Here at Better Breed we aim to encourage and inspire Cameroonian youth to believe in their worth and ability to achieve. What better way to do so than give recognition to those who have achieved and are achieving. Tomorrow is World Book and Copyright Day, so we thought to have our very first Top Ten Tuesday. Here are the top ten classic books you should have read or at least know of as a literate Cameroonian.
- Because of Women by Mbela Sone Dipoko
This is rated R. If you are below the age of 18 please avoid this book. Because of Women published in 1968 is a signature work of the late Mr Dipoko who was known for his graphic sex scenes. The novel narrates the circumstances of a fisherman who has difficulty choosing between two potential wives, spoilt for choice and unable to reign himself in nor decipher between desires and needs. The British publishing house Heinemann initially balked at publishing the novel because of the explicit sex it contained. All in all it goes down in our history as a book to know and name.
- Genuine Intellectuals by Bernard Fonlon
Written by whom we now call the Socrates of Cameroon, this book is like Plato’s The Republic, only geared towards higher education in developing countries, particularly Cameroon. It’s a treatise on what universities ought to serve the youth. I would definitely recommend it as a standard text in all higher institutes in Cameroon.
- Mission Termine/ Mission to Kala by Mongo Beti
Published in 1957, this was one of the first Cameroonian books to receive wide acclaim. Mission to Kala follows the misadventures of a young man who just failed the Baccalaureate exams and has to return to the village. It has been a school text in and out of time. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s like saying you’re Cameroonian and not knowing the how many provinces/regions there are
- L’Intérieur de la nuit/Dark Heart of Night by Leonora Miano This is one is still on my “to read list” to be honest. But the reviews make it worth noting. The book brought Cameroon to the literary limelight after years of silence by its winning 2006 Prix Goncourt des Lycéens. Leonara has gone on to win the Prix Femina in 2013 for her La saison de l’ombre. Note her if you ever have to boast about Cameroon fiction *insert wink and laugh here*.
- Prisoner without a Crime by Albert Mukong
This non-fiction narrative of Mukong’s unlawful imprisonment under the Ahidjo regime is a necessary read for every Cameroonian who has ever wondered what our prison system like and just how shady our politics is. I give it four stars.
- Foot Prints of Destiny by Azanwi Nchami
I read this book when I was 12 it was the English text for a cousin of mine at the University of Yaounde. It was the first book I had ever finished by a Cameroonian author. If I can still remember the title and how the book made me feel, you should know it’s something special. Plus it taught me what my history teacher did not; details of the lives of our nationalist leaders Martin Paul Samba and Rudolf Douala Manga Bell.
- Whiteman Of God by Kenjo Jumbam
If you did not read this as a school text, please go find it and read before you disgrace yourself. A Cameroonian who does not know of this book (particularly an Anglophone Cameroonian) is akin to the Nigerian who does not know of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. This novel of vividly portrays the turbulence which came with the missionaries in colonial Cameroon.
- Lake God and Other Plays by Bole Botake
A drama but still a riveting one. Bole Botake is an undisputable patriarch in Cameroon literature. If you have not read this one, you ought to have read at least one of his works (I also suggest The Rape of SAWA)
- C’est le soleil qui m’a brûlée/The Sun Hath Looked Upon Me by Calixthe Beyala
This work by Calixthe Beyala is particularly hailed by feminist critics for its frank representation of young female prostitute’s travails in a Cameroonian slum. More recent work from Beyala includes How to Cook Your Husband the African Way which should be arriving my library any week from now… Don’t beg. I’ll give you the details 😉
- The Old Man and The Medal by Ferdinand Oyono
Whether Francophone or Anglophone, you should know of this man, this book in particularly. It is “unCameroonian” of you not to if you so much as completed secondary education. Full stop, no arguments.
Please note this list is far from exclusive or conclusive. It is my top ten (Monique Kwachou, writing for Better Breed Journal). Several Cameroonian writers with classics such as Werewere Liking, Bate Besong Patrice Nganang etc were not noted here. They exist. And more rescently established writers like Joyce Ahuntantang, Donna Forbin, Takwi Mathew, and Abety Gwandi are also noteworthy. Those who say Cameroonians don’t read should be warned of the dangers of a single story; we have a rich culture. Be proud and be the Better Breed. Peace.