It is from Benin, a small country in West Africa (114,763 km2 in area all the same), that Jean Pliya comes to us. Born in Djougou, in the north of the country, on July 21, 1931, this prolific writer, university professor and statesman is one of the leading figures of Beninese and West African literature.
After studying at the University of Dakar and continued at the University of Toulouse where he perfected his skills in two subjects that are particularly close to his heart, namely history and geography, he obtained his bachelor’s degree in 1955, his DES in 1957 and passed his CAPES to become a certified teacher. He then embarked on a teaching career, which took him to Lyon and Cahors, France (1957 to 1969), Togo, Niger and then to his native land, notably cotonou and Porto-Novo, between 1969 and 1976.
A born writer
It was around these years that Jean Pliya’s literary talent began to blossom. The year 1971 is that of the publication of his first book,“L’Arbre fétiche”,published by CLE. It is a collection of four short stories (L’arbre fétiche, La voiture rouge, L’homme qui avait donné tout and Le gardien de nuit), watered-down descriptions of Beninese habits and customs in four stories. “The Fetish Tree” confirms the talent of its author, but it is more his second book“Kondo the shark”,dedicated to the illustrious king of Abomey Behanzin and his famous anti-colonial resistance, which propels him to the rank of master. The opus allowed him, among other things, to win the Grand Prix littéraire d’Afrique noire.
The historical fresco “Kondo the Shark” will be followed by many literary successes such as the play “The Private Secretary” (1973), in which the author tackles with fierce humor themes such as corruption and the embezzlement of minors. Even today, “The Private Secretary” is one of these unifying plays, which is played to sold-out audiences at each performance in many West African metropolises. Finally, it would be a mistake to mention jean Pliya’s bibliography without mentioning the poignant but nevertheless very political“Les braseurs de corde”(1987), which many consider today as a masterpiece.
Jean Pliya passed away on May 14, 2015 in Abidjan. He was 83 years old.