The Noir Atlantic follows the influence of African American author Chester Himes on Francophone African crime fiction. In 1953, Himes emigrated to Paris; he struggled there, just as he had in the United States. In 1957, his luck changed: the famous French Série noire brought out the first installment of his “Harlem” crime series, La reine des pommes. Suddenly, he was a household name in France. Later, he would also have a significant influence on Francophone African writers; for them, Himes’s blend of absurdist humor and violence offered an alternative to a high literary paradigm implanted during the colonial era. Likewise, his heterogeneous identity as American, black, and a writer of “French” bestsellers modeled an escape from the centripetal pull of the Métropole. Starting with Abasse Ndione’s depictions of Senegal’s marijuana-smoking subculture in La Vie en spirale (1982) and ending with Mongo Beti’s 2001 Branle-bas en noir et blanc, set in Yaoundé, Cameroon, Francophone African crime fiction rejected French criteria of literary success; it embraced a new postcolonial aesthetic that emphasized entertaining the reader while making a living. The Noir Atlantic demonstrates why turning to what this study calls a “frivolous literary” mode represented a profound shift in perspective that anticipated more recent developments such as littérature monde.
Pim Higginson is Associate Professor of French at the Department of French and Francophone Studies, Bryn Mawr College, USA.
Introduction: The Frivolous Literary
1. "Pas de litterature": Abasse Ndione and the Rise of Crime
2. Minor Mistranslations: Simon Njami and the Making of a Parisianist Himes
3. Crime Pays: Achille Ngoye and the Serie noire
4. Ethnographic Erotics: Bolya and the Writing of the Other
5. Terreur Rose: Kouty, memoire de sang and the Gendering of Noir
6. Going out Blazing: Mongo Beti's Last Two Novels
June 8, 2011
Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures 20