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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 5. Caribbean Cultural Discourse and Fiction in an era of Globalization


Chapter 5

Caribbean Cultural Discourse and Fiction in an era of Globalization

5.1 Postmodern teratologies

The return of Caliban

Of the various negative images that have determined the debate on Latin America, one of the most influential ones of the last century is Caliban’s. A monster par excellence, Caliban made his appearance on the literary stage in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest (first performed on 1 November 1611). The Caribbean origin of this controversial figure has been long forgotten, especially after intellectuals like Roberto Fernández Retamar gave him a regional (i.e. Latin American) scope. In his famous homonymous essay, the Cuban intellectual consolidated a dialectical vision of colonized versus colonizer, in the wake of other Caribbean thinkers such as Martí, Frantz Fanon and Aimé Césaire. Latin America would occupy since the appearance of Retamar’s essay the place of the victim, the colonized, and Calibán became for many Latin American intellectuals a symbol of their position as victim of Western politics, and of their destitute identity. In spite of the “crisis of representation” that affects Caliban in the late 20th century, a glance at cultural discourse shows that this figure remains strongly relevant to several critics, specifically Caribbean ones, although they do not say this explicitly. In what follows I will focus briefly on how some Hispanic Caribbean critics (Duchesne, Torrecilla) perceive themselves as “postmodern monsters”, as a kind of contemporary “Caliban”, which in turn is a symptom of our times...

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