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Fiction and the Incompleteness of History

Toni Morrison, V. S. Naipaul, and Ben Okri

Ying Zhu

With reference to Paul Ricoeur’s conception of the interconnectedness of history and fiction, this comparative literary study examines narrative strategies that three contemporary writers of fiction – Toni Morrison, V. S. Naipaul, and Ben Okri – have devised to counteract the incompleteness of historical representation. In her novel Beloved Morrison redefines the slave-narrative tradition and reveals an alternative history of slavery by unveiling the interior lives of her characters. Through a hybrid prose that mixes fiction with history in the novels The Enigma of Arrival and A Way in the World, Naipaul illuminates «areas of darkness» in the diasporic world of East Indian Trinidadians and provides new ways of transforming English literary and cultural history. Focusing on West African identity and community, Okri brings a mythic and fantastic dimension to postcolonial fiction as a way of giving a voice to people who are generally without power and almost without any place in a world of inequality and injustice. Probing into historical incompleteness, this study underscores the indispensable role of fiction in representing life, rectifying history, and enlarging reality.

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Index A Bend in the River (V.S. Naipaul) 102, 110–1 Achebe, Chinua 22, 112 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The (Mark Twain) 26 Africanist presence 43–4, 46, 50, 141, 143–4, 149 Africans, The (David Lamb) 112 A House for Mr. Biswas (V.S. Naipaul) 101 Anthills of the Savannah (Chinua Achebe) 22 Areas of darkness 14, 27, 77–8, 98, 109, 145–7, 149 A Way of Being Free (Ben Okri) 147 Barnouw, Dagmar 87 Berlin Conference 111 Black Book, The (Toni Morrison (ed.)) 48 Bluest Eye, The (Toni Morrison) 33, 44 Borges, Jorge Luis 33 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, The 48 Civil War 48 Collingwood, R.G. 15, 50, 67–8, 76, 80, 82 Confessions of Nat Turner, The (William Styron) 18 Cooper, Brenda 135, 137 Dialogic Imagination, The (Bakhtin) 69 Diaspora 12, 17, 24, 42, 149 Discovery of the Large, Rich, and Beautiful Empire of Guiana, The (Sir Walter Raleigh) 85 El Dorado 80, 85 Emancipation Proclamation 48 Finding the Center (V.S. Naipaul) 101, 104 Flowers and Shadows (Ben Okri) 23 Francisco Miranda 80, 84–7 Freud, Sigmund 17, 25 Giorgio de Chirico 81 Harlem Book of the Dead, The (Camille Billops) 49 Hayward, Helen 102 Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad) 110– 1 Hughes, Peter 80 Hutcheon, Linda 51 Idanre and Other Poems (Wole Soyinka) 22 Idea of History, The (R.G. Collingwood) 15 In a Free State (V.S. Naipaul) 102 Infinite Riches (Ben Okri) 115, 117, 120, 140, 148 In Memoriam (Tennyson) 106 Janet, Pierre 17 Jazz (Toni Morrison)...

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