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Jazz and Palm Wine

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<P>Jazz, aliens, and witchcraft collide in this collection of short stories by renowned author Emmanuel Dongala. The influence of Kongo culture is tangible throughout, as customary beliefs clash with party conceptions of scientific and rational thought. In the first half of Jazz and Palm Wine, the characters emerge victorious from decades of colonial exploitation in the Congo only to confront the burdensome bureaucracy, oppressive legal systems, and corrupt governments of the post-colonial era. The ruling political party attempts to impose order and scientific thinking while the people struggles to deal with drought, infertility, and impossible regulations and policies; both sides mix witchcraft, diplomacy, and violence in their efforts to survive. The second half of the book is set in the United States during the turbulent civil rights struggles of the 1960s. In the title story, African and American leaders come together to save the world from extraterrestrials by serving vast quantities of palm wine and playing American jazz. The stories in Jazz and Palm Wine prompt conversations about identity, race, and co-existence, providing contextualization and a historical dimension that is often sorely lacking. Through these collisions and clashes, Dongala suggests a pathway to racial harmony, peaceful co-existence, and individual liberty through artistic creation. </P>
<P>Foreword by Dominic Thomas. "Harmony and Liberty or Jazz and Palm Wine"</P><P>The Astonishing and Dialectic Downfall of Comrade Kali Tchikati<BR>A Day in the Life of Augustine Amaya<BR>Old Likibi’s Trial<BR>The Man<BR>The Ceremony<BR>Jazz and Palm Wine<BR>My Ghost Train<BR>A Love Supreme</P>

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Published 03 April 2017
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EAN13 9780253026750
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andJazz
PALM WINEGLOBAL AFRICAN VOICES
Dominic Tomas, editor
I Was an Elephant Salesman: Te Past Ahead: A Novel
Adventures between Dakar, Paris, Gilbert Gatore
and Milan Translated by Marjolijn de Jager
Pap Khouma
Edited by Oreste Pivetta Queen of Flowers and Pearls: A Novel
Translated by Rebecca Hopkins Gabriella Ghermandi
Introduction by Graziella Parati Translated by Giovanna
BellesiaContuzzi and Victoria Ofredi Poletto
Little Mother: A Novel
Cristina Ali Farah Te Shameful State: A Novel
Translated by Giovanna Bellesia- Sony Labou Tansi
Contuzzi and Victoria Ofredi Poletto Translated by Dominic Tomas
Introduction by Alessandra Di Maio Foreword by Alain Mabanckou
Life and a Half: A Novel Kaveena
Sony Labou Tansi Boubacar Boris Diop
Translated by Alison Dundy Translated by Bhakti Shringarpure
Introduction by Dominic Tomas and Sara C. Hanaburgh
Foreword by Ayo A. Coly
Transit: A Novel
Abdourahman A. Waberi Murambi, Te Book of Bones
Translated by David Ball and Boubacar Boris Diop
Nicole Ball Translated by Fiona Mc Laughlin
Cruel City: A Novel Te Heart of the Leopard Children
Mongo Beti Wilfried N’Sondé
Translated by Pim Higginson Translated by Karen Lindo
Foreword by Dominic Tomas
Blue White Red: A Novel
Alain Mabanckou Harvest of Skulls
Translated by Alison Dundy Abdourahman A. Waberi
Foreword by Dominic Tomas Translated by Dominic TomasandJazz
PALM WINE
EMMANUEL DONGALA
Translated and with a foreword by DOMINIC THOMAS
INDIANA UNIVERSITY PRESS
Bloomington & IndianapolisTis book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Ofce of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
iupress.indiana.edu
English translation © 2017 by Indiana University Press
Original © 2003 Emmanuel Dongala
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any
means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by
any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing
from the publisher. Te Association of American University Presses’ Resolution
on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition.
Te paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the
American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper
for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48–1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Cataloging information is available from the Library of Congress.
