, overrides any dismay on the part of the inhabitants of Tala at the prospect of the sufferings their people w i l l have to undergo to build i t - each person assuming that he himself w i l l not be called upon to work as a road-builder.(8) Beti notes the i n f e r i o r i t y complexes which the rural Africans are beginning to develop, as they start to accept the opinions of themselves that the Europeans and their educated brothers hold: "Tu penses bien qu'apres tant d'annees passees a l'ecole, i l s ne vont pas se laisser prendre pour des moins que rien - comme nous" (9), remarks one Kalan. Beti notes the threat to traditional society which is posed by the European-educated young, who are ignorant of African wisdom and w i l l therefore not be able to assure i t s continuance from generation to generation. He notes too the emasculation of traditional authority before the intrusion of colonialism. However, somehow or other, the Africans in his novels always end up doing what they wanted to do a l l along anyway, even i f the means by which they - 48 -succeed are somewhat confused and haphasard. It is an open question how long this situation w i l l last, but I am not sure that i t is a question. Beti poses, either for himself or for his reader. Beti includes few women in his novels, and fewer s t i l l of any importance. They are, for the most part, either stereotypes or caricatures. The principal young men in the various novels do, of course, have mothers, for whom they a l l seem to feel affection - Banda of V i l l e Cruelle, to an unusual degree. The mothers are either i l l , like Banda's mother, or long-suffering, l i k e those of Kris and Medza. They are always pious, though sometimes holding an amusing mixture of "pagan" and Christian beliefs. They never take an active part in events and are l i t t l e more than symbols of suffering and resignation. There are women who are merely sexual objects, such as the tempting Catherine and the tempestuous Medzo. A characteristic t r a i t which they share i s that of ready laughter, but they show l i t t l e sign of intelligence. Medzo indeed is no more than a healthy animal, only her physical appearance is judged worthy of note and even that is described by references to animals: "on l a voyait ainsi faire rebondir ses fesses te l l e une jument etc." (10) Her turbulence is the cause of a ruckus which the r i v a l Essazam clans use as an excuse to fight each other, but neither she nor Catherine can truly be said to i n i t i a t e anything. Beti has also included a couple of haridans for good measure. Yosifa, the aged aunt of Chief Essomba, he describes in some detail, dwelling with a certain degree of compassion on her outward signs of a long and toilsome l i f e , but she is really nothing more than a senile, religious fanatic. She does baptise the dying chief, thereby precipitating the c r i s i s concerning his "conversion", but takes no further part i n the ensuing events. - 49 -The chief function of the mostly anonymous women in Beti's novels i s to supply unpaid labour to males both local and expatriate. As is pointed out concerning Niam's wife, ii i Mission Terminee; "Elle est peut-etre malpropre.... Mais son mari en a besoin pour l u i tenir sa maison, l u i preparer a manger, l u i travailler ses champs: n'est-ce pas 1'essentiel?" (p.202). "La femme indigene, l a petite femme noire s i docile, quelle machine ideale!" exclaims Father Drummond, as he f i n a l l y comes to the realisation that in his use of the women of his "sixa", he has continued their exploitation (11) The women Beti shows are not respected by their menfolk. They are welcome for the sexual satisfaction they provide: "La femme? Un svelte palmier, y grimpe quiconque est muni d'une ceinture" (12), invaluable for their labour, and s t i l l prized as symbols of wealth. They are used as pawns in the struggle between r i v a l beliefs which takes place in Le Roi Miracule. '. They provide, the bulk of the converts to Christianity, perhaps because Christianity provides them with an i l l u s i o n of equality, a dream of power. However, i t is_ only an i l l u s i o n , as Clementine, the wife of Zacharie, finds out when she attempts to make her husband comply with the Christian ideal of marital f i d e l i t y . She is judged the guilty party by her own people for going against the t r i b a l traditions: "l'epouse n'avait raison de se battre que s i la femme frequentee par son mari etait elle-meme mariee." (13) And the religion which she had relied upon to give her more security, actuallly works against her, for Zacharie irri t a t e d by and ashamed of her possessive, Christianity-influenced behaviour, abandons her for the more obedient Catherine. There are some women in Beti's novels who do not f a l l into any - 50 -of the stereotyped categories already mentioned. Marguerite Anaba, one of the women from Drummond's "sixa", though she has no active role in the novel, shows some s p i r i t when interrogated by the good father, answering aggressively u n t i l beaten so much that her resistance weakens, continuing nevertheless to point out the priest's injustice and neglect of his "sixa." But - "c'est une f i l l e Strange, cette Marguerite: batie en force et ressemblant a un garcon." (14) Makrita, the f i r s t wife of Essomba, is the only woman who plays a truly active part. The clash in Le Roi Miracule i s , in effect, between her and the missionary, Le Guen. It i s she who engineers most of the intrigues designed to allow her to continue to liv e in Essazam as the chief's wife. She is even allowed her moment of triumph at the palaver. But Makrita i s , to say the least, not a sympathetic person. From her f i r s t appearance Beti spares us no detail of her wasted body, haggard face and unpleasant voice (pp.34 - 35) We are told that the chief had married her "dans son jeune age, sans 1'avoir choisie" (p.40) Thus she does not even have the pathetic dignity of a woman once desired. Her son turns out to be a pimp, her daughter a prostitute. Makrita is made out to be less than a woman. Beti comments on her "stature de male, poitrine miserable","son corps dont les dimensions n'avaient avec l a femininite qu'une lointaine parente" (pp. 220 and 152) A creature whom age has desexed, Makrita is the only "woman" not reduced to a passive role in Beti's novels. It is interesting that the only two women of any character should both be rather "masculine". Nobody could be more "feminine" than t h e ' l i t t l e sister' figures who appear in two of Beti's novels. Odilia, Banda's love, in V i l l e Cruelle, and Edima who becomes Medza's wife for a very short time ih Mission  Terminee, are both young, sweet and virginal. They love their respective - 51 -mates with a child-like devotion and obey them to the letter. Both Medza and Banda feel towards them as towards a younger sister whom they would l i k e to protect, while * at the same time finding them sexually desirable. Most of Beti's women are unthreatening, passive, mindless creatures, who are included not for the interest they them-selves provoke, but as a means to explain a male character's views on women or love. Catherine is there to i n i t i a t e Denis and in so doing t i t i l a t e the reader's imagination. Odilia i s a sort of consolation prize won by Banda in recompense for his t r i a l s . Edima enables Medza to overcome a disgust at and fear of sexuality rooted in ignorance. Beti does make a few passing references to