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Read Guinean Writer Hakim Bah's Short Story "A Skewer of Students"

Picture of Simon Leser
UK Literary Editor
Updated: 31 July 2017
With their country in the midst of a general strike, students protest to demand to take their exams in this story by Hakim Bah from the Guinean selection of our Global Anthology.

After beating me up. Beating me up good. Beastly. So beastly. With a truncheon. They dumped me in prison.

We were a fine skewer of high school students piled up in the same small cell.

*

“The baccalaureate will begin very early tomorrow morning,” he had said. He’d repeated it. Several times. The minister. Sure in his voice. The day before. On TV. As for the unionists’ strike paralyzing the country, the minister in his four-pocket suit couldn’t care less.

And yet, for the last five days, the whole country was smothered by a general strike hitting all areas of activity.

Outside.

The streets, deserted alleys, or near-deserted.

Shops, boutiques, kiosks, banks, offices, restaurants, cafés, cybercafes, bars, videos stores, clubs…, closed.

The squeals of tires and endless honking of cars, motorcycles suddenly stopped. One could feel a certain tension vibrating in the air.

*

Nine hours. Maybe even more. Maybe even less. We were weary of waiting. Tense. Upset. Exasperated. Irritated. Excited.

We could no longer contain ourselves.

We were a fine skewer of young high school students invading the streets. Shouting. Singing. Whistling. Shaking. Burning tires on the tarmac. Clapping our hands.

The dust pissed on us. We didn’t give a damn.

The continuous sounds of footsteps, of our footsteps, of our shouts, of our ruckus, of our clapping hands, cleaved the city’s morning clamor.

*

Towards the governorate, where administrative authorities were camouflaged, or just about, to seek answers. Get answers from them. We wanted explanations even if we knew in advance that no explanation could calm our fury.

The governorate’s small courtyard was full to bursting. We were hundreds, perhaps even more, in the courtyard. Each wearing their blue-white uniform.

Standing. All standing. Our gazes constantly fixed on the governor who had decided to speak on behalf of all the city’s administrative authorities. He was in his sixties. The white boubou he wore displayed well his fat belly. His black skin was consumed by age. His head covered by a white cap. His eyes puffed out by his big, clear glasses.

It could be sensed, the harsh cosmos. The sun wasn’t around, probably sleeping on that day, a Monday. It was almost ten o’clock but clouds still blanketed the sky. It seemed a downpour was about to break. And yet no drop fell on that day, a Monday.

For a long while he soliloquized, the governor. But never got to calm our fury.

“The baccalaureate or death,” he was interrupted.

More and more we screamed, shouted, insulted, insulted him, teased, we were fed up. We couldn’t control ourselves. Tension maxed out. Nothing could stop us anymore.

This story was translated courtesy of Hakim Bah’s publisher Éditions Ganndal, based in Conakry.