by René Maran

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Characters Discussed

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Batouala (bah-TEW-ah-la), a chief of many villages in French Equatorial Africa. Vigorous and strong of limb, his prowess in the hunt, in love, and in war is a legend across his domain. He is a jealous, violent, and vengeful man. He honors Bissibingui with particular esteem until he becomes aware of the young man’s desire for his favorite wife, Yassiguindja. From then on, he uses his friendship as a cloak for his jealousy and quietly plans revenge on his rival. On a hunt, he hurls a javelin at Bissibingui but misses his target and is himself ripped open by a panther’s paw. As Batouala lies dying, Yassiguindja yields to Bissibingui’s desire, and the two flee into the night.


Bissibingui (bee-see-BEEN-gwee), a desirable young man. Having received from eight of Batouala’s nine wives proofs of their admiration and affection, he now desires his chief’s ninth and favorite wife, Yassiguindja. He finally possesses her as Batouala lies dying.


Yassiguindja (yah-see-GWEE-njah), the favorite among Batouala’s nine wives. Though she desires Bissibingui, she is aware of Batouala’s jealousy and violence, and she will not give herself to his rival until she feels safe from discovery. She finally becomes Bissibingui’s as Batouala lies dying.


Indouvoura (ihn-dew-VEW-rah), another of Batouala’s wives.

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