the changes the new order is introducing into the lives of African women. Divorce has been instituted by the colonial authorities (15) Attempts, however f u t i l e , Ibrides are being made to control the price of/(16) and some tribes have even voluntarily abandoned the custom of giving marriage payments (17). Beti even has Bitama plead for respect for women: 'Toutes les jeunes f i l l e s meritent qu'on les respecte, meme incultes et un peu sauvages'. (18) These words are in the same vein as comments made by Beti in an art i c l e written in 1953, in which he deplores the inhuman conditions under which most African women exist, and maintains that for the African intellectual to turn away from her would be an abdication of his responsibilities. With righteous indignation he draws attention to the presentation of negro women in American novels dealing with the times of slavery: "person-nage insignifiant, sans consistance, sans r e l i e f , sans dignite, tres souvent reduite au role de machine distributrice de p l a i s i r " (19) One could be forgiven for thinking that he was referring in advance to the - 52 -women he was about to include in his own writing. For, in his novels, Beti shows scant respect for women. Ih Le Roi Miracule, most of which is seen through the eyes of a third-person, omniscient author, he makes several disparaging references accusing women among other things of lacking tenacity (p.221) and of always overestimating the quality and binding power of the sexual pleasure they give (p.145). It was during the middle and late 1950s, when Beti was publishing his novels, that a fellow-Cameroonian, Joseph Owono founded Evacam -Evolution et Affranchissement de l a femme camerouriaise - and wrote an extremely earnest, extremely boring book, Tante Bella, against the evils of the bride-price. Beti does not bore in his writing, but, at a time when some serious efforts, which he must have been aware of, were being made to help his countrywomen, at a time when he himself admits that she needs a l l the help she can get, one might have expected, or at least hoped, that his treatment of his women characters would have been less prejudiced, that they would have been more than the ciphers they are. Despite a l l the changes which Beti shows as beginning to take place, most of the Africans he depicts are l i v i n g pretty much as they always have done. They are, perhaps, more materialistic than before, but are far from traumatised by colonialism. But then the bulk of these characters are f|iral people and are not of the young generation and are consequently least affected by colonialism. It is through his young, principal character's - Banda, Denis, Medza and.Kris, that Beti shows irrevocable change, is coming. Denis, the missionary boy of Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba is a perfect example of a colonised mentality. Paulo Freire would say - 53 -that he has internalised the image of his_master(20). He has completely accepted Father Drummond's view of what is desirable: "Nous avons besoin de tant de choses: un orgiie pour l a nouvelle eglise etc." (21) He sees himself in a sort of partnership with the priest, and this partnership obliterates any feelings of comradeship he might have for his own people. He i s overjoyed that a road is planned for the region of Tala: "pourvu que cette route on l a creuse, qu'on les maltraite, qu'on les batte; et peut-etre qu'alors i l s reviendront a Dieu." (22) Like Banda of V i l l e  Cruelle, he decides to leave his village and seek work in the town. Kris too rejects his native village and traditions. For his part, Medza, the evolue, though he comes to feel affection for the rustics of Kala, is alienated from them by his western education, and is impatient to taste new places and new experiences. These young men who represent many thousands of others lik e them, are a gap in the chain, a barrier to the preservation of traditional ways of l i f e . These ways w i l l resist change, but their eventual demise seems inevitable. Mongo Beti makes no predictions on when this may come about, provides no solution to the equally inevitable problems to be faced. In his portrayal of African people he prefers to remain an observer, and not to venture into the dangerous role of prophet. CHAPTER IV THE FOUR NOVELS Alexandre Biyidl wrote his f i r s t novel, V i l l e Cruelle, using the pseudonym Eza Boto. The fact that, for his next novel, Le Pauvre  Christ de Bomba, which was published two years later, he changed to a different pseudonym, has been taken by some as an indication of disavowal of the f i r s t work (1). If this is so, one can readily understand why. Ville Cruelle is a bad novel. The story consists of the adventures which begin for the hero, Banda, once he reaches Tanga, the " v i l l e cruelle" of the t i t l e . Banda is cheated of payment for his cacao harvest by the Tangan o f f i c i a l s . He gets involved with Koume, a young man who is being sought by the police because, along with fellow unpaid workers he has caused the death of his rapacious European employer. Daring the flig h t from Tanga towards Banda's home village, made by Koume, his sister, Odilia, and Banda, Koume is accidentally drowned. Banda saves Koume-s family from reprisals by disposing of the body, finds on Koume a large sum of money which amply compensates him for the loss of his cacao, and, at the end of the story, happily married to Odilia, i s contemplating a move to the big city of Fort-Negre. The novel, then, containing exposure of exploitation, rebellion and a love interest would seem, in fact, to have po s s i b i l i t i e s . Unfortunate-ly, i t s form is i t s downfall. Most of what goes on is seem through the eyes of Banda, and the technique the author has chosen to let his audience know his hero, is that of the interior monologue. This interior monologue - 55 -in fact makes up only a quarter of the novel, but i t seems much longer; i t seems interminable. It is riddled with naive exclamations, repetitions and self-questioning, of which the following is a typical example: "Est-ce qu'elle le croirait? Mais oui, bien sur qu'elle le cro i r a i t ; cinq mille francs, c'etait deja une somme. Combien i l gagnait, par mois, son frere? peut-etre 1.800 peut-etre 2.000 francs, en tout cas, pas plus; i l ne devait pas gagner plus de 2.000 francs par mois. Cinq mille francs, c'etait deja une somme, pardi!.... Elle le cr o i r a i t , bien sur qu'elle le cr o i r a i t . " (pp.182-183). The author's attempt to involve the reader i n his character's search for solutions to his problems and a better understanding of what he himself i s , has the opposite effect. After twenty-odd passages like the one above, one no longer cares what Banda does with the money or whatever else may be worrying him, or whether he has made the correct moral decision; one simply wishes he would get on with i t . "Tedious", "tiresome", and "infuriating" are just some of the adjectives which Moore uses to describe Banda's monologue (2) This aside, Banda is not gripping as a personality, partly due to a weakness in the plot. Banda finds a large sum of money on Koune's body, which is believable enough. He is then faced with the dilemma of whether to keep i t for himself - a great temptation for one who has been robbed'of his-rightful earnings, and who needs money to pay 'a bride-price - - - or whether to give i t to Odilia, who has a more legitimate claim. By an amazing coincidence, he finds a