Finding an entry for X is never easy in an A to Z Challenge! It was the same this time too, and I’ve finally settled upon Xala, a novel translated from French, written by Senegalese writer and director, Ousmane Sembène. And an entertaining novel it is!
The story is set in Senegal right after the country wins its independence from the French. The impact of post-independence colonialism is analyzed through an interesting analogy – a man’s sexual potency!! El Hadji is a Senegalese businessman who has no qualms about building his wealth by looting from beggars and other downtrodden groups of the Senegalese population. He still clings on to the colonial era, speaking French and drinking Evian mineral water. Hadji is also a husband to two wives, a fact that elevates his social standing in the Senegalese community and thereby increases his business potential.
Unfortunately, on the night of his third wedding, Hadji finds that he has been cursed and has become impotent! He hunts high and low for a cure, not even knowing who put the curse in the first place. He becomes so obsessed with this that he starts ignoring his business. The very virility which once had him on a pedestal brings him crashing down.
The novel is also a satire on the hypocrisies in African communities, especially where it concerns the treatment of women. The author tries to use Hadji’s case to bring attention to the plight of the Senegalese population when their leaders are busy filling their own coffers. Of course, he did choose a rather unconventional way to put his point across, but the story is such fun to read that we’re not complaining!