This book is one of the best things I have read in a long time. Fatou Diome is a Senegalese-French writer, “Le Ventre de l’Atlantique” (translated as “The Belly of the Atlantic”) is her first novel where she explores with humility and humour, the story of a bold Senegalese- French writer navigating throughout her own identity challenges as an African- European and her relationship with her brother still in Senegal but dreaming of coming to France.
The story resonated with me in so many instances and concretely help me deepen my journey to self-acceptance. This book enabled me to understands the importance of reading content that matches your reality, from authors who share part of your story. It was a mind-opening and enriching experience. I have no doubt that continuously getting to know ourselves is the strongest basis we can build as strong-minded and conscious individuals.
The book it is nothing less than a piece of art. It is wonderfully written. Her words are powerful yet smooth and poetic. The character’s stories are constantly intertwined with powerful life lessons and philosophical concerns.
What are we talking about?
The book is partly autobiographical, it deals with the story of Salie a Senegalese-French immigrant and her younger brother Madicke crazy about football, who stayed in Senegal but counts on her to get him to France. To him, France is the only way to success, the promised land where foreign footballers become world famous.
Throughout the book, Salie tries explaining to him the grim reality of the lives of immigrants. But he does not grab it, nor can hear it. Apart from the story of Salie and Madicke, the book is filled with powerful stories of people living in Senegal, in the Island of Niodor, and describe their relations with home, and their idea of immigration.
What are the most important things I learnt from it?
It is always unrealistic to envy or idealise someone’s situation
Most of the characters dream to leave Senegal for France. However, those who leave are those who have the heaviest stories, the biggest scars. No matter how successfully they become or they appear to have become they are those who have lived the worst tragedies. Leaving eventually become their only and best option. To them, leaving is more than a dream but a matter of dignity.
“Leaving means having the courage necessary to go and give birth to one’s self,” – Fatou Diome.
Moreover, those who leave to chase a dream, hide the struggles they encountered or are being marginalised by their entire community for vocalizing their hardships.Those situations have been a great way of reminding me that there is only so much we can grasp about someone’s story. Chances are people we perceived as being successful, lucky and enviable also have their own narrative of challenges. Working to understand our own journey and staying focus on deepening our own potential is the best way to grow.
We should always check our dreams/goals. Do they stem from our deepest self or the dominant narratives we are accustomed to hearing?
In the book, the character’s dreams are the results of a narrative they constantly hear about France, emphasized by their environment, popular culture and the media. France is seen as the Eldorado, the place you get money even when you do not work, the place where the best thing and latest technology come from. Those elements create in their imaginary the idea that France is a type of paradise.
Yet, once we truly dig into the character’s stories and psychology. We realise that going to France is in fact not their dream nor their goal. Their dream is to live doing what they love and having the means to help themselves and their loved ones. But because France is so heavily fantasize going over there has become their only options to realise their ambitions.
We can make this analogy with every dream we have. For instance, many consider going to university as the only way to success, the best path in comparison to vocational training, yet do not necessarily take the time to question their dreams and identify their purpose and options. It is work to check our motives, nevertheless, questioning our dreams and goals is necessary to become the most authentic version of ourselves, to become aligned and at peace with ourselves.
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