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Toundi Ondoua the rural African protagonist of Houseboy encounters a world of prisms that cast beautiful but unobtainable glimmers especially for a black youth in colonial Cameroon Houseboy written in the form of Toundi's captivating diary and translated from the original French discloses his awe of the white world and a web of unpredictable experiences Early on he escapes his father's angry blows by seeking asylum with his benefactor the local European priest who meets an untimely death Toundi then becomes the Chief European's 'boy' the dog of the King Toundi's attempt to fulfill a dream of advancement and improvement opens his eyes to troubling realities Gradually preconceptions of the Europeans come crashing down on him as he struggles with his identity his place in society and the changing culture

10 thoughts on “Une vie de boy

  1. says:

    I feel as if I've been in the presence of an underrated African classic Cameroonian novelist and diplomat Oyono was visiting Guinea during the time it was the colony Spanish Guinea when he came across one of his countrymen Later he would be given the diary or exercise book of Toundi a houseboy on the run He translated the book from its original language Ewondo stating that he tried to keep the richness of the original language without letting it get in the way of the story itselfI enjoyed reading this book written in diary form because of the guileless storytelling the book gives you such breathtaking story without trying to evoke a certain feeling from you the reader Although it is such a short read there was so much descriptive language within the dialogue and narrative from Toundi that you end up knowing so much in just a few pages Each of the many characters have specific roles to playIt is a tragic story about love betrayal and social injustice

  2. says:

    This novel which was written decades ago is haunting and very powerful evoking the colonial situation in black Africa in the past It is very funny and very sombre and sad at the same time The protagonist the main narrator is naïve and fascinated by the gleam of white life and privilege to use a word gleam beloved by the great Ayi Kwei Armah Toundi believes great vistas are opening up for him by being the houseboy of one of the white colonial administrators The author brilliantly explores the whole scenario evoking the raw basic humanity in people across colours and race Here we have discrimination prejudice lust and infidelity; and the cruelty personified by the police and penal system The protagonist actually witnesses a horrific beating uptorture by the penal agents that tragically presages his own demise As Toundi revels and in the white man's secrets he seals his won doom in the processFor example Toundi is initially fascinated with the wife of his master of this later but soon realises that apart from being a mere human too despite her white colour she is actually worthless and sleeps around extravagantly Being aware of such a secret is of course dangerous though the irony is that it is no secret at all When we see Toundi's white master implying that the boy smells badly it mirrors the sentiment of the black girl lover of a whiteman who complains about the smell of her white boyfriend Being white of course the lover boy is not too anxious to let the world know about his black girlfriend and does not trust her fidelity at all In the end our narrator finds himself in an awkward situation though in no way culpable he is arrested by the system and viciously worked oversoon to die or less like a dogThere is a memorable passage in this work that reflects how much Toundi initially worshipped the whites; when he first meets the wife of his master and she awkwardly shakes his hand Hear him I have held the hand of my ueenfrom now on my hand is sacredmy hand belongs to my ueen whose hair is the colour of ebony whose skin is pink and white as ivory A shudder ran through me at the touch of her handher smile is refreshing as a spring of water Her look is as warm as a ray from the setting sun This passage is at the same time funny serious and tragic It rather encapsulates Toundi as his life hurtles towards implacable disasterbohloko

  3. says:

    full review

  4. says:

    A beautifully written book that tells a story that moves from one point to the other effortlessly with deep contextualization of imperial Cameroon and the African condition; mainly embedded in the dialogues It is an easy read that exposes the absurdities and brutalities of colonizers in Africa and the world Europeans created for themselves in Africa almost cocooned It also shows the progression of the main character from being in awe of the colonizers and at times feeling different to or separate from other Africans to his journey of eye opening and discovery through reflecting on the body language of his masters and the various incidents that occur that wake him up to the realities of how the African is really seen by the colonizeer

  5. says:

    I'm having a bit of a hard time rating this one Toundi's story is troubling but engaging The things that Toundi accepts as just a part of life as a black boy in Cameroon during this time period is sad and frustrating The malice and pettiness that impacts Toundi's daily life from a young age made me want to grind my teeth just reading the descriptions The story is told well but the ending is pretty abrupt There is that I would have like to have gotten in order for the story to come full circle I kind of understand why it ended the way it did because Toundi was unable to continue the diary but man I would like to have gotten the last leg of the journey for Toundi Yet I am very glad to have read this story Full review to come

