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The Majesty of Kahel


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The Majesty of Kahel by Brand: AmazonCrossing
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Tierno Monenembo's The King of Kahel was originally published in France in 2008 and was the winner of the French literary prize, the prix Renaudot, which is awarded to the author of an outstanding original novel.  Loosely based on the life of Olivier de Sanderval, a man who journeyed to Guinea to build an empire by conquering the hostile region of Fouta Djallon, the book exposes how Sanderval braves all dangers to build a railway that will bring modern civilization to Africa. Review
Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Author Tierno Monénembo

(Translated from the French by Nicholas Elliott)

Question: What inspired you to write this book?

Tierno Monénembo: My former headmaster, the great Guinean historian Djibril Tamsir Niane! He suggested I take an interest in Olivier de Sanderval during a conference in Niamey. He told me he was "a real character out of a novel."

He didn’t know how right he was!

Question: What authors or books have influenced your writing?

Tierno Monénembo: Everything I read influences me, even the phone book! There are so many jumbled influences on my imagination that it would be very difficult for me to give every one of my mentors his or her due. Let’s start with my grandmother, who never wrote a thing, by the way, but whose tales and legends were my first heritage. Immediately after her come Mongo Beti, Hampathe Ba, Flaubert, Maupassant, Juan Rulfo, Céline, Yambo Ouologuem, Dostoyevsky, Ahmadou Kourouma, Faulkner, Kateb Yacine, and a thousand other geniuses who came from every end of the earth to teach me to dream my own dreams.

In my case, we shouldn’t speak of influence, but of confluence and preference, in the plural.

Question: What research did you do while writing your book?

Tierno Monénembo: I was more or less familiar with the historical context. My research was therefore limited to the life of Olivier de Sanderval, notably his inner and romantic life. Chance led me to his grandson, who is now 83 years old and who generously allowed me access both to the written family archives and, thankfully, to the oral ones. Olivier de Sanderval was not only a legend in his time, but in his family.

Question: Is there any character in The King of Kahel with whom you most identify? Why?

Tierno Monénembo: Olivier de Sanderval himself! I like his intelligence, his splendid sense of pride and solitude, his insatiable curiosity, his courage at the edge of despair, his perpetual dissatisfaction, and his obsessive desire to be unlike anyone of his time.

Question: Have you always wanted to be a writer? What other careers have you pursued?

Tierno Monénembo: When I was a kid, I would rather have become a singer. My schoolmasters told me I had a beautiful voice. Though to be honest I have to admit that I loved to read and that by high school I had filled an old notebook with my own tales.

The writer I became was revealed by the pain of exile rather than the magic of precocious talent found in Mozart or Rimbaud.

Question: How does this book compare to your previous books?

Tierno Monénembo: My previous books were written from inside Africa, its woods, its myths, its chimeras, and its curses. This one was written from inside Olivier de Sanderval. And please don’t see that as some literary trick. This Merlin simply succeeded in casting his spell on me (despite the still-fresh colonial memory that clutters my mind), taking hold of my pen, and writing this book in my place.

And I guarantee you I see no reason to complain about it!

Question: What’s next for you?

Tierno Monénembo: I am currently writing a novel about a character in many ways similar to our King of Kahel. Olivier de Sanderval is a white man who came to Africa to take part in the history of the Fulas. Addi Ba is a Fula who came to France to take part in the history of the white man. During the Second World War, after General De Gaulle’s call, he was one of the first to found a resistance Maquis. Arrested by the Germans, he was executed by a firing squad in Epinal in 1943. Generous and eternal France finally recognized his contribution... in 2003, or sixty years after his comrades.

Still, three streets in France are now named after him.

A Traditional Guinean Recipe: Bourakhew

Get a taste for Tierno Monénembo's home country with this traditional Guinean recipe.


  • 2 cups palm oil
  • 3 onions
  • 2 hot peppers
  • 1 carp and 2 smoked fish
  • 1 pile of dried shrimp
  • 2 gumbos
  • 1 bowl of potato leaves, or ground manioc leaves
  • oysters
  • 2 Maggi cubes
  • 5 pieces of meat


First pour 2 cups of water in the pot, put it on the fire, then add the well-cleaned fish and the 5 pieces of meat. Cook the fish for 10 minutes then take it out of the pot. Skin and bone the fish and put it back in the pot, then pour the 2 cups of oil in. Add the 2 smoked fish after having removed their bones. Wash the potato leaves, which have been cut into small pieces, and put them in the pot. Crush the onions and the peppers.

