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« Citizen Democracy in Cameroon | Main | Roundabout »

Sunday, 21 March 2010


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Dr Vakunta,

Beautiful poem.
You are a trained translator.
I understand a little bit about poetic license.
I also understand a bit about French grammar.
I understand a bit about the "accord": when conjugating a verb in the second person singular (accueillir), the verb ceratinly takes an "s".
I have the feeling that the first line of your poem is a translation of pidgin "... that my country".
I also have misgivings about "les bras croisés en guise de spectateurs" (spectateurs coming after en guise de?).

Of course, I stand corrected on all scores.


Bueaman, I am a little confused here about appreciating and editing. You praise to demolish, the old tried and tested narrative. It's not necessary establishing your authority to appreciate the poem. Simply present the facts and we will follow you... if it is about "I" then let "I" take up the pen or the keyboard. Bate Besong's spirit and inspiration is still alive in Buea. Drink from it, Bueaman, and we readers will be awake to your epistle. That said, if I were you, I would edit the poem (which is never a work of art that's set in stone unless the poet says so), and send the edited version personally to the poet. He will be grateful. You can find Vakunta's e-mail online or contact him through facebook. He's also got a fan page.

To conclude, there's nothing wrong with two professionals working together to grow Cameroon writing. No matter our qualifications we can't know every bit in any every discipline. That's why Obama has so many expert advisers... That's why writers need editors and literary agents if they can afford them. The very thought that one person can know everything in a discipline, or even a five line haiku, sends currents through one's body. You bring very keen knowledge to bear on the structure of the poem, and that is great. I appreciate that about your effort. But let's be humble, so we don't appear like all-knowing witch-doctors, as most Camerounian cum Cameroonian scholars of Law, Humanities, and the Social Sciences pretend. Humility and modesty is the very basis for learning and genuine intellectualism.

To end, I call to mind the example of one "professor"-cum-administrator at UBEA who almost made those of us that took his course years ago, to believe that his scholarship in his field was so complete and his erudition almost socratic - his, having been the most rigorous doctorat defense in the history of English-speaking scholarship in Yaounde as were made to learn. We did learn lots of three to five syllable terms from his gushing rhetoric though. Years later, most of his students however failed to find the beef that underlay the smoke he produced... I suppose that tactic works very well with Bi Mvondo whose seminary sugar-cube story was and has not still been placed in its proper symbolic context.

Let there be poems! Let there be novels! Let there be translations! Let there be critical works! And let a thousand editors and translators humbly join hands to dissect and reconstruct good literary works of art!

Let Southern Cameroon be Ireland!

If soldiers like the late Maman Vatsa could work with Bate Besong to produce poetry, why not two translators who probably know each other?


One last thing: I'm not aware of the population of "English"-speaking Cameroonians that actually think in English as native English speakers would. I think most think through a combination of thought-languages and processes that need to be laboratory tested.

However, I make no qualms that I think in pidgin and several languages of African origin, for I find no advantage in thinking British or French or in European languages, though these other languages are not excluded in one's thought processes.

Our hybridity is an asset and not a setback - the question is how to derive the fullest advantage of this hybridity - to express oneself and broach novel thought frontiers in a way that monolingual or bilingual speakers cannot. If this is the point you're making, then I fully agree with you on this count.

If it's a question of writing like Verlaine, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Victor Hugo, etc, then we're taking about something else...

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