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Forum for Modern Language Studies


Calixthe Beyala is well known for her ambivalent relationship with both France and Africa. Her novels, meanwhile, are often divided according to tone and geography, between the grim portrayal of West African settings and the relatively upbeat (and more popular) novels of migration to the French hexagon. This article compares two novels encompassing this apparent divide – Tu t'appelleras Tanga (1988) and Le petit prince de Belleville (1992) – with a focus on Beyala's vision of the urban landscape as an inscription of a bilateral history. These texts present contrasting portraits of urbanism that seem to confirm the dichotomies of globalisation, and yet the juxtaposition suggests that “global city” and “megacity” alike come up against the interpretive predispositions of Beyala's reading public. While the narrative of the “Third-World” slum city can be paralysed by the very extremes that characterise public expectation for a vocabulary of disaster, the persistent segregation of the Parisian landscape suggests a tension between French republicanist universalism and the extra-national ambitions of the “First-World” global city.



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