Through the eye of a child: Their societies viewed by five black, francophone authors: Zobel, Ega, Laye, Dadi\'e, and Oyono

Gloria E Parker, Fordham University


A study of La Rue Cases-Negres--an autobiographical narrative written by Joseph Zobel, a black, French-speaking author born in Martinique,--revealed many of the same social problems encountered in Richard Wright's Black Boy. The decision was made to launch an investigation into the autobiographical works written by other black, French-speaking authors to determine whether or not they also indicated the same parallels.^ We began by isolating the basic traits and conditions common to the experiences revealed in the autobiographical narratives of childhood written by black authors of different nationalities within the French-speaking world, so we studied those of three African writers: Camara Laye's L'Enfant noir, Bernard Dadie's Climbie and Ferdinard Oyono's pseudo-autobiographical novel: Une Vie de boy. These authors were chosen in order to permit views of several different African societies and religious persuasions. Laye represented French Guinea, Dadie, the Ivory Coast, and Oyono, the Cameroun. In addition to having this interplay among the Africans, we decided to compare Zobel's experience in growing up in Martinique with that of a female contemporary: Francoise Ega, who wrote Le Temps des madras.^ Having established, through a study of the characteristics of black autobiographical writing, exactly what criteria should be used in evaluating and categorizing the experiences of the writers, we then proceeded to draw parallels with those of three well-known authors in the English-speaking world who had also chronicled their childhoods: George Lamming from Barbados who wrote In the Castle of My Skin, Wole Soyinka of Nigeria whose Ake: The Years of Childhood won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1965, and the American Richard Wright's classic of childhood: Black Boy, which all of these authors publicly acknowledged as having inspired them.^ Our hypothesis that the black experience in the diaspora, as seen through the eyes of authors of African descent who have written autobiographical narratives of childhood, indicates that the black experience, with its heritage of slavery and/or colonialism, has been indisputably similar, even where, due to cultural differences, it may have shown slight variations in the way in which it manifested itself, proved to be well founded. ^

Subject Area

Modern literature|African literature|Black studies|Caribbean literature

Recommended Citation

Parker, Gloria E, "Through the eye of a child: Their societies viewed by five black, francophone authors: Zobel, Ega, Laye, Dadi\'e, and Oyono" (1991). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9127042.