Segu is a masterful, captivating saga penned by Maryse Condé. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it from cover to cover. What I found most striking is the portrayal of the African slave trade from the perspective of Africans, both enslaved and free. I also appreciated how Condé highlighted the wisdom of African traditions, customs and religious practices, many of which might have appeared on the surface to Europeans as primitive, backward or silly. For example, how they assign the wives of a deceased man to his brother to ensure that the women and children are well provided for after his death. From an evolutionary perspective this makes perfect sense, since it ensured that the family genes had a better chance of survival. Another interesting yet controversial example, is Condé’s various accounts of incidents of rape throughout the book which revealed how rape was not always perceived as a crime in Africa (or at least in the western part of it that is the focus of the novel). Segu is therefore very thought-provoking and challenging to Western sensibilities. The character development also stands out, as Condé meticulously transports readers into the heads of each protagonist, who are all to varying degrees flawed. She truly captures the essence of the spectrum of human psychology in her colorful characters. Equally impressive is the astounding level of cultural, historical, linguistic and geographic detail, which is not easy to convey in such an ethnically diverse and complex corner of the African continent. It is truly rare to see such an authentic, respectful, and thoughtful tale about Africa and the slave trade. This book is a must read if you are interested in and open to a different narrative about Africa and slavery, which likely challenges what you’ve been taught in history class.
Book Review: Segu – Maryse Condé
May 10, 2020 | 2 comments
It is a classic novel, universally acclaimed. I’m getting a copy to read now!
Great to hear Troy. I think you will enjoy it!