Negotiations of Blame in Mboudjak’s Yaounde

The Yaounde that Mboudjak bears witness to is one characterized by ever-shifting negotiations of blame-placing. The wild accusations of cannibalism throughout and the specific accusation of theft in the marketplace especially show the often incoherent nature of these experiments in blame. The actual, confirmed innocence of the accused in the latter case and presumably (hopefully?) in the various iterations of the former show the directionless and illogical casting about for somebody to blame. Furthermore, they illuminate how the act of blaming, not actual guilt or proof, is really an exercise in claiming power on a small scale, in a fleeting context, rather than actual, lasting pursuit of truth (thus, change).

Of particular interest to me were the two attempted suicides in the novel. Both individuals shift the locus of responsibility for their threatened demise away from themselves, a seeming paradox given the obvious nature of suicide.  The first attempt by the civil servant in the bar is interesting in its specific blame of Mini Minor. Though she denies her guilt and derides the man for the attempt, his choice to name her specifically and, in my opinion, somewhat reasonably (that is, I but the alleged relationship and abandonment) is uncharacteristic of blame elsewhere (where it seeks to blame irrationally, fleetingly). Most interesting to me is the man’s claim that ‘The only one who can take this gun from me is Mini Minor!’ (42); that claim sets up an interesting logic in which the one to blame for his threatened death is also the only one who can save him.
The second attempted suicide assigns blame through the woman’s deployment of vague language ( ‘Today is the day they‘re gonna kill me!’ (142, 143)), but somewhat specific reference to the state, or, in a more abstract (but, I would say still specific) sense, the interminable wait for change which constitutes the crisis. On that point, we are told “[t]hey made her wait. Everyone was always asking her to wait, yes, to wait, and then wait some more” (145). She specifically names the bank, but that reference, of course, carries the trace of complicit institutions, namely the corrupt government and the failures of the community at large to invest in mutual care.

Arguably the suicides fail to come to fruition because of their nature as negotiations of blame, albeit dramatic ones. Through the blame placing performed by each individual, each suicide shows that the suicidal party does not actually want to die – they instead feel as though they are being murdered at the hands of others in every sense except the literal.
No doubt the observers’ reactions in both instances deserve more scrutiny (Why do so many encourage the suicidal individuals to go through with it? Or deride them for their failure? Does this betray their own frustration with the ubiquity of waiting? )

Posted on October 30, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. kowlessarchristine

    I think that this theme of blame-placing is quite interesting. The two scenes you point out about the suicides are great examples of how each character separate themselves from what they are doing and just passes off the act onto some independent being that is not even there to witness this event. You mention the specific accusation of theft which has happened a lot throughout Dog Days. At the moment I cannot help but think of the scene when the woman in the marketplace could not find her wallet and blamed a young man for stealing it. I could not believe how quickly she placed the blame on this young man as well as how quickly the public believed her. I begin to wonder what the public gets out of this blame-placing or even encouraging the suicidal individuals. Is it because they all face difficult times so giving someone an even harder time makes them feel superior? Makes them seem better off?

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