The Senegalese writer Mariama Bâ (1929–81) was brought up by her grandparents and received a traditional and pious education. Her father, minister of health and a school director, later encouraged her to further her studies and go on to the École Normale. She taught for twelve years, divorced and remarried, and became a staunch feminist. Une si longue lettre is her first novel: her second – Le Chant écarlate (1982, translated as Scarlet Song) was written during an illness and published posthumously.
Une si longue lettre is an important work in the history of Senegalese literature, particularly in relation to the position of women in Senegalese society.