Mongo Beti

(1932-2001)



Cameroonian leftist known for his stringent satires against colonialism and neo-colonialism. From his youth an outspoken enemy of colonialism and supporter of Ruben Um Nyobe, the leftist leader who led an armed anti-colonial struggle against the French in Cameroon and was executed in 1958. Spent 32 years of his life in France, due to his criticisms of the client regime in Cameroon. Returned to Cameroon in 1991 where he remained till his death. Taken to the hospital in 2001 for kidney failure he died a week later as he was still waiting in the hospital for dialysis treatment. Beti was killed by the same comprador class he had always denounced for denying adequate services for the people, instead helping neo-colonialists loot their country and fighting over the crumbs left over.


The Poor Christ of Bomba (1956): 220 pages. A strong satire of European missionaries. Beti makes the point that missionaries during colonialism were the spiritual arm of colonialism: they benefited from the inhuman repression of the colonizers by gaining more converts who sought an escape from their miserable lives and some consolation that they would live better in an afterlife. Also, converts were more easily manipulated and controlled due to the religious authority over them exercised by the European missionaries whose interests were completely synonymous with those of the colonial state. It also attacks and mocks the hypocritical conservative "morality" that clergy tend to espouse. Beti further criticizes how this imported and reactionary "morality" is forced on people, and its subsequent effects on them.

Mission to Kala (1957): 185 pages. A humorous novel, it focuses on a student just returning to his village after failing his secondary school matriculation exam. As soon as he arrives he is charged by his village to go to an interior village to retrieve a wife of one of the townsmen. Having a colonial education and a controlling father, the trip is an eye-opener for the youth. In the interior village, which has resisted the influence of colonialism to a great extent (unlike the youth's village), the hero of the story sees and lives a more traditional way of life. An affirmation of some progressive traditions, the novel does not glorify the past, and satirizes many traditions as well. Also highlights approvingly the outlook of the youth of the village, who are free, confident, independent people who have nothing but hate for colonialism, and refuse to be controlled by it or by outdated traditions.

King Lazarus (1958): 186 pages

Perpetua and the Habit of Unhappiness (1974): 221 pages