A long-time figure on the Togolese cultural scene, teacher of theater studies, playwright, short story writer, critic, Ayayi Togoata Apedo-Amah signed his first novel only a few months ago: Amour gamado. “In the Ewe language, gamado means not to “gongon”, in other words not to ring the gong, not to dramatize,” explains the author. The expression is taken from a proverb which says that if a lover or a mistress goes elsewhere, there is no point in making a drama of it, there is no death of a man. However, the first pages of the book immediately make us understand that the heroes will not reach this horizon of peace and serenity without difficulty.

It all begins with the headlong rush of a young student, Kooko, fleeing half-naked from her pursuers through the streets of Lomé. On the verge of being caught, she is rescued at the last minute by Anaté, a young entrepreneur who was passing by in a car and who, without thinking, goes to hide her in his private apartment. The unexpected meeting of the two protagonists is coupled with a discovery: both are promised to forced marriages which they refuse. Away from the gaze of their respective families, Kooko and Anaté will get to know each other and give birth to a true and solid love between them, which they will have to defend in the face of many trials.

Beginning like this, with a breathtaking scene, Amour gamado will never cease to surprise us, as the most diverse and unexpected adventures accumulate there. Weddings not taking place as planned, rejected fiancés plot their revenge, families who see their financial interests collapse clash. Parents and in-laws resort in turn to the occult powers of sorcerers, to being dispelled by high Catholic prelates or, tired of fighting, choose to corrupt magistrates and politicians.

We witness numerous settling of scores and scenes of hand-to-hand combat where blood flows and death falls. A corpse even falls from the sky one day! And when we believe the heroes are finally free from their toxic families, in the second part of the book, new characters appear: the hyena men. “A criminal brotherhood which recruited men and women dedicated to crime, to deprivation of the State for their interests (…). All new applicants were subject to an investigation to verify their sincerity. After six months, if he was a man, he had to undergo the ultimate test: copulate all night with a female hyena and satisfy all her desires. »

Humor and excess

With this irruption of the fantastic, Ayayi Togoata Apedo-Amah’s novel definitively confirms its protean character. Love, sex, blood and tears punctuate a narrative where moments of colorful fantasy follow scenes of violence full of hemoglobin. It is of course in the second degree that we must read this novel, which borrows from theater, from dramatic comedy, and which also contains poetic passages and moments of philosophical exchange. On a formal level, the author has clearly given himself complete freedom, as he underlines, in a discussion between two characters: “The writer is not accountable to anyone. He is guided by his conscience and above all his freedom. Art is par excellence the domain of freedom. »

But behind the great originality, humor and excess, we can discern the general point. This is about denouncing certain practices which are evil for society as a whole. Starting with parental mistreatment and the enslavement of women through forced marriage or the moral and physical violence inflicted on them. Or the limitless erosion of the ruling classes through corruption, that of the working classes through self-proclaimed preachers of new religions…

Apedo-Amah is certainly a feminist in the way she portrays Kooko, a heroine capable of making her own choices without fear and who nonetheless obtains the respect of her lover, Anaté, who listens and shares everything. “Let all those who think that in our modern age we can still sell human beings like cattle, change their mentality! (…) The rich who can buy salt cannot buy life,” declares the officiant during the ceremony of an arranged marriage… which will not take place. But the Togolese author’s novel is also indicative of a form of idealism: that which consists of thinking that everyone’s freedom of choice is an essential value and that, perhaps, future generations will finally know understand and put it into practice. Thus we will one day be able to witness the advent of a society freed from the desire for power and the enslavement of others. Novels are for dreaming.