Alcohol and Colonialism

Weren’t they the thousand bottles my master had opened up in front of that makossa-dancing man? Beaufort, tritri, chômé, nsansanboy, quatre fois quatre, gwan, gnôle, odontol, petit Guinness, and so on: in a word, jobajo. (28)

Alcohol obviously plays a huge role in Dog Days, as a lot of the action takes place in a bar. I noticed as I was reading, particularly in the above passage, that a lot of the alcohol they drink is foreign. From what I could find of the ones listed above, the alcohol is a mixture of Cameroonian, French, German, and British alcohol. This makes complete sense as Cameroon was colonized by France, Germany, and Great Britain.

The foreign alcohol is significant because it turns men lazy and gluttonous. Throughout Dog Days, we see how nobody does anything productive when drunk. In the midst of this economic crisis, everyone opens up bars and imports foreign alcohol and they sit around doing no real work. At one point there is a conversation in The Customer Is King about what the President should do about opposition leaders overseas, and a customer says of the opposition leaders:

“At least if they come back, they’ll be of some use. Instead of wasting their time criticizing, they’ll build the country with us.”

Panther’s voice said, “Mbe ke di? Ou mbe ke di? What are you saying? That you’re building Cameroon, sitting there behind your jobajo?” (73)

In the novel, alcohol is constantly getting men into fights or leading them to suicide, and the character of “Alcoholic Candy” represents the link between alcohol and death. Alcoholic Candy digs graves, and his name leads to the implication that alcohol digs men’s graves, too.

What does this say about colonialism? The alcohol that is driving these men to their graves is provided by the countries that used to colonize Cameroon, and to me this signifies how colonialism brought terrible things like laziness and gluttony into Cameroon. However, some of the alcohol in the book is distinctly Cameroonian – such as the odontol – so I’m not quite sure what to make of it. Even so, I still believe that there is a clear message here about some of the customs and products and influences brought in by the colonizers and the negative effects they had on the people of Cameroon.


Posted on October 30, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I agree with you Jennifer that the alcohol does as a catalyst for the men in the Cameroonian society to act out certain behaviors. But I disagree with you stating that the alcohol is the epicenter of the men’s problems. The men are lazy because they do not have jobs any more that defined their masculinity. The alcohol is merely a crutch to suppress the anger and the pain from losing the thing that gave them power. The reason the man attempts to commit suicide with the gun is because of seeing Mini Minor with another man, the police commissioner, not alcohol being the root of the problem. I think the people drinking foreign alcohol displays how Western society still has a hold on Africa as a whole, not just Cameroon. The alcohol maybe a metaphor for the use of the IMF in the Cameroonian economy to sustain them during the economic crisis. The IMF did not have Cameroonian traditions and the peoples’ best interest at heart when establishing economic adjustments. The IMF was foreign and heavily impacted the economy in Cameroon that still stands to this day.

  2. Alcohol is an interesting subject. Both The Memory of Love and Doy days bring in a scene of people in a bar or people spending time in a bar. In The Memory of Love, Elias drinks a lot and when he sees others in a problem, he also offers them a drink. When Saffia is in a fragile state of mind after Julias’ disappearance, Elias brings rum to Saffia. This shows that Elias is trying to use alcohol as a temporary solution; however it does not solve anything. In Dog Days, almost everyone in the town come to the bar, Customer is the King, and brink and talk rumors. This action of people is also their act to deny the reality that they are facing. However, the nuance of the use of alcohol differ in these two books. In the memory of love, Elias using alcohol to face and fight through his tough life that he is in, but neighbors in Dog Days use alcohol in resistance to look at the reality of Cameroon.

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