n English in Africa - Imagining Unmediated Early Swahili Narratives in Abdulrazak Gurnah's

Volume 42, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



Abdulrazak Gurnah's has been read by many critics as a "writing back" to Conrad's and other European literary journeys set in Africa. However, the embedded presence of the previously unacknowledged early Swahili prose texts (My Journey Up-Country in Africa) and (My Journey to Russia and Siberia) shifts the nexus of Paradise's literary genealogy. This article argues that Paradise at once creates for itself a localized self-referential African literary genealogy, not dependent on European canonical texts, and challenges genealogies of African literature that exclude these early Swahili tales. Gurnah's strategy in the novel imbues Swahili storytellers with interiority and agency denied by the European mediators who transcribed their stories. Rather than naively imagine unmediated access to late nineteenth-century Swahili storytellers, Gurnah embraces his fraught project as an English language mediator with postcolonial predispositions.

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