African silences: Negotiating the story of France’s colonial soldiers, 1914–2009

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

In his short story ‘Fahavalo,’ the Malagasy author Jean-Luc Raharimanana tells of his 1994 encounter with an old man who stands on a beach and stones a dead dog. A local resident explains to the author that the old man had lost his mind after having witnessed a massacre in his village during the suppression of the Malagasy insurrection in November 1947. The perpetrators were black colonial soldiers. Afterwards dogs devoured the unburied villagers' bodies. Unable to forget the moment, the man kept stoning dogs whenever he saw them. Throughout the massacre, this man kept silent. Forty-seven years later, the madman was still silent, expressing his memories of the crime he had witnessed through gestures rather than in words. Silence, as the story's narrator puts it, sometimes calms the soul but the tongue naturally hates its weight. Silence is heavy; it is substantial. It is this substance which the narrator presents to us, the readers, in his account of the apparently irrational, but deeply expressive image of the stoning of a dead dog. This dialogue between words and their absence, with both doing the work of remembrance, is a central theme in this book. Raharimanana's story enables us to glimpse elements of a certain African silence – the one pertaining to the exercise of force and colonial brutality in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationShadows of War
Subtitle of host publicationA Social History of Silence in the Twentieth Century
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages138-152
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780511676178
ISBN (Print)9780521196581
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (all)

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