An examination of the satiric vision of Ahmadou Kourouma in 'Waiting for the wild beasts to vote'

Ndlovu, Isaac (2008-03)

Thesis (MA) -- University of Stellenbosch, 2008.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis examines Ahmadou Kourouma's Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote, a novel that mainly satirizes post-colonial African dictatorships. Kourouma entrusts his narrative to a satirical griot-narrator, and the novel adopts a mock-epic mode. This complicates the novel's narrative, and allows the reader to compare the satiric and griotic forms in the examination of Kourouma's overall satiric vision. In his satirization of post-colonial African forms of governance, Kourouma puts to maximum use oral literary techniques such as proverbs, repetition, and song, as satiric tools for mocking, criticising and attacking human folly and wickedness. Both satire and the mock-epic modes' affinity with parody, fantasy, and myth are extensively explored in this thesis. This thesis argues that the combination of griotic and satiric methods that characterizes Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote make it a questioning, demystifying, and subversive novel, giving it a magical realist and post-modernist flavour. In examining Kourouma's literary methods, this thesis uses Thomas Hale's extensive work on the griotic roles in West Africa. This, it is hoped, will further illuminate Kourouma's satiric vision. Hale calls griots masters of the spoken word. This is an important observation since this thesis argues that Kourouma' s use of language in the construction and deconstruction of social power relations elevates him to a position of a literary griot in the modern post-colonial setting. The other similarity between the griotic and satiric methods that is explored at length in this thesis is the satirist and griot's predilection for historical and moral issues. Kourouma's mythicization of Africa's recent history is examined through what Paul Ricoeur calls the "hermeneutics of suspicion" and the "hermeneutics of affirmation'', which refer to the unmasking of myth with the intention of extracting its positive value as a symbolic tool for the exploration of human future possibilities. Bakhtin's theory of the carnivalesque is also utilized in illuminating Kourouma's use of the donsomana, or purificatory tale, which this thesis argues is comparable to the European medieval carnivals. Both the donsomana and the carnivals are not just occasions for harmless fun, but they can be seen as opportunities for the inversion of social hierarchical roles with the aim of bringing about social change, if not a total revolution in social and political systems. Bakhtin also claims that 'the bodily grotesque' can be used ambivalently as an image of permanent degradation, or as an image of debasement with regeneration in view. This notion is used in this thesis in examining the appropriation of the images of the bodily life by both the griot - narrator and the post-colonial dictators. This thesis argues that the griot uses these images for their positive symbolic effect, while the dictators use the same images for the sinister purpose of degrading victims of their cruel rule. This thesis also looks at the way Kourouma contrasts nationalist anti-colonial struggle with the so-called democratic anti-dictatorship struggle, as a way of showing that ideal solutions to Africa's leadership crisis do not work. Finally, this thesis suggests that Kourouma's pessimistic satire, although specifically targeting post-colonial African governance, is ultimately about the cruel and ineffective leadership that has characterized political affairs since the dawn of human history.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek Ahmadou Kourouma se Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote, 'n roman wat hoofsaaklik post-koloniale Afrika-diktatorskappe satiriseer. Kourouma se narratief word aan 'n spottende griat-verteller toevertrou, en die roman ontvou in komies-epiese toonaard. Hirdie faktor kompliseer die narratief en laat die leser toe om die satiriese en griot-vorrns met mekaar te vergelyk in die bestudering van Kourouma se oorhoofse satiriese visie. In sy satirisering van post-koloniale regeringsvorms in Afrika maak Kourouma maksimaal gebruik van orale letterkundige tegnieke, soos bv. spreekwoorde, herhalings en liedere, as satiriese werktuie waarmee hy menslike domheid en boosheid bespot, kritiseer en aanval. Beide satiriese en komies-epiese vorme se affiniteit met parodie, fantasie en mite word uitgebreid ondersoek in hierdie tesis. Die tesis voer aan dat die kombinasie van griot- en satiriese metodes .wat Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote karakteriseer, dit 'n vraagstellende, demistifiserende en subversiewe roman maak en gevolglik 'n magies-realistiese en postmodemistiese flair aan die roman gee. Die proefskrif maak gebruik van Thomas Hale se uitgebreide navorsing oor die funk:sie van die griot-figuur in Wes-Afrikaanse samelewings om Kourouma se literere metodes te ondersoek met die doel om Kourouma se satiriese visie verder te belig. Hale beskryf griots as 'meesters van die gesproke woord' - 'n belangrike opmerking, aangesien die tesis argumenteer dat Kourouma se gebruik van taal in die konstruksie en dekonstruksie van sosiale magsverhoudinge horn verhef tot die posisie van 'n literere griot in die modeme postkoloniale omgewing. Die ander vergelykbaarheid tussen die griot- en satiriese metodes wat deeglik ondersoek word in hierdie tesis is die satiris en die griot se ingesteldheid op historiese en morele kwessies. Kourouma se mitifisering van Afrika se onlangse geskiedenis word ondersoek deur middle van wat Paul Ricoeur die "hermeneutics of suspicion" en die "hermeneutics of affirmation" noem - uitdrukkings wat verwys na die ontmaskering van mite - met die doel om die positiewe waarde daarvan as 'n simboliese werktuig vir die ondersoek van toekomstige menslike moontlikhede te ontsluit. Bakhtin se teorie van die "carnivalesque" word ook benuttig in Kourouma se gebruik van die donsomana, of reinigingsverhaal, wat volgens die argument van hierdie tesis vergelykbaar is met die middeleeuse karnaval-feeste. Beide die donsomana en die karnaval is nie net okkasies vir onskuldige pret nie, maar kan gesien word as geleenthede vir die inversie van sosiaal-hierargiese rolle met die doel om sosiale veranderings teweeg te bring - of selfs vir die totale omverwerping van sosiale en politieke sisteme. Bakhtin beweer ook dat "the bodily grotesque" op ambivalente wyse gebruik kan word as beeld van permanente degradasie, of as beeld van vernedering met die oog op herlewing. Hierdie idee word in die tesis gebruik in die eksaminering van die appropriasie van die beelde van liggaamlike lewe deur beide die griot-verteller en die post-koloniale diktators. Hierdie tesis argumenteer dat die griot hierdie beelde gebruik vir hul positiewe simboliese effekte, terwyl die diktators dieselfde beelde gebruik vir sinistere doelwitte - om die slagoffers van hul wrede bewind te verneder. Die tesis bestudeer ook die wyse waarop Kourouma die nasionalistiese anti-koloniale stryd kontrasteer met die sogenaamde demokratiese anti-diktatorskapstryd, ten einde te demonstreer dat idealistiese oplossings vir Afrika se leierskapskrisis nie werk nie. Ten laaste suggereer die proefskrif dat Kourouma se pessimistiese satire, hoewel spesifiek gemik op post-koloniale Afrika-regerings, uiteindelik begaan is met wrede en oneffektiewe leierskap soos wat dit dwarsdeur die geskiedenis menslike politieke sake kenmerk.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/50765
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