writers in residence
In Residence
Zurich, Switzerland
July — December 2017

Ken Bugul



Ken Bugul was born in Senegal in 1947 as Mariétou Mbaye. She studied Modern Languages, Communication and Business Studies in Senegal and Belgium. In her native language, Wolof, her pen name means “one who is not wanted”. From 1986 to 1993 she worked for the NGO IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Federation) in Kenya, Togo and the Congo. She now lives and works in Senegal. Ken Bugul’s autobiographical debut novel Le Baobab Fou was published in 1982 and is one of the most important documents in the Francophone literature of West Africa from the 1980s. Since then, Bugul has published many novels, which have been translated into several languages. Characteristic of her work is a highly literary language densely woven with the rhythms and fundamental thought structures of Wolof. In 2013 the Swiss director Silvia Voser made a documentary film about her, Personne n’en veut. /// As of June 15, 2017

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A Short Passage

“Die Nacht des Baobab”

“Ach, das Singen der Zikaden im Dickicht dieser Hitze, ein schriller Unterton, der diese Atmosphäre aus Glut, Rhythmus und Tanz durchzitterte. Der Friede war gestört. Dieser durchdringende Schrei unter dem Baobab! Der Esel spitzte die Ohren, der Hahn plusterte sich auf den Kamm noch roter, noch eitler. Ich stopfte mir die Bernsteinperle noch tiefer ins Ohr.

— From “Die Nacht des Baobab” (Zurich, Unionsverlag 2016, 10th edition), translated from French to German by Inge M. Artl. Published in English as “The Abandoned Baobab: The Autobiography of a Senegalese Woman” (Charlottesville, University of Virginia Press 2008).

All events with Ken Bugul in the Literaturhaus were sold out. Photo Ralph Hut

“Today Africa survives thanks to its women. They bring the vitality, the energy that keeps the continent going.” Photo Ralph Hut