Calixthe Beyala: Performances of Migration (Contemporary by Nicki Hitchcott

By Nicki Hitchcott

The main profitable woman author from Francophone Africa, Calixthe Beyala occupies an strange position in French literary and pop culture. Her novels are bestsellers and she or he seems usually on French tv, but a conviction for plagiarism has tarnished her acceptance. hence, she is either an “authentic” African writer and a confirmed literary “fake.” In Calixthe Beyala, Nicki Hitchcott considers representations of Beyala within the media, serious responses to her writing, and Beyala’s efforts to put herself as a champion of women’s rights. Hitchcott will pay equivalent realization to Beyala’s novels, tracing their explorations of the position of migration within the construction of private identification.

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It is, however, difficult to reconcile Beyala’s apparently willing participation in this normalization of colonial discourse with either her fictional writings or her role as prominent campaigner for equality of representation. On the one hand, Beyala’s TV performances could be read as nothing more than a strategic quest for stardom. Indeed, her different incarnations reveal her to be a competent performer, playing to the images created for her by the French media. However, such a game could have very serious implications for the representation of ethnic minorities – and black women in particular – on television in France.

Calixthe Beyala Incorporated? 21 literature was reborn in the 1980s, in the light of changing attitudes to immigration in contemporary France. 19 Although, in the interview with Matateyou, Beyala claims that the ‘message’ of her novels is primarily aimed at an African audience, sales of her novels confirm Jules-Rosette’s conclusion that Beyala’s target audience is, in fact, Parisian. Not only are Beyala’s novels published in France by the highly successful, commercial French publisher Albin Michel, but three of them have appeared in English translation in Heinemann’s prestigious African Writers Series (AWS).

48), words which, from the memory of a child are surely anything but erotic. Here I would suggest that Beyala is demonstrating the way in which young boys have already been indoctrinated into seeing girls as objects to be manipulated (‘pétrir’), attacked (‘investir’) and overcome (‘dévorer’). indd 28 27/9/06 12:55:06 Calixthe Beyala Incorporated? 48 Ironically, his own interpretation reflects the tendency among critics to (mis)read the sex scenes in Beyala’s fiction as erotic titillation rather than political statements, a tendency encouraged by the book industry’s promotion of Calixthe Beyala as an erotic-exotic object in France.

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