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Co-wives, Co-widows

Author: Adrienne Yabouza

Translator: Rachael McGill  

'Yabouza tells a very good story and, at the same time, shows the plight of women, and, in this case, particularly widows, in the Central African Republic. The solution is clear. Women must stick together and fight the patriarchy, with a little bit of help from their right-thinking male friends.'

John Alvey in The Modern Novel

Co-wives, Co-widows has been chosen by Brittle Paper as one of 50 Notable African Books of 2021.

Brittle Paper

'This witty novella is about two widows, Ndongo Passy and Grekpoubou, who find themselves fighting over what's important to them after their husband dies unexpectedly - even though their dilemma is serious, Yabouza's dry humour makes the book an entertaining book.'

The English Times

'At 49, Lidou is in his prime, a prosperous builder of houses in the Central African Republic and the proud husband of two beautiful wives, Ndongo Passy and Grekpoubou. The only cloud on his horizon is the recent onset of impotence, for which he persuades a pharmacist friend to get him some pills. The day after his first dose, Lidou has a heart attack and drops dead, which gives his opportunistic cousin Zouaboua the chance to accuse the two newly-widowed women of poisoning Lidou, so that he can snatch his cousin’s property out from under their noses. If they’re going to keep what’s rightfully theirs, Ndongo Passy and Grekpoubou must fight with all their might against a backdrop of corruption in which bribery oils the wheels of society, eroding decency and loyalty. It’s a weighty topic in many ways, but Adrienne Yabouza writes so lightly and colourfully that this is a delight to read.'

Alastair Mabbott in The Herald

'First published in 2015, the English translation of Yabouza's novella was released this year and was truly worth the wait. Set in the Central African Republic around an election in which voters have to choose between "five illnesses", builder Lidou suddenly passes away, leaving his two co-wives with a battle on their hands. This is a charming and funny yet poignant story from a part of the world we hear little about.'

All Africa: Best African Books of 2021

'While there are injustices in the novel, the co-widows do not pout; instead, they take the initiative where possible, and make the best of their situation - ultimately rewarded with a very comfortable situation (and at least a small measure of revenge against Zouaboua). For a novel with a tragedy at its heart - Lidou's death - it is a very positive and upbeat story.'

M.A.Orthofer in The Complete Review

Set in Bangui, the capital city of Central African Republic, Co-Wives, Co-Widows is about two women, Ndongo Passy and Grekpoubou, who are recently widowed. The novel is an examination of the various rights and rituals that accompanies the passing of a loved one, especially when that loved one is a married man. However, Co-Wives, Co-Widows does not fall into the temptation of making the women mortal enemies, clamouring after the properties left behind by their husband. Instead, the women manage to stick together, and in that, save themselves. Told with doses of humour and abundant wit, Yabouza gives an account that is no doubt familiar to many Africans regardless of their roots.

Joshua Chizoma in Notable Books in 2021 in Afrocritik

Yabouza tells a very compelling and uplifting story. This is an exemplary narration of women supporting women and gaining confidence and strength from each other. Set in the backdrop of political turmoil and presidential elections in CAR, the author paints a very poignant picture of the plight of women in the country, especially widows. She highlights the deep rooted patriarchy and chauvinism in her unwavering writing. And at the same time, it’s a joy to discover and imbibe oneself in the culture and tradition of the people of CAR. I found the descriptions on food and clothes so beautiful, that I couldn’t stop romanticising Bangui. Books can transcend borders even during a pandemic. Allow this one to take you to CAR!

The Shiny Diaries

'Dedalus remain one of the most interesting publishers in the UK. They established themselves in 1983 and became known for novels that explored the bizarre, the unusual and the surreal. Since then they have specialised in both European literature – in translation – and European non-fiction. More recently, they’ve have also brought us the best in African literature, the latest of which is this, the first book from the Central African Republic to be translated into English. It was written by Adrienne Yabouza, who was born in the Central African Republic in 1965. After fleeing the civil war with her five children in 2013, she gained political asylum in France. Her slim novel tells the story of Ndongo Passy and Grekpoubou, two women who are both married to Lidou. When Lidou dies suddenly, the two widows – already friendly – are drawn even closer together to fight for what is rightfully theirs. Meanwhile, the drumbeat of an election is being played out in the background. It’s a tale in which the injustices enacted on the two women mirror the wider injustices being inflicted on the country as a whole; and a tale in which corruption feels just as much a part of life as the relentless sun, with favours being bestowed on those who can stuff a brown envelope with the most cash.'

