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Transnational exchanges and influences multiply according to the degree of interconnection between people and the decline of the idea of sealed borders. The history of peoples’ movements and migrations show an acceleration of the process. Although the concept of “transnationalism” has first captured the interest of social scientists, it continues to gain the attention of many academics around the world in different disciplines and fields of research. As Roger Waldinger and David Fitzgerald (2004: 1177) explain, many scientists “[…] are looking for new ways to think about the connections between ‘here’ and ‘there,’ as evidenced by the interest in the many things called transnational.” For Antje Ziethen (2015: 108), the notion of transnationalism does not mean the disappearance of nations but an “extension, […] dilatation et […] flexibilité” of these. According to Leon de Kock (2011: 22) any “transnational turn” testifies to a desire “to step beyond the enclosure of the ‘national’.” African literary transnationalism gained momentum when African writers began to emigrate by obligation or desire. For Véronique Tadjo, literary transnationalism is a means of witnessing and alerting to important African issues. As Marie-Emmanuelle Pommerolle and Johanna Siméant (2010: 91) pointed out: “Transnationalisation […] encourages the assertion of identities that can be legitimately claimed as proof of having constituencies.” Antje Ziethen (2015: 107) also adds that “le fait de rejoindre un ailleurs, de vivre dans plus d’un pays, représente une possibilité ou une nécessité pour nombre d’auteurs dont l’œuvre et la trajectoire sont souvent empreintes d’une dimension transnationale…


The Franco-Ivorian writer and painter Véronique Tadjo is a great representation of African connectivity and transnationalism. Her life has been an endless exploration of the self and the other, of the identity and the belonging, notions that she crosses and examines through her personal geographical experiences as well as her multifaceted literary work. This essay explores how Tadjo places her fictions and her life in a transnationalist perspective with the aim of initiating a reflection on African reconciliation and collective memory. Secondly, we show how her short story “Cette ville m’a giflée” can be considered as a transnational auto-fiction featuring Tadjo’s intimate confrontation with Johannesburg—a transnational place par excellence. Through the post-apartheid community unable to achieve the dreamed “rainbow nation,” Tadjo evokes an irreconcilable past and present, observes the gigantic open scars left by history on social behaviours and underlines the difficulty for South Africans to transit towards an uncertain future.

  • violence
  • reconciliation
  • Johannesburg
  • Véronique Tadjo
  • African city
  • African collective memory
  • auto-fiction
  • literary panafricanism
  • literary transnationalism
Aurélie Zannier-Wahengo
Department of Humanities and Arts, University of Namibia, Windhoek
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