Benin, previously known as Dahomey is the setting of Bruce Chatwin’s “The Viceroy of Ouida” and legendary brought to the screen by Werner Herzog ( Cobra Verde 1987 ). Fascinating country with its snake worship and its brutal kingdom. But that does not count in this exercise.
Benin has produced many scholars and writers from the educated urban class, such as the novelist and historian Paul Hazoumé and the philosopher Paulin Houndtonji.
Hazoumé, Paul (1890-1980) came to prominence for his unique historical novel Doguicimi (1935), the fruit of 25 years of research into the history and customs of his people, drawing heavily on oral chronicles collected from local griots. It is the first full-length prose work of fiction—if we except Maran's Batouala—written by an African and inspired totally by an African subject. Set in pre-colonial Dahomey during the reign of King Ghêzo, ‘Master of the World’, it tells of events during the expedition undertaken by the kings of Abomey against the neighbouring Mahi tribe. The eponymous heroine is portrayed as the model of a national heroine, endowed with beauty and superhuman courage, inspired by exalted ideals of stoicism, fierce national pride, and conjugal fidelity to endure imprisonment, torture, and death. Care for historical accuracy and local colour (minute descriptions of life at the court and long passages detailing the lay and religious rituals of betrothals, burials, and military preparations) make Doguicimi an African Salammbô.