Re-Narrating the Past: Historical Reconstruction and the Postcolonial African Novel: The case of Ngugi and Armah

Hocine MAOUI


Both Armah and Ngugi have grappled with the trajectory of the continent’s history. Whether in their prose narratives or polemical essays, they offer deep philosophical reflections on “the trouble with Africa”, then and now. I believe that both novelists do write fiction that reconstructs a historical narrative or is in dialogue with the past. Given the broad scope of the historical framework and the wide range of historical material that pervades most of their narratives, I will refer briefly to the writers’ late novels which exemplify best the ideological moorings that shape their historical vision. This attempt is double-fold because on one side it will show the interrelation between history and fiction as narrative mediations of reality. On the other side, it will maintain the claim that despite their divergent ideological orientations and contrary to many critical assertions, both Ngugi’s and Armah’s visions do intersect.

Texte intégral :



- Hayden White, The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation(Baltimore, London: Hopkins University Press, 1987) , p.57.

- Oralando de Rudder , « Quand l’historien se fait romancier, » le Débat 56 (1989( , p. 32.

- Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Homecoming (London: Heinemann), 1981,p.xv

------------, Writers in Politics ( London: Heinemann, 1981), pp. 5-6

- Carol Sicherman, “Ngugi wa Thiong’o and the writing of Kenyan History”, RAL , vol. 20, n°3( Fall 1989), p.344.

- V.Y. Mudimbe, The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), p.184.

- Elleke Boehmer, Colonial and Postcolonial Literature (Oxford and New York : Oxford University Press,1995),p.184.

- Simon Gikandi, Reading,Chinua Achebe: Language and Ideology in Fiction (London: Heinemann, 1991),p.3.

- Chinua Achebe, Morning Yet On Creation Day (London: Herinemann, 1975), p.90.

- Abiola Irele, The African Experience in Literature and Ideology (London :Heinemann,1981) ,p.11.

- Keith M. Booker , “ The Historical Novel in Ayi Kwei Armah and David Caute” Critique , vol. 38,3 (Spring 97), p.235.

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- Lionnet Françoise, 1994, « Parcours Narratif . Itinéraire Culturel, » in Modernité, Fiction, Déconstruction ed. J.Bessière ( Etudes Romanesques, Paris : Lettres, Modernes), p. 143.

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- In many of his essays Ngugi refers to novels written by colonialist writers among which are Elspeth Huxley’s Red Strangers (1964) , Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa (1952) and Robert Ruark’s Something of Value (1962).

- Frederick Cooper, “Conflict and Connection: Rethinking African Colonial History,” The American Historical Review, 99, 5 (1994), p.1528.

- Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Petals of Blood (1977) London: Heinemann),1978, p.67.

- Ayi Kwei Armah, Why Are We So Blest?(1972)(London : Heinemann, 1974),p.231.

---------------, Two Thousand Seasons (1973)( London: Heinemann, 1979), p.19.

- Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (London : Vintage, 1993),p.259.

- Armah’s latest novels which are published in PerAnkh House (Popenguine) are: Osiris Rising: A Novel of Africa Past, Present, and Future , 1995;KMT: In the House of Life - An Epistemic Novel , 2OO2 and The Scribes, 2006.

- Bernth Lindfors,New Directions in African Fiction (Austin University: TWAS 869, 1997),p.57.

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- Mazisi Kunene, “The Relevance of Cosmological Systems to African Literature Today,” ALT, 11: 90-205, p.191 quoted by Kofi Anyidoho in “Literature and African Identity: The Example of Ayi Kwei Armah, African Studies Series (Bayreuth),6 (1986), 23-42.

- Chidi Amuta, “Ayi Kwei Armah and the Mythopoesis of Mental Decolonization,” Ufahamu, 10, 3 (1981), 44-56, p.49.

- Frederick Cooper, “Conflict and Connection: Rethinking African Colonial History,” The American Historical Review, 99, 5 (1994), p.1528.

- Stephen Slemon, “Post-Colonial Allegory and the Transformation of History,” Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 321 (1988)157-34.

- Mamudu A. “Tracing a Winding Stair: Ngugi’s Narrative methods in Petals of Blood”, WLWE,28, (1988), pp.16-25.

- Alamin Mazrui and Lupenga Mphande, “History as a Weapon: Ngugi’s Evolving View of Mau Mau,” TransAfrica Forum, vol. 8, n°3 (Sept. 1991), pp.19-30.

Ayi Kwei Armah. The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (1969). London: Heinemann, 1980.


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