From January 11, the first novel by writer, singer and composer Seynabou Sonko will be available in all bookstores in France. Jinns, his name. Grasset, his publishing house. Multiple, its interpretations.
A surprise guest
On the occasion of the release of the first novel by Seynabou Sonko, I had an incredible chance: my jinn was able to exchange with that of Penda. Details: jinns are spirits that inhabit us like a negative inhabits any photo portrait and Penda is the narrator and protagonist of JinnsParisian novel underground. Before taking some of the paths that cross it, I would like to share with you an excerpt of what the spirit of the heroine of this story, Penda, confided to mine:
“This book is not at all a demonstration, I will repeat it until I get tired. It’s just a story. Maybe some will say she’s special, but in truth there’s nothing more normal. It’s about a slightly poukave big sister, a grandmother who is already called Mami, a fight in the middle of the packs, a battle between medocs made in France and healing solutions from Gabon, with Iboga at stake. Ah, Iboga is a root that washes your brain, but for the better! With Penda we went through a lot of things: we lost our job and our national neighbour, we had a lot of illness (but we were quickly consoled by Chico), we visited our friend Jimmy a lot interned, we thought about how to get him out and get out of it, and in the end, even if Penda thinks that I am a fragile‘optimism, I say it: hamdoullah we bounced back. Or not ? »
Third place my love
Thus, if Penda, in her twenties, dresses like a boy, it is because she wants to feel free to mix the attributes of her djinn and her own in the same outfit. Fluid and elusive, she does not accept that gender is a filter to classify her. Since asexual is equal to “not typecast”, she takes this path which will be her motto. She says, on the strength of her only stay in her family’s country of origin, Senegal, that ” nothing was more tiring than having to justify one’s existence, whether on one side or the other of the Mediterranean. My ambition was elsewhere, in a place where things would have more importance than beings, where the invisible would be used to imagine a new world, worthy of being made visible. “.
But while she does not feel like following in the footsteps of her “Mami pirate”, a healer with a practice in the 10th arrondissement, she understands that being a witch is exactly that: embodying the link between the individual and the unseen. And so, what to do?
Pray, maybe, but do it as if it were rap, a bike race where you don’t lose your balance, because you learned to steer the pedals a long time ago. Or swim, finally, in solitude, in this wave that Penda knows so well because for the time it has been pouring over her and her family, carrying them away from the shore: “ Chico and I hadn’t had a foot since armored already. By dint of being deprived of dry land, by dint of being relegated to the sea, we had learned to swim in spite of ourselves “. But in the water there are not only marked paths. There are also those who are forced by discovering that the waves are moving like our identity and that being a pirate is not that dangerous. Or if ?
roll towards you
Penda feels the expectations weighing on her, on her skin, and reacts by slipping elsewhere: she is not necessarily on the front line of demonstrations against police violence, but also not ready to stand up when she is the only one to whom you are asked to give up your seat on the bus. Not necessarily grateful when the educators of the Paris City Hall repaint the walls of her neighborhood in yellow “to give color” ignoring the shine of the mothers’ loincloths, but not satisfied with her either.register in the ambient precariousness. Penda rolls away taking all that baggage with her. She travels fast, with sneakers firmly anchored on her skateboard. She moves away from the divination of the cauris of Mami Pirate, of the “Starfoullah what the hell is this” of her sister Shango, of the initiation to Iboga of Fontainebleau, of Madame la Psy Lydia Duval, the advances of his friend Chico, the distress of his quasi-brother Jimmy. She moves away from it physically but she gets closer spiritually to everything that makes up her daily life. She copes, Penda, on the condition of being able to gain height, to look at things more attentively. Driving very far can make you dizzy with the distance, but wouldn’t getting lost be an opportunity to find yourself again?
Personally, that’s the characters
Our surprise guest, the Penda jinn chatting with mine, has read my review so far, and wanted to add something:
“Personally, I’m not against your description of people, but…
That’s also Penda: a boxer of the soul. She dodges the blows. Right. Attack already. Left. Bend your legs. Healthy. Traced back. Safe. Faces. Alive. She said that forgetting to be black is like having a low guard in boxing.
I admit I don’t help him all the time on this one, but the thing is that even if I have dreadlocks up to my buttocks, I’m white wesh, not the same experience. Penda is a girl like you don’t get every day: dry and concise, her phrasing is just like her, he doesn’t get lost in blah blah. But sometimes she lets go, huh, like when her sister Shango braids her hair and then it goes straight into a psych session. I’ll add one more thing and I’ll give up: it must be said that Chico deals in the street and runs on kebabs and fries, and that Penda and Jimmy have a weakness for pasta with ketchup. Ok, everyone rolls small joints to get through the days without plans, (and sometimes no one has the head to chill with us spirits, let’s be clear), but when there is an emergency they are all there, united. They squat scooters with no one to think, go into the forest with revolutionary ideas, they have no problem admitting that they all have a fart in their helmet. But who doesn’t? »
The value of silence
The title of the novel Jinns, does service to one of the themes of the manuscript: the possibility of putting a face to this “other” who inhabits us in a more or less violent way, as in the case of schizophrenia. It is a novel engaged in the restitution without tinsel of the singular, magical and poetic universe of its protagonist. But if one could be tempted to rely on the transcultural side of schizophrenia – how to interpret and treat it according to two often antagonistic, sometimes complementary medicines – in reality it is only one angle among others. . Considering the extent of the hot topics touched upon in Jinns – racism, classism, incommunicability, transmission, loneliness – we feel the work that the author, Seynabou Sonko, has certainly undertaken to put these flames on paper instead of having let them perhaps burn her. Instead of a pile of ashes, this multi-talented novelist gave birth to a novel. Where she also deals with the importance of friendship, the benefits of human warmth, the long road to a glimmer of knowledge, and the initiation rites that life places on our path, without necessarily presenting them to us as such. But does wanting to name things make them more powerful? Or on the contrary, weakens them?
Jinns opens multiple doors to existential dilemmas as old as the world. And offers a place of honor to silence: Silence is a precious marble, an emerald that we hold between our fingers in the direction of the sun. We no longer know if it is the ball or the sun that dazzles us. Just because I was silent doesn’t mean I had nothing to say. On the contrary, the silencers are gigantic volcanoes. The earth trembles in them “.
It was Mami Pirate who advised Penda to listen to everything people don’t say when they speak. To cling to that, to have any chance of deciphering reality.
Reading between the lines is also the challenge at the heart of this sometimes sibylline novel. Is reality what we hear or, conversely, everything that is not available to our ears? With this last question, I wish you a good listening, oops, reading.
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Djinns my skate board | africultures
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