Senegal buys back library of poet-president Léopold Senghor from France

More than 300 books collected by the first president of independent Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor, will be transferred to Dakar after the Senegalese government stepped in to stop them being auctioned off in France.

In total, 344 volumes will leave the house in Normandy where Senghor spent the final 20 years of his life, several of them personally inscribed by authors including Martinican poet Aimé Césaire.

Along with Césaire and other African and Caribbean intellectuals, Senghor was one of the founders of the Négritude black consciousness movement born in 1930s Paris.

"We didn't want to see the collection split up, given it includes works that document the emergence of the Négritude movement," said Céline Labrune-Badiane, a historian who helps coordinate an international project to inventory Senghor's archives.

On the instructions of Senghor's heirs, his library was to go under the hammer at an auction house in the city of Caen in mid-April, divided into nearly 200 separate lots.

But the newly elected president of Senegal, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, asked for the sale to be suspended while his government negotiated to buy the complete collection.

That deal was finalised earlier this month.

"Saving it from being broken up was essential."

Scattered heritage

According to the ambassador, Dakar ultimately hopes to incorporate the library into a museum of Senghor's life.


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