Between the flag and the mask : the demystification of political independence in the African novel in French, 1960-1990
In the first three decades since the granting of political independence to France's former African colonies, the novel form has been appropriated by postcolonial authors and articulates the possibility of a new relationship between the centre and the former margins. Fictional narrative has become central to the (re-) negotiation of power, authority, class and gender in a postcolonial African society. This thesis is a socio-historical study of selected texts which examines the re-writing of the African past and the appropriate of narrative voice by the inhabitants of marginal sites. Close readings of two earlier novels by Ousmane Sembene trace the development from the optimism of the pro-independence movement to the growing divisions within African society as an African elite replaces the former colonial population. While Sembene's novels reflect a belief in the certainties of the French language as a means of expression, Ahmadou Kourouma challenges its hegemony, introducing African grammatical structures and vocabulary into his texts. The shifting narrative voices and fragmented chronologies of Kourouma's texts expose the partial nature of historical writing and its relationship with fictional narrative. A close reading of texts by women authors examines the portrayal of female subjectivity and the ways in which these characters transcend the previously limiting stereotypes. Urban African society is explored from both a class and a gender perspective and in particular the way in which the post-colonial topology is disrupted by the marginalised. Finally, I chart the rise of neo-colonialism and the conditions which led to the rise of dictatorial regimes, revealing the centrality of language and iconography to the maintenance of governmental authority. I investigate the way in which satire and the presence of alternative, opposition discourses in the novels of Henri Lopes and Sony Labou Tansi calls into question the monolithic authority of the nation state.