Over the past few days, 65-year-old Dominique Barbéris (photo) has been having a talk show circuit to present her latest book "Une façon d'aimer", for which she has just won the French Academy's Grand Prize for Fiction (Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française). In each of her interviews, the French novelist eagerly talks about Douala where her father worked in the 1950s and where she was born, in 1958, a few years before the end of the French colonial rule.
"I'd been thinking about writing about Cameroon for a long time," she confided on the France 24 set, explaining that her father's passing prompted her to revive this long-held project. "I had the feeling that the traces of what he had experienced in Cameroon in the 1950s with my mother, who had joined him, were going to disappear," she added
Driven by a desire to preserve her father's memories, Barbéris embarked on a journey to resurrect the Douala of her youth, a city that has long vanished under the weight of modernization. To achieve this, she delved into her father's personal accounts, yellowed photographs, and other historical artifacts. She warns, however, that "Une façon d'aimer" is not a historical book. Especially since Madeleine Le Tellec, her heroine, is a fictional character.
Despite its fictional elements, the novel serves as an ode to Douala and Cameroon, a country that Barbéris describes as "magnificent." She confesses that her novel is full of vivid descriptions of the city's landmarks, including Bois des Singes, the Wouri River, and the surrounding virgin forest, as well as the palpable atmosphere of independence that defined the lives of Cameroonians in the 1950s.
Michel Ange Nga