African Literature: Post-Colonial Struggles
Organized with the Indigenous People’s History and Literature Group
“Real misfortune is not just a matter of being hungry and thirsty; it is a matter of knowing that there are people who want you to be hungry and thirsty.” ― Ousmane Sembène
During this term we will begin with Egypt with Mahfouz, visit West Africa with Chris Abani then travel south to South Africa with Zakes Mda then conclude in June with NoViolet Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. Again we examine four different areas of Africa as the peoples there emerge first from European colonization, then face the forces of global domination in the long neoliberal phase we yet endure.
Respected Sir, Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt, 1975
With this portrait of a misanthropic civil servant, Mahfouz devises a cunning send-up of egregious ambition, stodgy bureaucracy and cloying piety. The novel’s overblown language mirrors the grandiose aspirations of protagonist Othman Bayyumi, an archives clerk who schemes for a lofty appointment as Director General, expounding that “a government position is a brick in the edifice of the state, and the state is an exhalation of the spirit of God, incarnate on earth.”
Song for Night, Chris Abani, Nigeria, 2007
Song for Night is the story of a West African boy soldier’s lyrical, terrifying, yet beautiful journey through the nightmare landscape of a brutal war in search of his lost platoon. Our guide is a voiceless protagonist who, as part of a land mine-clearing platoon, had his vocal chords cut, a move to keep these children from screaming when blown up, and thereby distracting the other minesweepers. The book is written in a ghostly voice, with each chapter headed by a line of the unique sign language these children invented.
The Heart of Redness, Zakes Mda, South Africa, 2007
In Mda’s novel, there is Camugu, who left for America during apartheid, and has now returned to Johannesburg. Disillusioned by the problems of the new democracy, he follows his “famous lust” to Qolorha on the remote Eastern Cape. There in the nineteenth century a teenage prophetess named Nonqawuse commanded the Xhosa people to kill their cattle and burn their crops, promising that once they did so the spirits of their ancestors would rise and drive the occupying English into the ocean. A failed prophecy split the Xhosa into Believers and Unbelievers, dividing brother from brother, wife from husband, with devastating consequences. 150 years later, the two groups’ decendants are at odds over plans to build a vast casino and tourist resort in the village, and Camugu is soon drawn into their heritage and their struggles for a future worth living for.
We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, 2012
Darling is only ten years old, and yet she must navigate a fragile and violent world. In Zimbabwe, Darling and her friends steal guavas, try to get the baby out of young Chipo’s belly, and grasp at memories of Before. Before their homes were destroyed by paramilitary policemen, before the school closed, before the fathers left for dangerous jobs abroad. But Darling has a chance to escape: she has an aunt in America. She travels to this new land in search of America's famous abundance only to find that her options as an immigrant are perilously few.
The Indigenous Peoples’s Reading Group, which has grown from the enthusiastic call for the need of greater understanding of the long history of the peoples of North America and other continents of the world who were of those continents before and remain after the European colonists came to settle and bring this capitalist relations to every corner of the globe. Our group began following a stirring presentation by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz September of 2014 where she introduced An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.
Sliding scale: $95 / $110 / $125
no one turned away for inability to pay
388 Atlantic Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11217