AntiColonialism and Affirmation of Nationalism

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This paper seeks to how deep Oyono goes insofar as anti-colonialism and affirmation of nationalism is concerned. Essentially, the novel is a narration of the story of a young black boy. The boy runs away from his tribal village captivated by the lifestyles of the white, and ultimately adopted by a Dangan missionary white priest, Father Gilbert. He receives education from the priest, and begins recording all his experiences, thinks and sees vis-a-vis his life as a young black servant in colonial Africa. When father Gilbert passes on due to an accident in the bush, the boy becomes the colony’s “Boy” of the commandant (Assah, 2005:452). The Boy serves the whites at their opulent city, Residence, and lives in the Black Quarters (Quartier Noir), thus has a vintage point of observing all things around him, consequently seeing the truth about white. His illusion and admiration for whites slowly fades away. Oyono uses a transparent and simple incident where Toundi sees the Commandant naked, realizing he is not circumcised. This incidents act as an illustration of how the boy starts to strip away the grandeur and nobility o the whites. Through Toundi, the reader sees how different societies co-exist forcefully and blinded by the “other” stereotypes. … Une vie de boy is a recount of the tribulations of Toundi in his father’s house and later with colonialists in Dangan, an imaginary town in Cameroon. The novel exposes the violence of African fathers and the brutality of French colonialists in a realistic manner, particularly evident from the foregrounding the protagonist’s tragic trajectory. The author presents Toundi as a problematic and picaresque protagonist, prone to ‘ambiguous adventure’, dispossession, and lacking a sense rootedness as he transverses between the colonial ghettos and the colonial centre (Nnolim, 2010:13). Interestingly, he cannot appropriate in the colonial centres, and only spends precarious nights in the hovel of his brother-in-law. The population in the colonial slums has two principal division criteria: an illusionary western glamour and mythical traditional Africa. Moreover, the slums are susceptible to dispossession, exclusion, and night raid by colonial police officers. The characters struggle to retain remnants of their indigenous values while simultaneously working to sustain the colonial rule. For Toundi, his innocence paves way to shock, then disenchantment, departure and ultimately death, beyond the realms of locality. The novel, however, shows some appreciation of colonialism. This is especially with reference to the protagonist who acknowledges his indebtedness to Father Gilbert for his literacy and appropriation on the practice of keeping diaries (Assah, 2005:456). This is evident in the diary’s opening sentence. This introduces the issue of discursive and language formations, in which the postcolonial theory appropriating the discussion of the ambivalent and delicate power relations established by the author between imperial and local languages. Moreover,