Donato Ndongo is a leading writer of his country, but he can’t even live there.
Twice exiled from his native Equatorial Guinea, the former journalist left the country to live in Spain. Now, as a visiting professor at MU’s Department of Romance Languages, Ndongo will call mid-Missouri his home.
Ndongo, who has been in the United States since Jan. 13, is teaching two classes in Spanish this semester: a composition class, which focuses on international journalism, and a seminar on the literature of his home country.
(Ndongo does not speak English and was interviewed in Spanish. His quotes have been translated.)
He said he sees promise in his students at MU.
“I see the great curiosity and a great desire to learn,” he said. “I think it’s positive for the youth of a country to have that want.”
He also said he wanted his students to learn more than writing and literature and to use their knowledge to help other cultures.
Ndongo is no stranger to putting his knowledge to use in other cultures. He has written several books on Equatorial Guinea since leaving the country in exile twice: the first time in 1968 under the regime of Francisco Macías and most recently in 1994. Both times, Ndongo received political asylum from Spain, where he and his family reside. He is working on another novel and has plans for another on the history of Equatorial Guinea after he returns to Spain in late May.
Ndongo said his life as a political exile has inspired his writing because it has given him a greater perspective.
“Exile is very hard because it only lets you live in memories, but I have had the opportunity to convert those memories and dreams into literature,” he said.
Marvin Lewis, director of the Afro-Romance Institute at MU, said Ndongo helps broaden the department’s curriculum.
“Since we are internationalizing the university’s curriculum, it was a good opportunity to have him in Missouri,” Lewis said.
Ndongo’s seminar is the first course the department has ever dedicated to Equatorial Guinea.
Lewis also noted the students’ warm reception of the visiting professor.
“Students, both graduate and undergraduate, come in and out of his office just to talk to him,” he said.
Nicole Price, a doctoral student in the department of romance languages, worked on part of her dissertation with Ndongo last year while in Spain on a Fulbright scholarship. Ndongo’s stay at MU will offer students a great opportunity, Price said.
“I don’t know how many times students have an opportunity to have a class with an author,” she said. “I think it might be interesting to see how an author — if he introduces his work into his classes — to see what he was thinking as he was writing.”