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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 3. Autofiction as a Postcolonial Strategy: Guilherme Mendes da Silva’s De humeuren van menee


Chapter 3

Autofiction as a Postcolonial Strategy: Guilherme Mendes da Silva’s De humeuren van meneer Utac and Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

From autobiography to autofiction

While scholars have acknowledged the importance of autobiographical writing in postcolonial literatures (e.g. Moore-Gilbert 2009, Lebdai 2015), especially with reference to so-called “diaspora” or “migration” literature, rarely are autobiographical narratives defined as autofictional.1 Coined by French writer Serge Doubrovsky in the late seventies (Doubrovsky 2001 [1977]), the term “autofiction” is mostly used by scholars, but is often mixed up with the more common (non-academic) term “autobiography”.2 The term did not lead immediately to a positive critical response among French scholars, but Doubrovsky, himself a specialist in Corneille, endeavoured to theorize autofiction through a particularly productive (but arguably narcissistic) move, rarely seen in the world of writers: by taking his own work as a conceptual laboratory and showcase for his theory, in order to challenge the self-sufficiency surrounding the autobiographical genre. Doubrovsky, in an attempt to clarify his concept, usually proceeded by commenting his own fictional work as an “auto-critic”. Instead of downplaying Doubrovsky’s reflections as a form of critical and creative narcissism, scholars have engaged in a productive debate about the specificities of autofiction, and its difference with related notions such as autobiography and the autobiographical novel. As the term suggests, autofiction is close to autobiography; however, it is not a synonym for the latter. Autobiography is usually defined, quite simply, as...

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