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Houseboy (African Writers)

4.2 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0435905323
ISBN-10: 0435905325
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Editorial Reviews

Review

?It is a better guide to French Colonial Africa, and to racism, than any non-fiction account, whether by African or Frenchman.?-The Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Ferdinand Oyono was born in 1929 in Cameroon, and educated there and in France. During his student days in Paris he was prompted to write his first two novels, Une Vie de Boy and Le Vieux Nègre et la Médaille, both published in 1956, and he was also active and successful on the stage and on television. On his return to Yaoundé and after the independence of Cameroon in 1960, he joined the Diplomatic Service. He has since represented his country at the European Common Market and has been ambassador to Liberia, France, and the United States as well as Director General of UNICEF at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Since the publication of his first two novels, Ferdinand Oyono published Chemin d'Europe in 1960, and all his work has been widely translated from French. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: African Writers
  • Paperback: 122 pages
  • Publisher: Heinemann (1966)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0435905325
  • ISBN-13: 978-0435905323
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #886,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. D Morrow on November 1, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Often the protagonists of such colonial novels are caught between two worlds (e.g., Ngugi wa Thiog'o's "The River Between", or they are seen watching the colonists invade the traditional boundaries (e.g., Achebe's "Things Fall Apart"). This book is different. The protagonist rejects his traditional life in the first two pages. What happens then is the interest. The question is can an African ever be accepted as an equal by the colonizer? While you probably know the answer, Toundi's journey - as told by his journal - is an enthralling read. I read this book in about two and a half hours and missed a Red Sox playoff game on TV when I couldn't put it down. My only reservation is that I could not read it in the original French. I do not put it as a must read; but, if you enjoyed either "The River Between" or "Things Fall Apart," I would highly suggest you read it.
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Format: Paperback
In the realm of African fiction, this novel stretches against the myriad of cultural divisions erected through colonialism. Much has been said about African fiction as a form, and of the use of the novel by writers whose cultural roots are based in an oral, dynamic storytelling as opposed to the Western one of static writing. This novel plays on one of those subsets, the first-person diary, and both enforces the reader's identification with the African protagonist while pushing the reader away through choices and actions which may seem alien to a Western audience. Indispensible for anyone with an interest in African writing and/or colonialism and its effects. As with all of my readings in African fiction, I am more struck by the silence the text evokes than the speeches constructed therein. Silence is everywhere in this novel, as well as in the works of writers such as Achebe or Soyinka. I would argue that, in that respect, African writers have co-opted the written forms of the colonial cultures for their own ends; what other group of writers has so consistently and effectively caused the text of the book to evoke the absence of words?
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Format: Paperback
Houseboy, was written from an African perspective of colonialism by Cameroonian-born Ferdinand Léopold Oyono and is an examination of the complex relationships between Africa's colonialists and catalysts for economic and social change. Considered risqué when first published in 1956, Houseboy added to the growing body of African political literature beginning with the Negritude Movement launched by the Francophone writers in the late 1930's which advanced the idea that literature could serve as an important ideological instrument for African emancipation.
Seemingly innocuous on the surface, the story is derived from the diary and observations of a rural African boy named Toundi Ondoua during the pre-independence period from the colonial and missionary occupation of Cameroon. The tale of a young man growing up during this historical timeframe is meant to be systemic of Africans in general, as they too struggle with the impact of colonialism on their identity, society and culture.
In conclusion, Toundi's story is ironic and tragic as he gives up his traditional identity and is inevitably drawn into the web of servitude, standing transfixed as his fate and ultimate demise approaches. Toundi's fragile self-esteem and idealistic preconceptions about the Europeans begin to flake and peel like paint from an ancient fula fula (taxi).. Toundi realizes in the end that he belongs not to the world of his village nor to the one of the whites, but is caught in the groundswell of those Africans whose fate became inextricably tied to that of the colonialists and the changing world. Toundi inquires on his deathbed...."Brother, what are we? What are we blackmen who are called French?"
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Format: Paperback
As with much of African literature of its era (the mid-20th century) "Houseboy" by Ferdinand Oyono deals with the clash of African and European cultures brought on by European colonialism. The "houseboy", Toundi, is a rural youth fascinated by the ways of the whites in Africa. He first works for a priest, then a French colonial official, where circumstances bring about his downfall. "Houseboy", Toundi's diary, is an anticolonial novel, but a subtle one, with much wit and sarcastic humor. Ferdinand Oyono, the author of "Houseboy" and "The Old Man and the Medal", worked in the diplomatic corps of his native Cameroon, and as director-general of UNICEF.
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By Judie on January 24, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A well thought out & immensely well written book that is a testimony of creativity. A sad,intriguing & uncomfortable story told with a very well crafted language. A must read for people interested in African History & African literature.
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Format: Paperback
The dynamic of the colonial experience that includes settlers, indigenous cultures, and religion is a fascinating mix. This book is memorable for its language and its symbolism -- it is a tremendous work from the continent.
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Format: Paperback
The setting is the Cameroons. Toundi Ondoua is to be whipped by his father and so he runs off to become Father Gilbert's servant. After Father Gilbert's death, he becomes the houseboy of the Commandant. From the Europeans he has acquired the name of Joseph. The Commandant's wife, Madame, arrives at the Residence. All of the white people desert the European Club for the reception at the Residence. Father Gilbert is referred to as a martyr because he died on African soil is the kind of talk overheard by the houseboy in his work at the Residence. He accompanies Madame to the Dangan market. She tells him his work is highly acceptable but then she accuses him of showing a lack of the joy ordinarily found in African workers. In Dangan the European quarter and the African quarter are quite separate. The houseboy knows Madame is having an affair with M. Moreau, the most distinguished European in the enclave, a prison director. The Commandant tells his wife all the houseboys in Dangan now know she sleeps with M. Moreau. The houseboy is falsely accused of a crime and is whipped. The false accusation emerges from the hysteria at the Commandant's house. The houseboy is taken to a hospital for his wounds, but he resolves to escape to the Spanish territory to save his life since M. Moreau is hungrily waiting for his release from the hospital to punish him in his own way. The novelist is an artist. The scenes presented are horrible, doom-ridden.
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