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Waiting For The Wild Beasts To Vote

The sora Bingo, storyteller and singer, assisted by
his responder Tiecoura, fool and initiate in the cathartic phase, narrates to
the dictator Koyaga the donsomana of his life. A purificatory
narrative, this entails honesty. As Tiecoura, to whom everything is permitted,
says: We will tell the truth, about your dictatorship, your parents, and your
collaborators. The whole truth about your dirty tricks, your bullshit, your
lies, your many crimes and assassinations...

And so they proceed, describing Koyaga''s Naked People and their relationship
with the French, his mother and his father, who fought in the trenches of WWI,
his prowess as a master hunter and his service in the French army in Indo-China
and Algeria, his role in the achievement of independence by the Republic of the
Gulf, the coup and bloodletting that brought him to power, and the decades of
his rule. They also tell the story of minister of information Macledio and his
wanderings through the villages of West Africa.
This is set in the framework of traditional magic, of shamans and marabouts and
prophecies and magical items.

Koyaga''s story is linked with the other dictators of Africa
and their coups, murders, and excesses. This is only lightly fictionalized,
with Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote a fairly obvious roman a
clef ? Koyaga is Gnassingbé Eyadema of Togo and the other leaders include
Bokassa, Mobutu, Houphouet, and Haile Selassie ? and some of the more fantastic
episodes are all too real. The new threat which has prompted the rite of
purification is democracy, now in vogue with Western governments which had
previously supported anti-communist dictatorships.

As a study of African dictatorship, Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote
is more revealing than most works of history. It manages this while working as
a novel, a powerful evocation of myth and history that fits perfectly into the
framework of its telling. Kourouma holds us spellbound while he teaches us the
landscapes of West Africa, real and imagined.


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