valise lost by a wealthy Greek merchant who pays a geod reward for i t s return. This merchant has no previous or further relevance to the novel. He and his valise are brought in as a sort of 'deus ex machina' - 56 -to solve Banda's problem. The idea of two such large sums of money fa l l i n g to the lot of our hero, and through such a series of lucky circumstances, i s incredible to a degree. The appearance of the money, in each case, means that Banda i s released from any obligation to analyse his situation deeply, to ponder, for example, the inequities of l i f e in a colonially-dominated town where the poor can easily be denied their basic rights because the rich have formed common cause with the powerful. Provided with the wherewithal to make a good start in the town, he can afford to close his eyes to what goes on there and the reasons why i t does. There is one very fine section in the novel, however, which deals precisely with this question of the town. Chapter 2, a description of Tanga, "one of the few pieces of extended impersonal description in the novel, i s beautifully built up and displays a g i f t of compassionate irony which i s seldom apparent in the later pages." (3) The author gives an almost tender account of the inhabitants of the African sector, explains their hopes on arr i v a l , their subsequent disillusionment and loneliness, their attempts to forget by excessive drinking and merry-making, the breakdown of communal solidarity. He points out the total indifference of the Administration towards Tanga's African inhabitants, the innumerable barriers these latter would have to cross to better their miserable existence, the fate that awaits them i f they so much as question the present situation. The author's sympathy i s obvious, and moving: "Tanga, Tanga-nord, je veux dire, etait un authentique enfant de l'Afrique: a peine ne, i l s'etait trouve tout seul dans l a nature." (p.24) - 57 -V i l l e Cruelle is not an important rovel in i t s e l f . None of i t s characters is well-drawn or memorable. It i s , however, of note as a pointer to what would follow. Its technique is faulty, but, by a more controlled and s k i l f u l l use of this same naive, exclamatory monologue, Beti would develop some of the more effective passages in his second novel. Banda is not a sympathetic hero, but he initiates the series of "naifs" to be found in the later novels. He is also in rebellion against the older generation of his village and desires to leave them behind to seek liberty and fortune in the town - themes found again ih Mission  Terminee and Le Roi Miracule. The crux of the novel is the new dependency of the African on money. To gain money for a bride-price is the reason Banda goes to Tanga in the f i r s t place, money is what is at stake in the rebellion of Koume (who, incidentally, i s the f i r s t of the "durs"), money is a symbol of prestige and also an avenue of escape for those dis-illusioned with the traditional way of l i f e . The importance of money is a major theme of Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba. V i l l e Cruelle i s a loose, rambling book with many faults and inconsistencies, but i t does contain the seeds of a talent soon to flower. Perhaps the greatest strength of Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, in direct contrast to V i l l e Cruelle, i s the portrayal of i t s main character. Beti gives a detailed picture of Father Drummond, a character somewhat larger than l i f e , but yet very human. He is a stubborn, wrongheaded man given to dramatic gestures and fiery sermons, imbued with a t o t a l , i f unconscious, sense of moral and cultural superiority over the indigenous population. He has never made any serious attempt either to learn their language or understand their system of beliefs. And yet, in his own way, he has loved his flock, feeling particular affection for Denis and Zacharie. - 58 -Beti uses most of the other main characters in the novel to reveal different facets of Drummond's personality, to provide insights into his character. Le Guen, though a relatively minor character, provides a contrast, thus highlighting some of Drummond's t r a i t s . Le Guen is reflective, poetic, shrinks from violence: Drummond is a man of action, conquering by the brute force of his personality, brooking no contradiction, not above administering a l i t t l e corporal punishment to his wayward charges (more than a l i t t l e , in the case of the women of the "sixa"), and, consequently blind to the subtleties of situations. Denis and Zacharie provide conflicting opinions on their mutual employer. Zacharie i s a sort of Devil's Advocate, always ready to point out the less noble aspects of any seemingly worthy venture, never missing the opportunity for a cynical remark, occasionally giving the missionary r e a l i s t i c information as to his standing among the Africans. Denis, on the other hand, the t e l l e r of the sad tale, is inanely naive, almost idolatrous in his worship of Drummond, invariably wrong in his assessments and interpretations. He provides a good deal of information about the intractable missionary Drummond had been before the disturbing events which take place in the novel. To use a naive child, rendered more naive by a mission upbringing, for the task of disclosing to the sophisticated reader a naive adult}Drummond^who is in the process of discovering corruption in the world about him which he had hitherto been unaware of, is a fine comic device, which serves^o intensify both irony and satire. "Par cette technique narrative, l'ironie corrosive de Mongo Beti atteint un double but: elle r a i l l e a l a fois le missionnaire - 59 -tonnant, meprisant, depourvu de charite, et le bon negre docile, soumis, petrifie d'admiration devant toute autorite." ( 4 ) The conversations which Drummond has with Vidal are an excellent means of getting to know Drummond more intimately, and provide a perfect setting for the discussion of what is the core of this novel, that i s , the inherent ambiguity of the colonial situation. With Vidal, Drummond can relax, laugh a l i t t l e at himself, and at the same time be more honest about his expectations, doubts and achievements. In some ways, he and Vidal are two sides of the same coin - both are excellent administrators, or at least, feel themselves to be so, both enjoy the use of power, both assume that the Africans are unable to organize their lives unless helped by Europeans. However, whereas Vidal is completely amoral, Drummond, by the end of the novel, has found the moral courage to refuse to be the "colonial power's lackey chaplain" (5) The character of Drummond, towering above a l l the rest, provides this novel with a central focus. The theme of the "route" binds i t together. By this I mean not the French word "route" meaning "road", but the English "route" meaning both "road" and "direction". There are many routes in this novel.. Here is the "tournee" which turns out to be a pathway to the truth for Drummond, successive spiritual and moral revelations paralleling the geographic movement from village to village. There is the existing road to Bomba which is the underlying reason for the conversion to Christianity of the people of the mission, a road of suffering and death. There is the projected road into TalaT.which would be a symbol of the collusion of Christian religion with the colonial - 60 -authorities, i f Father Drummond were to stay and collaborate. The route is a