Agatha Moudio's Son

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About the Book

Le Fils d'Agatha Moudio by Francis Bebey was written in 1967 and won the Grand Prix Littéraire de l'Afrique Noir in 1968. This work was later translated as Agatha Moudio's Son by Joyce Hutchinson in 1971. Currently, the novel is out of print. However, Amazon.com provides an out of print service where the novel may be purchased. The novel tells the story of Mbenda, a young man living in a fishing village near Douala in Cameroon. He is in love with Agatha Moudio, though his mother does not approve of her and asks Mbenda to please her by marrying Fanny the youngest child and only daughter of his late father's best friend. Mbenda agrees to this marriage and tries to forget his love for Agatha Moudio. However, his marriage to Fanny is not successful and he finds himself still longing for Agatha. Fanny realizes that he is not happy and encourages him to go ahead and marry Agatha. Against the wishes of his mother, Mbenda marries Agatha, although she has changed since Mbenda spurned her. Agatha has turned to a life of prostitution with European men. She marries Mbenda but does not stay faithful to him. She continues her lifestyle with white men and bears a child who is obviously the son of a white man.

About the Author

Francis Bebey was born in 1929 in Douala, Cameroon. He is the author of three novels, several books on African music, as well as several short stories. He is currently working on two novels and a film adaptation of his award winning novel Le Fils s'Agatha Moudio/Agatha Moudio's Son. Bebey is not only a recognized author, but also a fine musician. Along with a degree in literature, he also received a degree in musicology from the Sorbonne in France. Along with his writing and music, Bebey has worked extensively in radio both in Europe as well as Africa. He has worked to extend radio broadcasting in Africa. He has recorded many CDs using his own unique blend of African, Latin, and European music and has performed in concerts worldwide.

 

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  Dialogues

Infiltration by Europeans on the Village

As in Things Fall Apart by Achebe, Mbenda's village suffers from European invasion. Europeans throughout the history of Colonialism have welcomed themselves to into other people's homes, whether that be an African Ibo village or a Carribean island, as in Michael Dorris' Morning Girl. Colonists when not welcome, forced themselves into these societies, invading and overtaking them. Agatha Moudio's Son illustrates an African village that is slowly in the process of turning into another westernized spot on the globe. Europeans living in a nearby town install a public fountain in the center of the Mbenda's village. This fountain creates competition among the village women. Because they no longer visit the river to gather their daily water, they must wait and take turns at the single tap.

Mbenda's uncle is taken by the European lifestyle and cheats his fellow villagers in order to compile enough funds to build a house with four brick walls and a shingled roof in the style of the Europeans. Likewise, when a white man's car is stuck in the mud in Mbenda's village, the colonial administrator sees that the road is paved. The lifestyle of the Europeans slowly takes over and westernizes, the village and its original inhabitants, much like El Hadji and his life in Dakar Senegal in Sembène Ousmane's Xala, as they become separated and competitive with the onset of these new things in their home.

Relationship Between Mbenda and His Wives

Polygamy is a theme in African works as it is an element of many cultures portraying women in many different views from beloved companion, to possesion. However, Agatha Moudio's Son presents a different view of polygamy than many other works such as Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, and Xala, by Sembène Ousmane. Mbenda does not wish to enter into a polygamous relationship, but into a loving monogamous relationship with Agatha Moudio. He is only willing to have a polygamous relationship after marrying Fanny because he is still in love with Agatha. He is not interested in showing his status, nor in marrying solely in order to procreate.

Morals set up by Mbenda…La Loi

Mbenda, the protagonist in Agatha Moudio's Son, proves to be an upstanding member in his community. He is admired by his village and works to protect them. Although he is not a great warrior like Achebe's Okonkwo, in Things Fall Apart, he shows courage in other ways. When hunters threaten to poach in the village's forest, Mbenda stands up for the village's rights earning his nickname, La Loi - The Law. Even when faced as the father of two children, not his own, he stands by his wives and serves as a father in the face of scandal.

  Notes

The Link Between Blacks and Whites in Agatha Moudio's Son

The effects of colonialism saturate African culture. When white Europeans took the African's land they brought European culture piece by piece. Europeans brought technology, a style of dress, and a "style" of life. Because of this -- colonialism, resistance grew between Europeans and Africans. Agatha Moudio's Son by Francis Bebey tells the story of an African village in Cameroon and the infiltration of the village culture by arriving Europeans.

