The Fortunes of Wangrin Amadou Hampaté Bâ [note special accents on the “e” in Hampate and “a” Ba not correctly reproduced here―see ms.] Translated by. Click on map for a larger display; the map source is the Yale University Library In the novel “L’étrange destin de Wangrin ou les roueries d’un interprète africain”. The Fortunes of Wangrin. Translated by Aina. Pavolini Taylor. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. pp. Cloth. $, ISBN

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This is one of the great African novels. As a novel, I do not think it is great. As a document, it is great. Undeniably, there are great parts in it. The legendary character of Wangrin is interesting, complex, historically and politically relevant, and entertaining. Wangrin is an educated Nigerian man of endless intelligence and cunning, employed as translator for the colonial French.

His ambition for fame and wealth knows no limits, but neither do his abilities. In this sense, his actions, almost always illegal and devious, can be seen as morally just. More than anything else it is a book on early colonialism.

It is a mature and realistic work, in that it presents Wangrin, a caricature of a man caught in this tumultuous times, as someone who finds ways and tricks to deal with both, the colonial French, and the local population. The time of colonialism is not presented as a great disaster that descended upon the Nigerian people. In this book it is merely a given historical occurrence that people had to deal with. This is for me the best aspect of the book.

The problem is not that the French were ruthless slavemasters who whipped their subordinates, the major problem was that they were regular people who ruled these vast areas of Africa with certain ideas that were not bad, perhapsbut that they were ill-informed, under-educated, with limited knowledge of local customs and languages, and that in general thet were unable to have an productive impact on the lands.

This is why over the decades the wangrinn between the colonialists and the colonized was an increasingly complex one, a love-hate condition that was marked by lack of understanding and insufficient communication. The above is what I gathered from the book, and the book only, I wish to make no pretense at knowing anything about Africa or colonialism.

A short note to the style and writing: It is old-fashioned, and I mean this in a negative way. The language is rich, but the way the plot develops reminded me of two books: The comparison with de Sade is entirely inappropriate, I know, but this is purely talking style here.

Adventures in Justine are somewhat different to those in Wangrinthough, it needs to be stated.

Amadou Hampaté Bâ: The Fortunes of Wangrin (1973.)

This is not real writing, not in this or last century — not in my opinion at least. Anyway, as I understood from Mr. Thanks for reviewing this book.

You write really well. I read this book a fottunes long time ago, fkrtunes 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. Wngrin would let it remain a novel that must be read, fortunds must be read for the above reasons, not for studying Africa or style so I agree with you on the latter.

A great comment, thanks. 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 fortunex their hard work. 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.

The piece is called, you would never guess: 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 wangron on the cover. Is it ever possible to be anything other than subjective, can you be objective in writing? This is a fortnues topic.

The Fortunes of Wangrin

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. Wajgrin, I believe that objectivity in writing depends on what we are trying to achieve, and on the type of document. Thanks for this discussion, this kind of stuff is giving the blog a meaning.

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. The most common thing I hear and that makes my hair forutnes is about movies since people see much more movies than they read bookswhen people say: 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.

The fortunes of Wangrin (eBook, ) []

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: 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. I started reading this thread and felt compelled to respond. Discussions regarding objective versus subjective realities always interest me.

My summation of the key discussion points thus far please correct any inaccurate reductions and clarify any misunderstandings:.

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 forunes 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 wangron 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.



Dear freestories, thanks a million for your great post. 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: 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. In the post itself and in the discussion I made several points at why I believe that this in not a well written book.

I agree and here I propose an erratum: 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! 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. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account.