The success of Mohamed Mbougar Sarr’s novel, “The most secret memory of men”, has brought “The Duty of Violence”, a controversial text by Yambo Ouologuem up to date. The Cameroonian writer Eugène Ébodé is one of the few to have been received by the one who had isolated himself in Sévaré at the beginning of the 1970s. He relates.
The vast current success of The most secret memory of men, roman du young Senegalese Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, sparked an unexpected resurgence of interest in another writer, disappeared on October 14, 2017: the Malian Yambo Ouloguem.
Connoisseurs of literary history will remember: Renaudot Prize in 1968 for The Duty of Violence, Ouologuem was pilloried a few years later, after numerous borrowings from other authors were noted in his text. André Schwarz-Bart (The Last of the Righteous), Graham Greene (It’s a Battlefield), but also Guy de Maupassant and a few others are among the authors “plagiarized” by the young man with a titanic culture.
Wounded at not having detected anything – the clever deception had been discovered in the Anglo-Saxon academic world – the press and the French-speaking literary world mercilessly lynched the one they had crowned with one of the most prestigious prizes, without never bother to really listen to what he had to say or try to understand his sometimes convoluted explanations.
Main plagiarized author, André Schwarz-Bart was however more than conciliatory, intervening with the editor-in-chief of The literary gazette, in Switzerland, which was preparing to publish a text to charge. “Following the letter that I had addressed to Editions du Seuil, Mr. André Schwarz-Bart asked me not to publish the survey I had undertaken concerning the similarities between The Duty of Violence and The Last of the Righteous, writes the journalist. I esteem this author and his books too much to ignore his wishes. He fears that a debate will arouse anti-African reactions and harm the career of a writer whom he greatly esteems. For the first time, he wrote to me, we are seeing the birth of a French-speaking African literature, free of white complexes, nothing should be done to discourage it. “
The ace ! Ouologuem, more than discouraged, will find his salvation only in the return to his native country and, almost overnight, will disappear from the media and literary landscape to take refuge at his home, in Sévaré, in Mali, where he will stop writing. Will nevertheless remain around his rare texts – The Duty of Violence, Letter to Negro France, The Thousand and One Bibles of Sex – an intense magnetic aura, arousing the admiration of his peers.