Saturday, April 27, 2013

Satire about the reading culture in Cameroon

Let me satirize book reading and book culture in my country Cameroon. Some say if you want to hide something from an African, put it in a book. But I say if you want to hide something from a Cameroonian don’t go as far as putting it in a book. Go near, stick it onto what we touch the most; a beer bottle. Even if it’s the most Shakespearan of poems, we will not read it. We will just uncork the bott...le, drink the beer, watch Samuel Eto’o and go away. Wait, let me go further to say that, if you sign a check of one million dollars and stick it onto a bottle of Castel beer and give a Cameroonian and not tell him it’s a check, he will thank you, uncork it, drink it while watching Eto’o then go away. We don’t read let alone write, we only drink and watch our footballers in Europe. I have more than a dozen friends who’ve never read a novel and probably never will. And I struggle and tussle to see and buy a good novel. The bookshops are Sahara desert-like, skeleton-like. It’s no wonder my father called Cameroon a footballers’ mine but a literary wilderness. We have no literary festivals, no creative writing workshops, no literary awards, no books (I’ve been unsuccessfully looking for Chimamanda’s novels since 2007!!!) no mentorship programs, “no nothing” to motivate writers. No doubt we’ve never produced a Caine prize nominee let alone a winner. And with the passing away of all our prolific writers, Mongo Beti, Ferdinand Oyono, Bate Besong, Mbella Sonne Dipoko, Linus. T. Asong, our literature is in limbo. I guess all these triggered my father to tell me this, “young man, the fact that you’ve kept on writing is a miracle.” Hmmmm, it’s a bad place to become a writer, hmmmmm, you may easily give up; very expensive printing, Lilliput like novel market, wild government censorship for anything ‘politically critical’, incarceration of writers like Bate Besong…Me? I prefer to burn my novel manuscript rather than publishing it in Cameroon.