Contemporary African Literature in English: Global by M. Krishnan

By M. Krishnan

Modern African Literature in English explores the contours of illustration in modern Anglophone African literature, drawing on a variety of authors together with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Aminatta Forna, Brian Chikwava, Ngug? wa Thiong'o, Nuruddin Farah and Chris Abani.

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36 The very myth of the individual subject, like the individual work of art, remains tied to a set of social and mutuallyconstitutive conditions of being. In attending to the worldliness of the text, then, we attend to the limits and fault lines within the work itself and its conditions of possibility. Recalling that ‘We have access in the west to a tiny proportion of the literary output of the rest of the world’ and that ‘we are often subliminally encouraged to read texts that do reach us in ways that flatter rather than challenge our preconceptions’,37 the challenge of foregrounding worldliness thus becomes one of recognizing when re-presentation becomes representation as a means only of confirming the already-known.

We’re looking for authenticity. There is no such thing as authenticity. 28 At the same time, however, Abani’s own status as an artist is not so straightforwardly held. According to Abani’s publicity materials, following the publication of his first novel, Masters of the Board (1984), the thenteenaged author was sentenced to prison for allegedly providing the blueprint, with the novel, for a failed coup against the Babangida government. Later, having been released from prison, the author would become involved in protest and political theatre, leading to a series of additional periods of imprisonment, including a stint in Nigeria’s notorious Kiri Kiri maximum security prison, and culminating in a death sentence for treason.

Arguing that Jameson’s typology of literature relies on categories so broad as to be meaningless and, through its focus on the novel form, presupposes its own ends, Ahmad’s response highlights the anxieties which such a denial of the individual commands. While his criticism of Jameson remains salient in the context of literary production, Ahmad, in his eagerness to recuperate a sense of individuality which Jameson denies, neglects the extent to which the very question of individuality remains fraught under the pressures of transnational reception.

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