Ambiguous Adventure Literary Criticism and Significance - Essay

Cheikh Hamidou Kane

Literary Criticism and Significance

Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s Ambiguous Adventure is a critically acclaimed and academically studied text. It was originally written in French but has been translated into English and is often studied as a representation of colonial and French African literature. Ambiguous Adventure has also been included in the African Writers Series, a series of publications that include Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Weep Not, Child. Ambiguous Adventure is often approached as a thematic template for French African writing.

Ambiguous Adventure is a largely autobiographical novel of Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s early life. In her book Journeys Through the French African Novel, Mildred Mortimer explains that “Samba Diallo is [Kane’s] name in Poular.” Like Samba Diallo, Kane was enrolled at a young age in a Koranic school before attending a French school. He also went on to study philosophy at the University of Paris before he returned to Senegal. When he returned, he was trained as an administrator, and he worked for Senegal as a director of economic planning and as a governor of Thiès. Ambiguous Adventure remains Kane’s sole literary statement that has been studied internationally.

Kane’s exploration of identity in a colonial setting is sometimes described as a representation of French African writing. The novel explores loss and confusion in a colonial setting. His discussion of language is particularly telling. Samba Diallo is born into a culture with little written language. When he studies at the French school, Samba Diallo discovers that the French’s written language is very powerful. Kane has likewise gone on to express himself by writing in French, and his training comes from his experiences in France. Mortimer argues that although the power of the French language is overwhelming, “future generations will craft [it] into a subversive weapon of ‘deterritorialization’.” Samba Diallo is unable to overcome his sense of confusion, and he is murdered after he returns to the Diallobé.

Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s discussion of colonial themes makes this a strong representation of French African literature. Mortimer compares Kane’s work to that of other writers from Africa, including Mongo Beti. Mortimer also compares its use of the motif of the journey to works by authors in Western canon, including Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Ambiguous Adventure has earned attention from academics and has been included in the African Writers Series.