ISBN 978-0-253-02669-9 (paperback)
ISBN 978-0-253-02675-0 (ebook)
1 2 3 4 5 22 21 20 19 18 17CONTENTS
Foreword: Harmony and Liberty or Jazz and
Palm Wine / Dominic Tomas vii
1. Te Astonishing and Dialectical Downfall
of Comrade Kali Tchikati 1
2. A Day in the Life of Augustine Amaya 23
3. Old Likibi’s Trial 31
4. Te Man 59
5. Te Ceremony 67
6. Jazz and Palm Wine 87
7. My Ghost Train 97
8. A Love Supreme 103FOREWORD
Harmony and Li b e r t y o r J a z z
and Palm Wine
Emmanuel Dongala was born in 1941 in the Congo (Brazzaville), a
former French colony that achieved independence in 1960. Tat h- is
toric moment coincided with Dongala’s decision to study in the Un- it
ed States as one of the frst African recipients of a Ford Foundation
scholarship. Tis decision, which would ultimately shape both his
professional and his literary trajectories, was very unusual at the time
given that the vast majority of francophone sub-Saharan high-school
graduates able to pursue advanced studies abroad would traditionally
travel to France. Dongala spent time in New York perfecting English,
and then studied at Oberlin College and Rutgers University, returning
to the Congo in the late 1960s. Shortly thereafer he lef once again to
complete his doctoral training as a chemist in Strasbourg, France, only
permanently settling back in the Congo as a professor at the University
Marien Ngouabi in Brazzaville in the 1970s.
Te Congo’s political history has proved to be a turbulent one,
and the country has been witness to multiple coups d’états and coup
attempts following independence on August 16, 1960. Fulbert Youlou
served as the frst president and was followed shortly thereafer by
Alphonse Massamba-Debat (1963–68), who implemented a scientifc
socialist line. He was replaced by Marien Ngouabi in 1968, who p- ro
claimed a People’s Republic only to be assassinated in 1977. Joachim
vii
viii | Foreword
Yhombi-Opango was then appointed to head an interim government.
With the exception of a transition period between 1992 and 1997 that
included a national conference and during which time the country
held its frst democratic elections (the ofce of the presidency was held
by Pascal Lissouba), Denis Sassou-Nguesso has been the country’s -un
1challenged dictator (1979–92 and 1997 to date).
During the civil confict in the late 1990s, Dongala and his f - am
2ily were able to leave the Congo and move to the United Sta Ttesi.s
was made possible through high-level diplomatic intervention by the
U.S. State Department; a number of U.S. intellectuals and politicians
with whom Dongala had established friendships and relations over the
years also mobilized immigration eforts. He was ofered a profe-ssor
ship at Simon’s Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, Massa- chu
setts, which was also hosting the great Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe
(1930–2013). As Dongala stated in an interview witNh ew York Time s
journalist Michael T. Kaufman in 1998, the civil war “was more h- orri
ble than I could have imagined as a novelist”; having said this, he was
eager to underscore how he had sufered not “because [he] was a writer
or an intellectual” but rather “like everybody did because the m- or
tars and the rockets we call Stalin’s organs kept fring on our house,
because anarchy spread and children with machine guns took what
3they wanted. It was not ideological H.”owever, Achebe, the acclaimed
author of the masterpiecTe ings Fall Apart (1958), immediately ident-i
fed the plight of the fellow author whose own international reputation
4preceded him. Achebe stated that “Neither of us had to leave. I came
afer my accident, and then things back home became so much worse.
Now every letter I get from home tells of ordinary people sufering,
5disappearing, being killed T.” is complex and entangled history has
shaped the man, the scholar, and the writer, and Dongala has ackn- owl
edged that “because of the time I had spent in America, I developed
a certain way of seeing things, a certain concept of freedom, a way of
6saying what one thought, of reading. T ” is fascinating life journey,
which has seen him crisscross the Atlantic for almost sixty years, lies
at the heart of Jazz and Palm Win.e
Te great Martinican poet Aimé Césaire famously writes iNo n
tebook of a Return to the Native Land (1939) that “my mouth shall be Foreword | ix
the mouth of those calamities that have no mouth, my voice the f - ree
7dom of those who break down in the prison holes of despa Wir.”hile
perhaps not fully embracing his esteemed predecessor’s position, and
writing in 1979 that “I am not a spokesman for the ‘people,’ I am no
one’s messenger,” Dongala nevertheless enjoys status as one of A- fri
ca’s most important writers and as someone whose writings have r- e
lentlessly featured ordinary people, concentrated on the tenuo-us rela
tionship between the individual and the collective, and explored the
8struggle to achieve forms of peaceful coexiste Inn tceh. e process, he
delivers piercing critiques of political authority, making extensiv- e re
course to humor and irony, exposing the contradictions and hyp-oc
risy of postcolonial leaders, subjecting these corrupt rulers to greater
scrutiny, and ultimately compelling readers to rethink the contours
of civil society. Tis occurs frst in his novel Un fusil dans la main,
un poème dans la poche (1974; A gun in the hand and a poem in the
pocket), in which Dongala turned his attention to the hopes and a - spi
rations of the anticolonial struggle and the subsequent broken dreams
associated with the failure and disillusionment of political in-depen
dence. Later works, Le Feu des origines (1987; Te Fire of Origins) and
Les petits garçons naissent aussi des étoiles (1998; Little Boys Come from
the Stars), reckon with the challenges of narrating history and e -stab
lishing shared memory in the face of the distortions associated with
dictatorial monolithic rule; Johnny chien mécha (n2t002; Johnny Mad
Dog) addresses African child soldiers, and more recently he considers
the social condition of African women iPhn oto de groupe au bord du
9feuve (2010; Group photo on the banks of the river).
