Cheikh Hamidou Kane Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Although he is best known for Ambiguous Adventure and little else, the importance of Cheikh Hamidou Kane (KAH-nay) in African literature remains assured. Ambiguous Adventure is a novel that examines the confrontation of two cultures, as do so many other African novels. Yet it describes the clash in spiritual and religious terms rather than in the usual economic and political ones. This juxtaposition reveals much that is profound and not subject to changing circumstances.

Kane’s social situation combined with his active intellect to produce a lasting and disturbing work. He was born into an aristocratic Toucouleur family (Muslims since the eleventh century) and attended a Koranic school until the age of ten, when he entered the French school system. He finished a philosophy baccalauréat at the Lycée of Dakar in record time. This introduction to Western thought influenced his decision to study in Paris, where he followed a double course of study in philosophy and law.

It was in Paris—faced with the daily confrontation of his culture with that of the European—that he began his novel, perhaps, like many African writers abroad, to overcome solitude and homesickness. The protagonist, Samba Diallo, is recognizable as Kane himself in his youth, with the same provenance, the same education, and the same disorientation that probably troubled the author.

Samba, on the verge of completing his Islamic studies, is sent to the...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Blair, Dorothy S. “Cheikh Hamidou Kane.” In African Literature in French. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1976. A biographical and critical profile.

Calin, W. “Between Two Worlds: The Quest for Death and Life in Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s L’Aventure ambiguë.” Kentucky Romance Quarterly 19, no. 2 (1972): 183-197. A study of themes in Kane’s major work.

Gadjigo, Samba. “Literature and History: The Case of Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s Ambiguous Adventure.” Research in African Literatures 22, no. 4 (Winter, 1991). An analysis of the historical contexts of Kane’s novel.

Madubuike, Ihechukwu. “Aspects of Religion in the Senegalese Novel.” Journal of Black Studies 6 (1976): 337-352. Kane is included in this overview article.

Madubuike, Ihechukwu. “The Politics of Assimilation and the Evolution of the Novel in Senegal.” African Studies Review 18 (1975): 89-99. The central theme of Ambiguous Adventure is put in political context.

Mbabuike, Michael. “Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s Ambiguous Adventure: Dichotomy of Existence and the Sense of God.” Journal of Ethnic Studies 8 (1981): 114-120. More discussion of the religious theme in Kane’s novel.