Cruel City

Cruel City

A Novel
Mongo Beti, edited by Mongo Beti, translated by Pim Higginson
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 02/22/2013
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-253-00823-7
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Under the pseudonym Eza Boto, Mongo Beti wrote Ville cruelle (Cruel City) in 1954 before he came to the world's attention with the publication of Le pauvre Christ de Bomba (The Poor Christ of Bomba). Cruel City tells the story of a young man's attempt to cope with capitalism and the rapid urbanization of his country. Banda, the protagonist, sets off to sell the year's cocoa harvest to earn the bride price for the woman he has chosen to wed. Due to a series of misfortunes, Banda loses both his crop and his bride to be. Making his way to the city, Banda is witness to a changing Africa, and as his journey progresses, the novel mirrors these changes in its style and language. Published here with the author's essay "Romancing Africa," the novel signifies a pivotal moment in African literature, a deliberate challenge to colonialism, and a new kind of African writing.

Author Bio

Mongo Beti (1932-2001), born in Cameroon, is considered one of the foremost African writers of the independence generation. His novels available in English include King Lazarus, Mission to Kala, and The Poor Christ of Bomba (named one of Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century).

Pim Higginson is Associate Professor of French at Bryn Mawr College.


“Signifying a pivotal moment in African literature and a new kind of writing, this novel tells the story of a young man's bold attempt to cope with capitalism and the rapid urbanization of his country despite enduring a series of misfortunes.”

“In [this] anti-colonial novel, the principle character is an ordinary young man who tries to achieve success on his own terms in a society in which the old represent a disintegrated traditional Africa and the young acquire useless knowledge in French school for travels that lead nowhere.”
 — The Companion to African Literatures

“A persuasive, even gripping study of a spiteful, naïve character.”
 — Kirkus Reviews

“With every new translation in its Global African Voices series, Indiana University Press, USA, moves a step fruther towards the realisation of its goal of overcoming the fragmentariness of modern African literature by intergrating originally French-language literary works into the English-language stream. ”
 — Saturday Nation

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