(January 5, 2011) — New College of Florida Professor Amy Reid’s English translation of the book Queen Pokou: Concerto for a Sacrifice by Veronique Tadjo was named one of NPR’s Favorite Books of 2010. NPR foreign correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton chose Queen Pokou as her favorite read of the year.
Reid translated the book from the original French in 2009. Queen Pokou (Reine Pokou, in French) is published by Ayebia Clark Publishing.
“Quite by chance, I picked up Reine Pokou (the 2009 English translation of a book I devoured when it was first published in French and won the prestigious 2005 Grand Prix Litteraire d’Afrique Noire) as I headed to Ivory Coast to cover the Nov. 28th presidential runoff vote,” wrote Quist-Arcton, who covers West Africa for NPR. “It was fascinating to plunge back into the past and savor one brave woman’s sacrifice and vision and how she overcame.”
Queen Pokou recounts the legend of Queen Abraha Pokou, ancestral founder of the Baoule people in what is today’s Ivory Coast. As her people desperately flee their enemies, discarding their valuables as they attempt to cross a great river and reach safety, Pokou realizes that she must sacrifice her infant son for the common good. Her cry ‘Ba-ouli: the child is dead!’ is adopted as the name of the people. Tadjo presents the tale as a series of overlapping and radically differing narratives that explore the mutability of oral history and received wisdom.