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Postcolonial Archipelagos

Essays on Hispanic Caribbean and Lusophone African Fiction


Kristian Van Haesendonck

Writers from different postcolonial regions are usually classified according to their different nationalities or linguistic areas, and have rarely been brought together in one volume. Moving in a new direction, Postcolonial Archipelagos crosses not only geographical but also linguistic boundaries, by focusing on two contexts which seemingly have little or nothing in common with one another: the Hispanic Caribbean, and Lusophone Africa. Kristian Van Haesendonck thus opens new ground, in two ways: first, by making connections between contemporary Caribbean and African writers, moving beyond the topos of slavery and negritude in order to analyse the (im)possibility of conviviality in postcolonial cultures; and secondly, by exploring new ways of approaching these literatures as postcolonial archipelagic configurations with historical links to their respective metropoles, yet also as elements of what Glissant and Hannerz have respectively called "Tout-Monde" and a "world in creolization". Although the focus is on writers from Lusophone Africa (Mia Couto, José Luis Mendonça and Guilherme Mendes da Silva) and the Hispanic Caribbean (Junot Díaz, Eduardo Lalo, Marta Aponte, James Stevens-Arce and Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá), connections are made with and within the broader global context of intensified globalization.

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Chapter 2. Madness as Conviviality? José Luis Mendonça’s O Reino das Casuarinas


Chapter 2

Madness as Conviviality? José Luis Mendonça’s O Reino das Casuarinas

In this chapter I aim to analyse how the trope of conviviality is represented in the novel and how it is closely related to the concept of madness in José Luis Mendonça’s O Reino das Casuarinas (The Kingdom of the Casuarinas). Like Guilherme Mendes da Silva’s De humeuren van meneer UTAC, it is an autofictional novel that deals with cultural memory in postcolonial Angola. On a deeper level, I will argue, the novel also deals with the (im)possibility of conviviality in the violent context of Angola’s liberation wars – and their aftermath – of the seventies and eighties. In this respect Mendonça’s work reminds one of some of the novels by Pepetela, such as Mayombe (1980), about the MPLA guerillas in the jungle of Mayombe, as well as A geração da utopia (1992), dealing with the disenchantment of a generation of young people fighting for Angola’s independence.

Given that madness, understood as a disruptive psychological affect, goes against the very possibility of conviviality, I wonder what its role is in the novel. I will seek to establish a comparative link between postcolonial African and two Caribbean writers, where similar issues are at stake: the Martinican and Puerto Rican writers I will refer to indeed deal in similar ways with the challenge of peaceful “cohabitation” in the postcolony. Through the topic of madness, I argue, the novel strongly recalls the...

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