Download PDF:
For citation:

Lyakhovskaya N.D. Shadow of Imana: Travels in the Heart of Rwanda by Véronique Tadjo as the First Travelogue in the Francophone African Literatures. Studia Litterarum, 2017, vol. 2, no 4, pp. 156–169. (In Russ.) DOI:10.22455/2500-4247-2017-2-4-156-169

Author: Nina D. Lyakhovskaya
Information about the author:

Nina D. Lyakhhovskaya, DSc in Philology, Associate Professor, A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Povarskaya 25 а, 121069 Moscow, Russia.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Received: December 06, 2016
Published: December 25, 2017
Issue: 2017 Vol. 2, №4
Department: World Literature
Pages: 156-169

UDK: 821.112.6
BBK: 83.3(6=Фра)
Keywords: travelogue, hybrid form, definitions of style, motivation, chronotope, documentary-biographical prose, fiction, short stories.


This essay focuses on the genre of travelogue that was new to the African Francophone literatures. The analysis of the novel In the Shadow of Imana: Travels in the Heart of Rwanda (2000) by the Ivorian writer Véronique Tadjo is a standpoint of my polemics with the con- cept of travelogue and its distinctive features defined by Maiga Abubakarom Abdulvakhidu in his PhD dissertation Africa in French and Russian Travelogues (A. Gide and N. Gumilev) (2016). The author of the dissertation considers travelogues to be a “composite” form. One part is documentary-biographical with the obligatory chronotope of the way, stops, and personal impressions of the travelers (Gide’s travel notes about his travels to Tunisia, Sahara, Congo, lake Chad, Egyptian Diaries, etc.; Gumilev’s travel notes about Abyssinia, African Diaries, and letters). The second part is fictional (Gide’s prose poem “The Fruits of the Earth” and his novel Immoralist; Gumilev’s tales and poems from his turn-of-the-century collections such as The Tent, The Quiver, and The Fire). Tadjo’s book, in contrast to these travelogues, represents a solid form that combines documentary and biographical prose (containing the chronotope of the way and stops in the places of the tragic death of tutsi, the victims of the hutu genocide in 1994) with fiction (mini-novellas with fictional characters). Maiga claims that the latter is never neutral and is usually structured as a comparison of “one’s own” and the “other” culture. Moreover, the representative of “one’s own” culture is usually also the representative of the normal strand. In Maiga’s concept, however, an essential property of travelogues such as personal motivation of the travelogue author is marginalized. This property defines a motif that gives its solid form to the travelogue. In Tadjo’s travelogue, this is compassion for the genocide victims in Rwanda and the author’s indignation with the indifference of the international community and the UN. This humanistic motif features psychologic aspects of the narrator as the author’s strongest stylistic achievement.


1 Liakhovskaia N.D. Literatura Kot d’Ivuar. Dramaturgiia i romanistika [Literature of Cout D’Avoir. Dramas and Novels]. Moscow, Nauka Publ., 2015. 276 p. (In Russ.)

2 Maiga A.A. Afrika vo frantsuzskikh i russkikh travelogakh (A. Zhid i N. Gumilev) [Africa in French and Russian Travelogues (A. Gide and N. Gumilev)]. Diss. Cand. Sci. (PhD thesis in philology). St. Petersburg, 2016. 21 p. (In Russ.)

3 Tadjo V. L’ombre d’Imana: le voyage au bout de Rwanda. Paris, Actes Zud., 2000. 154 p. (In French)