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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 4. Beyond Animality: Mia Couto’s Transmutations


Chapter 4

Beyond Animality: Mia Couto’s Transmutations

From Biologist to Literary Alchemist

Mia Couto’s linguistic playfulness has rightfully drawn scholarly attention since he first started publishing in the 1980s. However, as David Brookshaw (2016) has pointed out, the writer’s peculiar use of language made scholars forget, to a certain extent, the painful context in which his work has emerged:

The obsessive debate surrounding Couto’s use of language, however, detracted from the analysis of the sometimes deeply disturbing messages his stories conveyed about the various tensions being played out in post-independence, war-torn Mozambique in the 1980s – not least the effects of poverty and social isolation on people’s ability and need to dream. These tensions, in turn, were linked to the clash between the uprooting of rural African traditions resulting from war and forced migration, and what might best be described as the “unrootedness” of Mozambican urban modernity. (Brookshaw 2016: 23)

Brookshaw rightly refers to the often forgotten context of rural Mozambique, and the “uprooting of African rural traditions” as a result of war. In this chapter I propose to pay closer attention to these contextual factors, albeit in a limited way. However, as I shall attempt to show in this chapter, the situation is more complex: traditional beliefs were also put to the service of the major political party involved, RENAMO (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana/National Mozambican Resistance); its permanent challenging of the government, led by FRELIMO (Frente de Libertação...

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