Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote is the life story of President Koyaga, the dictator of the (fictional) République du Golfe, as told to him by his court storyteller Bingo.
Bingo is in some ways the ultimate unreliable narrator, portraying Koyaga as a heroic, semi-mythical figure protected by powerful magic, but he is accompanied by an apprentice whose role is to speak truth to power. The result is a portrayal of post-colonial African politics which is brutal, and darkly comic.
It has the sprawling rhythms of oral storytelling, with its repetitions and parallelism, which makes it difficult to pick an excerpt which does it justice and is short enough for me to type out. But this will do: it’s a part of an account of Koyaga’s triumphal march across the country after surviving a coup.
At the entrance to a far-off village, the hunters take the initiative of offering you — since you are a sinbo, a donsoba (a master hunter) — the shoulder of a slaughtered bubale. At the next village there are shoulders, haunches, heads. At the village after that, there is a stinking mound of animal carcasses of every species: deer, monkeys, even elephants. Above the pile, the canopy of trees is black with vultures. In the sky, carrion birds attack each other with terrifying cries. Packs of hyenas, lycaons, lions follow and threaten.
The order is given that hunters should no longer offer you the shoulders of game killed by the hunters that week, need not gratify the master hunter who is their guest as their code of brotherhood demands.
In another village, to set itself apart, the sacrificial priest does not stop at two chickens and a goat, he offers four chickens, two goats and an ox to the manes of the ancestors. The sacrificial priests in neighbouring villages follow suit, they outdo him, they go too far. Soon there are twenty oxen and as many goats and forty chickens. The sacrifice becomes interminable, it is a veritable hecatomb. A call goes out for a limit to be set on the number of sacrificial victims.
Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote is my book from Côte d’Ivoire for the Read The World challenge.
“A huge monument built in the middle of nowhere to celebrate a plane crash that the dictator of Togo survived in the seventies. The photos at the base of the statue (donated by the people of North Korea) are Eyadéma’s generals that died.
The only other visitors were the goats on the left…”