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Olympe Bhêly-Quenum


Olympe Bhêly-Quenum was born in Ouidah in 1928. He initially studied in Dahomey (now Bénin) before moving to Accra, Ghana, where he learned English. After working for John Walden (Unilever), he saved enough money to go and study in France, arriving in Marseilles in 1948 and studied at the Collège Littré d’Avranches. He was a keen athlete, excelling, in particularly, at the high jump. He attended the Académie de Caen to which he received a scholarship. He also met his future wife, Maryvonne there. After obtaining a Master’s degree he became a teacher, first in Normandy and then in Paris. When Dahomey became independent, President Hubert Maga asked him to train to be a diplomat. He attended the Institut des Hautes Etudes d’Outre-Mer. However, he decided to pursue a literary career, having written stories since meeting André Breton in 1949, who had encouraged him to write down a dream. He became editor of La vie africaine. The magazine closed down but, with his wife, he founded L’Afrique actuelle. However, for much of his career, he worked for UNESCO. As well as his novels, he has written extensive criticism. Note on his name. At his website, he spells his name Bhêly-Quenum. My copy of Un piège sans fin (Snares without End) (in French) spells it Bhêly-Quénum. Various websites spell it Bhély-Quénum or Bhély-Quenum. I am assuming that he knows how to spell his own name.

Other Links

Olympe Bhely-Quenum
Olympe Bhely-Quenum
His own site (in French)
Olympe Bhêly Quenum (in French)
Olympe Bhêly Quenum (in French)
Olympe Bhêly Quenum (in French)
Curriculum Vitae d’Olympe Bhêly-Quenum (in French)
Bhêly Quenum (in French)
Interview (in French)


1960 Un piège sans fin (Snares without End)
1965 Le chant du lac
1968 Liaison d’un été
1970 Un enfant d’Afrique
1979 L’initié
1994 Les appels du vodou (later: Les appels du vodún)
1997 Les Francs-Maçons
1998 La naissance d’Abikou
2000 C’était à Tigony (As She Was Discovering Tigony)
2001 As-tu vu Kokolie: la naissance de la folie
2003 Années du bac de Kouglo
2006 Promenade dans la forêt