Gichingiri Ndigirigi, Ed. 2014. Unmasking the African Dictator: Essays on Postcolonial African Literature

By Baker, Charlotte | African Studies Quarterly, September 2015 | Go to article overview

Gichingiri Ndigirigi, Ed. 2014. Unmasking the African Dictator: Essays on Postcolonial African Literature


Baker, Charlotte, African Studies Quarterly


Gichingiri Ndigirigi, ed. 2014. Unmasking the African Dictator: Essays on Postcolonial African Literature. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. 240 pp.

The dictator novel emerged much later in Africa than in Latin America, and has consequently received considerably less critical attention. In addition, African dictator novels have often been read as historical novels, experimental novels, or novels of disillusion. Therefore, the genre of the African dictator novel has not been clearly defined, and the strategies adopted by African writers in their negotiation of the relationship between oppression and aesthetics have been under-explored. The publication of Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Wizard of the Crow in 2010 stimulated renewed attention to African dictator fiction, and his foreword is therefore a welcome addition to Unmasking the African Dictator. As Ngugi acknowledges in his foreword, African dictator fiction combined the tragic, the comic and the absurd as a challenge to the "parrotry that became poetry" to the ears of the dictator (p. vii).

Unmasking the African Dictator is impressively broad in coverage, exploring the postcolonial realities of Mali, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, the Congo, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda. The chapters also examine an impressive range of Anglophone and Francophone African fiction including Nuruddin Farah's Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship, Henri Lopes's Le Pleurer-rire, Goretti Kyomuhendo's Waiting, Chinua Achebe's Anthills of the Savannah, Ahmadou Kourouma's En attendant le vote des betes sauvages, Ousmane Sembene's Le Dernier de l'Empire, Ngugi's Wizard of the Crow, Alain Mabanckou's Broken Glass, Emmanuel Dongala's Johnny Chien Mechant, and La Vie et demie by Sony Labou Tansi. However, while the volume makes a welcome addition to this emerging area of research, it does not attempt to define the genre of the African dictator novel, nor does it draw explicit links with the tradition of the Latin American dictator novel. The volume is also a little unbalanced, with an introduction and two chapters by the editor Gichingiri Ndigirigi, two chapters by Magali Armillas-Tiseyra, and individual chapters of varying length and substance from the other eight contributors. …

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