Many if not all of these questions are exploreJad izz an nd Palm
Wine, frst published in France in 1982. Although the actual storie-s in
cluded in this collection were written at diferent historical moments,
compelling links are evident between the two parts, namely “a-n Af
rican one and one that takes place in the United States. On the one
hand ‘jazz,’ and on the other ‘palm wine’ that symbolizes an African
10facade for me.” As critic Séwanou Dabla has written in addressing
the historical interconnectedness, “from symbol to symbol,” Do-nga
la throws “a bridge over the Atlantic [. . .] reconciling two peoples
11separated by history.” Te frst part is consciously and deliberately x | Foreword
anchored in postcolonial Congo, where the book was censored until
1992, and it features protagonists who, having overcome decades o -f co
lonial exploitation, now fnd themselves wrestling in their daily lives
with a burdensome bureaucracy, oppressive legal system, and corrupt
nomenklatura.
In “Te Astonishing and Dialectical Downfall of Comrade Kali
Tchikati,” a former party leader who has fallen out of political favor
now fnds himself—much like the central protagonist in “Old L- iki
bi’s Trial” who is struggling to end a devastating drought—caught in
a confict between customary beliefs, which are ofen founded on a
belief in animate nature, and the scientifc and rational explanations
expected by the newly installed secular scientifc-Socialist or Ma
rxist12Leninist governments. Likewise, “A Day in the Life of Augustine
Amaya” features a poor market trader wrestling with the reasoning
of an oppressive state bureaucracy, and in “Te Ceremony” a young
militant endeavors to make heads or tails of the ofcial party’s rhetoric
in order to improve his own social standing. Citizens of this rapidly
mutating postcolonial society thus attempt to meet their daily sub- sis
tence needs in the face of a self-serving rapacious elite with an i - nsatia
ble appetite for power, and in a context in which paranoid leaders are
themselves entwined in a circular logic that calls for vigilant m -onitor
ing and repression mechanisms that underscore their own vulnera- bil
ity and fear of being overthrown, as the story “Te Man” powerfully
demonstrates.
Te last two stories of the collection prove to be equally unsettling
as the author navigates the unrest characteristic of the context of the
civil rights movement and violent repression of civil rights activists
in the United States during the turbulent 1960s. Tis was a time that
witnessed the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, Malcolm X in
1965, and Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Te autobiographical story
“A Love Supreme” highlights the genuine inspiration Dongala found
in John Coltrane’s music, while simultaneously ofering insights into
Dongala’s own understanding of art: “During the ’60s, I watched the
closest companions of my generation sacrifced, massacred for th-e be
liefs they held: believe me, J.C., your music upheld their faith. Tat’s
the artist’s triumph over political militants, neither trying to persuade Foreword | xi
nor to bring happiness, at times even against their will; the arti-st al
lows each individual the pleasure of self-discovery as well as t- he dis
covery of those marvelous and extraordinary things that must exist
somewhere out there in the universe . . .”
For Dongala, the pathway to harmony and the key to individual
liberty are to be found in artistic expression and creativity. In fact,
the interconnectedness between the multiple spheres exemplifed by
Africa, America, and African America are contained in the story that
bears the title of the collection itself, “Jazz and Palm Wine,” s-trategi
cally located at the intersection of the African and American spaces,
in which Dongala adopts a universal framework, bringing together
world leaders as they confront a common threat presented by in-vad
ing extraterrestrials and who accomplish reconciliation thanks to jazz
performances while consuming vast quantities of palm wine: “All of a
sudden, from everywhere around, the houses, the inside of the Earth,
from Space, the enchanting sounds of John Coltrane’s saxopho-ne re
verberated. And the creatures started bobbing their heads, their eyes
seemingly frozen. It wasn’t long before hundreds of square miles of
land were transformed into a mass of heaving bodies transfxed by a
possession-trance dance rhythm.”
