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Postcolonial Realism and the Concept of the Political [1 ed.]
 9780367650780, 9780367650803, 9781003127741

Table of contents :
Cover
Half Title
Series Page
Title Page
Copyright Page
Dedication
Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Postcolonial Studies and the End of History
Introduction
Literature and History
Poly-Cultural Writing
Postcolonial Studies and the Question of Representation
Theoretical-Critical Fictions
The Return to Literary Realism
Notes
Works Cited
1. Nation, Nationalism, and the Novel Form
The Critique of Nationalism
Imagined Community vs. DissemiNation
Anderson's Nation
The Novel and the Nation
Notes
Works Cited
2. The Historico-Political Discourse
Carl Schmitt's Concept of the Political
Michel Foucault's Society Must Be Defended
The Historico-Political Discourse
Foucault's Hobbes
Boulainvilliers and the Birth of the Nation
The French Revolution: The Birth of a Nation
Lukacs's Historico-Political Discourse
Necessary Anachronism and '1848'
Notes
Works Cited
3. The Political Significance of Literary Realism
Introduction
The Rise of Realism
The Novel as a Form of Secondariness
Realism and Transparency
The Lure of Realism
Performative Realism
Realism as Historico-Political Discourse
Realist Omniscience
The Monopolization of Reality
Notes
Works Cited
4. Postcolonial Realism
Jus Publicum Europaeum
Postcolonial Realism
Commonality vs. Singularity
'Living Reality' and the Question of the Nation
Lukács's Critique of Modernism
Jameson's National Allegory
Conclusion
Notes
Works Cited
5. The Politics of Realism: Rohinton Mistry's Such a Long Journey
Introduction
Not Enough or Too Much Realism
The Public vs. the Private
Ironic Distance
Narrative and Rhetoric
Improbable Connections
Conclusion
Notes
Works Cited
Conclusion
Notes
Works Cited
Index

Citation preview

Postcolonial Realism and the Concept of the Political

As the scholarly world attunes itself once again to the specifically political, this book rethinks the political significance of literary realism within a postcolonial context. Generally, postcolonial studies has either ignored realism or criticized it as being naïve, anachronistic, deceptive, or complicit with colonial discourse; in other words—incongruous with the postcolonial. This book argues that postcolonial realism is intimately connected to the specifically political in the sense that realist form is premised on the idea of a collective reality. Discussing a range of literary and theoretical works, Dr. Sorensen exemplifies that many postcolonial writers were often faced with the realities of an unstable state, a divided community inhabiting a contested social space, the challenges of constructing a notion of ‘the people,’ often out of a myriad of local communities with different traditions and languages brought together arbitrarily through colonization. The book demonstrates that the political context of realism is the sphere or possibility of civil war, divided societies, and unstable communities. Postcolonial realism is prompted by disturbing political circumstances, and it gestures toward a commonly imagined world, precisely because such a notion is under pressure or absent. Eli Park Sorensen is an assistant professor in the English Department at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He received his PhD in Comparative Literature from University College London in 2007. Dr. Sorensen’s publications include Science Fiction Film: Predicting the Impossible in the Age of Neoliberalism (Edinburgh University Press, 2021) and Postcolonial Studies and the Literary: Theory, Interpretation and the Novel (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). He has also published in journals such as NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, Journal of Narrative Theory, Paragraph: A Journal of Modern Critical Thought, Modern Drama, Research in African Literatures, Explicator, Partial Answers, Forum for Modern Language Studies, and Studies in Canadian Literature.

Routledge Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature

Modernist Literature and European Identity Birgit Van Puymbroeck Embodiment and the Cosmic Perspective in Twentieth-Century Fiction Marco Caracciolo Life-Writing, Genre and Criticism in the Texts of Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland Women Writing for Women Ailsa Granne Character and Dystopia The Last Men Aaron S. Rosenfeld Literary Criticism, Culture and the Subject of ‘English’: F. R. Leavis and T. S. Eliot Dandan Zhang Clemence Dane Forgotten Feminist Writer of the Inter-War Years Louise McDonald Memory, Voice, and Identity Muslim Women’s Writing from across the Middle East Edited by Feroza Jussawalla and Doaa Omran Postcolonial Realism and the Concept of the Political Eli Park Sorensen For more information about this series, please visit: https://www.routledge. com/Routledge-Studies-in-Twentieth-Century-Literature/book-series/RSTLC

Postcolonial Realism and the Concept of the Political

Eli Park Sorensen

First published 2021 by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2021 Taylor & Francis The right of Eli Park Sorensen to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record has been requested for this book ISBN: 978-0-367-65078-0 (hbk) ISBN: 978-0-367-65080-3 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-003-12774-1 (ebk) Typeset in Sabon by MPS Limited, Dehradun

