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SO LONG A LETTER by Mariama Bâ
Translated by Modupé Bodé-Thomas
Ramatoulaye and Aissatou share a bond beyond friendship - both have suffered the indignity of their husbands leaning into tradition and taking a second, younger wife. But while Ramatoulaye stayed in Senegal and navigated her way around the usurpation, Aissatou left her husband, left the country and started life afresh in America. Now a widow, Ramatoulaye writes a letter recounting her life in the years since her friend’s escape, charting not only her own course of familial betrayals, failed suitors, and rekindled hopes, but the course of Senegalese history itself.
So Long a Letter is an immensely powerful feminist state of the nation novel. Through these two women, Bâ brilliantly captures her country on the cusp of fundamental change; from colonialism to independence, from theocratic zealotry to secularisation, from oppressive patriarchy to the dawning of women’s rights. To borrow a phrase, these few pages contain multitudes. It is sad to think Bâ died two years after this was published, having written only one other book. I’d have loved to read much more from her.
So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ (Tr. Modupé Bodé-Thomas)
Waveland Press, 2012