Master of Arts (MA)


French Studies

Document Type



At a time when francophone women writers are hardly published, the Senegalese author Ken Bugul becomes the talk of the town with her 1982 novel Le baobab fou. At that point, not only is she becoming a francophone literary precursor to other francophone writers, she also imposes a style which explores and contradicts traditional views. Indeed from the beginning of the story in rural Senegal where the mother is traditionally defined and held responsible for educating her children so that the tradition can endure, Ken has to face her mother’s disappearance when she is just a child. The lack of a maternal figure pushes Ken to seek comfort in the French colonial system and to choose self-exile in Europe. The first part of the novel “La préhistoire de Ken” points out the birth of Ken’s confused identity with the mother’s abandonment acting as the principal trigger. My first chapter therefore analyzes the traditional role of the mother and Ken’s hybrid identity. This leads to the second chapter which discusses Ken’s exile in “L’histoire de Ken”, the second part of the novel. Ken’s maternal quest ends up being a disillusioning journey where she falls into total decline, exploring many taboos including prostitution and drugs. My second chapter demonstrates that the absent mother is what defines Le baobab fou. Thus, it is interesting to look at a different novel from Ken Bugul – Mes hommes à moi – to examine once again the mother/daughter relationship. The third chapter compares the similarities and differences of this relationship as portrayed in the two novels but also includes the father figure to whom Bugul gives a bigger part in her latest work.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Peters, Rosemary