Africa Writes Back to Self: Metafiction, Gender, Sexuality by Evan Maina Mwangi

By Evan Maina Mwangi

Explores the metafictional options of up to date African novels instead of characterizing them basically as a reaction to colonialism.

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They have also written metafictional novels since the 1980s, even if they have not endorsed postmodernism. In the texts produced in the 1950s and 1960s, colonialism is seen as having destroyed the integrated precolonial societies and caused alienation and anguish in the colonial subject. Waiyaki, in Ngu˜gı˜’s The River Between, is caught between tradition and modernity, and his attempts to synthesize the two modes of living almost destroy him. The novel’s sense of tragedy lies in the character’s failure to integrate modernity into African traditions in a society that is still polarized despite the desire for the synthesis of cultural values.

However, I hope to avoid claims to nativist ontological and experiential advantage that Biodun Jeyifo warns us against in “The Nature of Things” (1990) because even East African literature is itself too diverse for any critic to claim nativist privilege, unless the critic is dealing with a narrow set of texts and authors, a choice that would be viewed, in Africa at least, as ethnocentric. By focusing on the singularity of individual texts within a wider political and cultural context, I hope to emphasize the particularities of the literatures and to avoid generalizations that mar the study of African literatures by taking a few texts as representative of the entire continent’s arts.

4 The African Writers Series produced educational novels tackling political and cultural themes. The canon in the early years of the African Writers Series was more or less nationalistic. A major theme in the early novels in the African Writers Series was colonialism and its effects on African 30 Africa Writes Back to Self cultures, with the novels published during the mid-1960s focusing on the disillusionment among Western-educated intellectuals with post-independence conditions in Africa. Novels in the series that did not primarily handle these grand themes were allowed to go out of print because they were not widely used in schools.

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