Happy birthday, Mariama Bâ!
Bâ is best known for her epistolary novel SO LONG A LETTER (UNE SI LONGUE LETTRE), published in 1979. The novel, which critiques polygamous practices, won the first Noma Award for Publishing in Africa. However, less than a year after accepting the prize and giving a speech at the 1980 Frankfurt Book Fair, Bâ died of cancer.
Bâ nonetheless remains a pioneer of Senegalese literature, and SO LONG A LETTER, from which the beautiful quote above is taken, has an unshakeable place in the African literary canon.
Here are beautiful quotes from So Long a Letter that show how inspiring a writer she was.
“Friendship has splendors that love knows not. It grows stronger when crossed, whereas obstacles kill love. Friendship resists time, which wearies and severs couples. It has heights unknown to love.
“The flavour of life is love. The salt of life is also love.”
“Each life has its share of heroism, an obscure heroism, born of abdication, of renunciation and acceptance under the merciless whip of fate.”
“The most humble of huts is pleasing when it is clean; the most luxurious setting offers no attraction if it is covered in dust.”
“Books saved you. Having become your refuge, they sustained you. The power of books, this marvelous invention of astute human intelligence. Various signs associated with sound: different sounds that form the word. Juxtaposition of words from which springs the idea, Thought, History, Science, Life. Sole instrument of interrelationships and of culture, unparalleled means of giving and receiving. Books knit generations together in the same continuing effort that leads to progress. They enabled you to better yourself. What society refused you, they granted.”
“Teachers – at kindergarten level, as at university level – form a noble army accomplishing daily feats, never praised, never decorated. An army without drums, without gleaming uniforms. This army, thwarting traps and snares, everywhere plants the flag of knowledge and morality.”