Mission to Kala (Guided Reader)
Mongo Beti, John Davey
Macmillan Education (May 1977)
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Mission to Kala (Mission terminée) is a powerful comic novel set in late colonial Cameroon. It won the Prix Sainte-Beuve in 1958. It describes the visit of a young Yaounde-educated man to a village in the interior. Jean-Marie Medza, the narrator, has just failed his Baccalauréat exam, and returns home expecting humiliation. Instead, he finds that as a scholar his prestige is immense, and he is charged with the duty of travelling to Kala, a remote village, to secure the return of a young woman who has fled her lazy, demanding husband. In Kala, while awaiting the return of the woman to the village, Medza stays with his uncle, who exploits the young man's celebrity status to have him showered with gifts, most of which his uncle keeps. Medza is the focus of a series of amusing incidents, becomes unexpectedly married, and eventually completes his mission - but then has to return home to deal with the anger of his ambitious father. Mongo Beti (1932-2001) was a key figure in modern West African literature. His major works of fiction include The Poor Christ of Bomba (1956), Mission to Kala (1957) The Miraculous King (1958), and Perpetua and the Habit of Unhappiness (1974). His non-fiction includes The rape of Cameroon, autopsy of a decolonisation (1972) and France against Africa: return to Cameroon (1993). Although he spent 32 years in self-imposed exile, only returning to Cameroon in 1991, he was throughout his career a powerful political and moral voice, always engaged in the affairs of his home country.