symbol of Europe: i t is a monument to the cruelty of the Europeans to the Africans; i t is a means by which to induce conversion to a European religion; i t represents c i v i l i s a t i o n and material prosperity. In this novel, two people gradually move along the path to enlightement. Denis is given an education i n the ways of sexuality, in a delightful scene of seduction which is the only part of the book where the comedy has no s a t i r i c a l undertones. He even comes to a dim realisation of the unsuitability of Christianity: "Le R.P.S. est parti et nous ne le reverrons certainement plus jamais. ' Au f a i t , qu'est-ce qu'il reviendrait faire i c i ? i l n'etait pas des notres..." (p.365) Father Drummond's enlightement takes place on a somewhat deeper level. For the f i r s t time in his work in Africa, and only because of the shock of finding his expectations about Tala totally u n f u l f i l l e d , he begins to l i s t e n . As he moves from place to place, a sort of litany or chorus follows him: "Tu devrais savoir... Tu devrais pourtant savoir... Tu ne peux pas ignorer..." And indeed, he begins to know, to understand a l i t t l e , to doubt some of his previous assumptions. There are some things which he never grasps, including the parallel between his own methods and those of the "sorcerer", Sanga Boto. He retains his paternalism to the end, referring in his last sermon to the anxieties which he, the father, has about them, his sons, and which he thinks them incapable of comprehending (p.359) He is even unconsciously racist, while trying not to be. He proclaims that God excludes no man, no race from his kingdom, but also says to his flock: "Dans l'avenir, essayez de vous ameliorer. Oui, je sais que c'est tres -61 -d i f f i c i l e pour vous." (p.360, underlining mine). He s t i l l seems to think i t is the fault of the women in the "sixa" that that institution became a brothel, that the black-skinned races have a natural propensity for lust (pp. 360, and 304). However, he i s , by the end of the novel, very aware of the untenable situation of a l l y to colonialism into which he has been forced. When he leaves Africa he i s a l i t t l e more like Le GGaen than he was originally - that is he is more reflective, less sure of himself. His departure could be seen as the end of an era, the beginning of a new attitude towards missionary activity. The narrative suffers from excessive repetition in some of Denis' monologues - a fault already noted ih V i l l e Cruelle - and from the monotony caused by the ^unvarying structure of each episode. Basically, the same shock is experienced at each stage of the journey. The form of the novel is also somewhat dubious. It is extremely unlikely that Denis could have remembered so much dialogue, especially the long, serious conversations between Drummond and Vidal of which he admits to understanding l i t t l e . However, these reservations excepted, Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba is a very fine book which pulls no punches in i t s criticism of Christianity, and exemplifies perfectly the a b i l i t y of good satire to get a polemical message across without boring or antagonizing the reader. "On nous a trop longtemps presente le baccalaureat, en Afrique, comme 1'apanage de quelques rares sujets d'elite. Et nous nous en voudrions d'enlever a nos compatriotes une cause de fierte bien legitime. - 62 -II n'empeche que plus on y reflechit et plus on convient que le bril l a n t apparent d'un diplome peut masquer une reelle carence intellectuelle"; these are the words of Mongo Beti which appeared in an art i c l e in Presence Africaine in 1953 (6). Obviously, he i s speaking from personal experience; obviously too, Mission Terminee was born of a desire to expand these remarks into a fuller investigation of the effects of the introduction of Western education into Africa. Through the person of Jean-Marie Mezda, Beti proceeds to c r i t i z e Western education, for precisely some of the reasons that in recent years progressive educationalists in the West such as I l l i c h and A.S. Neil have done. He attacks the myth of schooling as the only way to knowledge, pointing out by his portrayals of some of the people of Kala, how much true knowledge can only be obtained through experience. In fact he has grave misgivings about the a b i l i t y of education to impart knowledge at a l l : "C'est fou ce que les connaissances du college sont i l l u s o i r e s . " (p.100) What Western education does do, reserved as i t is for a small minority, and i t s progress marked by outward signs of achievement such as examinations and diplomas, is to produce an inferiority complex in the unschooled. The whole attitude of the people of Kala towards Medza i s ample proof of this. A l l this is true of Western education in the West, and of much formal schooling anywhere. Unfortunately, in Africa, Western education has also been responsible, to a large extent, for the loss of traditional education. Unlike classical European schooling which tends to be abstract and theoretical, traditional African teachings were eminently practical, dealing directly with the beliefs and customs necessary for a ful l y integrated - 63 -l i f e in one's society. Thus, i t s replacement by Western education meant the alienation of the e l i t e from the mass of the people, and produced young men and women who no longer had the tools to survive in a traditional setting. Thus Medza is lik e a fish out of water in Kala. Unlike his more free-and-easy companions, he is alienated from his body, worried by thoughts of exams, a career. The Kalans, for their part, are well aware of the gap which separates them from him. Educational diplomas being an essential prerequisite for employment, the e l i t e w i l l automatically monopolise the better-paid occupations and many w i l l adopt a European style of l i f e : "Vous habiterez des maisons entourees d'une cloture, vous fumerez des cigarettes le soir en lisant le journal", (p.118), and i t is highly unlikely they w i l l welcome v i s i t s by their village cousins. A l l these serious implications of Western education in Africa are brought out by Beti in Mission Terminee, but basically the novel presents a comic situation. , The irony i s , that i t is the so-called "educated" town boy, Medza, forced unwillingly to hobnob with ignorant country people, who receives an education. His sexual i n i t i a t i o n i s only part of this process. Faced with a curious audience who do not know that in order for the student to provide the "right" answers, they must ask the "right" questions, Medza is called to question the value of what he has learned i n school. Confronted with an inflated image of his educational prowess and capabilities, constantly called upon to be what he is not, he is forced to think about what he i s . Thus, because of his v i s i t to Kala, Medza moves from the position of an observer of l i f e - 64 -to, at least, a participant observer. Tiles journey away from " c i v i l i s a -tion" turns out to be a voyage of self-discovery of the same kind as that, more often described, which faces educated Africans in Paris, or capital c i t i e s . The reader, for his part, i s asked "What is education?" and "Who are the educated?" "Car, en f a i t , l a veritable separation n'est pas entre ceux qui sont diplomes et ceux qui ne le sont pas; elle est entre ceux qui n'ont pas encore franchi les examens de l a vie et ceux pour