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."


Lisa said...

What beautiful thoughts on friendship between women. I have just discovered your blog and I love the spirit and the lovely prose.

iyan and egusi soup: said...

dear lisa:

welcome! so long a letter is a beautiful, moving read. i hope you'll get to read it some day.

and thank you so much for the kind words.

Lisa said...

You've intrigued me. I just ordered it :)

iyan and egusi soup: said...


i'm so glad i have! i can't wait to hear your thoughts on it--e-mail me whenever you've finished.

Wordsbody said...

Hi Olufunke,

Your post on 'So Long a Letter' makes me want to take the book down from the bookshelf once more. The title alone evokes...

I took a photo of a school named after Mariama Ba on Goree last month:



iyan and egusi soup: said...

dear molara:

it's good to have you stop by! so long a letter is a book i always recommend to others, and it's the one book i'd love to give each of my dear women friends...

thank you for sharing the link!

Carleen Brice said...

I'm intrigued as well. Getting it today! Thanks!