Loved It Because Oyono crafts a beautiful, tragic and damning tale about being a "black Frenchmen" in Cameroon. Indeed, this question of identity is at the center of this tale of a houseboy named Toundi with hopes of assimilation and upward mobility. With his near to last dying words being the question: "What are we blackmen who are called French?" one gets the sense that it's not going to end well for the young man.
And indeed, Oyono's tale runs through the gambit of French colonialism's Potemkin's village of promises as his initial infatuation with French and modernity quickly crumbles under the weight of reality. Early on he
justifies his service in the Commandant's house by saying: I shall be the Chief European's boy. The dog of the King is the King of dogs. It's this false premise that Oyono decimates most pointedly in Houseboy as he takes apart any notion of the benevolence of the French colonizers. In claiming the mantle of being French, Oyono is imploring his fellow Cameroonians that his fellow blackmen are indeed only animals--dogs--if they accept this rule.
French Cameroon would gain their independence four years after the novel was published.
*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
For further study:
Dangers of moonshine persist still today in the countryside of Cameroon