"Amputated memory", a "Roman song" to celebrate the resilience of women

“Amputated memory”, a “Roman song” to celebrate the resilience of women

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“If you really want to pay homage to me, hunt down your own memory first. Track it down in its transformations and metamorphoses, in its double game of emergence and withdrawal. Tear from him a few snippets of our History without archives. » In response to this injunction from her beloved aunt, whose memories she nevertheless wished to collect, the septuagenarian Halla Njokè begins to narrate her own life, from her childhood in the village within her family and her clan until her life of adult woman and mother, who after the exercise of many professions ends up giving way to the designer in her, and finally finds recognition in the African city where she has settled.

From the outset, figureheads illuminate his journey: “There then jostled in my memory three images (…), my paternal grandmother, Grand-Madja. That of my mother Naja and that of my Aunt Roz. From the bottom and throughout my early childhood, images of women loved or rejected, despised or confronted, but always inseparably planted on the edge of my destiny, like road signs, luminous signals (…)” With his lineage, Halla enjoys a rich and plural education where music and dance permeate learning, where the rules and ceremonies of the clan punctuate daily life and where the community, like a rhizome, extends and becomes more complex. as we grow.

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If the formation of Halla also passes through “the school of the whites”, where she excels, she is nonetheless immersed in a universe of signs where the visible and the invisible rub shoulders and intertwine naturally. We follow in this initiatory story the child becoming a young girl then a woman, nourished by a radiant culture, but also shaken by violence and torment. Because the reconstruction of her journey also leads the narrator to descend into the limbo of her memory, long cut off from certain traumatic memories.

Indeed, if on the side of the men of her family, Halla is marked by the luminous wisdom of her grandfather, she is also marked by the excesses of her father, known to all for his multiple marital escapades, but also for his physical and emotional abuse. Halla’s childhood kingdom will be forever scarred by this father who abuses his daughter’s love to commit the ultimate transgression of incest. “A flash of fleeting pain runs through my whole body. The space of the tearing of a sky by a thunderstorm. »

A second trauma ends up precipitating Halla into adulthood: that of the war between her people and the colonial authorities – we guess the reference to Cameroonian political history.

Open your eyes

These two major events plant and structure the whole story. From then on, for the narrator, it will be a question not only of writing but of opening her gaze, of daring to explore even the most difficult and the less glorious aspects of her itinerary in order to answer the questions which arise for her as to every African woman in a lifetime. What place to occupy in a world shaped in many respects by male preeminence? How can you impose your strength and talent on it while remaining faithful to your ethics and ideals? Finally, how can you contribute in your own way to the progress of your continent?

The answers to these questions are given by the second heroine of this powerful book, the Cameroonian novelist Werewere Liking. They can be deciphered in the formal success of this “song-novel” where multiple literary genres intertwine. The book is organized not in chapters but in ” time “ and in “songs”, referring to the tragic epics where the intervention of the chorus comes to summarize the action and to question the continuation. The jolts of life are to be understood as a rhythm and the book is to be grasped with sight as much as hearing and body. The introspective story succeeds poetry, storytelling, melodrama or adventure story which is constantly mixed with the magic of destiny. “Where was she from and what was she doing there at that precise moment, why her and not another person?, Halla wonders at each crossroads in her trajectory. She was therefore the tool that my destiny had chosen to show me the new direction, that was obvious. » Because life, basically, is comparable to a book of marvels, of which each new page can modify the end.

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What does this protean writing mean if not the freedom of the heroine Halla Njokè like that of her author: the freedom to choose her life as a woman? Plural artist and leading woman, the ” Queen Mother “ Werewere Liking moved to the Ivory Coast where she founded a center for theatrical and musical creation, Le Village Ki-Yi. In this novel as in her life, she was able, despite the obstacles, to impose her originality and have it recognized. Halla Njokè is none other than her double, a free, determined and strong woman, who manifests it. A pioneering book, published in 2004 by Nouvelles Editions ivoiriennes (NEI), Amputated memory finds a new publication needed by Editions Les Prouesses.

Amputated memory, by Werewere Liking, Editions Les Prouesses (2022), 24 euros.

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