The wing of esoteric publishing house Dedalus set aside for African fiction brings us the first English translation of Adrienne Yabouza, an author from the Central African Republic: Co-Wives, Co-Widows was first published in French in 2015, as Co-Epouses Et Co-Veuves. As titles go, it’s fairly self-explanatory, suiting the novel’s easy charm and its mixture of raw tragedy and slapstick comedy, grinding hardship with outbreaks of relative luxury. But for its setting, in the contemporary CAR where Yabouza lives (she escaped civil war there in 2013 but later returned), you could almost call the unfolding of events of Co-Wives, Co-Widows Dickensian.
Lidou, a rich builder’s merchant, is married to two women, Ndongo Passy and Grekpoubou. His sudden death, following his first sampling of erectile dysfunction pills, induces a bitter fight for his assets: the co-wives’ moral entitlement against the skulduggery of Lidou’s cousin and sister.
Having cast their vote for the first time just before their husband expired (the president, Yabouza observes, generously chose to award himself a mere two-thirds of the vote), Passy and Grekpoubou’s first brush with the African court system turns out to be similarly crooked. Co-Wives, Co-Widows being the sort of tale where one roots for the good guys – or against the villains – a favourable, timely twist is inevitable.
Co-Wives, Co-Widows, Adrienne Yabouza [trans. Rachael McGill] (Dedalus Africa)
Price: £8.99. Info: here
words NOEL GARDNER
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