#Quotes from Ahmadou Kourouma's Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote

When the partridge takes flight, its fledgling does not linger on the ground. [3]

Though he may sojourn long in the branches of the baobab, the partridge will never forget the nest of lowly brush where he was hatched. [3]

So then, though a man know not whither he is going, let him remember whence he came. [3]

The bush-fire that burns at the edges of the plains can be contained; the fire that burns at its heart cannot be extinguished. A man may take a bullet in the leg and yet live, but not a bullet through the heart. [8]

The chief weapon of the White Man, of the civilised man, is not his repeating rifle but his patience. [11]

It is with the end of the old rope that we begin to weave the new. [15]

You may plough on a day of rest but lightning keeps its words in its belly. [15]

You will escape the damp of the dew if you walk behind an elephant. [15]

Transgression is like a tiny ember thrown on to the vast savannah at the height of the dry season. You can see the place where the flame catches, but no one knows where it will end. [23]

Water always flows along the ancient bed it has carved; the antelope does not leap and leave its calf behind. [25]

A bird that has never left its tree cannot know that elsewhere there is millet. [29]

A vast country can only subjugate a small people who do not know how to unite and face the aggressor head on. A rich people can dominate a poor country only if its people do not know how to sacrifice themselves. A country which is a master of technology can defeat an underdeveloped people only if they lack cunning and courage. [30]

Even in the darkness a calf does not lose its mother. [37]

The elephant dies, but his tusks remain. [37]

The young of the centipede curls up in imitation of its mother. [37]

African tradition holds that the respect due to the mother is greater than that due to the father. The physical prowess of a child he owes to his father, his moral prowess to his mother. [37]

One must rise early if one is to walk a long road by nightfall. [41]

The old eye closes, the old ear still hears. [49]

The monkey does not give up his tail, whether he inherits it from mother or father. [49]

The leopard is spotted, his tail likewise. [49]

When one does not wish to be touched by the monkey's tail, one stays clear of the troop. He who would not be caught up  in our many stays clear of villages and all human society. [50]

[N]o day is too long that it is not ended by nightfall. [67]

If the little mouse leaves the paths of its forefathers, the spikes of the scutch-grass will gouge his eyes. [68]

If you cannot climb a tree which your father has climbed, at least place your hand upon its trunk. [68]

He who retreats from the sight of men brushes against his mother's pubis. [68]

When we see the mice frolic on the cat's pelt, we can imagine what challenge death may inflict upon us. [69]

Death is the elder, life the younger. We humans are mistaken in putting life against death. [69]

It is said that it is better to die than to be shamed, but it must be quickly added that shame bears its own fruit, death bears none. [69]

When poverty and debt strike it is always furtively, by night, that a man leaves the land which welcomed him when he was rich...[80]

We are slow to grow, but not slow to die. [81]

The place where one awaits one's death need not be great. [81]

If God kills a rich man, he kills a friend; if he kills a poor man, he kills a villain. [81]

You will never be acclaimed a great healer of lepers if your mother is covered in pustules. [82]

Death devours the man, but it does not devour his name or his reputation. [93]

Death is a tunic that every man will wear. [93]

Death is sometimes unjustly accused when it carries off the old, those so aged that they were already finished, before death claimed them. [93]

A boat is never so large that it cannot capsize. [110]

It is those with few tears who are first to weep over the dead. [110]

The death of a goat is a misfortune to the owner of the goat; but that its head is added to the stockpot is a misfortune only to the goat. [110]

Life is always painful for people who love those who reject them and despise those who accept them. [116]

Death grinds without boiling water. [125]

One does not spread a sieve in the path of death. [125]

The body of a bird rots not in the air but on the ground. [125]

It is not by his words and his gestures, but by his silence and solemnity, that one knows a wise man in a crowd. [126]

Where a man is destined to die, there he goes early. [130]

When the vital nerve is severed, the chicken kills the wildcat. [130]

Let no man be impatient to see the day when his family and all their families sing his praises. [137]

Condolences do not bring the dead to life but they sustain the faith of those who live on. [138]

If one should see the bearer of condolences emerge from a sewer, it is because he has not contented himself with the formula 'May God have pity on the dead'. [138]

