Classics of Literature – Présence Africaine

Mongo Beti (Cameroon) – Le pauvre Christ de Bomba

Novel – 1956

Summary: A turning point-satire: set in the 1930s, the story is narrated by Dennis who is Father Drumont’s house-boy. The story revolves around Father Drumont who established a mission in Bomba, a small village in southern Cameroon. It tells about how he strives to convert the natives to Christianity and encourage monogamy. The novel makes a particularly sharp satire of the missionary and colonial world, and raises in particular the issue of the universality of the Christian message.

A decisive text of decolonisation. Forthcoming new publication in English.



Publication: Présence Africaine, 1956
Language: French
Rights: World rights to Présence Africaine
Genre: Novel
Extent: 348 p.
Translations: English, Slovene, German, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, Polish, Czech, Danish, Norwegian, Japanese

Bio: Alexandre Biyidi Awala (30 June 1932 – 8 October 2001), known as Mongo Beti or Eza Boto, was a Cameroonian writer. Beti spent much of his life in France, studying at the Sorbonne and becoming a professor at Lycée Pierre Corneille, in Rouen, France. From beginning to end, Beti’s work was informed by two principles. In terms of style, he was a realist. In a critical statement published in 1955, he asserted that “Given the modern conceptions of the beautiful in literature, given at the very least these essential conceptions, if a work is realistic it has many chances of being good; if not, supposing even that it has formal qualities, it risks lacking resonance, profundity, that of which all literature has the greatest need – the human; from which it follows that it has much less chance of being good – if only it had some – than a realistic work.” Beti’s fiction remains true to this credo. Thematically, Beti’s work is unified by an unwavering commitment to combatting colonialism, both overt and covert. Beti’s aim always, even in his harsh criticism of Cameroon’s independence government, was to strengthen African autonomy and prosperity.

Link to the book on Présence Africaine: Here

Rights inquiries: Here


© Présence Africaine

Alioum Fantouré (Guinea) – Le cercle des tropiques

– Debut novel, 1972 –

Summary: This novel, winner of the prestigious Grand Prix de Littéraire d’Afrique Noire, has been seen as a story about the struggles of nation-building in Africa, as a fierce depiction of dictatorships in the Third World, and as a profound meditation on the nature of power everywhere.



Publication: Présence Africaine, 1972
Language: French
Rights: World rights to Présence Africaine
Genre: Debut novel
Extent: 313 p.
Translations: English, Dutch, Portuguese

Bio: Alioum Fantouré was born in Forécariah in the Republic of Guinea in 1938. After studying economics in France and Belgium, he worked in various international cooperation organizations, including the European Economic Community in Brussels and the United Nations, where he was was a senior official. As an industrial development specialist, he has carried out various research and development projects. Since his retirement, he has devoted himself to his literary work. Le Cercle des Tropiques, Fantouré’s first novel, won the Grand Prize for Black African Literature in 1973, followed by The man of the herd of the Sahel (1979), The dark veil (1985), The governor of the territory (1995), The Story of the Circus… of the valley of the dead (2000), The rainbow over Africa (2001) which won the Prix Media Tropical.

Link to the book & Fantouré’s other works on Présence Africaine: Here

Rights inquiries: Here


© Alioum Fantouré

Tropical Circle, trans. by Dorothy S. Blair (1989)

That Thursday, in spite of having slept, I felt that my fatigue of the previous day had only increased. My head hurt when I moved it. Like everyone else I carried my bad temper with me into the streets and to my work. At this season, when even objects lose their original shape, when leaves are loosened and fall from the trees, when even the wood in the furniture warps and laminated surfaces chip, an ill-placed word can provoke disputes and brawls. They say that this is the time when Satan recruits his exterminating angels to bring the faithful servants of the Lord to damnation; they say that even Nature turns her back on living creatures, ashamed of her dusty appearance, and goes into hiding, to await the return of her lost beauty. They say that the Harmattan, in South Majiland, is when insanity reigns supreme, insanity that waits its opportunity to spread and engulf everyone like a tidal wave; and to be sure, in the Tropical Circle, madness is also the curse that heaven brings down on men to punish them.

Paul Lomami Tshibamba (Congo Kinshasa) – Ngando & Other Stories

– Novella, 1948, 1982 –

Summary: In 1948 Lomami Tshibamba was awarded in Brussels the first prize at the Colonial Fair for his novella Ngando (Crocodile): the work, which in many ways marks the beginning of Congolese national literature in French, depicts traditional beliefs during the colonial period in a story set on the banks of the Congo River. Its themes are alienation and cultural conflict.

