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Biography of Ferdinand OYONO

Cameroon > Politics : Ferdinand OYONO

Ferdinand OYONO
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Born on 14/09/1929 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Ferdinand Oyono.Novelist and politicain  from Cameroon. He was born  September 14,1929  -died June 10, 2010 in N'Goulémakong, near Ebolowa, Cameroon, Africa.  is one of the most renowned anticolonialist novelists of Africa.Since Cameroon's independence in 1960, he has also served in many diplomatic and government positions.

Oyono was born on September 14, 1929, in N'Goulémakong, near Ebolowa. He was raised by his mother, a devout Catholic, who left her husband when he would not give up his polygamous lifestyle. Oyono was active in the Catholic church as a choirboy and studied with a priest. After earning his diploma from the local school in Ebolowa, he worked as a servant for missionaries before studying at a high school in France. He continued his education at French universities, writing his first novels at the same time.

 Like many francophone African writers, Oyono has managed to combine a highly successful literary career with activity in other spheres. During his twenties he produced in quick succession three novels which continue to enjoy wide readership and critical interest:  Houseboy (1956) in which  Oyono tells the story of Toundi Joseph, a boy from French Cameroon who flees his father's brutality to become the houseboy of a priest at a Catholic mission in a nearby town. Toundi grows up serving the priest and learns to read and write. After the priest dies suddenly, Toundi becomes the houseboy of the French Commandant of the area.The story is told in the form of Toundi's diary of his years among the French colonials. Although it is sometimes described as humorous, it is really an indictment of colonial rule.


In The Old Man and the Medal, Oyono writes about an older African man who has worked closely with the colonials throughout his life and is to receive a medal for his service. He comes to realize how isolated he is from both the native African world and the world of the colonials, who want to bestow an award but do not really want to associate with him beyond a superficial level.

In Road to Europe, Oyono writes of an African determined to succeed in France. His success costs him his self-regard and does not confer happiness.

. Then, following the independence of his country in 1960, Oyono turned his back on literature to devote himself to a career in diplomacy. In 1962 he was appointed ambassador to Liberia, and after postings to Brussels and Paris spent 10 years attached to the United Nations in New York. He was appointed director of UNICEF in 1977. He returned to Cameroon in 1985, where he became a government minister.

His novels are very representative of the period in which he wrote, since they largely focus on the injustices of the colonial system. What is fresh about his approach, however, is the reliance on comic effect to underline his message. The three novels all highlight the hypocrisy and the bad faith which characterize the behaviour of the whites and the relationships which they establish with the blacks. The promises implicit in the whole colonial enterprise, the so-called civilizing mission of the colonizers, and the religious evangelism which accompanied it are all exposed as mere sham. They are shown to be myths which colonizer and colonized alike may choose to believe, either through self-interest or stupidity.




Last update : 06/11/2010

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