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THE AFRICAN NOVEL AND NOVEL IN AFRICA: A TEXUTUAL READING OF CHINUA ACHEBE’S THINGS FALL APART AND JOSEPH CONRAD’S HEAT OF DARKNESS

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[icon type=”icon-pencil”]: THE AFRICAN NOVEL AND NOVEL IN AFRICA: A TEXUTUAL READING OF CHINUA ACHEBE’S THINGS FALL APART AND JOSEPH CONRAD’S HEAT OF DARKNESS
[icon type=”icon-book”]: Chapter 1 – 5
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Keywords: THE AFRICAN NOVEL AND NOVEL IN AFRICA: A TEXUTUAL READING OF CHINUA ACHEBE’S THINGS FALL APART AND JOSEPH CONRAD’S HEAT OF DARKNESS


RESEARCH BODY

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Literature is a unifying institution of the arts and it makes us understand how people had tamed their past, how they can survive the challenges of the present and thereby plan the how the future could be won. The word “literature” has different meanings depending on who is using it well as the context of usage. It could be applied broadly to mean any symbolic record, encompassing images, sculptures and letters. In its narrow sense, the term could mean text composed of letters, symbolic written language such as Egyptian hieroglyphs. According to Encyclopedia Britannica (online), the Muslim scholar and philosopher Imam Ja’fa ral Sadiq (702-762 AD) defines literature as

…the garments which one puts on what he

says or writes so that it may appear more

attractive.

Also extracted from the Encyclopedia Britannica (online) is another definition given by Panghilito Luigi in which literature is defined a

…a slice of the life that has been given

direction and meaning, an artistic

interpretation of the world according to the

percipient’s point of views

On the part of Roman Jacobson, a Russian Formalist, defines literature this way as

…an organized violence committed on

ordinary speech… to be seen in poetry

Given all the definitions that have so far been considered, literature in the nutshell could be seen as an aggregation of life. This is primarily because literature is a social creation; a social institution that relies on language for its medium. It is a recreation of experience as every literature has the capability to provide a living account of the world in the circumstances and conditions its time. That is why literature could sometimes be regarded as a fact of history. Different historical events like the Nigeria Civil War, Aba Women Riot, the Niger-Delta struggles for emancipation etc, have manifested in the various characteristics of Nigeria literature. Early Nigeria works of literature were characterized by overt or covert religious or didactic purpose. Moralizing or prescriptive literature stems from such sources. Literature consist of the post poet and drama genre. The novel is a form of post fiction and it is the focus of this essay.

E.M. Foster’s Aspects of the Novel (1985) define the novel as

The third type of narrative fiction common

to the literary circle of today. It is the most

favored of all the literary genres found in

literature. Also, it is no overstatement to

say that the genre has recorded

tremendous growth from the age and the

growth subsists till date… (p.16)

The novel can be defined as an extended fictional prose narrative whose subject matter is Man in society. It stands generically for all extended fiction of prose narrative which evolve around man existence. The word “novel” is supposedly applied during the earlier renaissance to any new story. The novel as one of the genres of literature is the long flowing, descriptive form of self expression. It has by far come to be the most popularly accepted literary form because of it diversity of interest coupled with it infinity of functions. Apart from entertaining the readers, the novel helps to understand life for it mirrors the history of mankind because it has an endless possibility as to it subject matter.

According to Joan Rockwell’s facts in fiction: the use of literature in the systematic study of society (1974) says:

A novel equally describes norms and values,

and present its character as actors in the

demonstration of such norms and values…

novel must remain true to the norms of the

class which creates its and read it and

above all new ones must be constantly created

over and over again (p. 114)

The novel is different from poetry to drama. This is because it is written in languages that aims at lucid expression of the self, not through action as in drama or through picturesque association as in poetry. The novel can protest against an established system or eulogizes it. Wole Soyinka’s Season of Anomy (1973) is a good example of novels which talks about the ideal society which is based on familiar spectacles in human society. The novel is used as an instrument of protest, due to the oppressiveness of the colonial administration in Africa. African writers hide under different pseudonyms to voice out their bitterness against the parasitic nature of the Afro European co-existence and the conflict arising from the clash between the two cultures.

