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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 8. Travelling concepts II: The Archipelago as a Spatial Concept for Literary Studies


Chapter 8

Travelling concepts II: The Archipelago as a Spatial Concept for Literary Studies

[…] the desire for stability and the need for instability are no longer incompatible […] such a city becomes an archipelago of architectural islands floating in a post-architectural landscape of erasure where what was once city is now a highly charged nothingness. (Rem Koolhaas, SMLXL)

Decades go by, and the scars and sores of the past are healing over for good. In the course of this period some of the islands of the Archipelago have shuddered and dissolved and the polar sea of oblivion rolls over them. And someday in the future, this Archipelago, its air, and the bones of its inhabitants, frozen in a lens of ice, will be discovered by our descendants like some improbable salamander. (Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago)

Whole archipelagos, and not just islands as Lalo suggests, were once invisible to humanity, as Solzhenitsyn describes in his tragic account of The Gulag Archipelago. Caribbean intellectuals, of course, have presented a more positive image of the archipelago, turning it into a productive concept; however, it is important to remind ourselves that, not so long ago, archipelagos did not draw any attention at all for being a group of islands floating amid the oceans, far away from any continents. Among the most discussed Caribbean intellectuals of the past three decades, two figures stand out for some striking similarities between their works: Glissant and Benítez-Rojo. While scholars have...

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