As Dongala has argued, “What I think is so tragic is that almost
nowhere in Africa is there a civil society outside politics,” which means
that “it is so easy for people, even writers, to be corrupted by p-oliti
13cians,” whereas “writers should be against the powerfu Tl.”e stories
in Jazz and Palm Wine are thus of tremendous pertinence to conte-m
porary conversations on identity, race, and coexistence, providing
contextualization and a historical dimension that is ofen sorely l- ack
ing. Writers have a key role to play in reminding leaders that they are
being watched, that the citizens they are supposed to represent expect
transparency and good governance and will hold them accountable for
their actions. Tese thoughts are echoed in the words of contemporary
African authors Alain Mabanckou and Abdourahman Waberi, for
whom “the life span of a dictator can be measured by the magnitude
14of our silence.”
Dominic Tomasxii | Foreword
Notes
1. For a more detailed overview of this history, see John F. Clark, “Congo:
Transition and the Struggle to Consolidate,” in John F. Clark and David E - . Gar
dinier, eds., Political Reform in Francophone Afric (a Boulder, CO: Westview
Press, 1997), 62–85, and Dominic Tomas, Nation-Building, Propaganda, and
Literature in Francophone Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002).
2. See Julie Michaels, “Writer in ExileB,” oston Globe Magazine, February 6,
2000, 12–31, and “African Novelist and Chemist Emmanuel Dongala,” interview
by Terry Gross, Fresh Air, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?stor y
Id=1121385, April 12, 2001.
3. Michael T. Kaufman, “Arts Abroad: Refections on African War, from a
Haven in the U.S.,” New York Time, Ms ay 7, 1998.
4. Emmanuel Dongala has received numerous literary awards, including
the Prix Ladislas-Dormandi, Prix Charles Oulmont, Grand Prix Littéraire de
l’Afrique Noire, Prix RFI-Témoin du Monde, Prix Fonlon-Nichols de l’e-xcel
lence littéraire, Prix Virilio, Prix Ahmadou Kourouma, Prix Cezam, and the
Prix Mokanda.
5. Chinua Achebe quoted in Kaufman, “Arts Abroad.”
6. Interview with the author, Brazzaville (Republic of the Congo), December
21 and 22, 1994.
7. Aimé Césaire, Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, translated by A-n
nette Smith and Clayton Eshleman (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press,
2001 [1939]), 13.
8. Emmanuel Dongala, “Littérature et société: Ce que je croiPs,e” uples noirs,
Peuples africains, no. 9 (May–June 1979): 63.
9. Emmanuel Dongala U, n fusil dans la main, un poème dans la poche (Paris:
Albin Michel, 1974), Le Feu des origines (Paris: Albin Michel, 1987)T, e Fire of
Origins, translated by Lilian Corti and Yuval Taylor (Chicago: Lawrence Press,
2000), Les petits garçons naissent aussi des étoiles (Le Serpent à Plumes, 1998),
Little Boys Come from the Stars t, ranslated by Joël Réjouis and Val Vinokurov
(New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001), Johnny, chien méchan (tParis: Le
Serpent à Plumes, 2002), Johnny Mad Dog, translated by Maria Louise Ascher
(New York: Picador, 2005), and Photo de groupe au bord du feuve (Arles: Actes
Sud, 2010).
10. Interview with the author.
11. Séwanou Dabla, Jazz et vin de palme de Emmanuel Boundzéki Dongala
(Paris: Fernand Nathan, 1986), 56.
12. Troughout, the infuence of Kongo culture is tangible. For exhaustive
studies of Kongo religious cosmology and political culture, see Wyatt MacGafey,
Modern Kongo Prophets: Religion in a Plural Society (Bloomington: Indiana Un-i
versity Press, 1983), and Kongo Political Culture: Te Conceptual Challenge of the
Particular (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000), and Simon Bockie,
Death and the Invisible Powers: Te World of Kongo Belief (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1993).