Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Grimari (gree-MAH-ree). Village in the southern part of French Equatorial Africa’s Ubangi-Shari colony (which is now the Central African Republic) that is the novel’s principal setting. Grimari lies in a hilly terrain with many small rivers running through the grasslands, forests, and jungles in its immediate vicinity. During the rainy season, its rivers swell and make travel and communications difficult. At the time in which the story is set, game and beasts such as lions and panthers are still abundant in the bush outside the village limits. The village’s people grow rubber for the country’s French colonizers, while growing millet and hunting wild game for their food and raising livestock.

The novel’s action is contained within a radius of no more than thirty miles around Grimari, which houses a colonial outpost governed by one French commandant and a few local militiamen. Every time the militia’s commandant is away, the atmosphere and mood of the place changes, and the village’s African residents become happier. However, while the people are depicted as clearly being better off without their French masters, they still resign themselves to foreign occupation of their homeland. Every time the commandant returns, he brings a more oppressive mood to the town by enforcing harsher aspects of French rule and terminating frowned-upon tribal rituals and festivals, such as the Ga’nza, during which male and female genitalia of teenagers are mutilated in an ancient initiation rite.

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(The entire section is 636 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Cameron, Keith. René Maran. Boston: Twayne, 1985. A monograph of general criticism of Maran, an analysis of his fictional and nonfictional works, and an appraisal of the controversial French reception of Batouala. Chapter 1 provides a general background of Maran; chapter 2 sketches the genesis, structure, style, and reception of Batouala.

Irele, Abiola. The African Experience in Literature and Ideology. London: Heinemann, 1981. Contains a short but informative essay establishing Batouala as the likely precursor of French African prose and Maran as an important forerunner of the Negritude movement.

James, Charles. “Batouala: René Maran and the Art of Objectivity.” Studies in Black Literature 4, no. 3 (1973): 19-23. Commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of Maran’s 1921 Prix Goncourt for Batouala. Revisits its controversial reception and affirms the novel as “the very epitome of Maran’s subtle and overt rebelliousness,” noting its success in objectivity.

Ojo-Ade, Femi. René Maran, the Black French Man: A Bio-Critical Study. Washington, D.C.: Three Continents Press, 1984. Comprehensive, well-documented, critical study. Critiques Maran’s passionate crusade to denounce victimization, injustice, and the evils of a colonial system. Questions the morality of Maran’s stance and concludes that Maran’s claim to “help the negro cause” is ambiguous and his reputation as “promoter of negro culture,” paradoxical.