Bebey recounts the story of Mbenda, "a young man from a fishing village at the mouth of the Wouri below Douala." He respects the traditions of his village, and he marries "the girl his father chose for him on his deathbed." However, there are problems with this, Mbenda loves Agatha Moudio, a woman whom Mbenda's mother hates. His mother tells him, "I am telling you, that woman…she'll lead you a fine dance till you can't tell black from white" (154). Because he loves his mother, Mbenda accepts that he must marry the girl of his father's choice, Fanny. However, Mbenda is not happy with his marriage and Fanny knows that he is in love with another woman. With the help of King Solomon, an old man in the village who helps Mbenda with his marriage with Fanny, Mbenda later marries Agatha Moudio.

Because of this "love triangle," Mbenda has difficulties with Agatha. Before he married Fanny, Mbenda gave Agatha the impression that he wanted to marry her. After he married Fanny, Agatha lost all confidence in Mbenda and she returned to the unrespectable life she led before Mbenda's promises. The style of life which Agatha leads becomes the greatest symbol of the relationship between blacks and whites.

Agatha is the tie between African society and European society. Frequently, Agatha is seen going into the European village and wearing new and expensive dresses. One day, Mbenda sees Agatha in the car of a rich white man. He is angry and forces Agatha out of the car. The whole village talks about this, "no one would go with a white man willingly - one goes with whites solely for reasons concerning money." The town considers Agatha to be a prostitute. Still, Mbenda loves Agatha and wants to marry her against the wishes of his mother and the village.

Agatha is not the only symbol of infiltration by European society, she is simply the tie between the two societies. Mbenda, who narrates the story, also tells other stories that indicate other forms of infiltration. The novel begins with a scene in which Mbenda confronts white men hunting in the forest without permission of the village. Mbenda demands that the hunters buy their right to hunt in the village's forest. These white men present them instead a public fountain in the center of the village. Mbenda notes that with the fountain, "we were beginning to enter cheerfully on civilized life" (29). The public fountain is not the only "civilized" structure added to Mbenda's village. Mbenda's uncle works at constructing a house in the style of Europeans - with bricks. Again, this is an example of European lifestyle infiltrating that of the African village. All the images: the hunters, the public fountain, the desire to live in a home made of bricks, and Agatha's actions indicate this infiltration of a society.

It is Agatha who brings the village closest to European society. Agatha, because of her sexual relationship to the Europeans, gives Mbenda and the village a son -- a white son. This child is obviously not the son of Mbenda, as everyone can see. He is the son of a white man. When Mbenda first sees this child, he describes him as "completely white, with long straight hair…none of them had expected a child as white as this" (151). This completes the connection. Now the two societies are interlaced, beginning to form one society -- in blood.

**The following piece is the same as the preceding. However, this is a French translation.

La Liaison Entre les Noirs et dans Blancs en Le Fils d'Agatha Moudio

Les effets du colonialisme saturent la culture africaine. Quand les Européens blancs ont pris la terre des Africains, ils ont apporté la culture d'Europe morceau par morceau. Les blancs ont apporté la technologie, la façon de s'habiller, et le "style" d'habitation. Il y avait des résistances qui sont formées entre les blancs et les Africains d'origine. Le Fils d'Agatha Moudio de Francis Bebey racconte l'histoire d'un village Africain et l'histoire d'un fils du village au Cameroun et l'infiltration de la culture des blancs.

Bebey racconte l'histoire de Mbenda, "jeune homme d'un village de pêcheurs du Wouri." Il respecte les traditions de son village, et il épouse la fille "que son père lui a destinée en mourant." Mais, il y a des problèmes, Mbenda aime Agatha Moudio, une femme que la mère de Mbenda déteste. Sa mere dit "cette femme-la…elle t'en fera voir de toutes les couleurs" (206). À cause des sentiments de sa mère, Mbenda accepte qu'il doit entrer dans le mariage avec la fille que son père a choisi, Fanny. Mais, il n'est pas heureuse après le mariage et Fanny sait qu'il aime une autre. Avec l'aide du roi Salomon, un vieil homme dans le village qui a aidé Mbenda avec son mariage avec Fanny, Mbenda épouse Agatha.

