so long a letter by mariama ba has long been a treasure of african fiction writing, and women's fiction writing. i first read this novel some years ago as an undergraduate in a post-colonial literature course. since then, i've reread it twice, and last evening, i went to it again to rediscover what it is that makes this eighty-something page novel so rich and enduring. i think in part, it's ba's lyrical writing, which so beautifully captures that inimitable love between women friends. from the opening page:
"If over the years, and passing through the realities of life, dreams die, I still keep intact my memories, the salt of remembrance.
I conjure you up. The past is reborn, along with its procession of emotions. I close my eyes. Ebb and tide of feeling: heat and dazzlement, the woodfires, the sharp green mango, bitten into in turns, a delicacy in our greedy mouths. I close my eyes. Ebb and tide of images: drops of sweat beading your mother's ochre-coloured face as she emerges from the kitchen, the procession of young wet girls chattering on their way back from the springs.
We walked the same paths from adolescence to maturity, where the past begets the present. My friend, my friend, my friend. I call on you three times."