AUN Welcomes Senegalese Literary Icon Boubacar Boris Diop

This celebrated Senegalese novelist, journalist, playwright, and essayist of international renown has joined the AUN faculty as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Feature & Creative Writing in the School of Arts & Sciences. He is one of the most prominent contemporary writers in Francophone Africa and his award-winning works have been translated into English and other foreign languages. As President Ensign said at the AUN faculty retreat, “We are honored to have such a distinguished author with us at AUN.”

The Interim Associate Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, Dr. Jacob U. Jacob, described Professor Diop as one of Africa’s most prominent writers, saying, “AUN is extremely proud and lucky to have him.” Professor Jean-Pierre Karegeye read Diop's citation while Ross Hart, a sophomore, gave an impressive review of Murambi: The Book of Bones, Diop’s most celebrated novel. Members of the AUN Book Club and students of AUN Academy (Secondary) read excerpts from the novel, while the AUN Theatre Group dramatized the first chapter, “Michel Serumundo".

Murambi, originally written in French as Murambi: Le livre des ossements, is a fictional account of the horror of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, and is the product of a collaboration with 10 other writers invited to participate in Nocky Djedanoum's project, “Rwanda: Écrire Par Devoir” (Rwanda: To Write Against Oblivion). 

In the discussion segment of the evening’s program, led by Emilienne Akpan, Interim Director of the Writing Center, Diop stressed the importance for African writers to write in languages that Africans can understand, despite the fact that “African writers who write in their mother tongues are sometimes not recognized.” He emphasized the importance of language and folklore in any literary genre, as they play important roles in telling the story as it should be.  His book Doomi Golo, a trailblazing novel in Wolof, is a testament to this philosophy.

Diop implored aspiring writers to read widely and often--something he practiced very young and which exposed him to the multiplicity of emotions that inspired the writing and publication of his first novel at the age of 16.

Another factor which contributed to his writing Murambi, he recalled, was the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a prolific Nigerian writer and environmental activist, who was executed by the Nigerian government. Diop and the entire literary world were shocked that a stellar African writer could be executed in a similar macabre fashion like those whose deaths were daily reported during the Rwandan genocide.  These silenced voices needed to be heard, and in Murambi Diop ensured that we heard all the voices which represented the tragedy.

He also felt compelled to write Murambi for his son in very simple words that his generation would understand. Addressing the youths present, he reminded them that they also have stories to tell and should not hesitate to do so responsibly.

Diop will be teaching Feature Writing, Creative Writing, Studies in English Prose and Poetry. He will also be involved with the Book Club at the Writing Center.

By Nelly Ating

The Writing Center

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