The novel could also be used to educate the world about cultural richness of a particular people. An example of this could be seen in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1957) and fortified by Amos Tutuola in Palm Win Drinkard which is outstanding in the manner it enumerates Africa’s cultural heritage an values. In another vein, the novel could be used as a vehicle of moralization and always serve as a tool of moral instruction, to teach people, the right and wrongs about the contemporary society as could be seen in Achebe’s Girls At War. The novel has also serve as a reservoir of information. The Bible can be regard as a religious hand-book and the greatest work of literature that informs the generations on how to build their moral lives.

The number of words that makes a full novel has not been rightly fixed by literary artist, but the popular speculation has it that a standard novel must not contain less than 50,000 words. The novel must tell a story that is largely fictive but highly plausible. For example, the short or the novelette is expected to have all the essential literary characteristics such as the characters, the theme, plot, settings, mood, and style.

1.2 THE AFRICAN LITERATURE AND THE NOVEL

Abiola Irele, in The African Experience in Literature and Ideology, in trying to define the African novel says that the term “African” appears to correspond to a geographical notion, and the term Africa implies the collective awareness that has been determined by ethnic, historical and sociological factors. He further asserts that all these factors affect and express themselves in African literature. Beyond these areas of reference, the problem of definition of the African novel should as well consider the issue f aesthetics as reflected in the cultural and social structures and some of the expressions of the African people and societies.

In investigating the literature and the society that produce it, Chinua Achebe in his note ‘Thoughts on African Novel Tradition’ opines that:

The African novel has to be about African as a geographical expression and as a metaphysical landscape, African novel should be about the view of the world and all of the cosmos perceived from a particular (p.2). 

Achebe also added his voice in respect of those who could be qualified as an African novelist. To this, he says:

…. It is a party a matte o passports, of individual volition and particularly of seeing from that perspective… Being an African, like being a Jew, carries certain penalties… as well as benefits, (p.2).

The two views above strongly opine among other things that the African novel should have Africa characters and should be about Africa. They also make us take a second look at the characteristics of the African literature which includes the culture, the crises of identity, slavery and colonialism and therefore see it from a holistic perspective.
In talking about the Africa literature, there is the tendency to forget that the whole of African arts is linked with oral literature that has been the mainstay of both the traditional and the modern Africa. Often times, the African written literature emerges as a transcription, adaptation, translation or exploitation of the people’s oral tradition materials, irrespective of the language chosen by the author. Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Obi wali in their separate writings believe that any work that would claim to be African must not be written in foreign language. The two authors do agree that oral traditions are at the heart of African cultures.

The notion ‘African literature’ has received criticism based on the objectivity of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart on the African culture following it’s publication in 1958. There have been diverse submissions by the whites on Africa and her culture especially by those who claim to have in-depth knowledge of her territories.

However Achebe captures the thought of one ‘Albert Schweitzer’ in morning yet on Creation day (1975) on what he termed his immortal dictum in the hey days of colonialism. In his claim, Albert Schweitzer says that African is indeed his own continent’s brother, but its junior or younger one or that matter. Schweitzer and his likes mount the imperial position of a big brother from where they have interpreted the African culture to suit their whims and caprices. This misconception is directly the cause of the emergence of the African literature. It will be wise  to bring out numerous positions on the subject. The African novel is faced with critic some say it is ‘a tool for the literate African’s arrogation of the essence  of his culture on a white dominated world with its authentic and original genre, themes and messages. To a few, it is simply a political document of protests against assumptions of the black man. It is also believed in some quarters that the Africa novel represents a mere appendage to the British and French literature since most African writers write in English or French. Achebe was affirmative when he says:

Let no one be fooled by the fact that we

may write in English for we intend to do

the unheard of things with it. (p.7).

Keywords: THE AFRICAN NOVEL AND NOVEL IN AFRICA: A TEXUTUAL READING OF CHINUA ACHEBE’S THINGS FALL APART AND JOSEPH CONRAD’S HEAT OF DARKNESS



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