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This book's title, "Les Soleils des Independences," is French for "the suns of the independences," which doesn't make much sense on the surface. The true meaning might be initially hidden from the reader, but it becomes clear as Kourouma's narrative progresses. This is a story about Africa's post-colonial era, its excesses and abuses, as experienced by one African man, Fama Doumbouya, in the fictional land of the Ebony Coast. The "suns" of the title refer to a time or an era: they come in the wake of the "suns of Samory" (an anti-colonial resistance leader of the 1800s) and the "suns of the whites" or colonialism. The plot has no sweeping historical scope, but through a brief period in Fama's life the reader can view the changes that have taken place during his lifetime both in his community and his country as a whole. The most gripping sections deal with Fama's wife Salimata, who has yet to bear him a child and who endures both the scorn of her neighbors and her own self-doubt because of her "barrenness." Passages dealing with her girlhood, with female genital mutilation and with sexual abuse, are simply overpowering. "Les Soleils des Independences" deals with politics and history, but it's at its best when it provides a window into individual lives. Kourouma's novel has become a classic in African literature because he gets the details, as well as the big picture, exactly right.
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