Reading of the week: Such a long letter - Mariama Bâ (Ed. 1979)

Reading of the week: Such a long letter - Mariama Bâ (Ed. 1979)


After Thepurple hibiscus (details here), the reading of the week (Une si longue lettre - Mariama Bâ) takes us for this issue in African society where the author examines in an epistolary style the conditions of women and the weight of traditional society that weighs on them. In many African societies, women must live in silence the pangs of men's infidelity since customs and traditions offer them largesse which they abuse. They are forced to endure for several reasons, whether it be the eyes of society, children and why not, love, perhaps believing a return to reason for the spouse.

Provided by Mariama BÂ

In his novel “Such a long letter”Published in 1979 in New African Editions and translated into more than 25 languages, the first Senegalese woman writer Mariama BÂ (click here to discover the authore) depicts with his pen using words with unique flavors the place occupied by women in our society despite her efforts at independence and her feelings in the face of her spouse's infidelity. At the heart of the reading of the week, Ramatoulaye, the main character of this epistolary novel is the archetype of the African woman who sees the collapse of a sand castle, twenty-five years of life together following the infidelity of her husband. It is the genesis of the shattering of a string of events as unfortunate as they are happy.

The story in brief

Ramatoulaye is a woman destroyed and bruised by her husband's infidelity. In a long letter written during her period of widowhood, she tells her friend Aïssatou who has experienced a situation similar to hers, her experience since the infidelity of her spouse.

Young teacher married very early, beautiful girl and exemplary sister-in-law, she knew how to arm herself with patience and tolerance to support her beautiful family. After twenty-five years of marriage, concretized by the birth of magnificent children, she saw the sky fall on her head, her world change one Sunday at dusk when she learned from the mouths of the emissaries sent by her husband that he was taking a second wife.

“Modou thanks you (…) God has given him a second wife; he can't help it, ”his brother-in-law told him.

And for the coup de grace, his co-wife is none other than the best friend of his eldest daughter who regularly came home to prepare for the Baccalaureate.

In spite of the dissatisfaction of several and especially of her eldest daughter “Break up mom, chase this man (…), I don't see you arguing over a man with a girl of my age”; Rama at the foot of the wall made a retro on herself:

“My thinness had disappeared (…), the youth deserted my body, no illusion possible”.

She knows she's not the only one in this mess. She thinks of women:

“Your case Aïssatou, the case of many other despised, relegated or exchanged women, from whom we parted like a worn out or old-fashioned boubou”.

She looked for excuses for her husband as if to defend him or understand him:

“Madness or spinelessness? Lack of heart or irresistible love? (…) To marry Binétou? ”

She got lost between her feelings of “Leaving? to start over ? (…) This responsibility, both moral and material? ” ; and his faults:

“I try to identify my faults in the failure of my marriage (…), I anticipated his every wish.”

She then made a difficult decision:

“And, to the astonishment of my family, unanimously disapproved of by my children influenced by Daba, I choose to stay.”

Against all odds, she is holding on despite her husband, the one she almost idolized, has deserted the marital home and resigned from his role as father:

“He did not come any more (…), He forgot us. In addition to my old responsibilities, I assumed those of Modou. ”

Despite her situation, she pitied her co-wife Binétou who was forced into marriage by her mother to get out of poverty:

“But what can a child do in front of her mother (…) her thirst for life?” (…) “Binétou is a lamb slain (…) on the altar of material.”

Rama was not at the end of her troubles when she learned that her husband was admitted to the emergency room. On her arrival, she learned the sad news of the death of her husband already covered with the white sheet that separates him from this world. She complied with the rites of widowhood and strengthened herself for her children in order to instill in them the necessary strength to cross this new stage.

Even carried away by the pale horse, Modou continued to hurt her. While updating the assets and debts left by the deceased, she measured with fear, the extent of her husband's betrayal. Died penniless, Modou mortgaged the house where she lives with their children, this nest of sad and joyful memories, to provide luxury accommodation for his young wife. Had it not been for the help of her son-in-law, she would find herself on the street.

The last straw was his brother-in-law's proposal to become his wife. She vehemently refused and will follow the procession of potential husbands. She remained true to her convictions despite internal and external pressures:

“My truth is that despite everything, I remain true to the love of my youth.”

In the meantime, Rama guided her children as best she could through their teenage years when they discovered each other. She had to support her daughter who became pregnant during her schooling and reframe her “trio” on smoking.

A book to savor this week

Want to feed your mind with a few pages of a classic of early African and feminist literature, this week's reading gives you a foretaste of such a long and beautiful letter signed by the pioneer Mariama Bâ. (click here for a brief bibliography)

Let's go discover, experience and feel the feelings of Ramatoulaye, this woman who could take the face of your wife, mother, sister or neighbor.


A trained mechanic, Yabo TODEDJRAPOU never stays far from her greatest passion, reading. Devourer of various books, she invites you to share her readings and other articles every Tuesday.


  1. David Agbla
    24 February 2023

    Résumé :Trahison dans une si lettre

  2. […] Following Une si longue lettre, the reading of the week takes us for this issue in a complex Africa. The author […]


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.