qui l a vie est 1'element naturel". (7) Kalans have a direct, materialistic approach to l i f e . Beti gives sufficient details concerning some of them}for example the ape-like Zambo, and his acquisitive father, for the reader to feel that they are real people. Die traditional way of l i f e is depicted as strong enough to present a stable, cogent set of values by which the people may l i v e , strong enough to show Medza what he has been missing. The effects of colonialism are shown more subtly through the attitude to Medza, and by the behaviour of Niam's wife, which would not have been tolerated in the days before there was an Administration to t e l l people of rights to divorce, personal freedom etc. This novel, without the direct inter-vention of expatriates, seems more homogeneous, more unified than the others. Criticisms of Mission Terminee contain such phrases as "riotious slap-stick" (8), "farce villageoise", "aucune arriere-pensee" (9) "rumbustious comedy" (10). It is true that, for the most part, the tone of the novel is very light, and that there is a multiplicity of scenes of joyous, drunken merriment, and pure farce. Also, the contents - 65 -of each chapter are outlined at i t s beginning in a drol l way, reminiscent of the picaresque novel, and which Beti claims is "un tra i t du langage populaire emprunte aux v i e i l l e s legendes qui rapportent le mythe t r i b a l d'Akomo" (11). He also says that the inspiration for this novel comes from a comic r i t u a l which greets every returning, penniless compatriot, in which the whole village, while knowing his indigence, asks him what he has brought back, and he, playing the game, replies "J'attends des coffres emplis de tresors!"(12). Jean-Marie Medza, failed "diplome" is the modern equivalent of the penniless compatriot. So, by Beti's own admission, the basic inspiration of his novel i s far c i c a l . A l l the same, the importance of what he is saying about the need for natural education as opposed to Western schooling, should hot be overlooked. The chief weakness of the book is that Beti has wanted to say certain serious things, and, the tone of high farce not lending i t s e l f readily to this, he has stuck them in piece-meal anyway. An uneven tone is the end result. Heavy-sounding statements about justice, for example, are made by the story-teller, the contemporary Medza, right i n the middle of the relation of comical adventures. Revelations, such as the one made by Medza that the Westernized Africans have lost their serenity and are in fact "dupes eternelles" (p.203) tend to get lost or overlooked amid the riotousness of the rest of the novel. Also, given the sturdiness of the traditional way of l i f e in force in Kala, Medza's philosophical . musing on the African dilemma, that offstranger in a strange land - 66 -(pp. 250 - 251) seems out of place. The forced "chattiness" of the narrative, the bringing in at regular intervals of the auditor(s), in an attempt to give immediacy, does not really succeed. . The African listener would know well some of the facts which are explained at length, for example those concerning the Constitution of 1946. Mission  Terminee is meant for the non-African and the African alike. Its message is both universal and particular. Le Roi Miraculelis the most bitter of Beti's novels. As in the other three, the main tribe dealt with is f a i r l y "uncivilised", l i v i n g in an economic backwater, largely by-passed by colonialism. These people also manage to cling to their traditional ways, but this time i t is not because of any virtue or strength on their part. Rather, i t is because the colonial administration finds i t expedient to help them resist the interference of Christianity. The c r i s i s caused by Chief Essomba's "conversion" to Christianity and subsequent repudiation of his wives is solved, i f one can use such a word, amid total confusion and anarchy. The old structures of authority and problem-solving are simply not valid any more. And the young, both Western-educated and not, look on sceptically and with growing impatience as their elders scurry f r u i t l e s s l y to and fro. Irony l i e s in the fact that Africans and administrators struggle to preserve a way of l i f e which is no longer worth preserving. We are shown a different aspect of the inherent contradiction between colonialism and Christianity. There is more evidence of fundamental misunderstandings between missionaries and their flock. There are also - 67 -strongly comic scenes, such as the starting up of the missionaries' old truck, La Saloperie. But there i s no getting away from the profoundly pessimistic tone which Beti uses, and which is similar to that of the last few pages of Mission Termiriee. In his last novel, we are called upon to witness the signs of near disintegration of a whole population's way of l i f e , and the sight i s not a pretty one. Le Roi Miracule is written throughout in the third person, the only one of the four novels in which this technique i s applied. Its tone is correspondingly more detached. Beti never gets inside Kris or Le Guen as he had done, for example, with Medza and Drummond, and his European characters are more like caricatures than Vidal had been. He introduces a character like Bitama, presumably to provide a contrast to the views of Kris, but f a i l s to give him any real part to play in the drama, allows him, in the space of a few pages, to indulge in reminiscences and musings, * which are quite superfluous given his lack of importance, and then lets him d r i f t ouf of sight. The structure of the novel i s quite loose; i t is more the "Chronique des Essazam" that i t s sub-title claims i t to be than a novel. There is no main character, attention focussing now on Le Guen, now on Makrita or the Chief, now on Kris. . The only character who is true to himself throughout is the cynical Kris, whose only beliefs are self interest and gain, whose only rule i s that of expediency. And, as Moore points out: "If Kris is supposed to represent the detachment of educated youth from a l l these death throes of a decadent society, that viewpoint has been sufficiently established by the ironic personality of the author himself." (13) - 68 -Le Roi Miracule gives the impression of having been written in haste; perhaps i t also shows the author's disillusionment with literature, since i t is the last novel he has written. Despite their differences i n style and subject matter, the novels of Mongo Beti have several points in common, there is progression in attitude from one to another, and taken as a whole, they present a cohesive statement of the author's opinions. Beti restricts the setting of each of his novels to a small, clearly'defined area: the drama is a local storm in a local teacup, though i t s implications are broader. In any one of his novels, i t is possible to discern his feelings about the colonial presence, Christian missionaries, the strengths and weaknesses of traditional African l i f e . The different novels are studies in greater depth of one or other of these themes. Humour and irony are invariably the modes of perception Beti u t i l i s e s . They are also the modes of revolt of some of his characters, Zacharie and Kris among others. Beti often uses the technique of multiple repetition in order to insist on the urgency of the particular problem, a device very frequently applied by him in the interior monologue, and unfortunately abused too. He favours a