Monday, November 7, 2016

An African in Greenland(Togo): Loved it Because It Was Unlike Anything I've Ever Read: Young Togo boy makes good in the tundra of Greenland

Loved it Because: It was unlike anything I've ever read.  This is the fantastical post-independence autobiographical tale of a young Togolese boy that leaves his 25 siblings on a whim (basically) and starts a 12-year journey from his native country to the chilly northern reaches of Greenland.  I say 'basically' because it all started after he saw a book on Greenland in a missionary book store in his village.

This is also one of those books where you turn the last page and read through the final words and are left stammering 'but what next, what happened next when he returned to Togo?'  Alas, it's difficult to find much on his life after this journey--at least it's hard to find much in English.  So perhaps I will return to this post in the future when I have more time to slug through the french websites (we are smack dab in the middle of a PCS right now).

The book's strength comes from the author's candid and frank observations of the Inuit and Greenland culture, particularly when he compares it to his own upbringing in Togo.  He approaches each new locale with an enthusiasm and curiosity that is incredible.  This leads to situations that are at times hilarious and at other times quite disturbing.  One example is a truly bizarre girlfriend swapping situation that he stumbles into and which he just can't handle.  But it is because of his openness to assimilate into each village that he finds people sharing with him in ways no passing visitor would ever experience.  This includes an in-depth look at the Inuit idea of souls in people, animals and things--particularly the process of hunting and harvesting whales.

At the book's conclusion it is Kpomassie true explorer spirit that draws him back to his homeland--having dived into so many incredible experiences, he feels a duty to return to his people to share what's he seen, tasted and felt.  Lucky for the reader, he also decided to write it all down as well.

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
 **See our 20162015 and 2014 Reading Lists too!

Further Reading:
Radio Canada French Interview with Kpomassie
Interview with author 30 years after the book's publication
Introduction to novel online version
Review Highlights

9    Togo authority hierarchy
22   on 'waiting' in Togo
37  food taboo's role in harmony or discord
50  power of paternal aunt's in Togo
53   Ghana sparks independence hopes in region 1959
57   6 year journey out of africa
58   post-independence visas popup where they weren't previously
63  independence of adventure
71   8 years after leaving Togo he finally leaves Copenhagen for Greenland
102  inverse authority structure in Greenland vs. Togo with children at top
110  Greenland version of morality with open relationships/sexuality
112  Greenland as a welfare state of Denmark
118  Equality in the Arctic
121-2  Greenlands's only prison and the prisoners are free during the day
125  Eskimos with ancient divide as either seal or fish-eaters
137-8  fishing for seawolves
140   Polar hysteria
161  1969 international eskimo airing of grievances
157  brutality of hiskies
174  on fanaticism and friendship
208   Eating raw seal
232   wife swampping as an eskimo survival mechanism
243   Greenlanders think falling is hilarious
275   Ridicule as sport in Greenland
276   Effects of family all sleeping together with children
280   burial rites, souls
282     More on souls
284     Eskimo conception of souls versus Togo conception
285-6  Whale hunting and the animal's many uses.  Also includes discussion on 'soul capture' and draws comparison to lion hunting in Togo
289     Differng roles of sacrifice and unit between Greenland and Togo
293     Why he returns back to Togo--a sense of duty to his countrymen

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