In his study of the origins of political reflection in twentieth-century African fiction, Donald Wehrs examines a neglected but important body of African texts written in colonial (English and French) and indigenous (Hausa and Yoruba) languages. He explores pioneering narrative representations of pre-colonial African history and society in seven texts: Casely Hayford's Ethiopia Unbound (1911), Alhaji Sir Abubaker Tafawa Balewa's Shaihu Umar (1934), Paul Hazoumé's Doguicimi (1938), D.O. Fagunwa's Forest of a Thousand Daemons (1938), Amos Tutuola's The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952) and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954), and Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart (1958). Wehrs highlights the role of pre-colonial political economies and articulations of state power on colonial-era considerations of ethical and political issues, and is attentive to the gendered implications of texts and authorial choices. By positioning Things Fall Apart as the culmination of a tradition, rather than as its inaugural work, he also reconfigures how we think of African fiction. His book supplements recent work on the importance of indigenous contexts and discourses in situating colonial-era narratives and will inspire fresh methodological strategies for studying the continent from a multiplicity of perspectives.
Donald R. Wehrs is Associate Professor of English at Auburn University, USA, where he teaches postcolonial studies, comparative literature, and eighteenth-century British literature. He is the author of African Feminist Fiction and Indigenous Values (2001), and his essays on postcolonial, British, and European literature have appeared in Modern Language Notes, New Literary History, Ariel, Modern Philology, College Literature, Studies in English Literature, and English Literary History.
'Donald Wehrs is one of the rare critics who is able to combine post-structuralism with cognitive neuroscience. His interweaving of these traditions is often arresting and insightful...an erudite, sophisticated, challenging book for students of postcolonial literature to learn from and argue with.' Patrick Hogan, University of Connecticut, USA ’... an impressive contribution to the field of (postcolonial) African literature. It is extremely well researched and the author's deep unerstanding of indigenous African traditions permits him to gain valuable insights, allowing him to challenge current understandings of Africa before the colonial era. The work succeeds in shining a spotlight on this neglected section of African literary research and provides a critical overview of the differing perspectives available to African authors. ... the strengths of this book are numerous and it is an invaluable addition to the reading list of anyone with an interest in modern/postcolonial African literature and/or African history.’ Modern Language Review