First translation (Dutch) forthcoming in 2023.



Publication: Présence Africaine, 1982
Language: French
Rights: World rights to Présence Africaine
Genre: Novella
Extent: 217 p.
Translation: Dutch

Bio: After high school in Kinshasa, Lomami Tshibamba collaborated with various periodicals in the Belgian Congo, before going into exile in Brazzaville where he created the magazine Liaison, a test bed for writers Tchicaya U Tam’si, J.-B. Tati-Loutard or Sylvain Bemba. He was one of the guests at the Congress of Black Writers and Artists organized by Présence Africaine in 1956 in Paris. Back in Congo-Zaire, after a short political experience and the creation of the national daily newspaper Le Progrès, he held a position in a cultural administration. The first winner of a literary competition in the Belgian colony in 1948, he published Ngando (1949, republished by Présence Africaine in 1982), La récompense de la cruauté (Ed. du Mont- Noir, 1972), Ngemena (CLE, 1981).

Link to the book on Présence Africaine: Here

Rights inquiries: Here


© Présence Africaine

Léon-Gontran Damas (France) – Pigments

-Poetry, 1937, 1962 (for Présence Africaine definitive edition) –

Summary: Through Pigments, Damas explored the internalized racism and oppression that occurred within the diaspora, partly paving the way for Frantz Fanon’s “colonized personality,” explored in his seminal work, The Wretched of the Earth. Though Pigments was eventually banned by the French government as a “threat to the security of the state,” before its removal, it was translated and distributed across several countries and continents.

First translation in Portuguese (Brazil) forthcoming.

Publication: Présence Africaine, 1962
Language: French
Rights: World rights to Présence Africaine
Genre: Poetry
Extent: 157 p.

Bio: Léon-Gontran Damas (March 28, 1912 – January 22, 1978) was a French poet and politician. He was one of the founders of the Négritude movement.

Link to the book on Présence Africaine: Here

Rights inquiries: Here

© Léon Damas, 2nd Congress of African People, San Diego, 1972 (creative commons)

Dedicated to Louis Armstrong – All rights to Présence Africaine

Avec d’autres
des alentours
avec d’autres
quelques rares
j’ai au toit de ma case
jusqu’ici gardé
l’ancestrale foi conique

Et l’arrogance automatique
des masques
des masques de chaux vive
jamais n’est parvenue à rien enlever jamais
d’un passé plus hideux
aux quatre angles de ma vie

Et mon visage brille aux horreurs du passé
et mon rire effroyable est fait pour repousser le spectre des lévriers traquant le marronnage
et ma voix qui pour eux chante
est douce à ravir
l’âme triste de leur por-

Et veille mon coeur
et mon rêve qui se nourrit du bruit de leur
est plus forte que leurs gourdins d’immondices

Djibril Tamsir Niane (Guinea) – Soundjata ou l’épopée Mandingue

– Epic, 1960 –

Summary: Retold by generations of griots-the guardians of African culture-this oral tradition has been handed down from thirteenth century and captures all the mystery and majesty of medieval African kingship. It is an epic tale-part history, part legend-which should rank alongside the ‘Iliad’ and the ‘Odyssey’ as one of the world’s great adventure stories.

Publication: Présence Africaine, 1960
Language: French
Rights: World rights to Présence Africaine
Genre: Epic
Extent: 153 p.
English, German, Slovene, Italian, Hungarian, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazil), Czech

Bio: Djibril Tamsir Niane (9 January 1932 – 8 March 2021) was a Guinean historian, playwright, and short story writer. Born in Conakry, Guinea, his secondary education was in Senegal and his degree from the University of Bordeaux. He was an honorary professor of Howard University and the University of Tokyo. He is noted for introducing the Epic of Sundiata, about Sundiata Keita (ca. 1217-1255), founder of the Mali Empire, to the Western world in 1960 by translating the story told to him by Djeli Mamoudou Kouyate, a griot or traditional oral historian. He also edited Volume IV —Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century— of the UNESCO General History of Africa and did other UNESCO projects. He was the father of the late model Katoucha Niane (1960–2008).

Link to the book on Présence Africaine: Here

Rights inquiries: Here

© Présence Africaine

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