Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote (Ivory Coast)

book coverby Ahmadou Kourouma

A perfect allegory for post-colonial African horror. I must admit, I am getting tired of reading paeons to hunting. I just don’t see hunter-gatherer societies in a romanticized, perfect way. I think killing animals is just the same as killing other tribes–bereft of compassion, and somehow evil. What’s wrong with roots and berries anyway?!

Well, the African dictator of this imaginary country is feted wherever he goes and treated to storytelling about his past, supposedly glorious deeds which of course include the brutal murder of “monsters” like cobras and pythons and jaguars. Ugh.

Not that what he’s doing to his own human people is any better, of course.

Several distasteful events in his past are described, including his father’s courtship of his mother ( a stylized, culturally-accepted “rape” in which the woman is expected to fight and struggle.)

Great Parts of This Book–And There Are Many

It was interesting to read about the Naked People of the mountains–the Paleo people who probably ate better than we modern descendants and who carry on the Old Way of life…

Ivory CoastI especially liked how four different dictators of four African dictatorships took the hero of this book under their respective wings and taught him important lessons in how to hang onto power during the Cold War. Whatever you do, you have to placate the Western powers by being staunchly anti-Communist–it doesn’t matter if or how you oppress your own people or rob the state. (I recognized ONE of the dictators as an obvious Colonel Moahmar Quaddafi.)

The sarcasm and irony in this book is irresistible. The lessons of the dictators are appalling, yet you can see their effects in post-colonial Africa even today. The history and culture of the Paleo people has much to recommend it, and it is a shame to see it being thrown away in favor of French-ness.

I think if you’re trying to understand what’s happened in Africa, especially in the 1980s, this novel is a great start.

Enjoyable and appalling.