Calixthe Beyala

Calixthe Beyala: Performances of Migration

Volume: 5
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Calixthe Beyala
    Book Description:

    The most successful female writer from Francophone Africa, Calixthe Beyala occupies an unusual place in French literary and popular culture. Her novels are bestsellers and she appears regularly on French television, yet a conviction for plagiarism has tarnished her reputation. Thus, she is both an “authentic” African author and a proven literary “fake.” In Calixthe Beyala, Nicki Hitchcott considers representations of Beyala in the media, critical responses to her writing, and Beyala’s efforts to position herself as a champion of women’s rights. Hitchcott pays equal attention to Beyala’s novels, tracing their explorations of the role of migration in the creation of personal identity.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-272-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. INTRODUCTION: A Postcolonial Phenomenon
    (pp. 1-14)

    In 1994 Calixthe Beyala’s sixth novel,Assèze l’Africaine, appeared in bookshops with the red and white publicity wrapper connoting a best-selling or canonical author in France. Calixthe Beyala had become a name that sells. In 2005 her most recent novel,La Plantationwent straight into the bestseller lists, ranked seventeenth byL’Express/RTL in its first month of publication.² Beyala is one of the few francophone African authors to make her living from writing fiction, receiving advances from her publisher, Albin Michel, of more than £100,000 per novel.³ The author of thirteen novels and two essays to date, Beyala is undoubtedly...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Calixthe Beyala Incorporated?
    (pp. 15-38)

    In May 1996 Beyala was charged with having partially plagiarized Howard Buten’s novel,Burt, in her novel,Le petit prince de Belleville[Loukoum: the Little Prince of Belleville], and was ordered to pay Buten and his publisher substantial damages plus costs. In November 1996 Pierre Assouline, editor of the literary magazineLire, publicly accused Beyala of having plagiarized Ben Okri’sThe Famished RoadinLes Honneurs perdus.² Ironically, the latter novel had been awarded the prestigious Grand Prix du Roman de l’Académie Française exactly one month earlier, on 24 October 1996. What the paradox of 1996 exemplifies is the very...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Invented Authenticities
    (pp. 39-65)

    When, as discussed in the previous chapter, Beyala faced the allegations of plagiarism that became known as the ‘Beyala Affair’, her chief accuser, Pierre Assouline, subjected her novels to detective-like scrutiny in an attempt to expose her as a fraud. This dissection of Beyala’s novels was not dissimilar to the attempts at cultural deciphering that are made by anthropologists and ethnologists, or ‘tourist-explorers’ in Africa.³ Just as ethnological studies were used to confirm the assumed inferiority of African cultures and so justify France’s ‘civilizing mission’, so Assouline’s mission led him to the conclusion that Beyala’s work is not prize-worthy but...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Migrating Subjectivities
    (pp. 66-88)

    Six of Beyala’s novels deal explicitly with the cultural and psychological effects of migration from sub-Saharan Africa to France. Although, as we saw in the previous chapter, Beyala’s early novels limit most of the geographical space of the narrative to the African continent, Paris is, in fact, a centripetal force throughout her oeuvre. For a number of the Africa-based protagonists, France is presented as a promised land. For example, in an attempt to escape the horror of their own existence, girlchild-woman Tanga organizes ‘trips’ to Paris for her friends:

    Autrefois, Paris était mon refuge. J’y allais à pied chaque fois...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR ‘Afro-française’: In-Between or Out of Sync?
    (pp. 89-111)

    In 2000 Beyala produced her second essay,Lettre d’une Afro-française à ses compatriotes, in which, according to the publisher’s blurb, ‘l’écrivain Calixthe Beyala réagit et pousse un coup de gueule contre le racisme, elle qui aime la France et les Français, ses frères’ [the writer Calixthe Beyala, she who loves France and the French people, her brothers, reacts and rants against racism].² The title of this essay marks a significant shift in Beyala’s self-positioning, particularly when compared to that of her earlier essay,Lettre d’une Africaine à ses soeurs occidentales(published in 1995).³ From the geographically located ‘Africaine’, Beyala’s chosen...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Performing Identities
    (pp. 112-136)

    Quoting Chinese-Canadian writer Fred Wah, Roger Bromley writes: ‘“When you’re not ‘pure’ you just make it up” […] “Making it up”, faking it even, is precisely what so much cultural hybridity is about; the inventions and innovations of those “living in the borderlands”.’² As we have seen in previous chapters, much of Beyala’s fiction debunks the myth of authenticity by playing a strategic game of rejection and recuperation. If, as we have concluded, ‘authenticity’ is an empty signifier, than the concept of ‘faking it’ might also be problematic in the context of migration, since it implies some kind of authentic...

  11. CONCLUSION: Survival in a Post-Exotic Age
    (pp. 137-150)

    From February to April 2005, the Hayward Gallery in London hostedAfrica Remix, a major exhibition of contemporary African art. One of the works, by Angolan artist Fernando Alvim, consisted of a large, plain canvas consisting only of a mirror and the words ‘WE ARE ALL POST EXOTICS’ written in pencil.¹ The words are positioned to the left of the mirror so that, when you look into the mirror, the words disappear from sight. The word ‘post’ is also shaded, unlike the other words. This forces the observer to read the sentence twice: first, we are all exotics; but then...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 151-170)
  13. Bibliography of Works Cited
    (pp. 171-180)
  14. Index
    (pp. 181-190)