Houseboy
Ferdinand Oyono (translated by John Reed)
Toundi Ondoua, the rural African protagonist of Houseboy, encounters a world of prisms that cast beautiful but unobtainable glimmers, especially for a black youth in colonial Cameroon. Houseboy, written in the form of Toundi’s captivating diary and translated from the original French, discloses his awe of the white world and a web of unpredictable experiences. Early on, he escapes his father’s angry blows by seeking asylum with his benefactor, the local European priest who meets an untimely death. Toundi then becomes “the Chief European’s ‘boy’—the dog of the King.” Toundi’s attempt to fulfill a dream of advancement and improvement opens his eyes to troubling realities. Gradually, preconceptions of the Europeans come crashing down on him as he struggles with his identity, his place in society, and the changing culture.
Reviews
Houseboy is a brilliant, short, accessible novel. I learned much about colonial structures in mid-20th century Africa, about African lives and attitudes, and about European insight and ignorance, sensitivity and cruelty. An essential consideration though is that this little book is not only an invaluable document about colonialism in Africa but also a beautiful and tragic story—that is, a good read irrespective of theoretical and geographical boundaries.” — Thomas Lynn, Penn State Berks

“The darkly satirical work skewers French colonial Cameroonian society. It is an essential, accessible text for African literature and postcolonial literature courses.” — Felicity Palmer, Clarkson University

“I’m pleased to see that Waveland is keeping this title in print. Houseboy provides students with a vivid portrayal of the underside of colonialism, tragic to be sure, but also sparkling with moments of wit.” — Robert Daniels, University of North Carolina

“. . . Both very funny and inexpressibly sad . . . Mr. Oyono’s sophisticated wit stings like a mosquito and he underwrites his story with real craftsmanship.” — Eve Burgess, Punch

“. . . a book of moving and confident mastery.” — Sunday Telegraph