By Evan Maina Mwangi
Explores the metafictional options of up to date African novels instead of characterizing them essentially as a reaction to colonialism.
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Additional resources for Africa Writes Back to Self: Metafiction, Gender, Sexuality
In searching the embattled emergence of metafiction in African novels, my point of departure is the notion expressed by Russian formalist Victor Introduction 15 Shklovsky, that “art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object” ( 2005, 800). For Shklovsky, literary language calls attention to itself in order to estrange the reader from the familiar and offer deeper insights into daily life. As already shown, the notion of defamiliarization is a politically potent concept despite the demonization of formalism as apolitical and inappropriate for the study of politically invested art such as the postcolonial novel.
For example, Ngu˜gı˜ wa Thiong’o Petals of Blood (1977) and Nadine Gordimer’s The Lying Days (1953)—two novels to which I return in some detail in the next chapter—are examples of the creative works that discuss the role of literature, the syllabus, and culturally astute interpretative skills in national politics. In Achebe’s A Man of the People (1966), the corruption of the national leadership in Nigeria is equated with ignorance about the country’s literature, while Westerners are laughed at for imposing their values on local art and African gestures to generate gross and sometimes sexually perverse interpretations.
Throughout this book, I use Africa as a geographical space, not as a single racial category. Following Soyinka’s skepticism toward authenticity and essentialism, involving the occlusion of a supposed opposite of Africa, I see the orthodox of “writing back to Europe” as a marginalizing gesture that ignores the African peoples’ attempts to dialogue with one another. Despite its veneer of the celebration of resistance, the writing back orthodoxy is a mockery of claims to agency in African cultural production.