Women’s Writing in France 2000–2010
Edited By Gill Rye and Amaleena Damlé
Part III Crossing Borders
Margaret E. Gray The Cook, Her Narrative, Its Recipes and the Textual Body in Calixthe Beyala’s Comment cuisiner son mari à l’africaine1 In her novel Comment cuisiner son mari à l’africaine (2000) [How to Cook One’s Husband African Style], Cameroonian immigrant to Paris, Calixthe Beyala, recounts the troubled negotiation of an African ancestral past within a complex, hybrid, cosmopolitan present. Emblematic of the hybrid identity that characterizes not only Beyala herself, but her novel’s narrator, 1 Although this analysis is devoted to a contemporary immigrant novel, I have chosen a title alluding to the 1989 British film, ‘The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover,’ directed by Peter Greenaway, for this film stages the horrific act that, in Beyala’s title as well as in her novel itself, remains purely figural: the act of cooking a man. Whereas the husband in Beyala’s novel is ultimately tamed, becoming docile and compliant, or ‘cooked’, the Greenaway film depicts an actual cooking of human f lesh. Discovering his wife’s af fair, a jealous husband murders her lover, whereupon the wife takes revenge by having her dead lover cooked and forcing her husband to take a bite of his rival’s f lesh. In subtle ways, Beyala’s novel manipulates this notion of cooking as revenge, transforming the act often understood as emblematic of domestic, feminine and subaltern servitude to a man. In an explicit reference to the cooking of one’s husband evoked in the novel’s title, Beyala’s narrator proclaims her intention to conquer the resistant Bolobolo:...
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