The trick of cooking this dish is to remove enough water from the sauce to make room for the oil, which rises to the surface of the sauce. Cooking for one hour will get you a very good "bourékhè" sauce.

Follow the same steps to prepare this dish with manioc leaves, with the exception that the leaves need to be ground and dried before they are cooked.



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Flaubert by Belknap Press
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Michel Winock’s biography situates Gustave Flaubert’s life and work in France’s century of great democratic transition. Flaubert did not welcome the egalitarian society predicted by Tocqueville. Wary of the masses, he rejected the universal male suffrage hard won by the Revolution of 1848, and he was exasperated by the nascent socialism that promoted the collective to the detriment of the individual. But above all, he hated the bourgeoisie. Vulgar, ignorant, obsessed with material comforts, impervious to beauty, the French middle class embodied for Flaubert every vice of the democratic age. His loathing became a fixation―and a source of literary inspiration.

Flaubert depicts a man whose personality, habits, and thought are a stew of paradoxes. The author of Madame Bovary and Sentimental Education spent his life inseparably bound to solitude and melancholy, yet he enjoyed periodic escapes from his “hole” in Croisset to pursue a variety of pleasures: fervent friendships, society soirées, and a whirlwind of literary and romantic encounters. He prided himself on the impersonality of his writing, but he did not hesitate to use material from his own life in his fiction. Nowhere are Flaubert’s contradictions more evident than in his politics. An enemy of power who held no nostalgia for the monarchy or the church, he was nonetheless hostile to collectivist utopias.

Despite declarations of the timelessness and sacredness of Art, Flaubert could not transcend the era he abominated. Rejecting the modern world, he paradoxically became its celebrated chronicler and the most modern writer of his time.

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    12/03/15 ,via The State

    Elliott said the eagle's release was especially exciting because it marked the 7,000th rehabilitated bird of prey helped at the center since its opening 24 years ago in Awendaw about 16 miles north of Charleston. The only specialized avian conservation

  • See the full list of LEF Teacher Award nominees

    12/03/15 ,via The Daily Advertiser

    Raquel Augustus, Ronald Baillargeon, Nicholas Bihm, Jean-Luc Billeaudeaux, Rachel Brown, Lian Cheramie, Marianne Cheramie, Jonathan Cole, Jamie Cook, Leigh Corbell, Kari Duhon, Dwayne Edwards, Rodolfo Espinoza, John Keller, Michelle Landry, Shauna


@tirnaog09 big Elliott and Nicholas scored, I think. Pissed down that day. 12/03/15, @MixtyMuxty
No, never: 12/03/15, @asherahresearch
RT @PapioCompliment: Elliott dritt is one of the funniest guys I know. He's so outgoing and funny. His personality brightens anyone day in … 12/02/15, @molina_nicholas


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  • Never judge a man by his umbrella

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  • PLYMOUTH PUBLIC SCHOOLS: 166 local seniors win state tuition waivers with their performance on MCAS tests

    12/03/15 ,via Wicked Local Plymouth

    Nicholas Elliott, Daniel Ferguson, Bradyn Fortini, Dennis Fox, Joseph Gallagher, Thomas Gallerani, Zachary George, Luke Goldring, Mallory Hanson, Tessa Harkenrider, Madison Hendry, Alison Hobson, Veronica Holmes, Elizabeth Hull, Loren Jarman, Jacob Jobe ...

  • Glen Este High School honor rolls

    12/02/15 ,via Cincinnati

    Sophomores - Benjamin Applegate, Lucas Arnold, Skylar Boeh, Cameron Brandenburg, Joshua Bunton, Marlena Burdick, Alex Click, Robert Conner, Katherine Cornelius, Riley Day, Dakota Denier, Heather Doughty, David Elliott, Olivia Fee, Jacqueline Fehr ...

  • North Haven Middle School announces Honor Roll

    12/02/15 ,via Post Chronicle

    Nicholas Nesdale, Zachary Nesdale, Evan O’Connell, Zoe Pastore, Rahi Patel, Courtney Perfetto, Elliot Rastkhane, Sydney Rastkhane, Jesse Rodriguez, Ruohan Sang, Ava Santacroce, Melissa Seidemann, Eryn Sheeley, Hunter Stenquist, Kara Stevens, Savannah ...


Nicholas Elliott - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Nicholas Rede Elliott, known as Nicholas Elliott, (15 November 1916 – 13 April 1994) was an MI6 Intelligence Officer; Honorary Attache, the Hague 1938-40 ...

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... treacherous friendship with Nicholas Elliott | Books | The Guardian