Chapters 18–19 and Epilogue

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Last Updated on February 12, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1342

Chapter 18: Dakar: The Edge of the Sea

Bakayoko and N’Deye Touti lounge side-by-side at the Atlantic edge of Dakar’s port, watching children play in the sand. When she asks when he will return to Dakar, he tells her that he does not know. He has arranged for a boat to take him to Saint-Louis.

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On their walk back to N’Diayène under the stars, N’Deye asks Bakayoko how he knew Penda. When N’Deye calls Penda a whore, Bakayoko explains that everyone prostitutes himself or herself in some way, and he asserts that N’Deye will never be as worthy a person as Penda was.

Undeterred, N’Deye tells Bakayoko she wants to be his second wife, despite her convictions against polygamy. He rejects her proposal, and they walk the rest of the way to N’Diayène in silence. Alioune tells Bakayoko that the boat has arrived, but someone needs to go to Thiès—because Doudou has died of sudden illness. Bakayoko will not commit to going, at which Alioune calls him heartless.

N’Deye allows Bakayoko to see silent tears flow down her cheeks as they say goodbye, but he does not say anything to her. Afterward, N’Deye falls into a deep depression, slowly losing her haughty attitude and dislike for African customs. N’Deye performs useful chores for her family, eventually realizing that she had been foolish before.

After abandoning his boat at Saint-Louis, Bakayoko travels stealthily up the Senegal River on the boats of friendly fishermen to evade detection from authorities. He eventually arrives in Kati, where he disembarks and heads into the interior towards Sudan on foot. When he rests for a moment, he withdraws a letter he received from Lahbib about the goings-on in Thiès, from Doudou’s funeral to the power struggle with the returning women.

Lahbib urges Bakayoko to return home as soon as possible, and Bakayoko thinks about Penda. He loved her, and he might have even taken her as a second wife, because she reflected back the best qualities he saw in himself. Bakayoko resolves that he will return home after all.

Chapter 19: Bamako: The Camp

After having been taken from his home, Fa Keïta arrives at an isolated prisoners’ camp, where he is thrown into a dark room with a few other prisoners. Unable to see, the Old One accidentally topples a container full of excrement and waste, coating himself in a horrible stench.

The other prisoners are hostile toward the Old One until he tells them his identity. Although they are better accustomed to the dark, they had not recognized him. They help find the Old One a clean place to sit. Ten days after his arrival, Fa Keïta and the other prisoners are forced outside for exercise.

The sadistic commander of the camp, a Corsican veteran named Bernadini, forces the prisoners to endure silent marches on the hot sand while he abuses them physically and mentally. 

Konaté, the secretary from Bamako, is brought before Bernadini as the newest prisoner. Because he refuses to withstand Bernadini’s verbal abuse, Konaté is stripped naked, tied, and forced into a pit. Above Konaté, Bernadini pours water on a hot steel plate with tiny holes drilled through it; the scorching water burns Konaté’s skin.

When Fa Keïta strays from the others to pray in the direction of Mecca, Bernadini allows him to kneel next to the barb-wire fence. As soon as the Old One leans close enough, Bernadini kicks the man’s head into the barbs. Bernadini repeats this injury at least two more times before losing interest. As the men are thrown back into their dark cell, Fa Keïta wonders if he had been wrong not to support the strike.

At the same time, Bakayoko has returned to Bamako. At the union office, Tiémoko intercepts a telegram from Lahbib reporting that the strike is over, but he is confused about some of the wording. Tiémoko goes to...

(The entire section contains 1342 words.)

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Chapters 16–17

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