Assistant professor of French Kodjo Adabra presented his newly published novel La Bêtise Humaine––The Human Folly––at a book-signing event in Bailey Hall on Thursday April 9. This is Adabra’s third published novel. The work traces the observations of its main character—a ghost—that travels between the Americas, Europe and Africa while touching on issues of violence, discrimination and misunderstanding.
“I believe everyone can see something familiar in what the ghost sees through his eyes,” Adabra said.
La Bêtise Humaine follows the exploration of existential themes seen throughout Adabra’s first two books L’Exilé and Identité—The Exile and Identity.
“Across all three novels, when you look between the lines, there are connections to human nature and questions about existence,” Adabra said.
Originally from Togo in West Africa, Adabra came to the United States at 21 years old, experiencing the harsh realities of cultural differences and the language barrier.
“When I came here, I was faced with something that I did not experience back home—loneliness,” he said. “I felt I had lost my voice.”
Adabra explained that this loneliness led him to question himself as a human being and the existence of his surroundings; ideas that later appeared in his writing.
Although Adabra acquired a master’s degree in business from the Université de Lomé in Togo, he quickly switched to studying French language and Francophone literature while in the US.
L’Exilé was published while he worked towards a Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee in 2007. L’Exile tells a somewhat autobiographical tale about young African activists and their struggles due to government corruption. Adabra himself was an activist during his time as a student in Togo, undergoing both incarceration and torture as a result.
Identité was published the following year, looking at questions of human existence identity in further detail.
According to Adabra, La Bêtise Humain—written between the summers of 2013 and 2014—differs from his previous novels.
“I did not know where this book was going,” he said. “There were times that the story would unfold in my dreams and I would wake up and run to the computer to write it down.”
Adabra noted that he has plans to continue writing in the future, both as an existentialist and storyteller. He is currently halfway through another novel.
Ultimately, Adabra emphasized that writing has helped him reach an understanding of human existence and culture in both the United States and Togo. “Now, I do have a voice,” he said.