The Old Man and the Medal:  by Ferdinand  Oyono (translated by John  Reed)
167 pages, $16.95 list
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The Old Man and the Medal
Ferdinand Oyono (translated by John Reed)
Writing in French in the 1950s, Ferdinand Léopold Oyono (1929–2010) had only a brief literary career, but his anticolonialist novels are considered classics of twentieth-century African literature. Like Oyono’s Houseboy, also available from Waveland Press, this novel fiercely satirizes the false pretenses of European colonial rule in Africa.

Meka, a village elder, has always been loyal to the white man. It is with pride that he first hears he is to receive a medal. While waiting for the ceremony, however, Meka’s pride gives way to skepticism. At the same time, his wife has realized that the medal is being given to her husband as compensation for the sacrifices they have made. The events following the ceremony confirm Meka’s new estimation of the white man.

Both subtle and oftentimes humorous, this beautifully told story lays bare the hollowness of the mission in Africa. It fuels opportunities for discussing colonial politics around class and race as well as for exploring indigenous Cameroon life and values.
“Ferdinand Oyono is a brilliant and engaging author who, in this novel, successfully addresses the hypocrisy of colonialism with subtle seriousness and satire. Though fairly short, the novel analyzes a wide range of historical and social issues.” — Philip Effiong, Michigan State University

“The novel is rich with humorous and ironic insight about both Africans and Europeans in Africa. The ignorance and hypocrisy of many of the French colonialists is trenchantly critiqued by Oyono. The book is both tender and sharp toward the African communities it portrays.” — Thomas Lynn, Penn State Berks