Socialist-Oriented Literature in Postcolonial Africa: Retrospective and Prospective
Alamin M. Mazrui
This chapter is intended to be a broad reflection on where socialist-inspired writing in post-colonial Africa might be going as we approach the year 2000; but in the process, I also discuss some of the foundations of this literature. Following Emmanuel Ngara, socialist literature can be defined as one that reflects "the class structure of society and presents social struggles from the point of view of class and promote the ideal of socialism" ( 1985: 17). The existence of a socialist-inspired literature in Africa shall be taken for granted for the purposes of this essay since the socialist thrust of many of the texts discussed here has already been the subject of analysis in the works of a number of literary critics, including Emmanuel Ngara ( 1985), George Gugelberger ( 1985), Chidi Amuta ( 1986, 1989) and Udenta O. Udenta ( 1993).
Of more direct concern for us here are two seemingly conflicting predictions on the destiny of socialist inspired literature in Africa. We have, on the one hand, the position of Udenta to the effect that "The most significant direction of the African literary process is the revolutionary direction, sustained in virtually all parts of the continent" ( 1993: xxi). This revolutionary direction is projected in terms of Marxist dialectical materialism, and African literature is deemed to be on a progressive path from its apologist beginnings, through intermediate liberalist, negationist and critical stages, to a final revolutionary, Marxist peak.
On the other hand, there is the position of Ogembo who, based on his observations of the developments in Kenya's literary scene, concludes--at least with regard to this East African nation--that what he calls "post-Ngûgî" fiction--that is, the radical fiction of revolutionary commitment--is increasingly moving away from the kinds of political concerns that would normally sustain the growth of a socialist-inspired literature ( 1995: 97-98).