Read the Review The Birth It was the hottest time of the year; on that particular Sunday it was even hotter than on previous days. When the sun reached the middle of its parabola, all shadows withdrew underneath whatever object had been projecting them. Having attained its highest temperature, the sun shone implacably, blinding man and beast alike and making the gaseous surface that envelops the earth boil as if it were soup in a cauldron. Men drank in deep gulps, sweat poured from their bodies in large drops. Chickens, their wings slightly askew, breathed fast and loud. Dogs, with flopping tongues and palpitating sides, unable to find a comfortable spot, panted and shuttled to and fro between the underside of the millet granaries and the narrow awnings that had been set up in front of the huts.
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You write really well. I read this book a very long time ago, and remember being amused by it, but not impressed. I find it an interesting read, fun and that I would recommend because, as your review points out, it approaches certain crucial questions in an unconventional way. I would let it remain a novel that must be read, but must be read for the above reasons, not for studying Africa or style so I agree with you on the latter. I do not think that I am able to offer such a definition by myself, but I can at least keep criticizing or rarely praising other people and making fun of their hard work.
It is fun. For this book I said it is not real writing because it is a caricature. The character of Wangrin is blown out of proportions in order to make a certain point, same as in Candide or, again, as in Justine. Same technique as used in visual arts, when a caricature artist draws a huge nose when portraying a person who has a slightly bigger nose. Caricatures of people are fun, but they are at least I think so, but who can be sure of anything anymore?
Mark Manders was the name of this unfortunate man. One of his pieces was newspapers, stacked on top of each other, on the floor. And that was the only piece that made some kind of sense! As far as it being important for African studies, I said this only because this is how the book was marketed on the cover.
Is it ever possible to be anything other than subjective, can you be objective in writing? Your thoughts? May 15, at am Reply This is a great topic. I believe a certain level of objectivity can be attained, depending on the type of writing, and on the purpose of the exercise.
For example, we can write a document on something that is completely foreign to us by recording what other people tell us. Again, I believe that objectivity in writing depends on what we are trying to achieve, and on the type of document. Sorry for the late response. Of course one can be objective, the only question is if one has sufficient knowledge and experience to evaluate the work at hand.
If you are able to estimate the quality of the script, of the acting, of the directing, staging, music, etc. Writing is not much different, I think. There is really no need to go into an hour-long discussion about every work one sees. If one over-does it, it looses purpose because one needs to have fun while reading. At the same time, if one wants to be active in some field, any field, I believe it is helpful to exercise the critical edge by analyzing other works, instead of just reading them.
That is why I am doing this blog. As to the last comment by SAZ: I agree entirely. One cannot be objective, as a writer, when writing about a topic. As a fiction writer one does not even try it, as a scientific writer or a journalist one does, but it is nearly impossible.
FS June 20, at am Reply I started reading this thread and felt compelled to respond. Discussions regarding objective versus subjective realities always interest me.
Even the standards by which someone may gauge quality of craft are socially constructed upon assumptions of intent. These assumed intentions are shaped by cultural landscapes, which change through time. In my view, the search for great quality is meaningful for the seeker, but trapping quality in finite definitions may anchor it to a lifeless sea floor like a mob-informant wearing concrete boots.
How can documented reality be objective if our perception of it inexorably remains subjective? How can any reality be objective if it only exists through the lens of our perception? I think writing comes from a place of procedural ownership; a translation of the alien to the deeply personal and then the publicly expressed.
It seems to me that we write, not to be good at writing, but to experience life and share this experience with others. Our ability at writing might better be gauged by how well we communicate this experience to our audience. Instead, I think we discover them as they discover themselves while reading our work. Feel free to read around the blog and comment all posts deal with attempts to define why is a piece of writing good or not. Now, to the discussion: The points you picked up are correct, but they are not equally important to me.
SAZ started discussing the objectivity of writing, which is a gigantic and interesting topic, but it goes away a bit from what I aimed at. You talked about the subjectivity of perception — it is a discussion along those lines and goes in the direction of philosophy, which is not something that I feel competent at discussing at length.
To this, I can only repeat one of the comments I made above: writing is huge and some people aim at being as objective as it gets e. It is certainly possible to present things in a more and in a less objective manner.
And that is not my main concern. Because, undeniably, there is good writing and there is bad writing, as there is good and bad in everything that people do. The good and the bad should and can be separated and discussed. If you will, it is my attempt at amateur literary criticism. I agree and here I propose an erratum: it is a catastrophic phrase and I take it back. I write rarely and hastily for this blog, and some expressions are inappropriate, this being one of them. Also, this post is not a particularly good one — read some of the others if you have time and let me know what you think.
Have a look at the latest post — this is the first time I took out a paragraph and tried to dissect it, comparing two writers, a good one and a bad one, in my opinion. And you are absolutely right — as soon as one has an audience and communicates some, any, ideas, one is technically a writer. What I meant to say, obviously failing miserably, is that his writing is not good. His ideas and the stuff he wants to say are great and important, but the way he presents them is not on a high level, it is out-dated and is no match for some of the best writers of his time.
Please see the post for details. I will stop writing here to avoid boring people to death, please let me know what your thoughts are. Thank you all for the great discussion! Anonymous You obviously need to read and review the book again because you have so.
Wangrin was not Nigerian and the experiences provided in the book depicts colonial life in French West Africa during the period of colonization. I do believe that he was of Nigerian origin. The book does take place in West Africa, of course.. Leave a Reply.
The Fortunes of Wangrin
In the book, we follow the extraordinary adventures of Wangrin, a cunning man who made the best of his situation as an intermediary between colonial authorities and African populations. More than simply a captivating novel, this book is the work of a talented and respected writer, ethnologist and historian. Written in French, the language of the former colonial regime, the perspective is that of an African who witnessed firsthand the foreign occupation. The style is lively, poetic and colorful and at the same time realistic as the author tries to stay true to the manner of speaking of Europeans and Africans.
The fortunes of Wangrin
Every single story was told by the people in question or by someone in their circle, either griot, houseboy, or friend. Which is interesting case. It is told as a single coherent narrative with the kind of omniscient third person narrator normally associated with fiction. To use a television analogy, it is more like a dramatisation of real events than a documentary. It has the qualities of a good storyteller telling the story of their own life: not perhaps outright fabrication, but just enough massaging and selection and elision and exaggeration to turn the messiness of reality into something beautifully moulded and polished. And Wangrin is certainly an interesting character; the son of a prominent family, he was sent to the colonial school to learn French and worked as an interpreter, which put him in position as the literal and symbolic intermediary between the French colonial administration and the native population, able to play off both sides against each other. Which he did, enriching himself in the process.