So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ (tr. Modupé Bodé-Thomas)

a nutshell: shaped as a 95-page letter from a widow to her childhood friend, this is an achingly eloquent reflection on women’s roles in Bâ’s native Senegal

a line: “The past fertilizes the present”

an image: Ramatoulaye describes the power of her work as a schoolteacher – how teachers set in motion waves within children which, breaking, carry away in their furl a bit of themselves

a thought: the significance of books also emerges in the letter (which Bâ wrote in a semi-autobiographical manner); for the narrator, Ramatoulaye, literature is seen to knit together generations and ultimately lead to progress

a fact: the novella was awarded the first Noma Prize for Publishing in Africa in 1980

 

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