The literary community commemorates the 70th anniversary of the first Congolese novel. The French Institute of Congo (IFC) in Pointe-Noire hosted the celebration of Congolese literature on Saturday, November 18. In 1953, Congolese author Jean Malonga published his debut novel, paving the way for other writers who have since contributed to the renowned Congolese literary landscape.
Titled “Cœur d’arienne,” Jean Malonga’s inaugural novel is considered the cornerstone of Congolese literature. Blaise Bilombo Samba, a poet, has extensively explored this masterpiece, describing it as a fabulous tale of love between a young white girl from Ouesso (in the north) and a young African navigator. Samba notes the complexity of the narrative, set against the backdrop of colonization, adding depth to the storytelling.
Following “Cœur d’arienne” in 1953, Jean Malonga penned his second novel three years later, titled “La légende de Mfumu Mamazono.” Subsequently, other notable authors emerged, including Letembet Ambili, Guy Menga, Henri Lopes, Maxime Ndebeka, Tchicaya Utam-Si, Sony Labou Tansi, and Dominique Ngoï Ngala, contributing to the rich tapestry of Congolese literature.
Over seven decades, Congolese literature has gained prominence in three genres, as highlighted by Blaise Bilombo Samba: “Congolese literature has excelled in the realms of novels, poetry, and theatre. Writers born in the 1930s and 1940s have built what we call the spirit of the Congolese literary brotherhood. There was no distance between the young writers we were and the elders who held all the notoriety of continental literature,” he reflects.
Some, like Alain Mabankou, have achieved international renown, signaling a promising future for Congolese literature, as noted by Blaise Bilombo Samba. The 70th-anniversary celebration stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of Jean Malonga’s groundbreaking work and the ongoing contributions of Congolese writers to the global literary landscape.