A bird's feather may fly into the air but ultimately it comes to earth. [139]

Blood which must spill does not spend all night in the veins. [139]

If at the moment when two people separate, neither feels regret, the separation has come too late. [146]

The eye does not see that which gouges it out. [164]

When fate cuts all ties, no parent can hide his child. [164]

If a fly dies in a wound, it has died in its appointed place. [185]

A single sorrow does not rip out the belly at a stroke. [185]

The camel's scrawny croup has been with her a long time, from the time when she was a virgin. [185]

In life, a man may mistake the plate of food intended for him, but never the words directed at him. [186]

Truth and lies are never far from one another and truth rarely triumphs. [190]

There is no journey so long that does not one day come to an end. [204]

He who must live will survive, though he be crushed in a mortar. [204]

For every arrow which you know is destined not to miss, puff out your belly so that it may strike home. [204]

When a man with a noose about his neck passes by a dead man his gait changes and he gives thanks to Allah for the good fortune the Almighty has bestowed on him. [204]

Only he who has never wielded power believes it is unpleasant. [205]

When power cuts off the roads, the weakling is within his rights to cower in the brush. [205]

A lone citizen's cry of distress is not broadcast by the tom-toms. [205]

It is in a thicket that seems to us unimportant that the vine which will entrap us takes root. [224]

The croaking of the frogs does not hinder the elephant as he drinks. [239]

If the mighty eats a chameleon, it is said to be a medicine, to have healing powers. If the poor man eats of it, he is accused of gluttony. [240]

If a small tree should spring up from the earth in the shade of a baobab, it will die a sapling. [240]

In a dictatorship, the hand ties the foot, in a democracy, it is the foot which ties the hand. [259]

The rhythm of the tom-toms changes in honour of the king, not so the firewood which warms the drumskin. [259]

A fly which waits on a king is king. [259]

The works of Allah are not always just or perfect: sometimes he will bless you with a large head without giving you the wherewithal to buy a long turban. [260]

The drum which does not punish the crime is a cracked jug. [276]

While a king sits on his throne, another is having his throne carved. [276]

There are no wicked kings, only wicked courtesans. [276]

A fish-hook is useless to catch a hippopotamus. [296]

If you should see a goat in a lion's den, fear it. [296]

If the rat has put on trousers, the cats will take them off. [296]

An acacia tree does not fall at the bidding of a scrawny goat which covets its fruit. [309]

The sky has not two suns, nor a people two sovereigns. [309]

A leader has need of men, and men of a leader. [309]

Slippery ground does not cause a chicken to stumble. [309]

The fire which will one day burn you is the same as that which warms you. [310]

A huge elephant does not always have huge tusks. [310]

The civet leaves its filth at the spring where it drinks. [310]

It is he whose impotence you cured who steals your wife. [333]

If the millet threshers hide their armpit hair from one another, the millet will not be clean. [333]

It is often the man for whom you went to draw water from the river who provokes the leopard to attack you. [333]

Before creating a waterfall, the river slows to form a small lake. [357]

If someone has bitten you, he has reminded you that you have teeth. [358]

If you have been carrying an old man since daybreak such that by nightfall you are dragging him, he remembers only being dragged. [358]

He who spends time at the King's court will always end up betraying his friends. [358]

The buzzard as it swoops has not the least idea that those below realise its intent. [382]

A man does not forget the shrub behind which he took cover when he fired on an elephant and hit him. [382]

The fresh-water mangrove is a poor dancer for its roots are many. [382]

There is not but one day alone, tomorrow, too, the sun will shine. [383]

If you can bear the smoke, you may warm yourself at the embers. [383]

A little hill will lead you to a greater. [383]

He who lives long will see the dove dance. [399]

Fate blows without a smithy's bellows. [399]

The ox which stands for hours in one place will move off with a dart. [399]

A day that is yet to come exists, not so a day that will never come. [419]

When a brush-fire crosses the river, it poses a dilemma for he who would snuff it out. [419]

The bounds of an awkward customer are in the grave. [419]

There are not enough cows to fill all the fields the mind can conjure. [445]

At the end of one's tether, there is Heaven. [445]

The night goes on and on, but day will come in time. [445]
Translated by Frank Wynne. Read the review here.


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