After a career in satirical journalism, the Senegalese Pape Samba Kane returned to his first literary and artistic love. With two collections of poems and a novel published over a decade, the 60-year-old has established himself as one of the greatest voices in African literature.
“I am the fruit of you / Of your laughter that makes me eat / You guava my nostalgia / Where does your soursop breath live / Your mouth sapodilla my mouth / Your teeth cheek my throat / Crunch my will …” verse, this the man can only be a poet, ”explained Lilyan Kesteloot, a great historian of African literature, who has now disappeared. The man in question, the one who likes to recall his love for his beauty with such fruity words as they are poetic, is called Pape Samba Kane.
Pope Samba Kane. Remember this name. In the 60’s, PSK, as his friends call him, is one of the rising voices in Senegalese letters. He is the author of a novel and two collections of poems. “As far as I can remember, I have always written”, he says happily and regrets that he has delayed putting his literary talents to the test for the public. His journey deserves to be known.
Cockroach journalist freed
Pope Samba Kane has long been a journalist. He worked in Senegalese editorial offices, founding newspapers. His name was for a time synonymous with the corrosive portraits he painted of politicians on the pages of the liberated cockroach, corresponding to the Canard enchaîné in France. According to legend, the great fear of public figures in Dakar was to see their secrets and their inconsistencies spread in broad lines in the columns of the satirical newspaper under the biting pen of the talented PSK. Many were “prisoners” of relief when the reporter hung up his gloves a few years ago.
Today, PSK is a retired journalist, conveniently installed in the working-class suburbs of Dakar, where he can finally devote his time to realizing his literary and artistic ambitions. “When I retired,” he says, “I returned to my first love. That’s why young journalists ask me the question “when do you write your poetry” or “how do you go from journalistic writing to creative writing?” I try to explain that it was actually creative writing that took me to journalism ”.
It was in 2015 that this former journalist and press manager really returned to literary writing by publishing his first novel with a Senegalese publisher, Feu de brousse editions. Sabaru Jinne, the title in Wolof of his novel means “The dance of the jinn”.
In this self-fictional story, the author tells with a perfect sense of story, skillfully mixing fiction and experience, the pain of the central character. He faces a terrible choice between his literary calling and a career as an oil trader imposed on him by his family. The solution to the dilemma passes through a “reverie” that concerns both magical realism and historical and social testimony. It takes the reader to the heart of a sumptuous and epic plot, which simultaneously carries history, memory, reality and dreams.
But it is perhaps through poetry that the Senegalese writer has been able to exploit all his talents, his mastery of French prosody and his love of words. PSK is so far the author of two collections of poems entitled À tyre d’elles and Femme écarlate, both published in France by Lettres de Renaissance.
“Like burning geysers”
The great Lilyan Kesteloot preceded the first collection from the poet’s pen, published in 2018, and immediately drew attention to the poet’s gift “to have words spring up like burning geysers or like cool rivers that flood our faces. And ignite a smile of pleasure.” Pope Samba Kane’s poetry is deeply passionate and lyrical, in line with the poetic revelation of the Senghorian negritude, but with echoes of Baudelaire, the bed poet of the Senegalese.
It is difficult not to be sensitive to the Baudelaire spleen with which these pages of the anthologies are marked. “The fog envelops Dakar / And my heart / In its heavy milky veil / Cold …”, the poet mumbles, suggesting his close communion with the world around him.
What also characterizes the Pope for Pope Samba Kane is the woman’s central, their beauty and the love that is celebrated in all registers.
It is love that drives him to write and he does not hesitate to proclaim it to the whole world. “I write when I am in love, when I am challenged by love, when I am in need, when I miss someone, when someone has left me, when I hope someone is in me. Will love, when someone loves me and explains it … They say I do poetry, yes, it’s true and it’s always about love, its suffering, its torments that I qualify as ‘voluptuous torments’ (as I write) because I think it’s much better to suffer of ‘to have loved than to suffer from never having loved.’
It will be understood, for Pope Samba Kane, love is the great business of life and woman is the future of man. That is why, after À tyre d’elles and La Femme écarlate, his third collection, in preparation, will be called Republic of Women Where Love Will Be Law, which Jacques Brel sang.
Sabaru Jinne: The Devil’s Tom-toms (novel), by Pape Samba Kane. Editions Feu de brousse, Dakar, 2015, 268 pages.
À tyre d’elles (poetry), by Pape Samba Kane. Lettres de Renaissance editions, Paris, 2018, 119 pages.
Scarlet Woman (poetry), by Pape Samba Kane. Lettres de Renaissance editions, Paris, 2019, 119 pages.