loose-knit, rather rambling structure, which sometimes works and sometimes does not, being more3 successful in Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, and Mission Terminee than elsewhere. In a l l of the novels, he w i l l hint at future events in order to create expectations in the reader. He might describe a seemingly t r i v i a l incident, such as when early in V i l l e Cruelle Banda is passed by a large black car carrying a European man and woman, and then make a remark to the effect: "If only he'd known what importance this was to have for him!" (PP. 41 _ 4 2 ) . Or, he may tickle the reader's curiosity, as at the - 69 -beginning of Le Roi Miracule, by describing some vague, undefined, difference about that particular moment which leaves him mystified as to what has happened, but certain that something unusual is in the air (p.9) In Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, Denis often starts off a new entry in his diary with a loaded remark such as "Ouais! le R.P.S.l'a sraiment echappe belle...." (p.168), or "Voila que §a recommence!" (p.287), so that the reader knows some new incident has taken place and his interest is aroused, but he usually has to wait while Denis takes his own good time to explain. In Mission Terminee, there are whispered asides, unexplained surreptitious behaviour, before Medza is unexpectedly presented with his bride. And only then can both hero and reader cast their minds back and realize that a l l the signs were there for those who could read them. A l l these ways of arousing the reader's interest are f a i r l y successful; whether or not that attention is maintained depends on the content and style of what intervenes between the hint and the f i n a l accomplishment of the event. I sincerely doubt that by the time Banda meets the large, black car again, many readers w i l l remember i t s f i r s t appearance or implied importance. The progression in the novels, from an interior monologue plus omniscient author, via a diary and a journalistic report, to a third person omniscient author, represents a trend away from involvement with personalities, and towards more direct social comment. The same progression can be observed in the evolution of Beti's African hero. Beti has two types of young men in his novels - the "durs" and the "naxfs." Koume of V i l l e Cruelle was the f i r s t of the former, and he is followed by Zacharie, and Kris; Banda, Denis, the young Medza and - 70 -Bitama a l l quality as "riaifs", though Banda is perhaps a borderline case. The "durs" are cynical, self-interested and, (and here Banda is included in their number) when they have had any western education, are in open rebellion against the older generation. The "naifs" usually get caught up in events beyond their control or understanding. In Beti's novels, the cynics undergo no change in outlook, but the naive are generally brought to a more r e a l i s t i c understanding of their situation, and are consequently more skeptical than hitherto: "comme j'etais naif" exclaims an enlightened Denis (p.323). Father Drummond, the only European hero, also f a l l s into the category of the disabused "naif". Beti only introduces autobiographical material with Jean-Marie Medza. By the device of allowing the contemporary Medza to recount the rural adventures of a much younger, less worldly-wise Medza, he is able to include what is undoubtedly personal disillusionment with the process of learning. The older Medza is also nearer to Beti by his experience and contemporary l i f e - s t y l e than either Banda or Denis. Kris i s also semi-autobiographical, having attended the same school as Beti, having been there a rebellios student as Beti apparently was; his cynicism is Beti's own. None of Beti's African heroes.is really a serious rebel, though Koume might have become one i f he had been allowed to li v e long enough. His revolutionary "nous avons le droit et le nombre" (p.28) finds no echo. Several.of them find themselves at oods with the traditional ways of l i f e and represent a break with the past, but none of them has any set of coherent values with which he intends to replace the old ones. They are not organisers of programmes or leaders of men, and thus do not in any way symbolise some future, greater Africa. None of them is a f u l l y integrated -71 -member of traditional society, not even Zacharie, who has, after a l l , acquired his wealth by non^traditional means. Some do not even have the choice between two worlds, for the old one is in a state of near collapse. And yet none is thoroughly westernised either. Mostly, they inhabit an uncomfortable half-way.house between the two. The main heroes, Banda, Denis, Medza, Kris - and Drummond.too - are involved in a search for something, whether i t be liberty or knowledge or, in the case of Medza, for purity. Most do not f u l l y know what i t is they are seeking, but when they realise that the reality of their existence is unacceptable, they take refuge in flight or evasion, perhaps to the town like Banda, Denis and Kris, or perhaps like Drummond and Medza to more distant lands. None of them has arrived at a synthesis of his different commitments, loyalties and aspirations by the time his stories end, for, as has already been.noted, Beti does not posit solutions, but only poses problems. - 72 -CONCLUDING REMARKS "La conscience negre a eclos du jour ou le negre a refuse de considerer l'Occident comme source de vie, beaute premiere, archetype." (1) This flowering of the black consciousness was a somewhat tardy one, owing to the unfriendly environmental conditions constituted by the colonial presence. The African had been taught not only to accept European values as good, but also to despise, to look with shame, upon his own culture and past. When the revolt f i n a l l y came, i t had at least these components: denunciation of colonial abuses; a questioning of the very right to existence of colonialism and a consequent c a l l for independence; a lauding of African cultures, history and art, and also of the African personality; an attempt to present accurate portrayals of the African people so as to destroy the myths and stereotypes which had reduced them to caricatures both in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. In Mongo Beti's novels can be found a l l these, with the exception of the third-mentioned. As a young, African intellectual in Paris in the early 1950s, he f e l t obliged to make public his position with regard to colonialism. His aims in writing were a desire to express himself, and a wish to be both an educator of, and a spokesman for his people (2). The body of his writings constitute a mordant satire of the effects of the colonial presence and a : none too-subtle hint at the desirability of i t s imminent departure. Throughout his work there is evident a deep loathing of the picturesque. He considers that some African writers have betrayed their - 73 -people by painting pretty, exotic pictures of them in order to amuse a European audience which would reject anything more r e a l i s t i c and more disquieting. Camara Laye is only one whom he calls to task for "un pittoresque gratuit" (3). Beti insists on realism. His own novels display i t . There we find ordinary people facing various problems and ./ muddling through in a recognizably human way. Beti is a social observer. / He describes culture contact. He is also a witness for his people, writing for them and of them, almost entirely