After three acclaimed novels – girded earth, The Silence of the Choir et pure men –, Mbougar Sarr imposed his tempo on the start of the 2021 French literary season with The most secret memory of men, a “total” novel dedicated to the Malian writer Yambo Ouologuem and placed under the spirit of the Chilean poet Roberto Bolaño. The young author delivers a dizzying investigation between Senegal, France and Argentina, in the footsteps of a writer who has disappeared from the radar, who questions the power of literature and the face-to-face between Africa and Europe. ‘West. Still widely solicited by the international press, he took the temps to share with us the pieces that inhabit it.
The song that for you best symbolizes your country of origin
A whole album: Oil ci biir by Youssou N’Dour and Omar Pene. It is a mythical work: it brings together two of the emblematic mbalax groups (Super Diamono and Super Étoile). These groups were rivals in the 1980s and 1990s. And when artistic competition was at its height, Youssou N’Dour and Omar Pène collaborated on an album in the purest tradition of mbalax, to the delight of fans. A political, social and musically very mature and accomplished album.
The one that best symbolizes freedom
I chose two: He never lives by Savuka and Johnny Clegg and Zombie by Fela Kuti. These titles are similar on this precise point: they are paradoxical eulogies of freedom. I say paradoxical because these two pieces above all evoke situations of confinement. That of Mandela, that of South African society undermined by apartheid for “Asimbonag”; and that of Nigeria in the military dictatorship for “Zombie”. But criticizing or describing ideological confinement obviously raises the question of freedom, of emancipation.
The song that you inspire
Mambety Blues of Wasis Diop, but also have to by Ali Farka Touré and Ry Cooder.
The one that makes you sad
Soda of Cesaria Evora and I am a summer evening by Jacques Brel.
The one who has been with you for years
Moudje by Omar Pène and the Super Diamono, in its long version. Even when it is rhythmic and cheerful, Omar Pène’s music retains a melancholic undertone. It’s not quite sadness or darkness, but it touches us and reminds us that our relationship to the world is always structured by the intuition of a lack, a promise that awaits us, something toward which we are heading and that we do not always expect.
His music expresses this state of expectation, of desire, of powerlessness. It makes you sad and happy at the same time. These are the two faces of melancholy already well represented by the metaphorical paintings of Democritus (laughter) and Heraclitus (tears). The music of Omar Pène is the laughter of Democritus and the tears of Heraclitus. I always have the impression, listening to him, that he knows exactly what I feel and that he expresses it very simply.
The one in which Afro-descendants and all African diasporas could find themselves
A spiritual work. Maybe Sinnermanin the version of Nina Simone.