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Literature: Dominique Barbéris recounts the city of Douala in his latest novel awarded by the French Academy

by Theophile
Dominique Barbéris recounts the city of Douala in his latest novel awarded by the French Academy

In recent days, Dominique Barbéris, 65, has been touring the sets to present her latest book entitled “A way of loving”, with which she has just won the Grand novel prize of the French Academy.

In each of her interviews, the French novelist does not hesitate to tell about Douala, where her father worked in the 1950s. Dominique Barbéris was also born in this city in 1958, just a few years before the end of the French mandate.

I had been thinking about writing about Cameroon for a long time. It was the death of my father that pushed me to complete this project which was suspended,” she confided on the set of France 24. She continues: “I had the feeling that the traces of what he had experienced in Cameroon in the 1950s with my mother, who had joined him, were going to disappear.

It is therefore to resurrect all these legends and stories that his father told about Douala, that Dominique Barbéris decided to dedicate his eleventh novel to this Douala which has long disappeared under the weight of the cosmopolitan city that has become the economic capital of Cameroon. For this editorial project, the novelist chooses to proceed with an investigation to go back in time using her father’s stories, yellowed photos of her parents, etc. She warns, however, that “A Way of Loving” is not a historical book. Especially since Madeleine Le Tellec, its heroine, is a fictional character.

Whatever the case, this novel is an ode to Douala, to Cameroon, “this magnificent country”, according to the testimony of Dominique Barbéris. She confesses that she has sprinkled her novel with all these places whose evocation continues to inhabit her: the monkey wood, the Wouri river, the virgin forest which surrounded the city at that time… without forgetting this atmosphere mixed by the demands for independence which punctuated the lives of Cameroonians in the 1950s.

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