Friday, April 03, 2009

Mellancollie and the Infinite Sadness
The title of an old Smashing Pumpkins album repeats itself in my mind: everywhere I go there seems to be but sadness.
I arrived back in Djenne Tuesday night. Early that morning Napoleon died, and later he was buried at the ancient burial ground at Djenne Djeno where we used to ride every night. All the staff made up the funeral cortege they told me, and Dolly pulled the cart to the burial site, close to where I used to stop to let him graze.

Petit Baba had taken him for a gallop beside the main road to the Bani Crossing towards evening on Monday. They had passed one of the numerous Monday equipages: a horse and cart carrying the market women on their way back to their village after the Djenne Monday market.
Baba rode Napo with a rope only attached around his mouth, not even a bit. The rope was too long and trailed behind- it got mixed up in the wheels of the passing cart and the wild gallop ended in disaster. Napoleon’s progress was stopped with a violent shock which threw him to the ground and broke all the bones of his body. Petit Baba was thrown five meters in the air and landed with a guardian angel cushioning his fall- he only got a slight bruise on one arm. Beigna’s mother commented that Napo had died instead of petit Baba- there had been an exchange taking place on some mysterious level where Napo had offered himself as the sacrifice demanded. This African interpretation of events is of course interesting, but if this is the truth, the offended divinity has not been appeased, because disasters continue to rain down on me.

The first night back, the newly repaired generator gave up the ghost again, and the stalwart Ace was once more dispatched to Bamako with the broken piece to be mended.
I remain here until Sunday morning to put everything in order for my journey back to Europe. The hotel is empty apart from Rene, a Swiss playwright who is working on a script and keeping me company. He has decided to stay even without the electricity and we dine under the stars with a couple of petrol lamps.
Le tout Djenne know of course that Keita and I are now married, but the hotel which used to be full of all Keita’s friends is deserted and only one person has passed to greet me. I do not quite understand what has provoked such antagonism- was it always there? Perhaps it was, but no one ever showed it when Keita was here to protect me.
The picture above shows the successful conclusion of a type of solitaire which my grandmother taught me. Keita and I played it all the time during our stay in Bamako this last winter, It is called, curiously, Napoleon’s Grave.


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