‘Je suis venu chercher du travail’ / ‘I Came to Look for Work’ by Francis Bebey

Francis Bebey_1
Francis Bebey

Today, as states and countries are slowly reopening after the shelter-in-place due to the coronavirus pandemic, many have been left jobless, and are looking for a job now or in the near future. I think the poem ‘Je suis venu chercher du travail / I came to look for work‘ by the great Cameroonian writer and musician Francis Bebey is very appropriate. The poem below is the story of many immigrants traveling to a foreign land in search of a job, a better life, leaving all behind: families, friends, and country. This poem is very simple, yet so deep as it details the losses taken today, in hope for a better tomorrow. As you think about the immigrants dying in the Mediterranean sea, or those crossing the Mexico-US border, or all the countless faces in the world, take a moment to imagine families torn apart, lives in peril, and possibly no light at the end of the tunnel.

Francis Bebey_Agatha Moudio Son
‘Agatha Moudio’s Son’ by Francis Bebey (Amazon)

Francis Bebey was sort of a genius: in his early years, he studied mathematics, before going into broadcasting. He was called to Ghana by President Kwame Nkrumah, where he served as a journalist. He began his literary career as a journalist in the 1950s and worked in Ghana and other African countries for the French radio network, Société de radiodiffusion de la France d’outre-mer (SORAFOM) and Radio France International. Later, he wrote novels, poetry, plays, tales, short stories, nonfiction works, and established himself as a musician, sculptor, and writer.  His first novel, Le Fils d’Agatha Moudio (Agatha Moudio’s Son), was published in 1967 and awarded the Grand prix littéraire d’Afrique noire in 1968; it remains his best-known work to this day. He also headed the music department at the UNESCO‘s office in Paris, where he focused on researching and documenting African traditional music.

Enjoy Je suis venu chercher du travail‘ by Francis Bebey, published in Anthologie africaine: poésie, Jacques Chevrier, Collection Monde Noir Poche, Hatier 1988. Translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com.

Je suis venu chercher du travail

Je suis venu chercher du travail

J’espère qu’il y en aura

Je suis venu de mon lointain pays

Pour travailler chez vous

J’ai tout laissé, ma femme, mes amis

Au pays tout là-bas

J’espère les retrouver tous en vie

Le jour de mon retour

Ma pauvre mère était bien désolée

En me voyant partir

Je lui ai dit qu’un jour je reviendrai

Mettre fin à sa misère

J’ai parcouru de longs jours de voyage

Pour venir jusqu’ici

Ne m’a-t-on pas assuré d’un accueil

Qui vaudrait bien cette peine

Regardez-moi, je suis fatigué

D’aller par les chemins

Voici des jours que je n’ai rien mangé

Auriez-vous un peu de pain?

Mon pantalon est tout déchiré

Mais je n’en ai pas d’autre

Ne criez pas, ce n’est pas un scandale

Je suis seulement pauvre

Je suis venu chercher du travail

J’espère qu’il y en aura

Je suis venu de mon lointain pays

Pour travailler chez vous

I came to look for work

I came to look for work

I hope that there will be

I came from my far away country

To work for you

I left everything, my wife, my kids

In my country over there

I hope to find them all alive

On the day of my return

My poor mother was very sorry

To see me go

I told her that I will come back one day

To put an end to her misery

I had long days of travel

To get here

Was I not assured of a welcome

Which will be worth all this trouble

Look at me, I am tired

To go by the ways

It has been days since I ate anything

Do you have some bread?

My trouser is all ripped

But I don’t have another

Do not scream, it is not a scandal

I am just poor

I came to look for work

I hope there will be

I came from my far away country

To work for you

Inédit

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