Batouala Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

At the start of the day, the great chief Batouala arises at dawn to his usual morning ritual of scratching himself, yawning, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand, and making love to his sleeping wife—all mundane acts he performs daily and mindlessly. His days consist of a morning smoke, his favorite pastime; breakfast with Yassigui’ndja, his first and favorite but childless wife; and disdainful reflections on how the whites’ way of life is different from his. Because his thoughts and actions are tradition-inspired, he rejects anything that opposes custom. He muses disdainfully on the ridiculousness of whites, the boundjous, who are “the vilest and most perfidious of men” and therefore worthy of contempt. Their “witches’ inventions”—from shoes and the radio to the telescope and the bicycle—their proud claim of knowing “everything and then some,” their atrocities and exploitation of the natives in the name of civilization, their paternalism and enslavement of the black people, and their “malignity and omniscience” make them “terrifying.” Unlike the Banda concept of life and work, the boundjous’ concept of work means fatigue without immediate or tangible remuneration. More important to Batouala, the guardian of obsolete customs, the boundjous robbed the villagers of their dances and songs, their whole life. Batouala vows that he will not tire of telling about the boundjous’ cruelty, duplicity, and greed until his last breath.

Batouala begins his formal duties by summoning the villagers, among them Bissibi’ngui, to remind them of the approaching feast of the Ga’nza, three days hence. Unbeknown to Batouala, Bissibi’ngui, a young, handsome, muscular womanizer, popular among the village women, slept with eight of Batouala’s nine wives. The exception is Yassigui’ndja, to whom Bissibi’ngui is attracted but...

(The entire section is 776 words.)