African Visions: Literary Images, Political Change, and Social Struggle in Contemporary Africa

By Cheryl B. Mwaria; Silvia Federici et al. | Go to book overview

16
The Nigerian Novel in English: Trends and Prospects

Joseph McLaren

Since the 1950s, Nigerian novelists writing in English have produced a considerable body of fiction published in Nigeria and the West. Instrumental in shaping modern and postmodern African literature, their works reflect varied trends and prospects for the Nigerian novel in the twenty-first century. Nigerian novels have dealt with a wide range of political themes, among them colonial reassessments, the neocolonial state, military regimes, and gender issues. Nigerian novelists have contributed to the stylistics of the African novel by using Western structures as well as devices from the oral tradition and so-called magic realism. For reasons related to literary production--maintaining audience, publishing opportunities, and censorship--these writers have often had to choose between remaining at home and voluntary or forced exile in the West.

The political situation when Nigeria was controlled by the military presented a challenge for writers who were politically committed and resided in Nigeria. Direct protest, whether in literary art, journalistic writing, or political action, might have resulted in arrest, detention, or execution, as in the case of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a leading writer and activist for the Ogoni cause, hanged on November 10, 1995, as a result of a much disputed verdict handed down by a government tribunal. Politically committed writers have often chosen exile, exemplified by Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, who has resided in both the United States and England. ( Soyinka The Open Sore of a Continent. A Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis [ 1996] not only proposes definitions of nationhood but addresses the tragedy of Saro-Wiwa's execution. Soyinka play The Beatification of Area Boy [ 1996] was a commentary on Nigeria's military regime). The dilemma of exile is certainly not restricted to Nigeria; imprisonment of writers is a worldwide concern, evidenced by the interventions of Amnesty International. During and after the 1960s, the South African liberation struggle generated a significant number of detainees and

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