“Higher than the Eiffel Tower”, by Kohndo: a tribute to courage between rap and poetry

A funny black logo catches the eye on the cover of Plus Haut que la Tour Eiffel, the new publication of La Grenade, “explosive collection” from JC Lattès editions

“Higher than the Eiffel Tower”, by Kohndo: a tribute to courage between rap and poetry

A funny black logo catches the eye on the cover of Plus Haut que la Tour Eiffel, the new publication of La Grenade, “explosive collection” from JC Lattès editions. Looking more closely, we recognize the shape of a safety vest, comparable to those worn – ideally – by people at sea. And we understand that the color of the book was not chosen randomly, but because it evokes the fluorescent orange of this rescue outfit. A garment proudly and furiously worn by Kohndo, 48 years old, whose real name is Kohndo Assogba, French rapper by trade, originally from Benin, author of this text in free verse from an eponymous album that he performs on stage and which 'he therefore extends it here in a book.

Higher than the Eiffel Tower tells a story that we think we know: that of a young African who left home at the risk of his life, in the hope of other possibilities on the European continent. But Kohndo refuses through this text that the story of migration be trivialized and reduced to factual information or figures. On the contrary, he wants to restore importance to the unique adventure of each being.

“Fifteen years separate us since I left Ouidah, my native Benin... My mother told me don't leave. Did I have a choice? What makes us leave home? »

Using the written form to say, to revive memories, to try to understand oneself and to explain oneself to others, this is what drives Manga, aka Mingus, the narrator of this book. By opening the letter sent to him from Morocco by his friend Heddi, he goes back years and remembers in detail his journey. So he will respond in turn and tell how, from Ouidah to Paris – including those weeks when, in Oujda, he met Heddi – he managed to forge a new life.

Force the doors of an increasingly closed world

Structured in four acts between prologue and epilogue, the book first recalls a sad observation: that of African youth lacking professional opportunities.

“I want to leave because there is no future here (…) I live in this world as if in apnea, On the verge of apoplexy. My head is about to explode, I am not far away asphyxiation, you know? »

Coming from a poor family, Manga worked as a dock worker or warehouse worker in his hometown before the idea of ​​leaving gradually took hold in his mind. It soon becomes, in the eyes of the young man, the only way to cope with life, Manga wanting to emigrate both for himself and to help his family:

“Auntie needs dialysis. Cousin to finish his studies. I cannot wish anyone to live alone without means. »

But which way to go? Clandestineness proves to be the only way to force the doors of an increasingly closed world, which refuses access and movement, including to those who have the means to apply for legal visas.

"Do you know that the hardest thing for Europe is to travel by road? I had to survive in the Sahara, the desert looks like an oven. And my race is a struggle, an everyday confrontation, Between my want to die and continue my journey. »

It is therefore the beginning of a trajectory which leads Manga from Benin to Mali and Niger first, then passes through the sordid and inhumane stage of Libya, before Algeria again. Then comes the high-risk sea crossing to Spain.

“On the boat there are seventeen, yet it feels like two hundred. Some shout, others cry, I know how to swim, yet I tremble. I have the sensation of dancing on the waves. And death makes its cut -shifted while a few crack. »

Manga's letter expresses this blind hope which pushes one to try everything, even at the cost of one's life, to prefer the movement of departure to the deadly apathy of the lack of prospects at the very age when one begins in life. After the horrors of the trip, Manga still recounts his beginnings in Paris, a mixture of difficulties, disappointed hopes (an older brother, distant, refuses him hospitality), but also beautiful encounters and solidarity which gradually allow him to to find a place in society.

However, we should not try to see in this text a message of optimism about resilience or possible success for all, at the end of a long journey. Not sure either that Kohndo's words do not lose a little force in taking on a bookish form, thus deprived of the scansion and the music which reinforce, on stage, poetic expression. But the rapper's fans – and there are many of them who follow him – will undoubtedly find a way to read it to the rhythm of their own flow.

As for the subject thus deployed, it ultimately reads like a tragic text... which would end well: a tribute to the courage of all those whose profoundly human ambition is to find the means to live with dignity and honestly from their talents. Those who aim, despite all obstacles, for a goal even higher than the Eiffel Tower.