Modern African Literature Revisited: A Study of Literary Affinities in Selected Early Novels by Achebe, Feraoun, Kateb, Ngugi, Armah and Mimouni
This thesis revisits a representative example of early Modern African Literature with reference to six outstanding authors, notably Mouloud Feraoun, Chinua Achebe, Kateb Yacine, Ngugi Wa Thiong’O, Ayi Kwei Armah, and Rachid Mimouni. These authors constitute a particular constellation. Their productions have been marked by experiment at the level of both form and theme. One of the major arguments is that they constitute a site for the interplay of orality and writing, one of the consequences of which is the production of the glocal discourse. Taking our theoretical bearings from a comparative poetics, giving as much emphasis to the oral tradition in which the writers were brought up as to the Western culture in which they were educated, we have sought to demonstrate that the six writers’ attitude to orality spans the whole gamut from preservation marked reverence through refinement to revision. Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Feraoun’s La terre et le sang, for instance, provide a pertinent example of hybrid intellectuals who have been exposed to Western cultures, but managed to maintain their basic African identity. Their novels’ hybrid discursivity has been articulated through the blending of the realist mode of writing, ethnographical and historical discourses, which are expressed in a formulaic oral style.The two writers’ attitude to their culture is that of preservation; they celebrate it while, at the same time, acting as cultural critics all the while. As regards toNgugi Thiong’O’s A Grain of Wheat and Kateb Yacine’s Nedjma, the attitude shifts from preservation to cultural refinement within the theme of revolution where African Epic narrative forms and modernist mode of writing blend. Kateb and Ngugi’s novels provide an interesting paradigm of intersection between experimental textual strategies with which both authors grappled with the complexities of the written expression. Their novels are marked by a quest for style where in some elements from African oral tradition are more subtly deployed. A similar confluence of discourses and genres is alsodisplayed in Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born and Rachid Mimoun’s Le fleuve détourné. These two writers deploy textual “outbreaks” that erupt in vehement but subtle denunciations to put forward a vision of societies that emerged from cruel times of colonialism to be engulfed in neocolonialism. Both of them use verbal indirection and signifying oratory as deviation tactics to revise their cultures. The devices derive from the African verbal expression of implicit meaning akin to the African trickster tradition and are uttered in the grotesque mode of writing where satire and character type become the appropriate mode for social criticism. Armah and Mimouni express their dissident thoughts in a distinctive artistic way through their dialogic narratives.