Text, History, Nature Of African Novel


Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future, and time future contained in time past.
— T.S. Eliot

The writer we know draws inspiration from the history of his society. No wonder, Plato sees literature as a reflection of life or like Aristotle, a truth higher than history.

And Ngugi Wa Thiongo suggests that ‘literature is of course primarily concerned with what any political and economic arrangement does to the spirit and values governing human relationships’.

With reference to the colonial injustices. Ngugi argues that ‘we are harvesting the bitter — fruits of capitalist and colonialist policy of divide and rule, and those of the colonialist legacy of an uneven development, i.e. the various national groups and regions’.

Therefore, the African literature focuses on the evils of the past and it’s modern hangovers on our seething political arena. The politics of indirect rule in British West Africa and that of assimilation in the Francophones created the foundation for Literary outbursts: reasserting African heritage and questioning the claims of assimilation.

The wake of nationalism which happens to coincide with the West African writers emergence gave impetus to the externalisation of Africa from Europe and subsequent reinstatement of the African characters real or imaginary.

Prior this reaction, Joyce Cary in 1939 has distorted the African character in his novel, “Mister Johnson”. This piece of misnomer in the Literary sphere, forced authors like Chinua Achebe, Leopold Senghor and Virago Diop to insist on the use of African patterns of rhythm and language to teach the world that African is rich in culture.

However, the mildness that pervades in the style and tone of the Anglophone and the Francophone countries of West Africa, depends largely on the inherent subtlety employed in the administrative machinery of the colonialist. But the novels from East Africa are hard, undaunted and militant.

This picture of bloodshed is a common feature in Ngugi’s “A Grain Of Wheat” and “Petals Of Blood”.

It is represented also in Men’s Nwangi’s “Carcase For Hounds”, which later was filmed by Ola Balogun under the screen title, “Cry Freedom”. These novels extol violence and their combative heroic characters like Haraka, Mumbai and Kilika.

Next in line is apartheid, the obnoxious religion of South Africa where blacks are treated like dogs. Peter Abraham’s and Alex La Gina’s portrayal demonstrates the harzards blacks face each day.

The themes of injustice and dehumanisation of Africans are shown as daily rhythm of life in “A Walk In The Night”.

Chinua Achebe was a master craftsman to the extent of expressiveness and stamping the African presence. How? He first identified the need and use of language to reassert the culture of his people in which he tells all West African writers to use a ‘new English, still in full communion with it’s ancestral home, but altered to suit its new African surrounding’.

This stance has allowed him the extensive use of proverbs and Igbo names like Obi (hut), Chi (personal god), nno (welcome), to express his characters.


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