Friday, November 25, 2011

Independence, Post-Colonialism, Post-Post Colonialism and Literature

Got my hot little hands on Binyavanga Wainaina's new novel 'One Day I Will Write About This Place' and it's been plugged into the 'to read' queue. Here's an excellent podcast about the post-post colonial literature that is emerging from writers of my generation.

I think that what excites me most about this new wave in African literature is that it isn't trying to drag the carcass of the colonial discussion around in it's wake. Much of the grandiloquence that I found a bit difficult to digest in the works of akina Ngugi et al (our dear Old African Men) is disappearing. The new approach is certainly more interesting to me: female characters who are complete in themselves as opposed to being the canvas upon which some male character is trying to project his story, the mundane details of life, kitchen sink drama, realism, candor. We are products of our time and so it is satisfying to me to see African literature moving with our contemporary realities. However, there is a little fly in the ointment.

It is a sad reality that we simply don't seem to be able to support our writers through commercial success on the continent, which means that to really hit the big time you still have to make it in it in Europe and America, South Africa somewhat. This has created an interesting situation.

While chewing the fat about African literature, a friend pointed out that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's book Half of a Yellow Sun has one of the most puzzlingly superfluous characters ever created. There is a shiftless Englishman in the book who spends most of his time being confused by the political machinations around him and trying to sleep with one of the main characters who is clearly out of his league. He is a bit of a lump of unseasoned tofu, so why were we subjected to his narration? Come to think of it, isn't it interesting that the film The Last King of Scotland had us observe Iddi Amin through the eyes of a shiftless Scotsman who was confused about the political machinations around him and trying to sleep with a woman who was clearly out of his league?* This is not a motif that I detect in the books I have read from Chinese or Indian authors so far, not to mention Latin American authors. Food for thought.

Anyways, if you now feel like buying a book really cheap you are in luck! Dar es Salaam Book Week ends tomorrow but there is still time to check things out at the National Library. I believe participating booksellers are marking down prices in celebration, it is a good time to pick up local authors at crazy good prices. Happy reading.

*Ekse, give me the bad-ass women of Jacob's Cross any day! If you're going to be emotionally messy and make dubious choices, at least try to pick the millionaire in the sharp suit who lives a complex and interesting life.

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