So Long a Letter is written as a series of letters between the main character Ramatoulaye Fall and her best friend Aissatou following the sudden death of Ramatoulaye’s husband Modou from a heart attack. The letters are written while Ramatoulaye participates in ‘iddah, a four month and ten day mourning process that widows of the Muslim Senegalese culture must follow. Through the letters Ramatoulaye describes the emotions that flooded her during the first few days after her husband’s death and speaks in detail about how he lost his life. She then discusses the life that she led with her husband, leading up to when Modou betrayed her by taking a second wife without her knowledge after 25 years of marriage. Ramatoulaye details to Aissatou how she dealt with this betrayal emotionally and how she grew throughout each event in her life.
So Long a Letter
So Long a Letter (French: Une si longue lettre) is a semi-autobiographical epistolary novel originally written in French by the Senegalese writer Mariama Bâ. Its theme is the condition of women in Western African society.
So Long a Letter, Mariama Bâ’s first novel, is literally written as a long letter. As the novel begins, Ramatoulaye Fall is beginning a letter to her lifelong friend Aissatou Bâ. The occasion for writing is Ramatoulaye’s recent widowhood. As she gives her friend the details of her husband’s death, she recounts the major events in their lives.
The novel is often used in literature classes focusing on women’s roles in post-colonial Africa. It won the first Noma Prize for Publishing in Africa in 1980.