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Book: Franco-Cameroonian Léonora Miano deciphers “the white man’s problem” in her new essay

by Theophile
Léonora Miano

Léonora Miano has been on sets and interviews since the release of her new essay “The Opposite of Whiteness”, published by Editions of Seuil in October 2023.

In this book, the Franco-Cameroonian novelist and essayist deciphers what she calls it “the white man’s problem.” Terminology that has intrigued public opinion in recent weeks. Speaking of this reflection, Léonora Miano explains to Mathieu Magnaudeix on a Mediapart web show that it is “pure playfulness on my part to have presented it like that in France. I know my compatriots well and I knew it would tickle them.”

The first critics speak of “a relentless demonstration of the devastation caused by the domination of a racist West over people it designated as black, the opposite of itself.” A way of reading this essay that the author undoubtedly shares if we stick to what she said on Mediapart: “the white problem is the way in which the favorable racialization to which whites are subject to throughout history has been able to affect them.

Clearly, for Léonora Miano, racialization is violence to the extent that it fractures humankind. “We cannot emerge unscathed, neither for black nor for white,” underlines the author of “The Opposite of Whiteness”. A reason for her to commit this essay and above all to defend this reflection with the avowed aim of migrating towards a society in which any symbolic and political meaning linked to skin color is excluded.

This ideal cannot be constructed without false pretence, as the Franco-Cameroonian explained to the French daily Le Monde: “one day we should succeed in dismissing this question of race, not by evacuating it, not by forgetting it but by confronting it.” She adds at Mediapart that “we must look at how this whiteness has been produced since the Middle Ages and the colonial conquests”.

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At 50, Léonora Miano is one of the greatest contemporary writers in the French-speaking world. She is better known for her major distinctions: in 2006 she won the Goncourt des lycéens with her novel “Contours du jour qui passe”, in 2013 she won the Femina with “La saison de l’ombre”. She also won the Grand Literary Prize of Black Africa and the Medicis. Léonora Miano, who currently lives in Togo, has also tried her hand at all genres.

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