To Celia Britton

Contents

Acknowledgments Introduction: Postcolonial Studies and the End of History

viii

1

1

Nation, Nationalism, and the Novel Form

32

2

The Historico-Political Discourse

57

3

The Political Significance of Literary Realism

95

4

Postcolonial Realism

132

5

The Politics of Realism: Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey

164

Conclusion Index

185 191

Acknowledgments

In 2011, I attended a conference at UCL held in honor of Professor Celia Britton. The paper I presented became the starting point for this book. I am grateful to many people and institutions for their support over the years. Firstly, many thanks to the editorial team at Routledge and the anonymous readers. Thanks to all my colleagues and students at CUHK, especially David Huddart, Jette Hansen Edwards, Grant Hamilton, Michael O’Sullivan, Eddie Tay, Li Ou, Julian Lamb, Simon Haines, Jason Gleckman, and Evelyn Chan. Thanks also to former colleagues and students at UCL, Kyung Hee University, University of Cambridge, Seoul National University, and other places—especially Nicholas Harrison, Derek Attridge, Shunliang Chao, Pamela Thurschwell, James Agar, Timothy Mathews, Mairéad Hanrahan, Maeve McCusker, Taek-Gwang Lee, Sungran Cho, Peggy Cho, Sung Hee Choi, Ben Etherington, Trudi Tate, Han Kyung-Koo, Suh Kyung-Ho, Kang Woosung, Suk-Koo Rhee, Hisop Shin, and Bok-ki Lee. Special thanks to people and organizations inviting me to present research that went into this book, including Ulka Anjaria, Jeff Clapp, Bidisha Banerjee, Sharmani Patricia Gabriel, Alex Tickell, Christoph Bode, as well as people at the academic institutes and organizations of Kyungsung, Kangwon, Chungnam, Yeungnam, Kyungnam, MBALL: The Association of Modern British and American Language and Literature, AELLK: The Association of English Literature and Language, ELLAK: English Language and Literature Association of Korea, and PSA: Postcolonial Studies Association. Parts of the Introduction were published as “Postcolonial Literary History and the Concealed Totality of Life” in Paragraph: A Journal of Modern Critical Thought 37.2 (2014), and a version of Chapter 5 was published as “Between the Private and the Public Spheres: The Politics of Realism in Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey” in Studies in Canadian Literature/Études en littérature Canadienne 45:1 (2021). I am grateful to the editors for permission to republish the aforementioned parts. The Faculty of Arts at CUHK generously provided a grant to support the publication of this book. This book is dedicated to Celia Britton, whose scholarship has had a tremendous influence on my own work and whose support over the years has been invaluable. Lastly, thanks to Hee-sook, Saerom, and Bori for your patience, love, and support.

Introduction Postcolonial Studies and the End of History

Introduction Although the academic field of postcolonial studies has been declared dead on several occasions, the number of courses still taught, conferences organized, and journal articles published suggests the field is evidently still alive and doing well. Postcolonial studies has adapted remarkably well to recent academic trends, including new developments within areas such as gender studies, queer studies, intersectionality, and ecocriticism.1 The central concern is still, as Robert Young succinctly has pointed out with reference to Walter Benjamin, “the tradition of the oppressed” (Empire 149)—their histories and the injustices of these histories. And since oppressive structures in the world are as numerous as ever, the postcolonial imperative unrelentingly carries on. At the same time, it has become evident recently that some of the fundamental problems that haunted postcolonial studies during its initial phase are still to some extent directing the field. This book is an attempt to map some of these problems while at the same time recognizing the need to find new angles in an already crowded field of critiques.2 Most critics agree that postcolonial studies as an academic field emerged at some point during the late 1970s (roughly coinciding with the publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism in 1978) and gradually consolidated its academic position during the 80s. By the 1990s, the field had become a widely recognized academic field, a position further strengthened in the 2000s.3 As a politically-oriented field, postcolonial studies to some extent replaced the fading force and attractions of Marxist and ideology criticism as the world moved on from the Cold War to what Francis Fukuyama labeled ‘the end of history’:4 the idea that the political and economic structures developed in many Western countries constituted the normative endpoint of political history, one that was based on individualism secularism, materialism, and a global outlook.5 From this perspective, one could argue that part of the impetus of postcolonial studies during its early phase was a process of self-scrutiny