  6. says:

    Book 29 of the African Writer's Series depicts the despotic cruel treatment of native Cameroonians in French Cameroun the former League of Nations's mandate The perspective is that of Toundi The book is in the form of a diary although the reading is fluid like a novel is Toundi left home as soon as he could do so and a priest Father Gilbert sheltered him Eventually the solitary Commandant hires him as his Houseboy The former is rough but eventually softens his attitude to Toundi and approves of him After a long while the Commandant's beautiful wife arrives and settles in the house Initially unbeknown to the Commandant her secret tryst becomes the beginning of the end for Toundi

  7. says:

    French colonials could be awfully nastySince I knew this already I didn't come away with any new insights from this book nor was I especially moved by the prose Perhaps Oyono's work almost seems cliche nowadays which is certainly not his fault As one of the founders of the negritude movement Oyono deserves props for being one of the early writers of the colonial experience from a native perspective I do wish that the female character was better developed She was simply nasty rather than a fully fleshed character who might have some redeeming ualities

  8. says:

    A journal written in Ewondo the indigenous language of the Maka translated by its founder into French Through a young boy's eyes the reader gets a glimpse into the conseuences of the colonial world as it touches Cameroon Pay close attention to notions of propriety whiteness violence sight and knowledge and secret forms of resistance through music feigning understanding feigning incomprehension etc This novel is very written with subtlety making it a compelling and challenging read

  9. says:

    Another world fiction challenge book my fourth in a month; I'm overdosed on these right now and need to take a breakThis novella is purportedly the diary of a Cameroonian houseboy actually a young man though we never learn his age which as it is fiction of course doesn't read like any real diary ever written He becomes the servant of a powerful colonist learns about the whites than they're comfortable having him know and it turns out badly for him This book was originally published in 1956 when Cameroon was still a French colony and no doubt caused a stir at the time and has historical value for that reasonEh I could give some analysis of this book the simple and abrupt writing style at least in translation the story that focuses on the day to day activities of the white employers so than the narrator's inner life or feelings but it boils down to another this book has some academic value but otherwise isn't likely to be of much interest unless you're from the area review I am tired of writing those reviews and you all are tired of reading them I've read so many of these books now that even the most bizarre errors are beginning to repeat themselves even the narrator's observing something and describing it as imperceptible not nearly imperceptible but actually incapable of being perceived only repeats a malapropism I'd seen beforeSo fuck it instead I'm going to give you a list of obscure foreign to me books mostly in translation and hard to find outside of a university library that I did enjoy and find entertaining Here you areZenzele Nozipo Maraire ZimbabweThe Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years and Jamilia Chingiz Aitmatov Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan respectivelyFour Reigns Kukrit Pramoj ThailandI Do Not Come to You By Chance Adaobi Nwaubani NigeriaPorts of Call Amin Maalouf LebanonFiela's Child Dalene Matthee South AfricaMiss Chopsticks Xinran China

  10. says:

    There are a lot of reasons to like books Some have great stories Some have great prose Some just strike a certain pitch or tone that inspires the reader etc It is a combination of several of these not necessarily an achievement in one that makes me feel compelled to give this novel four stars Houseboy follows the narrative of a young African named Toundi A series of events brings him into the world of white foreigners where he begins to learn hard lessons about just how cruel men can be to each other particularly when they don't see each other as men let alone euals Books like this aren't always fun to read They're interesting make no mistake but they shed a pretty sickly light on aspects of humanity that most of us would rather not think about This novel doesn't make heavy use of graphic violence to make its point however and perhaps that's a part of its power Through clean razor sharp prose it places a kind of microscope on Africa during the age of imperialism The dark absurdity of white interference in Toundi's world becomes readily apparent and deeply shocking More than anything else this book is just well written The prose wastes no time plays no games and lays things flat on the table Toundi's voice is clear and concise and for that reason the world can't help but feel realistic and that realism in turn fuels thought empathy and understanding There's little else you can ask of an author