excluding the intellectual African from his works. Nowhere in his novels does he describe the d i f f i c u l t i e s of the African student overseas, d i f f i c u l t i e s of which he had first-hand knowledge. It is my opinion that he did not wish to confine himself to a European audience, and that he feared lest he should, by a contrast of his past and his present ways of l i f e , add another "exotic" picture of Africa.to a gallery already overstocked with portraits of that genre. Perhaps Beti's natural pragmatism automatically disqualified him from taking an active role in that glorification of the African past, which was such an important part of the early "negritude" movement. Certainly, he was never in the mainstreamaaf the movement. He seems to have considered an examination of Africa's past an exercise of l i t t l e worth; "notre passe - s i toutefois nous en avons un, car moi, je n'en sais rien; d'ailleurs je m'en moque." (4), are the uncaring words of Kiiis, a younggman who seems to reflect the author's opinions elsewhere in Le Roi Miracule, and could well be taken to do so here. When asked his opinion on "negritude", in 1960, Beti gave the following reply: "II vaut mieux traiter le probleme en - 7 4 -termes sociaux qu'en termes raciaux. D'ailleurs, l a situation evolue et, l a tutelle coloniale disparaissant, i l est probable qu'il y aura des tentatives d'oppression,de noirs annoirs. C'est en termes d'oppression sociale qu'il faut voir l a situation." (5) This atatement i s a perfect example of the lucid cynicism which characterises Mongo Beti. To return to and glorify Africa's past was a necessary and beneficial stage i n the African's reclamation of his own alienated soul. Even one as radical as Frantz Fanon admitted this': "La revendication de 1'intellectuel colonise n'est pas un luxe mais exigence de programme coherent." (6) But this pilgrimage back to the traditional Africa also ran the risk of enslaving creative energy within memories, instead of releasing i t for the struggle with the present. Many, especially the English-speaking African intellectuals, believe that this i s what has happened. The African writer, they say, "was content to turn his eye backwayds in time and prospect in archaic fields for forgotten gems which would dazzle and distract the present. But never inwards, never truly into the present, never into the obvious symptoms of the niggling,warning, predictable present, from which alone lay the salvation of ideals. (7) Mongo Beti never f e l l into this trap. The past he looks back at is the immediate past, and his portrayal of i t free from idealization for he regards i t with the eyes of the present. If i t i s true that the modern African writer needs "an urgent release from the fascination of the pafct (8), then he could do worse than turn to Mongo Beti's novels for examples of r e a l i s t i c observation. Not only i s the past missing from Beti's writing, the future i s too. The f i r s t may be due to an awareness of the dangers of the past, the - 75 -second i s undoubtedly due to Beti's fundamental pessimism about human nature. Laughter i s a very important part of a l l his novels, but i t is the laughter of deep cynicism. It i s apparent from his novels and from his matter-of-fact assumption that the Africans w i l l start oppressing their own kind once the colonial administration i s no longer there to do i t for them, that he believes self-interest i s the unique motivation of a l l humans. In one of his few direct interventions in Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, he quotes from the Biography of Maxim Gorki: "Comme s i on pouvait soupconner un humain de desinteressement et avoir f o i en l u i ! " (p.285) In his novels, Beti remains in the negative position of exposing problems. His cynism denies him any vision of future progress. Whereas his very f i r s t hero - in a short story he published in Presence Africaine in 1953 (9) -had been a young member of the Mau-Mau who assassinates a t r i b a l chief guilty of collaboration with the setfelers, his last one i s the self-interested, cynical Kris of Le Roi Miracule, with not a single friend of the people in between the two. His heroes display personal militancy against local conditions but not radicalism. Beti himself represents revolt but not revolution. As a Camerounian author, Mongo Beti enjoyed a much larger indigenous audience than most of his fellow African writers, for by 1956, about half the population under forty of the Southern Cameroun - his birthplace - were already literate and there were nearly 500 Camerounian students in France (10). It i s obviously easier to write for the people when the people can understand what one is writing. Those who do have an - 76 -audience of fellow-countrymen to write for, have an obligation to record their people's aspirations, i f possible in such a constructive way as to make those aspirations more lik e l y of fulfilment. Whatever the cultural pressures, a reconstitution of the past may not be the best way to accomplish this, for "It is a search for authenticity in which they (African authors) get their people's dream of happiness a l l wrong. For the masses, happiness was, as i t s t i l l i s , a prospective dream." (11) It is the opinion of Albert Memmi that any author of integrity is destined to reveal a certain number of things which society cannot stand to hear, and thus to find himself in almost constant conflict with that society (12). In the countries of the Third World, where so many people s t i l l lack the basic necessities of l i f e , the author has a special duty to protest injustice and align himself on the side of the poor. Many have already done so. Ayi Kwei Armah strongly c r i t i c i s e d the failures of the government of Ghana, in The Beautiful Ones are not yet born. Yambo Ouologuem provided a highly sardonic account of the "glorious" history of Mali, i n his ;<Le Devoir de Violence. Sembene Ousmane had the courage to write recently, in Senghor's Senegal, "La debilite de 1'HOMME DE CHEZ NOUS - qu'on nomme notre AFRICANITE, notre NEGRITUDE, - et qui, au l i e u de favoriser 1'assujettissenieht de l a nature par les sciences, maintient 1'oppression, developpe l a venalite, le nepotisme.... - que l'un de nous le crie avant de mourir - est la grande tare de notre epoque." (13) There has been much discussion recently on the desirability of the African writers' supplying a vision of the future. Some feel that merely to expose problems as Beti did, is not enough, that some commitment towards - 77 -a positive vision i s called for (14). Others maintain that what is called the artist's vision is really the contribution of the writer to the kind of human society in which he believes^that the author must expose the future by a truthful exposition of the present. (15) In 1960, Beti saw himself as "engage", and his aims in writing, only slightly changed since he f i r s t began his career, had now expanded to include the role of liberator of his people (16). He himself had no vision, or at least, he never revealed i t , but he made use of a bril l a n t g i f t of irony, to testify on behalf of his people, to say who they were and why they did what they did. His r e a l i s t i c portrayals of Camerounian people are a contribution and a commitment to the history of the African Hovel for: "le vrai engagement de l'ecrivain c'est d'oser representer l a realite t e l l e qu'elle est pour de bon." (17) m m m m m m - 78 -N O T E S CHAPTER I 1. Georges Balandier, Sbciolbgie actuelle de l'Afrique Noire (Paris: Presses universitaires de France,(1963), pp. 34 - 35. 