RM in The Crack

'A playful, bittersweet, story full of dry wit and local colour, set against a backdrop of political instability, corruption and the friction between the old and the new.'

Editor's Choice/Year End Selectionin Beauty World Zambia

The wing of esoteric publishing house Dedalus set aside for African fiction brings us the first English translation of Adrienne Yabouza, an author from the Central African Republic: Co-Wives, Co-Widows was first published in French in 2015. As titles go, it’s fairly self-explanatory, suiting the novel’s easy charm and its mixture of raw tragedy and slapstick comedy, grinding hardship with outbreaks of relative luxury. But for its setting, in the contemporary CAR you could almost call the unfolding of events of Co-Wives, Co-Widows Dickensian.
Lidou, a rich builder’s merchant, is married to two women, Ndongo Passy and Grekpoubou. His sudden death, following his first sampling of erectile dysfunction pills, induces a bitter fight for his assets: the co-wives’ moral entitlement against the skulduggery of Lidou’s cousin and sister. Having cast their vote for the first time just before their husband expired (the president, Yabouza observes, generously chose to award himself a mere two-thirds of the vote), Passy and Grekpoubou’s first brush with the African court system turns out to be similarly crooked. Co-Wives, Co-Widows being the sort of tale where one roots for the good guys – or against the villains – a favourable, timely twist is inevitable.

Noel Gardner in Buzz Magazine

'The impact of politics is also an element of Co-Wives, Co-Widows though here it serves as a counterpoint to the daily striving of the characters. While the standing President of the Central African Republic has somewhat overdone the fixing of the election, gaining 120% of the vote (though he is happy to settle for 60%), for Ndongo Passy and Grekpoubou, the two women who shared marriage to Lidou - a successful
builder whom we get to know well enough to miss when he dies – the necessity is to counteract the corruption of their late husband's brother. In a novel suffused with both humour and observations of venality, it is the friendship of the two women who had to share one man that becomes the most notable and unexpected aspect of a novel which, using a straightforward narrative style, demonstrates the tension between the hold of tradition and the pull of new possibilities.'

Declan O'Driscoll in The Irish Times

'...a funny and utterly charming read.'

Tabatha Leggett in Bookmarked

'Some love stories are brilliant for the ways they expand our notions about what love is, so look out for Adrienne Yabouza’s Co-wives, Co-Widows, a polygamous love story.'

African Romantic Fiction, Love Stories and Erotica in Brittle Paper

'There is a beautiful directness in the writing, too, particularly when it comes to scene-setting. Take ‘the big eyelid of night closed over Bangui’ or the description of the sky ‘slashed from side to side by the machete strokes of lightning’. This directness adds weight to moments of emotional intensity in the narrative, where Yabouza often excels at capturing deep feelings in simple words...

Although the narrative presents strong female agents, such as the lawyer Catherine, it falls short of imagining an upending of the status quo. But perhaps this is ultimately a more emotionally satisfying, realistic-seeming ending for many of the original readers of this novel. A mirror rather than a beacon, it is a trailblazer in another respect: a translation of a story from the Central African Republic written without regard for European sensibilities. That alone makes it worth the price of admission. And judging by its wit, insightfulness and passion, it ought to be the first of many more such publications.

Book of the Month in Ann Morgan’s A Year of Reading the World

'the arrival in English of this new voice is worth celebrating.'

Tadzio Koelb in The Times Literary Supplement

‘Co-wives, Co-widows is a reflection of certain aspects of the society of which Ndongo Passy and Grekpoubou are part of. For the reader in the anglophone world reading this little book by Adrienne Yabouza is an extraordinary experience. Writing is delightful, full of references to local culture, with the usage of dry-wit humour…I have enjoyed Co-wives, Co-widows book tremendously. Adrianne Yabouza wrote a gem of a book which is a unique literary gift to better understanding of the diversity and richness of human experience. I would love to read more books and experience more voices from the Central African Republic. I highly recommend this book to those who wish to explore diverse reading and unique perspective on society and cultural richness.’

The Exiled Soul

RRP: £8.99

No. of pages: 128

Publication date: 05.11.2021

Re-print date: 05.11.2021

ISBN numbers:
978 1 912868 77 3
978 1 912868 85 8

World English