By M. Krishnan
Modern African Literature in English explores the contours of illustration in modern Anglophone African literature, drawing on quite a lot of authors together with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Aminatta Forna, Brian Chikwava, Ngug? wa Thiong'o, Nuruddin Farah and Chris Abani.
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Nausea. When they like me, they tell me my color has nothing to do with it. When they hate me, they add that it’s not because of my color. 18 Fanon thus continually slides between the notion of blackness as a sort of fixing of the self, mediated by history and imposed by the white gaze, and the notion of the black man as agent and individual. Oscillating between these two poles, the result, for the black man, is a complete loss of identity under the psychic trauma of colonization. Despite their apparent differences, reading Fanon via Jameson and vice versa creates a space in which to consider the dynamics of re(-)presentation in the development of identity in contemporary African literature.
Yet, this very tale, rarely told by the man himself but widely circulated as part of his biography, was severely challenged by Ikhide R. 29 Linking what he claims to be the curious lack of official documentation of these events to a broader charge of authorial exploitation of the African continent in the name of international literary prestige, Ikheloa’s criticisms of Abani, along with the often-vitriolic debate they have sparked within the African literature community, indicate the level of unease and suspicion with which an attempt at a conscious separation of artistic re-presentation and social representation is met.
Through the use of a first-person narrator who consistently erupts into a second-person mode of address, the reader of Chikwava’s text is drawn into an involuntary identification with its protagonist through an autotelic narration which interpellates the reader into the narrator’s field of becoming. At the same time, the first-person narrator remains fundamentally unreliable through his often-circular idiomatic language, creating an alienating effect in which the reader of the text is excluded from a total identification with the narrative.