Rihata. Sleepy, impoverished African town standing at the bend of an unidentified river in an unnamed country. Rihata is home to people who have been forced by hard times to leave the bush country, moving from family compounds on the river’s banks, where cooperation was a way of life, to the dubious modernity of isolated, rickety colonial-style buildings in town. Like the bush dwellers, the Guadeloupan mulatto Marie-Hélène moves to Rihata. When she first comes to this country, she and her bank-manager husband, Zek, live in the capital city of N’Daru. After she has an affair with Zek’s brother, Madou, Zek asks for a transfer to Rihata, where nothing ever happens. To the people in Rihata, Marie-Hélène is an outsider—almost a white woman. Living in a kind of mental no-man’s-land, she watches her life disintegrate as she waits for her brother-in-law to come to Rihata to celebrate the anniversary of the coup d’état that brought to power the country’s brutal dictator.
Farokodoba. Town in which Madou, a high-level minister in the unpopular government, is assassinated by rebels. Farokodoba and its neighboring town of Bafing are, if possible, even more claustrophobic and isolating than Rihata. Illuminated only by the lights of peanut sellers, the town is almost pitch dark at night, casting dark shadows on Madou’s attempts to reconcile with his brother and negotiate an alliance...
(The entire section is 557 words.)