Alexandre Biyidi-Awala, better known under his pseudonym Mongo Beti, was a novelist and political essayist from Cameroon. His novels, which focus on the difficulties of maintaining African culture in post-colonial countries, often attacked French colonial policies or depicted the struggles of finding a sense of self in post-colonial Africa (a topic that has since gained popularity in African novels). Since he was born in Cameroon in a time when it was still a French colony, Beti was exposed to anti-colonial ideas from a young age, and often argued with his family and his peers over things like religion and politics, paving the way for his writings later in life. As a young man he became actively involved in colonial-politics in Paris, and eventually moved back to Cameroon to become involved in the independence movement there. But after being arrested, he returned to France as an exile. Although all of his novels focus heavily on the struggles of African people in colonial and post-colonial countries, Beti actually spent much of his life in France, where he first studied to gain a literature degree and later taught literature himself. However, his homeland always stayed close to his heart, and he eventually returned to Cameroon where he spent the last years of his life
Childhood & Early Life:
- Beti was born Alexandre Biyidi-Awala to parents Oscar Awala and RÃ©gin Alomo on June 30, 1932 in the small village of AkomÃ©tan (55 km from the capital of YaoundÃ©) in Cameroon while it was still a colony of France.His family owned a cocoa plantation in the southern part of the country where he worked in his time away from school.When he was seven, Betiâs father drowned, leaving him to be raised by his mother, with whom he often argued over religion and colonialism.He was exposed to anti-colonial ideas and ideologies from an early age through associations with independent leader Ruben Um Nyobe and his supporters.He was sent to a missionary school in Mbalmayo for a time, but was eventually expelled for insubordination. At 13 he went to the capital to attend the âlycÃ©e Leclercâ.In 1951 he attended school at Aix-en-Provence in France in order to study literature, but eventually moved on to study at the Sorbonne in Paris.
- In 1954 while attending school in France, Beti published the novel âVille cruelleâ (meaning âCruel Cityâ) under the pseudonym 'Eza Boto'. This was the only time he used that pen-name, and in the years following its release, he made moves to distance himself from the work.At this time the aspiring author became involved in Parisian-African politics in Paris, fueling the subject matter of his novels.Two years after the release of âVille cruelleâ, he released âLe Pauvre Christ de Bombaâ under the pseudonym Mongo Beti, in 1956, which he continued to use for the rest of his career. This novel is still considered by many to be his best novel.His next work âMission terminÃ©eâ was published in 1957. This work won the âPrix Sainte Beuveâ the year after its release.He released one more novel while attending school in France. The budding writer then went silent for a period of 14 years as he devoted himself to the independence struggle in his homeland.During this time, he graduated in 1959 and returned to Cameroon, quickly becoming involved in the independence movement happening there. At this time he established ties with the âUnion des Peuples Camerounaisâ (UPC), a Marxist group active in Cameroon.Betiâs outspokenness soon proved dangerous though as the bid for independence grew more violent, and after being arrested he move back to France, where he found work as a literature teacher in Rouen.He released his next work, âMain basse sur le Camerounâ in 1972. It was a political essay describing the culture of the neocolonial regime in his homeland. The work was immediately banned in both France and Cameroon.Two years later, he returned to fiction, publishing both âPerpÃ©tue et lâhabitude du malheurâ (âPerpetua and the Habit of Unhappinessâ) and âRemember Rubenâ, in 1974.In 1978 he launched a political bimonthly periodical titled âPeuples noirs, peuples africainsâ. The magazine was devoted to the defeat of colonialism in Africa. The sequel to âRemember Rubenâ entitled âLa Ruine presque cocasse dâun polichinelleâ (âThe Nearly Comical Ruin of a Puppetâ) was released the following year.His novel âLes Deux MÃ¨res de Guillaume IsmaÃ«l Dzewatama, futur camionneurâ (âThe Two Mothers of Guillaume IsmaÃ«l Dzewatama, Future Truckdriverâ), a semi-autobiographical novel, was released in 1983.This work was followed by a sequel entitled âLa revanche de Guillaume IsmaÃ«l Dzewatamaâ in 1984.In the early 1990âs when democracy began sweeping across Africa, he returned to Cameroon and opened a bookshop where he continued to write political essays and novels.While living in Cameroon, this eminent writer published three more novels. The first in 1994 was âLâhistoire du fouâ, which chronicles 30 years of dictatorship. This was followed by âTrop de soleil tue lâamourâ five years later.His final work âBranle-bas en noir et blancâ was released in 2000.
