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God's Bits of Wood Paperback – August 11, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Longman (August 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0435909592
  • ISBN-13: 978-0435909598
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #130,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Sembene Ousmane, film director and writer, was born in Senegal  and worked as a fisherman before attending  l'Ecole de Ceramique at Marsassoum. He then worked as a plumber, a bricklayer and an apprentice mechanic in Dakar.  After the war he became a docker and trade union leader in Marseilles, and out of this experience he wrote Le Docker Noir (1956). He had also published Oh Pays, mon Beau Peuple (1957), L'Harmattan (1964) and the collection of stories, Voltaique (1962), which was translated as God's Bits of Wood and appears in the African Writers Series (AWS). He has made several films including one of Le Mandat (translated as The Money Order with White Genesis AWS). His film of Xala met with a great success in the New York film festival.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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I would recommend the novel to anyone for an interesting read.
S. B. Dennison
Given the hightened awareness of the plight of Africans today this novel gives a great insight into the history and background of their deprivation and poverty.
D. J. Weaks
If an author can write an educational yet entertaining book then they are amazing.
Katie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
Sembene Ousmane's third novel, God's Bits of Wood, was originally written and published in French as Les Bouts de bois de Dieu. The novel is set in pre-independence Senegal and follows the struggles of the African trainworkers in three cities as they go on strike against their French employers in an effort for equal benefits and compensation. The chapters of the book shift between the cities of Bamako, Thies, and Dakar and track the actions and growth of the men and women whose lives are transformed by the strike. Rather than number the chapters, Ousmane has labeled them by the city in which they take place, and the character who is the focal point of that chapter.
As the strike progresses, the French management decides to "starve out" the striking workers by cutting off local access to water and applying pressure on local merchants to prevent those shop owners from selling food on credit to the striking families. The men who once acted as providers for their family, now rely on their wives to scrape together enough food in order to feed the families. The new, more obvious reliance on women as providers begins to embolden the women. Since the women now suffer along with their striking husbands, the wives soon see themselves as active strikers as well.
The strategy of the French managers, or toubabs as the African workers call them, of using lack of food and water to pressure the strikers back to work, instead crystallizes for workers and their families the gross inequities that exist between them and their French employers. The growing hardships faced by the families only strengthens their resolve, especially that of the women. In fact, some of the husbands that consider faltering are forced into resoluteness by their wives.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
In Sembene Ousmane's "God's Bits Of Wood" there is a detectable apect of human rights that surpasses all distinction. He points out the dilemmas of a neo-colonial state without giving them the weight of the novel. This novel utilizes this historical event to show humans at their best. The book shows the power of humankind to become humane without compromise. He displays well his ideas on race, gender, and human rights but by the end of the book we are led to an even more enlightening state of thinking and existing, which is to live without hate, even those who hate you, "[...] you must not let hatred enter your heart" (191). This is truly a great message to give while expressing such a triumphant story and event.
The novel also seems to contain a little intertextuality with the poetry of Muyaka (a 19th century poet who composed orally in his native tongue of Kiswahili and never saw the effects of colonialism). This relationship is most notable after reading his famous poem "Seeing Is Believing" (Ua La Manga)
-I've seen a hyena and a goat keeping good company.
-Also a hen and a hawk bringing up their chicks together
-And a blind person showing peopl the way;
-This was not told to me, I obvserved it with my own eyes.
I see the relationship throughout this poem but specifically with the third line, since one of the leaders of "Gods Bits Of Wood" is a blind woman named Maimouna, "All of the women seemed to want to walk behind Maimouna [...]" (201).
Ousmane also confronts the question of African Literature, and whether it can exist any mediums other than indigenous African languages.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
A book of protest, made all the more relevant by the fact that it concerns workers from a universal vocation - the railworkers' industry. Epic in scope, yet founded in community values and beliefs, Ousmane articulates the protest brilliantly. What is also special is his portrayal of women as a force for change - especially considering the chauvinistic politics of Africa today.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By W. Wellesley on June 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
Shortly after WW2 the black rail workers on the Niger-Dakar line went on strike for six months. At the time, it was the longest labor strike in world history. This book is based on the events that surrounded the strike. It tells how community adapts as hunger and thirst set in. There are almost 45 characters in the book in three different settings, so the chapters become more like a set of short stories that are interconnected by the overall plot and a handful of selected characters. It is obvious soon into the story that the heroes are the women. They are the ones that continue to care for their families throughout the six months while the men wait idly for successful negotiations between the union and the company.

Ousmane makes it clear that the main conflict is not between races or the colonizer and the colonized, but it's a class issue that is complicated by these other matters. The strikers receive support from laborers in France, and they want to work for the railroad (which is French-owned), but for a dignified wage. The author acknowledges that the "machine" changed the way of life in West Africa, with the oldest characters being the only ones who can remember (vaguely) what it was like without the train to transport and distribute staples throughout the region.

This, I think, has become one of my favorites. I recommend it to anyone who appreciates a good book.
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