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colonialism, post-colonialism
Written and spoken word (general)
Europe, Western
Belgium, France, Switzerland
created on:
April 28, 2005
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If there are biographies which give a sense of a patchwork identity then it is like the one of Sandrine Bessora van Nguema, better known under her artistic name of Bessora. She was born in 1968 in Belgium, her father came from Gabon, her mother from Switzerland. She grew up in Africa, Europe and the USA. She gained her first degree in Switzerland and is presently living in Paris where she is preparing a dissertation in anthropology.
Already with her first two books, Bessora made a name for herself internationally. Both books appeared with Le Serpent à Plumes, the Parisian publisher which has some of the most exciting new voices amongst its authors. Alongside Bessora, books have also appeared here by Alain Patrice Nganang, Alain Mabanckou and other young writers which reflect the heritage and the products of the French colonial history and with this reach for drastic measures in language. A liking has been acquired for her not only in France where, alongside Calixthe Beyala, who comes from Cameroon, she influences the picture of the quite glamorous African female writers, but also in the USA. Her novels already belong to the reading matter at universities due to this influence.

Bessora’s stories aren’t just well-spiced, they’re hot. Her debut novel ´53 cm´ from 1999: the measurement is the size of the rear of the protagonist, a young mother who immigrated to France and is looking for a residence permit. The author writes with this satire, in which she attacks a society which has lost any sense of orientation and proves itself as completely over-challenged with the integration of immigrants, in the burlesque tradition of Alfred Jarry and Raymond Queneau. With this, as is usual in satires, the background is a more serious one: the racism of bureaucracies and a large measure of intolerance. ´Gallologie´ is how Bessora ironically calls this form of literary research: the knowledge of the nature of the Gauls.

Her second novel ´Les taches d’encre´ which was published only one year later is also spicy: "10.00 pm: Bianca pees but can’t manage a shit. 10.27 pm: still nothing, despite a glycerine suppository. 10.28 pm: Bianca flushes. ´It’s not so bad´, she thinks, ´then I’ll just take a fuca and shit tomorrow morning.´" With which the vulgarity of the style doesn’t forget the social critique even here. Bessora follows the chosen path in her burlesque critique on racism and is not afraid of declaring the legendary colonialism theorist and critic, Frantz Fanon, as one of her spiritual fathers – in which she names a fish after him in the novel. She often interrupts the plot to challenge the reader, in the style of TV advertising, not to close the book.

In April 2002, Bessora received the Prix Fénéon for ´Les Taches d’encre´, which is placed somewhere between a thriller and neo-realism.
Author: International Festival of Literature Berlin (ilb)


Deux bébés et l´addition

Published Written,
Le Serpent à Plumes: Paris

Les Taches d´encre

Published Written,
Le Serpent à Plumes: Paris

53 cm

Published Written,
Le Serpent à Plumes: Paris


International Festival of Literature Berlin