Hemley Boum’s Days Come and Go is a fascinating novel chronicling the lives of three generations of Cameroonian women as they experience the tumultuous history of the country from pre-colonial and colonial times through the independence movements to the contemporary terror of Boko Haram.
Translated by Nchanji Njamnsi, the English translation of the novel was published in Cameroon by Bakwa Books on October 28, while the US version was released on November 1 by Two Lines Press. The novel was originally published in French with the title Les Jours Viennent et Passent in 2019 and won the Prix Amadou Kourouma.
What makes this novel extra special is its unique publication and translation story, never been heard of before! Days Come and Go is the first time that a Cameroonian writer published in the Global North has had translation and publication rights first acquired by a publisher in Cameroon, and the translation done by a Cameroonian translator. The US translation and publication rights were acquired later. See the two magical covers above to witness this literary milestone coming to life!
The story itself is about three generations of Cameroonian women both within and outside the country – “Anna, a matriarch living out her final days in Paris; Abi, Anna’s thoroughly European daughter (at least in her mother’s eyes); and Tina, a teenager who comes under the sway of a militant terrorist faction.” Boum’s English-language debut effectively conveys the themes of love, politics, tradition, and modernity through the voices of these three powerful women. Days Come and Go is a must-read book for anyone interested in stories that center women within history!
According to the publisher’s note, Boum’s novel offers a “discerning portrait of a nation that never once diminishes the power of everyday human connection.” Read the full book description from Bakwa Books below:
At the dusk of her life, Anna is cared for by her daughter, Abi––a reversal of roles which draws mother and daughter closer and opens a window into their lives. Opening with the memories of the dying protagonist, Days Come and Go is the exciting story of three Cameroonian women from three generations: a young Anna who, allured by Western education, finds herself in the midst of a conflict between modernity and tradition; Abi, the journalist, whose liberating idyll with a married artist plunges her tepid family life into turmoil; and Tina, Anna’s young neighbour in Douala, who falls into the clutches of Islamists.
Boum was born in Cameroon and currently lives in Paris, France. She studied anthropology and international trade. Boum has written four novels, including Les Maquisards, which received the Grand prix littéraire de l’Afrique Noire in 2016, and Days Come and Go (Les jours viennent et passent), winner of the Prix Amadou Kourouma in 2020.
The translator of Days Come and Go, Nchanji Njamnsi is from Cameroon and has been translating since 2012. He previously co-translated a short story featured in Your Feet Will Lead You Where Your Heart Is, a bilingual anthology published in 2020. Njamnsi commented on the translation work he did for Days Come and Go:
It is my hope that other publishers, authors & other stakeholders go down the road of literary translation to drive intercultural communication in Cameroon. Literary translation will enable Anglophones & Francophones talk to each other & start understanding one another.
— Nchanji Njamnsi (@NMNjamnsi) October 20, 2022
Days Come and Go paves the way for Cameroonian literature in French to be made available to English speakers in Cameroon and worldwide. We are proud of Boum’s and Njamnsi’s efforts in fostering intercultural dialogue through the literary medium!
If you like reading women’s fiction that blend personal dramas with political histories such as Joanne Joseph’s Children of Sugarcane and Scholastique Mukasonga’s The Barefoot Woman, then we definitely recommend you check out Days Come and Go! Read an excerpt here.