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Chez Gangoueus: A brilliant blog about African literature in French

Réassi Ouabonzi

The Best of blog Awards 2010 shone light on a slew of fascinating blogs in 11 languages. A close runner-up for the Best blog in French award is Chez Gangoueus (fr). Réassi Ouabonzi blogs about  African and diaspora literature in French from a reader's perspective since 2007, one book at a time. With time, Chez Gangoueus has developed into a unique online  guide to African and diaspora writers.

GV : Why did you open a blog about books in the first place?

I was an avid reader as a teen, I devoured  every book available in the French cultural center in Brazzaville (Congo), where I lived. I was born in France of Congolese parents, I spent 18 years  in each country, and now live in France. Reading is time consuming, I dropped it during my  studies in physics. Then, one day, I saw Beloved, a film by Jonathan Demme based on the book written by Nobel Prize Toni Morrison. It gave me such a jolt  I decided to read all of  one her books. She brought me back to reading.

- Why do you concentrate on black literature in French ?

It was a deliberate process. I'm interested in reading how black people see themselves and are represented. I opened a blog to document my readings, and let's face it, also because it's quite a violent reality, not to find any resources about African or black literature on the Francophone web, save for the online magazine Cultures Sud.

"Les écailles du ciel" by Tierno Monenembo

- What are the current trends in Francophone African literature?

-  I review authors from any African countries, French West Indies or in diasporas, black literature at large. But let me think: in Congo, a new generation of writers is budding, inspired by award-wining writer and intellectual Alain Mabanckou. In Sénégal, I'm struck by the current emergence (empowering) of women writers, in the wake of  best selling author Marie Ndiaye. I notice writers from Cameroon write with the same “in your face” directness and energy that they are are famous for. I must confess that I am in awe of Nigerian writers,  like the great Chinua Achebe. Among francophone writers, I could mention so many: Abdourahman A.Waberi from Djibouti,  Jimi Yuma from Congo, Patrice Nganang and Leonora Miano from Cameroon… they're all in my blogroll.

"Saisons sauvages" by Kettly Mars (Haiti)

- African authors now regularly win French literary awards, but most of your finds are totally unknown, invisible in French bookstores

- Black literature in French has trouble  finding a publisher, but also a readership. In francophone Africa, books are difficult to publish, expensive and hard to find. But the problem is elsewhere. We  West Africans can write and publish our own perspectives, but we should read them, too. Somehow, Africans have trouble reading books about themselves. They look elsewhere for references. My blog offers authors  some coverage:  I get a thousand visitors per month, 50% come from Metropolitan France, 30% from West Africa..

- You sometimes stray to review Japanese or South American books on your blog, but never French “white” literature.

"Le passé devant soi" by Gilbert Gatore

French literature is too navel-orientated. We're not on this earth for long. Let's get going. And French white writers are still totally blind to the true challenges in France, the plight of black or Arab youths disenfranchised  in poor suburbs.

"Trois femmes puissantes", the award wining book and best-seller in France, by French-Senegalese author Marie Ndiaye

Why did you pick this name for your blog, “Chez Gangoueus”?

Ngangoué is my second Congolese given name.  I consider myself  of African and Western background and culture, I looked for a handle that would reflect this, and added the us suffix, in reference to latin culture, names like Brutus, Octavius or Britannicus. Gangouéus reflects my dual identity.

You alway take a picture of the book you are reading and most of the time, in public transports.

Because that's where I read! Work is work, family is family. Time spent commuting to and from work in Paris became my reading time!

"Les phalènes" by Tchicaya U Tam'Si

  • http://www.doszen.net Joss

    It shall not be forgot to mention that “Gangoueus” blog is an open place when new-unknown authors can have theirs writtings read and, if they worht it, popularized.
    Most of the critics on litterature rely only on already-famous writters and never take the risk of finding out new authors.
    This blog is not to desapreciate books but to talk about them, to push people to read them always by saying, the most honnestly possible, the thruth.
    It’s such a great pleasure to have this kind of open-minded window on the african litterature.

    The best for the Gangoueus blog ! ;-))

    • Gangoueus

      Thanks you, Joss

  • http://yashomgroup.com seema

    The best for the Gangoueus blog

  • http://www.facebook.com/maria.im.92 Maria N Harim Im

    Glad that I found your blog. I have also been reading lost of french litterature when I was young and gave up when i started going to school in the USA. Recently I have been thinking of one of my favorite Ivorian Authors, Isaie Biton Koulibaly and I have tried finding his books online and I found one. The African Reader.com. They also have a facebook fan page page: https://www.facebook.com/TheAfricanReader…and now I wished they had more varieties of books. So where do you get your books?

  • Guest

  • http://www.facebook.com/emma.l.pask Emma Lorraine Pask

    Test

  • http://www.facebook.com/emma.l.pask Emma Lorraine Pask

    Hi Reassi,
    I just read your blog with interest. My name is Emma and I’m writing to you from Arvon, the UK’s leading creative writing charity.
    We have several creative writing retreat centres across the country where people of all ages and abilities work with published and successful writers to develop their own writing.
    We are currently running a bi / multi-lingual creative writing programme called Mother Tongues and at the end of February / Beginning of March we will be working with a group of French African and Caribbean students.
    As such we are looking for two talented writers to work with this group. We have a budget to fly people from wherever they are based.
    I am wondering if you have any direct contact details for the writers you mentioned or for their publishers or agents.. as I would love to get in touch with them to see if they are interested in this work.
    Do let me know if you can help by writing to me at emma.pask@arvon.org
    As we don’t have much time to recruit these writers it would be great if you could get back to me as soon as you can.
    thanks for your inspiring blog. It was a great pleasure to read.
    Emma

  • Gangoueus

    It is quite simple to obtain books in French literature from Amazon.fr on example. Personally, I prefer to buy my books in bookstores. But when I can not find a book, I do not hesitate Pasa search Amazon.fr, or Priceminister Fnac.com
    Hoping to have answered your question
    Sincerely,
    Gangoueus

  • Nkene Mintsa Riana

    I am happy to visit your blog,wish all the best picking interest in French litterature.I used this opportunity to give my link.
    http://www.edilivre.com/la-fin-d-une-fille-rebelle-riana-nkene-mintsa.html

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