Book review: *So Long a Letter by Mariama B*â
So Long a Letter, by Mariama Ba, is a one-sided epistolary roman that relates through the twenty seven chapters composing the book the different stages and life events of two childhood friends, Ramatoulaye Fall and Aïssatou Bâ. The letters are sent by Ramatoulaye who evokes the two ladies common souvenirs, their crossed destinies and their disappointments. This is a morale based book where the author uses this correspondence to display the harmful consequences of polygamy, but also to revolt against the wrong that the Senegalese society suffers in general, and the Senegalese woman in particular.
After a brutal death of her husband, the narrator addresses a letter to her best friend to announce the bad news. However, the feelings of sadness rapidly turned to feelings of disappointment when she learned from the Imam during a religious meeting that her husband passed away leaving debts behind him for his second wife’s family sake. The negative feelings taking the top over the sad event can only be explained by the huge impact that has polygamy on women, especially the first wife who feels betrayed and who always thinks the his husband married again by accident, as expresses Ramatoulaye when she says “What inner confusion led Modou Fall to marry Binetou?” (p. 11). Polygamy, allowed by Islam to men, is only one of the aspects that the author doesn’t get. In fact there are many things that should be changed in her opinion and she lists them on the critic of society that she’s establishing through the book.
First of all, Ramatoulaye keeps recalling the exaggerated authority that one’s family and entourage has on him while choosing his or her spouse. She remembers both her struggle and Aïssatou’s when they chose their respective husbands. She tackles the issue of social classes and nobility. One of the rumors that circulated concerning the marriage of Mawdo and Aïssatou : “Schools turns our girls into devils who lure...