2. David Gardinier, Cameroon, United Nations challenge to French Policy (London, New York: Oxford University Press, 1963), p.13 3. Albert Memmi, Portrait du colonise precede du portrait du colonisateur (Paris: Buchet/Chastel, 1957), p. 94 4. J. Fo l l i e t , "Colonisation et Colonialisme," Colonisation et Conscience Chretienne. Recherches et Debats du Centre Catholique des Intellectuels Francais, Nouvelle Serie No.6, (Paris: Fayard, 1953), p. 32. 5. Memmi, op.cit., p. 106 6. Ibid., p. 116 7. Mission Terminee, pp. 92 and 117 8. Andre de Perretti, "Premieres approches d'une psychologie de l a colonisation, 1 Colonisation et Conscience Chretienne p. 103 9. Le Roi Miracule, p. 204 10. F o l l i e t , op. c i t . p. 29 11. Le Roi Miracule, p. 203 12. Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, p. 264 13. Le Roi Miracule, p. 240 14. Ibid., p.238 15. Ibid., p. 242 16. Michael Crowder, West Africa under Cblbriial Rule (London: Hutchinson, 1968), p. 5 17. Quoted in Crowder, p. 187 - 79 -18. Andre de Perreti, op.cit., p. 115 19. Le Roi Miracule, p. 240 20. Ibid., pp. 241 - 242 21. F o l l i e t , op.cit., p.22 22. Alexandre Bi y i d i , "Problemes de l'etudiant noir," Presence Africaine, 14 (1953), p. 25 23. Mgr. Chappoulie, "Le Probleme Colonial et les catholiques francais d'aujourd'hui," Colonisation et Conscience Chfefcierine p. 10 24. Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, p. 272 25. Ibid., p. 263 26. Memmi, op. c i t . , p. 117. Cf. also 0. Mannoni. Psychologie de l a Colonisation (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1950) 27. Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, p. 277 28. Le Roi Miracule, p. 27 29. Gardinier, op. c i t . , p. 20 30. Le Roi Miracule, p. 7 31. Memmi, op. c i t . , pp. 123 - 124 32. Le Roi Miracule, p. 247 33. Crowder, op.cit., p. 193 34. Gardinier, op. c i t . , p.16 35. Mission Terminee, p. 179 36. R. Codjo, "Colonisation et conscience chretienne," Presence Africaine, 6-10 (1956), p. 16 37. Perretti, op.cit., p. 106 38. Le Roi Miracule, p. 209 39. Cf. note No. 20 40. Le Roi Miracule, pp. 232 - 233 41. Ibid., p. 254 - 80 -CHAPTER II 1. Alain Plante, 'La France Catholique', 13 a v r i l , 1956, quoted in Litterature Africaine, no.5 (Paris: Nathan, 1964), p. 60 2. Rene Pottier, "Magazine de l'Union Francaise. R.T.F., 17 a v r i l , 1956, quoted i n Litterature Africaine, no.5, p. 60 3. Ibid. 4. Growder, op. c i t . , p. 363 5. Maximilien Quenum, L'Afrique noire, (Rencontre avec 1'Occident), (Paris: F. Nathan, 1961), p. 165 6. Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, p. 100 7. Marcel Brion, "Bartholome de las Casas", Colonisation et conscience chretienne p. 35 8. Perretti, op. c i t . , p. 114 9. Placide Tempels, La philosophie Bantoue (Paris: Presence Africaine, 1961) 10. Albert Gerard, "Le Missionnaire dans le roman africain", Revue Generale Beige, 100, 8 (Aout) 1964, p. 48 11. Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, p. 185 12. Ibid., p. 267 13. M. Hegba, "Acculturation et chances d'un humanisme africain moderne", Presence Africaine, 68 (1968), p.167 14. Gerard, op. c i t . , p. 54 15. Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, p. 20 16. Crowder, op. c i t . , p. 337 17. Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, p. 40 18. Ibid. 19. Mongo Beti, "Problemes de l'etudiant noir", p. 31 20. Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, p. 347 21. F o l l i e t , op. c i t . , p. 30 My underlining - 81 -22. Perretti, op. c i t . , p.106 23. Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, p. 101 24. Le Roi Miracule, p. 204 25. Crowder, op. x i t . , p. 368 26. L. Kesteldot, Les ecrivains noirs de langiie ffangaise: naissance d'une litterature, (Bruxelles: Universite libr e de Bruxelles -Institut de Sociologie, 1963), p. 289 27. Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, p. 267 28. Ibid., p. 62 29. Mongo Beti, "Lettre de Yaounde", Preuves No. 94, 1958, p. 59 30. Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, p. 260 CHAPTER III 1. Mission Terminee, p. 203 2. V i l l e Cruelle, p. 52; Mission Terminee, pp. 34 and 178 3. Le Roi Miracule, p. 162 4. Mission Terminee, p. 180 5. Crowder, op. c i t . , p.363 6. "Lettre de Yaounde, p. 57 7. Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, p. 27 8. Ibid., p. 251 9. Mission Terminee, p. 117 10. Le Roi Miracule, p. 219 11. Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, pp. 347 and 8 12. Le Roi Miracule, p. 146 - 82 -13. Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, p. 227 14. Ibid., p. 306 15. Mission Termiriee, p. 66 16. Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, p. 181 17. V i l l e Cruelle, p. 80 18. Le Roi Miracule, p. 175 19. "Problemes de l'Etudiant noir", pp. 30 and 31 20. Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Herder and Herder, 1970), p 21. Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, p. 20. Underlining mine 22. Ibid., p. 70 CHAPTER IV 1. Monique and Simon Battestini, and Roger Mercier, Litterature Africaine, No.5, "Mongo Beti" (Paris: Nathan, 1964), p. 51 2. Gerald Moore, Seven African Writers, (London: Oxford University Press, 1962) pp. 75 and 77 3. Moore, p. 74 4. Gerard, op. c i t . , p. 51 5. Ivan Illich,("The seamy side of charity"), Celebration of Awareness (Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1971) p. 52 6. "Problemes de l'Etudiant noir", p. 26 7. Traband et Lalou, Le Goufe des Livres, 9 December, 1957, quoted in Battestini, op. c i t . , p. 61 8. A.C. Brench, The Novelist's Inheritance in French Africa: writers from Senegal to Cameroun (London: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 66 9. Battestini, op. c i t . , p. 36 - 83 -10. Moore, op. c i t . , p. 83 11. Battestini, op. c i t . , p.4 12. Ibid., 13. Moore, op. c i t . , p. 90 CONCLUDING REMARKS-1. Thomas Melone, "Le Theme de l a Negritude et ses problemes l i t t e r a i r e s : Point de vue d'un Africain" Actes du collogue sur l a  Litterature africaine d'expression francaise (Dakar: Universite de Dakar, 1965), p. 103 2. Kesteloot, op. c i t . , p. 293 3. A.B. (Mongo Beti), "Afrique noire, litterature rose". "Presence Africaine" a y r i l / j u i l l e t \c\$£ p. 139 4. Le Roi Miracule, p. 131 5. Kesteloot, op c i t . , p. 299 6. Frantz Fanon, Les damnes de l a terre (Paris: Maspero, 1970), p. 145 7. Wole Soyinka,"The Writer in a Modern African State", The Writer in Modern Africa. African-Scandinavian Writers Conference (Stockholm, Per Wastberg, 1967), p. 17 8. Ibid., p. 19 9. Eza Boto, "Sans haine et sans amour", Presence Africaine, 14 (1953), pp. 213 - 220 10. Gardinier, op. c i t . , pp. 32 - 33 11. Mbella Sonne Dipoko, " Cultural Diplomacy in African writing," African-Scandinavian Writers Conference, p. 63 12. Albert Memmi - Comment in African-Scandinavian Writers Conference, p. 83 13. Sembene Ousmane, Vehi Ciosane ou blanche genese (Paris: Presence Africaine, 1965), p. 16 14. Donatus I. Nwoga, "Shadows of Christian Education: The image of the Educated African in African Literature. "Presence Africaine 79 (1971) p. 50 - 84 -15. Wole Soyinka,Comments in African-Scandinavian Writers Conference pp. 52 and 58 16. Kesteloot, op c i t . , p. 293 17. Albert Memmi, Comment in African Scandinavian Writers Conference, p. 83 m m m m m m - 85 -BIBLIOGRAPHY TEXTS Biyidi, Alexandre. 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