The Long Space: Transnationalism and Postcolonial Form

The Long Space: Transnationalism and Postcolonial Form

The Long Space: Transnationalism and Postcolonial Form

The Long Space: Transnationalism and Postcolonial Form


The resurgence of "world literature" as a category of study seems to coincide with what we understand as globalization, but how does postcolonial writing fit into this picture? Beyond the content of this novel or that, what elements of postcolonial fiction might challenge the assumption that its main aim is to circulate native information globally? The Long Space provides a fresh look at the importance of postcolonial writing by examining how it articulates history and place both in content and form. Not only does it offer a new theoretical model for understanding decolonization's impact on duration in writing, but through a series of case studies of Guyanese, Somali, Indonesian, and Algerian writers, it urges a more protracted engagement with time and space in postcolonial narrative. Although each writer- Wilson Harris, Nuruddin Farah, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, and Assia Djebar- explores a unique understanding of postcoloniality, each also makes a more general assertion about the difference of time and space in decolonization. Taken together, they herald a transnationalism beyond the contaminated coordinates of globalization as currently construed.


Time has more than one writing system.

—Henri Lefebvre

In a poignant sequence in Jalan Raya Pos (The Great Post Road, 1996), a documentary about Pramoedya Ananta Toer, the writer lights a kretek cigarette and takes out the trash. It is refuse that contains sheets of manuscript, testimony to the scourge of writer’s block. Pramoedya goes into his backyard and over to a pile of rubbish. He empties out the bin, then delicately arranges the papers before setting light to them. It is another day in the life of Indonesia’s most celebrated writer, then under a form of urban arrest—a time and place seemingly outside the busy intensity of interpretation and yet a chronotope deeply inscribed in the contemporary world (of letters, of globalization, of intellectual engagement, of postcoloniality as an open parenthesis on decolonization). For what is this scene if not one that passes by while what has passed by has an obtuse purchase on the present, one that allows this tableau to drift while hermeneutics remains secure in its operative logic, concrete or abstract, anglophone or at least European, translating time into space when the former fosters someone else’s agency? The author watches the manuscript burn in the knowledge that he too has been part of this delenda, but survived.

Such living on (sur-vivre in the Derridean sense) offers a vital polemic: it is a measure of persistence, determination, endurance, and the meaning of a specific time/space in transnational literature. It is out of place and time, perhaps, to invoke time as significant for postcolonial writing within globalization. Yet however we choose to ground transnational cultural relations, it remains the arena in which one hails writers . . .

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