Varieties of Romance in Contemporary Popular Togolese Literature

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Here's the abstract:

This chapter examines the romance genre in Togo. After the death of President Eyadema in 2005, the cultural scene in Lomé has become more diversified. In this context, popular writing in French has been flourishing afresh over the last 15 years. Romance has known an impressive boom after 2010 and dominates the local book market by end of this decade. This chapter gives an overview on this development and points out the success of author Serge Azialé. Furthermore, the innovative writing of Jeannette Ahonsou, who combines patterns of crime fiction and romance in her novels of suspense, is introduced with a close reading of Le piège à conviction (The trap of conviction). The last section examines the adoption of the global wave of chick lit in the writing of Franco-Togolese author Lauren Ekué whose seminal novel Icône urbaine (Urban Icon) is analyzed. The chapter shows that in spite of its dominantly conservative and formulaic patterns, romance made in Togo is not a homogeneous genre. Male and female authors of different generations use it to express desires and dreams in contemporary urban settings that speak to large audiences. The scope of Togolese romance embraces a great variety, including elements of erotic fiction, crime fiction, social critique and chick lit.


Having studied a sample of 25 books released by Awoudy between 2006 and 2019 [...] some particularities of the Togolese romance narrative can be pointed out. Firstly, different from the global conventions of the genre, including the Ivorian Adoras serial, it is striking that in the Awoudy series we find more male than female authors with nine male writers who published 17 books between 2006 and 2019 and seven female writers who published 7 books between 2014 and 2019. [...] Secondly, the Togolese romance novel or novelette (many of the listed texts are short) does not necessarily follow the pattern of a happy-end story: many of the texts are about the tragedy of unaccomplished or failed love, deception [...], passionate love for an inaccessible woman [...], exploitation [...] and even death [...]. Only half of the stories of my sample corpus finish with a classical happy ending of accomplished love. Thirdly, and this may have to do with the predominance of male writers, the Togolese romance genre is very open to frankly eroticized narratives that focus on the appeal of seductive bodies, the gaze on the female body in particular, as well as the detailed description of hot sex scenes. However, the same heavily eroticized style is now also to be found in the works of contemporary women's writers who deliberately turn the gaze back on male bodies.