- His work âLe Pauvre Christ de Bombaâ (âThe Poor Christ of Bombaâ) released in 1956, was his first major work, and earned him a name in the writing world. It was originally released in French, but has since been released in many different languages.In 1957 his award-winning follow-up work âMission termineeâ was published. Although it won the âSainte-Beuveâ prize in 1958, the work has also been criticized by fellow writers such as Chinua Achebe for romanticizing Africaâs pre-colonial past.
Awards & Achievements:
- The prolific writer was awarded the âFrench Academyâs Sainte-Beuve Prizeâ twice, first for his novel âMission Accomplishedâ and then again for âKing Lazarusâ.
Personal Life & Legacy:
- Beti married a French teacher named Odile Tobner whom he met in his time spent teaching in Rouen. They had three children.He died in Douala, Cameroon on October 8, 2001, from renal complications.
- At the time of his death, this famous writer had been invited to read excerpts from his books at the âHarvard Universityâ.Most of his books were originally banned in his native country
See the events in life of Mongo Beti in Chronological Order
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- Mongo Beti Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- October 12, 2017
Pictures of Mongo Beti
Mongo Beti est, sans contredit, l’un des écrivains les plus prolifiques et les plus reconnus du Cameroun. Né sous le nom d’Alexandre Biyidi-Awala, l’auteur est né en 1932, à Akométam, à 60 kilomètres de Yaoundé. Après des études en philosophie-lettres, il s’inscrit à la faculté des lettres d’Aix-en-Provence, en 1951. En 1953, il publie la nouvelle « Sans haine et sans amour » dans la revue Présence Africaine (no 14, p. 213-220), sous le pseudonyme d’Eza Boto. L’année suivante, Ville cruelle paraît aussi sous ce pseudonyme (Éditions Présence Africaine). À partir de 1956, ses romans et essais sont publiés sous le pseudonyme Mongo Beti. Parmi ces textes, Main basse sur le Cameroun, autopsie d’une décolonisation (Maspero) est interdit en France en 1972.
À partir de 1958, il occupe différents postes de professeur de lettres en France. En 1978, il lance la revue Peuples noirs - Peuples africains, publiée jusqu’en 1991. Après 32 années d’exil, Mongo Beti retourne au Cameroun en 1991 avant de s’y réinstaller définitivement en 1994. La même année, il fonde la Librairie des Peuples noirs à Yaoundé, tout en continuant de publier ses textes en France. Il demeure au Cameroun jusqu’à son décès, survenu en 2001 à Douala.
Informations tirées de :
KOM Ambroise (dir.), « Repères », Dossier « Remember Mongo Beti », Bayreuth African Studies, no 67 (2003), p. 7-8.
Liens externes :
Société des amis de Mongo Beti
Association Internationale de recherches sur les crimes contre l'humanité et les génocides, « Hommage à Mongo Beti »
Bernard Mouralis, « L'oeuvre de Mongo Beti »
Alain-Patrice Nganang, « Entretien avec Mongo Beti », Africultures, dossier « Produire en Afrique », no 14, janvier 1999.
Boniface Mongo-Mboussa, « Entretien avec Mongo Beti », Africultures, 19 juillet 2002.
Dossier élaboré par Nathalie Courcy et Virginie Savard
Documentation critique classée par oeuvre
Sans haine et sans amour (1953)
Ville cruelle (1954)
Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba (1956)
Mission terminée (1957)
Le Roi miraculé : chronique des Essazam (1958)
Main basse sur le Cameroun : autopsie d’une décolonisation (1972)
Les Procès du Cameroun : autopsie d’une décolonisation (1972)
Perpétue et l’habitude du malheur (1974)
Remember Ruben (1974)
Peuples noirs, peuples africains (1978)
La Ruine presque cocasse d’un polichinelle : Remember Ruben 2 (1979)
Les Langues africaines et le Néo-colonialisme en Afrique francophone (1982)
Les Deux Mères de Guillaume Ismaël Dzewatama, futur camionneur (1983)
La Revanche de Guillaume Ismael Dzewatama (1984)
Lettre ouverte aux Camerounais, ou, La deuxième mort de Ruben Um Nyobé (1986)
Dictionnaire de la négritude avec Odile Tobner et la participation de collab. de la revue Peuples noirs - Peuples africains (1989)
La France contre l’Afrique : retour au Cameroun (1993)
L’Histoire du fou (1994)
Trop de soleil tue l’amour (1999)
Branle-bas en noir et blanc (2000)
Africains si vous parliez (2005)
Mongo Beti parle : Testament d’un esprit rebelle (2006)
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