I received Le Mot Juste: A Dictionary of Classical and Foreign Words and Phrases
for my tenth birthday, and though I am unable to locate it in the stacks at the moment, (though I suspect that it is somewhere in the second or third row of books on the shelf in the foyer) i distinctly remember an entry for a word in Javanese (or Zulu?) that translates roughly into English as "the act of stealing everything a man owns by borrowing each of his possessions one by one and not returning them". This word, if I were willing, in this sweltering heat, to move away from my spot in front of the fan to get up and look for the aforementioned book, would make a fitting description in this review for precisely what happened to the kingdom of Fouta Djallon and her princes and almami
-spiritual ledger and ruler of the entire kingdom- but also what ultimately happens to Aime Olivier Viscount de Sanderval in his doomed pursuit of the Kingdom of Kahel.
The real de Sanderval was:" the spitting image of the 19th century. . .Beginning with his education and temperament, everything had prepared him to live for the passions of his time - ideas, science, and the great expeditions. He had been molded with the mind of a pioneer in the century of pioneers." His expeditions into the interior of africa produced the maps necessary for the french to begin staking their claim there. Tierno Monenembo has written a romance of this brave and idiosyncratic man, whose religious, scientific and cultural theories made him both an object of interest and scorn in French society. In The King of Kahel
, Aime dreams of a kingdom of his own in Africa, and in his 42 year, heads to Africa to conquer one. The year is 1880, and he is headed to western Africa to build a railroad. De sandervals approach to colonization is one of friendship, and while the French government ignores his exploits, he is steadily building up the political loyalties and friendships that he needs to install himself as king of the provence of Kahel and get the treaties that he needs to build a railroad from the coast to the jungle. He sweet talks the Fula ledge dears, making them his friends and partners in crime. His dream of Afircan riches get closer and closer, as he manipulates the warring princes Into giving him land and title.
Once he finds success, the french government begins to show Interest in his conquests, and just as Sanderval has carved out a little kingdom - a trading post here, a railway concession there, so the French begin to take sandervals land- here a military garrison, there a colonial governors mansion. eventually, his dreams.
TKOK is a starts off as a wonderful romantic adventure and was an enjoyable read, though not a replacement or a peer of Things Fall Apart.
An aside, TKOK was the first complete novel that I read entirely in e-book form, and I must say, the experience is vastly different from reading a book printed on paper. The highlighting and search functions made the 'wait-who was that guy again?' question answerable in a seconds, and the recall of interesting quotes immediate. Something is lost, however, when a character is tracking hares through 'the rocky Mediterranean inlets' of Cassis, and with a quick highlight and a a featherlgiht touch of a screen, there are images of the rocky Mediterranean inlets near Cassis. They are beautiful, but that immediacy and unalterable fact of their appearance robs the reader of an opportunity to imagine what they might look like. I thought to turn it off, but once I started accessing the Wikipedia entries at my fingertips I couldn't stop. What is a kepi? Who was Samori Toure? The answers were right there. I barely needed to think. I got bored. I haven't given up on the dead trees yet.