Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Violence and the Ethics of Reading: The 'Body' as Site of Violence and Resistance in Alex Languma's in Fog of the Season's End and Sony Labou Tansi's la Vie et Demie

Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Violence and the Ethics of Reading: The 'Body' as Site of Violence and Resistance in Alex Languma's in Fog of the Season's End and Sony Labou Tansi's la Vie et Demie

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Since the 1960s, African writers have been dredging the abyss of violence that has been the hallmark of the postcolonial African states. After gaining independence, many African states have failed to create viable institutions to spearhead national integration and sustainable socio-economic development. Instead, dictatorships and massacres have dashed African people's dreams for social justice and progress. Even in the heyday of African independence, authoritarian patterns of government were the rule in most of Africa (1) According to the logic of tyrants, once political opponents have been eliminated and private citizens gagged into perennial voicelessness, then the hegemonic script can be imposed easily through violence. The goal of despotism is to establish political, cultural, and symbolic paradigms that will function as the unique and ultimate boundaries of thought and action. The resulting personal dictatorships have been fictionalized and denounced by a number of African writers. As cases in point, in Kongi's Harvest (2) Wole Soyinka satirized Kwame Nkrumah's regime and, in A Play of Giants, (3) he laid bare the dictatorial regimes of Idi Amin Dada, Jean Bedel Bokassa, Macias Nguema, and Mobutu. Contemporaneous to Sovinka's literary crusade against African tyranny was Nurrudin Farah's trilogy Sweet Sour Milk (4), Sardines (5), and Close Sesame (6) which denounced the despotism and megalomania of Siad Barre's regime. Farah's works travelled two of the Machiavellian strategies shared by most contemporary African dictators: fostering tribal division to remain in power and tracking the opposition relentlessly. Both Sovinka and Farah denounced and ridiculed despotic rule by exposing its political and rhetorical methods. In the same vein, Camara Lave's Dramouss (7) exposed the atrocities of Sekou Toure's reign while Henri Lopez's Le Pleurer Rire (8) (The Laughing Cry) used the burlesque to ridicule Amin and Bokassa. (9) In their war against tyrannical role, these African writers revealed a variety of strategies used by the dictators to attain ascendency.

In this paper, I analyze the varied ways in which Alex Laguma's In the Fog of the Season's End and Sony Labou Tansi's La Vie et Demie dramatize the confrontation between the perpetrators and the victims of violence. By using the body as locus of both oppression and resistance, these works share two major traits: They represent violence as the cause of individual and social disintegration and focus on the ways the victims of violence deal with their predicaments. In the first section of this study, I show how, in the Fog of the Season's End, the silence of the victim of torture destabilizes his tormentors and how La Vie et Demie underscores the importance of speech where tyranny tries to silence its victim. In the second section, I argue that in both novels tyrannical power becomes impotent in the face of popular resistance. In the third section, I explore how the novels expound the relationship between ideology and resistance. I conclude this study with an argument that is salient in both novels: True emancipation is a result of oppressed people's converging initiatives and forces.

THE BODY AS SITE OF RESISTANCE AND AGENCY

In the Fog of the Season's End: Silence as a Form of Resistance

Alex Laguma's In the Fog of the Season's End is set in South Africa where the Bantustans and the pass-laws, outward expressions of the structural violence of the Apartheid system, led to chronic unrest among Blacks. Their forms of defiance matured into a variety of subversive activities that no repression could stifle. The massacres of Sharpeville and SOWETO, the mass arrests, and the imprisonment and assassinations of Black leaders fueled anti-Apartheid anger and contributed immensely to the radicalization of the struggle in South Africa.

In this context o f systemic violence, In the Fog of the Season's End focuses on the activities of a secret underground movement fighting to end the Apartheid system. …

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