So Long a Letter - A Review of Mariama Bas So Long a Letter Showing 1-20 of 20
Une si longue lettre part 1
So Long a Letter Setting & Symbolism
In keeping with Muslim custom, Ramatoulaye must observe a mirasse , a forty-day period of isolation and mourning. Over the course of this period she keeps a diary, which she eventually intends to send to Aissatou. Senegalese-Muslim customs dictate that Ramatoulaye serve as a host to all the mourners and well-wishers, opening her house to them and providing them with food and drink. This strikes Ramatoulaye as a grave injustice, as Modou, in his final years, wanted nothing to do with her. Ramatoulaye goes on to reflect on her marriage to Modou. She cannot understand what led him to lose interest in her. Their first years together, as sweethearts and then as a young married couple, seemed hopeful.
The narrator is Ramatoulaye, a woman from Senegal, and she recalls the events from a first-person subjective perspective. The protagonists are Ramatoulaye and her friend, Aissatou, and the antagonists are their husbands, Modou and Mawdo—who find other wives for themselves after already being married to them—as well as overly traditional Senegalese society. The major conflict is whether and how Ramatoulaye will move on after the death of a husband from whom she had already separated, but whose life was still intertwined with hers. On a thematic level, this resonates with a larger conflict is between modernity and tradition in post-colonial Senegal. Ramatoulaye draws a parallel between herself and her good friend, Aissatou.
A novel set in urban Senegal from the s to the s; published in French as Une si longue lettre in , in English in In a letter written to an old friend, a newly widowed schoolteacher reflects upon her life as a Muslim woman in Senegal. Ba later became a primary schoolteacher and an activist in the feminist movement in Senegal, in which she participated until her death in Though the marriage ended in divorce it provided inspiration for her first novel, So Long a Letter , noted for its striking depiction of women in Islamic culture and its blistering treatment of polygamy. The novel has been hailed as the most emotionally realistic portrayal of female life in African fiction of the time. In So Long a Letter the rituals and observances of Islam form a compelling social backdrop against which the widowed Ramatoulaye struggles to come to terms with her bereavement. In the s, the decade in which the novel closes, more than 80 percent of the Senegalese population was Muslim, while 6 percent was Christian and the remainder worshipped deities indigenous to their particular region Nelson, p.
So Long a Letter
So Long A Letter by Mariama Ba -Review
The Senegal depicted in So Long a Letter is a country on the threshold, passing between two historical eras. Ramatoulaye is born and educated under the French colonial regime, and she lives through Senegalese independence. Hers is the generation responsible for the slow process of Senegalese self-determination. They have taken on the enormous task imagining a new sociopolitical order, and with it a postcolonial future for their country. The opposing pulls of custom and progress that Ramatoulaye encounters in the Senegalese political climate become personal and particular in her struggle to reconcile her abiding faith in Islam with her feminism.