Monday, September 09, 2019

Chad: The Plagues of Friendship, by Sem Miantoloum Beasnael

Chad was not an easy country from which to find a book to read. Eventually I came across this novel, and it took me a while to get through it. I read part way, and abandoned it for a while, then came back to it, at which point I had lost track of the plot enough that I started again.

The second time was easier, perhaps because I was better prepared for the fact that the English was not that great, and that there were plenty of rants about the corruption of Africans in positions of authority. The problem with the English is that the book was written in English, by someone for whom English is not his native language, even though he had higher education in America. I suspect it would have flowed better if it had been written in his native tribal tongue (of which it appears that there are a multitude in Chad) and then translated by a competent translator. An example of an error which totally changed the meaning "emphasise" when it appeared that what was meant was "empathise".

The story is supposedly told by one Nainlaou initially, but then transitions into being a written account delivered to him as told by his friend Njeleulem. However I found it hard at times to follow whose perspective was currently being told. Nainlaou, Njeleulem and Ngarbel, among others, attend school together, grow up, obtain scholarships to study in various foreign countries and return to Africa to obtain positions in various government and development organisations. Apart from that there is not a lot of plot in the sense of a true narrative arc, more of a collection of events along the way. In the book's favour, it does reveal quite a bit about Chadian culture, both in tribal villages and in the cities. There is eventually, a denouement of sorts, although it comes suddenly and rather unexpectedly - I couldn't see enough foundations laid to make the ending a coherent outcome, and it was somewhat depressing (no spoilers, though all is revealed in the blurb on the back cover).

All in all, it's not a book that I would particularly choose to read if there had been other choices available, but it could perhaps have been redeemed by some really good editing. I suspect it was self-published - I haven't heard of the publisher, 1stBooks (United States).

Sem Miantoloum Beasnael was born in Doha, Chad in 1948. He trained as a high school teacher and taught in Chad before undertaking post graduate studies in Ghana. In 1989 he went to Dallas Theological Seminary (USA) and while in the United States also graduated from the Writer's Digest School. He taught African literature and culture in Dallas, and also taught French, philosophy, history and geography, before returning to Chad to help found the Evangelical University of Chad.

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