Language use and literary onomastics as markers of identity in the Nigérien novel: an overview of two novels by Mahamadou Halilou Sabbo

  • Abdou Labo Bouché The Abdou Moumouni University in Niamey
  • Antoinette Tidjani Alou The Abdou Moumouni University in Niamey, Niger
Keywords: Nigérien novel, Niger, Hausa, identity, onomastics, Hausa proverbs, migration, myth of the “coast”


Nigérien literature written in French is not widely known outside of French-speaking Africa, and even there, only in certain milieus. This is due in part to its relative newness, dating from the beginning of independence, around 1960. However, the main reason concerns the low level of productivity. Moreover, many works remain at the level of manuscripts since access to publishing is not easy: local publishers are non-existent, while local printers find little interest (i.e. profit) in this emerging literature in a country where the reading population is minimal, as most Nigériens are illiterate. Nonetheless, some Nigériens do engage in literary writing and their works demonstrate certain specific traits. In opposition to the pan-African interests and orientations of first-generation francophone African writers like Léopold Sédar Senghor, Birago Diop and Mongo Beti, Nigérien writers, on the whole, have a tendency to concentrate on issues of local social, political and cultural importance. Themes range from the denunciation of past regimes to various aspects of the processes of social change underway. An examination of Mahamadou Halilou Sabbo’s Abboki, ou l’appel de la côte (Abboki, or the call of the coast) and Caprices du destin (Destiny’s whims) provides an interesting point of entry into an overview of the relation between language use and character construction on one hand, and the processes of national identity construction on the other. 

Author Biographies

Abdou Labo Bouché, The Abdou Moumouni University in Niamey

Abdou Labo Bouché teaches in the Department of English at the Abdou Moumouni University in Niamey.

Antoinette Tidjani Alou, The Abdou Moumouni University in Niamey, Niger

Antoinette Tidjani Alou teaches French Literature, Comparative Literature and Literary Criticism, in the Department of Modern Literature at The Abdou Moumouni University in Niamey, Niger. She is a member of the research group on “Literature, Gender and Development. Nigérien Visions and Perspectives”.


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How to Cite
BouchéA. L., & AlouA. T. (2019). Language use and literary onomastics as markers of identity in the Nigérien novel: an overview of two novels by Mahamadou Halilou Sabbo. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 42(2).
Research articles