Summary Of African Prose Xala By Sembene Ousmane; This African prose is the official literature text for IJMB Literature from 2021 – 2024, IJMB students are advised to study this summary after they read the book.
IJMB Literature Xala By Sembene Ousmane
The book opens with a meeting with Senegalese businessmen celebrating their independence from colonialism. One of the men, El Hadji Abdou Kader Beye (“El Hadji”), invited the others to his wedding party later that day. This wedding is to be his third, earning El Hadji the traditional distinction of “captain,” a polygamist status that indicates wealth and success.
Before he goes to the house of his third wife to celebrate, however, he needs to pick up his other two wives, who live in their own villas with money-hungry children. His first wife, Adja, is a more conservative and religious woman who respects local Senegalese traditions, but his second wife, Oumi, is a more “modern” woman who admires foreign customs and the French language. Both women are extremely jealous of each other, and they are each jealous of El Hadji’s third wife.
El Hadji’s third wedding was arranged by Yay Bineta, an aunt of the bride (a relation also known as Badyen). Unable to find a husband of her own due to the fact that she was twice widowed (local traditionalists have thus marked her as a very unlucky woman, destined to claim a third victim), she manipulated El Hadji over a long period of time until he eventually was coerced into marrying her niece, N’Gone, an uneducated yet beautiful woman who otherwise would not have been able to provide for her family.
IJMB Literature Xala By Sembene Ousmane
After the party, when it is time for husband and wife to proceed to the nuptial chamber, Yay Bineta asks El Hadji to perform some traditional rituals to boost his potency. El Hadji, however, declines as he does not believe in supernatural hocus-pocus. The next morning, El Hadji confesses to the Badyen that he could not perform as expected, and word soon begins to spread of El Hadji’s Xala (meaning impotence).
Humiliated by being the talk of the entire town, El Hadji concludes that one of his other wives put a curse on him out of jealousy. He suspects that his second wife Oumi is behind the curse, but he cannot find any hard evidence. Trying to find a cure to the ailment plaguing him, he visits a range of healers and neglects his business. One of the seers discovers that someone close to him cursed him. Meanwhile, El Hadji grows more and more isolated and skittish, neglecting his family and failing to be mentally present in any of his various interactions. Eventually, El Hadji runs out of money and is unable to provide for his wives and employees.
With the help of his driver, however, he finds a healer named Sereen Mada who lifts the curse. Despite this momentary salvation, after the check he gives to Sereen Mada bounces, the healer restores the curse. Eventually, the other businessmen expel him from the Chamber of Commerce in an attempt to save their reputation, since El Hadji has defaulted on a wide variety of loans and failed to pay back the National Grain Board for some rice he had earlier purchased and resold. Forsaken by his colleagues and wives, El Hadji is eventually left even more isolated than he initially found himself when afflicted with Xala.
Coincidentally, however, the Beggar who is stationed outside of El Hadji’s office each day tells El Hadji’s chauffeur that he can cure El Hadji’s Xala for free. Enticed, El Hadji accepts the beggar’s offer to lift the curse without knowing how he wants to be paid.
At the end of the novel, the Beggar arrives at El Hadji’s house together with an army of destitute and disabled people who have lost their property and livelihood because of El Hadji’s dishonest business practices. El Hadji was once of the same clan as the Beggar, but he defrauded the government and sold off their ancestral lands for a profit, and he also had the Beggar thrown in jail. This, the Beggar reveals, is why it was he—and not one of El Hadji’s wives—that cursed him with the Xala.
The Beggar then tells El Hadji that, in order to have the curse lifted, he will have to let the people assembled all spit on his naked body. Defeated and crushed, El Hadji then accepts the horde of homeless people spitting in his face to lift the curse, and even his wife and daughter (i.e., Adja and her eldest daughter, Rama) must take turns spitting.
The novel then ends abruptly as we are informed that, while the group of dissolute beggars are inside spitting on El Hadji, the police are waiting for the intruders outside with loaded guns to mete out justice or what they perceive as justice. Find the characters of Xala By Sembene Ousmane here
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