À cause de sa "situation d'amour," Mbenda a des difficultés avec Agatha. Avant d'épouser Fanny, Mbenda donne à Agatha l'impression qu'il veut l'épouser. Après le mariage avec Fanny, Agatha perd toute sa confidence en Mbenda et elle recommence une vie qui n'est pas respectable. Avec cette vie elle devient un grand symbole des relations entres les noirs et les blancs.

Agatha sert de liaison entre la société noire et la société blanche. Souvent, il y a les gens qui disent qu'Agatha va au village des blancs. Souvent, Agatha a des nouvelles robes cheres. Un jour, Mbenda a vu Agatha dans la voiture d'un homme blanc et très riche. Il se fâche et essayer de la sortir de la voiture. Tout le village pense que les actions d'Agatha sont discutables. Personne va pas avec les blancs librement. On va avec les blancs pour les raisons d'argents seulement. Si c'est le cas d'Agatha, elle est une prostituée. Mais, Mbenda aime Agatha, et il veut l'épouser, contrairement aux souhaits de sa mère, et les pensées du village.

Agatha, ce n'est pas seulement le symbole de l'infiltration de la société blanche, Agatha est la liaison entre les deux sociétés. Mbenda, qui narre son histoire, donne les indications les autres formes d'infiltrations. Le roman commence avec une scène où Mbenda confronte les hommes blancs qui chassent dans la forêt, mais pas avec la permission du village. Mbenda demande que les chasseurs donnent au village un cadeau en contrepartie des droits de chasse. Les blancs presentent leur société aussi avec une "borne-fontaine" au centre du village. Mbenda décrit cette fontaine et les effets au village: Nous "commencions à entrer gaillardement dans la vie civilisée" (42). Avec la fontaine, l'oncle de Mbenda travaile à construire une maison dans le style des blancs, avec les briques, c'est un autre exemple de la vie civilisée qui entre dans le village. Toutes les images: les chasseurs, la "borne-fontaine," le désir pour une maison en brique, et les actions d'Agatha indiquent que la société blanche infiltrate la culture des noir.

C'est Agatha qui apporte au village la liaison entre les blancs et les noirs. Agatha, avec ses rapports avec les blancs donne à Mbenda au village un fils, qui est blanc. Son fils n'est pas l'enfant de Mebenda. Il est le fils d'un homme blanc. Quand Mbenda le voit, il décrit son enfant "tout blanc, avec de longs cheveux défrisés" (202). La connexion est complète. Maintenant les deux sociétés entrelacées commencent de former une société, dans le sang.

  Links

***University of Florida George A. Smathers Library
This site is managed by the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries. It contains biographical information on Francis Bebey as well as information on several other African writers. Each entry contains selections of each authors' poetry and works.

***Bebey.com

This site provides biographical information on Francis Bebey as well as information on his discographie as well as letters and quotes from noted peers. This site is in French.

  Teaching

Agatha Moudio's Son is a perfect work to use not only in classes focusing on Colonial and Postcolonial literature, but also in French, African or World Literature courses. Bebey's style of writing moves along quickly and is enjoyable to read. The French text is challenging, yet readable for advanced high school and university level French students. There are few articles and essays available in English concerning this work, making it a prime novel for more advanced French classes.

The themes presented in Agatha Moudio's Son open a vast platform or discussion topics.

Possibilities may include:

  • Mbenda's moral stance and his name La Loi/The Law.
  • The marriage customs of Mbenda's village and his relationships with Fanny and Agatha.
  • The growing "take" the white Europeans have on the village.
  • The effects, positive and negative, of the public fountain.
  • Mbenda's effectiveness as a narrator.

 

  Citations
Bebey, Francis. Agatha Moudio's Son. London: Heinemann, 1971.

Bebey, Francis. Le Fils d'Agatha Moudio. Yaoundé Éditions, 1967.

"Francis Bebey." Contemporary Authors, 2001. Database on-line. Available from Gale.

Lambert, Fernando. "Une Voix Nouvelle de la Litterature Camerounaise: Le Fils d'Agatha Moudio de Francis Bebey." Canadian Journal of African Studies 9 (1975): 503-10.

Stokle, Norman. "Towards an Africanization of the Novel: Francis Bebey's Narrative Technique," in New West African Literature. London: Heinemann, 1979.

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Last Updated:3/29/2001