Summer is for finding new novels to love. And I’m pleased to introduce Poor Christ of Bomba, a novel by the Cameroonian author, Mongo Beti, to Brittle Paper readers looking to spice up their summer reading list with African titles.

The novel’s airy, flirty, and comical take on sex and 1930s Cameroon makes it such a relaxing summer number.

Pay no attention to critics who’d have you believe that Mongo Beti’s 1956 novel is an allegory of colonialism. Trust me when I say the novel is actually about sex.

{Buy book HERE.}


It’s the 1930s in a southern Cameroonian mission. A French priest called Father Drumont takes a 15-day trip into the interior to revitalize backsliding church members in the region of Tala.

His modest entourage is made up of two Cameroonian fellows—Denis and Zachariah.

Denis is a young priest who has never had sex. Its his diary we are reading.

Zachariah is the official cook.

There is a third (unofficial) member of the entourage—Catherine the vixen. She is always dressed in bright colored and floral patterned frocks. She tails the party from village to village and ends up in Zachariah’s bed every night.

Denis is a complete oaf when it comes to carnal pleasures. So it takes him a long while to realize that Catherine is the cause of the creaks and moans coming from Zachariah’s room every night.

But as Denis soon finds out, Zachariah’s affair with Catherine is part of a bigger scandal that involves Father Drumont and the many girls in his prenuptial boarding house. How is it that a boarding house full of girls become infected with syphilis? 


Let me interest you in what I think is the longest sex scene in an African novel—the scene during which Catherine takes up the challenge of deflowering our dear Denis.

African novelists tend to be tight-lipped about what their characters do in bed. They prattle on and on about other things but suddenly fall silent when it comes time to talk about the S word.

Thankfully this rule doesn’t apply to our beloved Beti. The scene, drawn out over 8 pages, is explicit enough but also comical.

{Buy book HERE.}


The featured image is by South Africa artist, Karin Miller. Check out more of her gorgeous images HERE. Via African Digital Arts.

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I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

2 Responses to “African Novels Worth Loving — Poor Christ by Mongo Beti | African Summer Reading” Subscribe

  1. Alex 2014/06/26 at 2:11 pm #

    Invaluable work you’re doing, bringing chic appreciation to African literature. I’m sure your posts will facilitate the meeting of fine writers and new readers.

    The other day, I had the misfortune of reading someone claim that no African writer does fine comedy, and for the first time I could imagine Mongo Beti with a frown on his face – I usually picture him with a knowing look in his eyes and an impish turn at the corners of his lips.

  2. Susan 2014/08/04 at 7:20 pm #

    Thanks for the recommendation! Looking forward to reading this title.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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