2

Introduction

or even soul-searching within a largely depoliticized Western hemisphere that no longer had any real enemies. What once constituted real external threats gradually became internalized enemies—i.e., the West against itself. Postcolonial studies both emerged as a symptom of this transformation while also playing a part in facilitating it.6 In this sense, the field ultimately offered a more positive—and hence to liberal-minded academics more acceptable—image of global capitalism in the form of a vision of a borderless world community (as a counterpoint to a vision of a borderless market of free capital flow).7 Politically, postcolonial studies generally embraced, implicitly or explicitly, the values accompanying liberal democracy in the age of global capitalism as positives: democracy, secularism, materialism, tolerance, individual freedom, minority rights, cosmopolitanism, antiracism, multiculturalism, gender equality, queerness, and guilt. And hence, even though very few postcolonial scholars would openly agree with Fukuyama’s end of history thesis, the field as a whole implicitly did. The global trends of today’s world, challenged by events such as the presidency of Donald Trump and its effects, Brexit, the rise of right-wing populism in Europe, authoritarian demonstrations of power in Russia and elsewhere (largely unanswered by the international community as the US has increasingly withdrawn from the global stage), police violence in response to street protests worldwide, as well as intensified conflicts over environmental issues, suggest that we are moving away from this pastoral vision of the end of history and toward a new normal that consists of dismantling the world that created and upheld these liberal values as unambiguous positives. Here, I should specify that this book does not offer another critical tirade exposing postcolonial studies’ naivete or question the field’s obsession with political correctness. Rather, my point is partly to explore the thesis that postcolonial studies as an academic field emerged within the political paradigm of the end of history, and which therefore inevitably is facing certain challenges within today’s new political landscape; partly, I aim to narrow my focus and look into some of the concrete effects and consequences this involves. That postcolonial studies as an academic field emerged within the horizon of and developed its main theoretical doctrines during the fin de siècle era of the end of history is in itself worth noticing, since this means that the field from the very beginning articulated its premises and theoretical insights during a time when the importance of the concept of the specifically political largely dwindled; the point in history at which the idea of a normal condition, the absolutely secure and enemy-less world, had become something many people—at least in Western contexts—would consider axiomatic.8 One could argue that it was precisely the absence of a discernible vision of a concrete, external enemy that created space for Western soul-searching in the form of postcolonial critique. In this sense, postcolonial studies could arguably be defined as

Introduction

3

the paradigmatic expression of the self-critical gaze that accompanied the sense of living in a world where the last credible, external enemy of everything the West represented had been defeated. One way to illustrate this transition towards the depoliticized world of the late twentieth century would be to employ the political distinction Jan-Werner Müller makes between the notions of ‘we alone represent the people’ vs. ‘we are also part of the people’.9 While the former here would designate a site of contested political wills battling for hegemony over a certain territory (hence the need to state explicitly as a way of claiming ‘we alone represent the people’), the latter refers to a situation in which this question about hegemonic-legitimate political identity has been resolved; ‘we are also part of the people’ is based on the premise that the very question of a people—i.e., hegemonic-legitimate political identity, its values and principles—has been addressed and answered and hence, in a further sense, that the discussion of the social contract in its basic sense is over. This is essentially what the specific, historical context of the academic field of postcolonial studies involves: a context in which the normative appears as a given, as a self-evident and indisputable fact, and which precisely has created the normative space in which it becomes possible to address the abnormal, the deviating, the repressed, the oppressed, and the marginal in the form of representational self-critique. In a certain sense, one could argue that the field of postcolonial studies from its early phases to today constitutes an attempt to think the marginal (and hence the potentially oppressed or repressed), a form of self-critique in relation to a given normativity, whose self-evidence is never seriously called into question. This is perhaps implicitly what the ‘post’ in postcolonial studies has come to signify as an academic field. The vision of the end of history is ultimately based on a negative premise: while one may ask questions about the way in which the political consensus of liberal democracy was achieved (and who is part of this political order), it is difficult if not impossible to challenge the basic fact that this is a political consensus constituting the norm that coincides with everything that the idea of ‘the West’ represents. As some commentators have argued, the West today seems to have gradually attuned itself to the idea of living in a hostile world surrounded by potential enemies yet again—an insecure, dangerous world that can no longer entirely be controlled, secured, or neutralized.10 It is perhaps in such a historical context that the West once again has become attentive to the specifically political in the Schmittian sense—that is, the friendenemy distinction.11 The friend-enemy distinction involves a keen awareness of the inherent challenges of territorial sovereignty, or more specifically, the awareness that the social body—the collective ‘we’—inhabiting a particular, demarcated area is an ongoing process, persistently raising the question of who has the right to embody or represent this ‘we’, as well as in relation to whom (i.e., others), and hence

4

Introduction

who has the right to rule and govern the territory. That this awareness is conceptualized through the friend-enemy distinction simply means that it is a process that in the end involves an existential confrontation of some kind, a conflict without which the social body would have no specific, delimited formation. Obviously, the specifically political should be distinguished here from the political horizon shaped by the end of history, that is, the vision of a post-political world, which precisely is premised on the possibility of the inclusive notion of ‘we are also part of the people’. It is a sentence that presupposes the resolution of the specifically political, the politically contested site of ‘we alone represent the people’; a notion that only really makes sense to the extent that there are several entities attempting to monopolize it simultaneously. The crucial point here is that postcolonial studies as an academic field emerged during a time when the specifically political in much of the West seemed to have been largely extinguished or to have become anachronistic, irrelevant, dangerous, politically incorrect. The end of history meant quite simply that this debate had come to an end. By contrast, any discussion in the direction of the specifically political seemed tainted by an assumed underlying extremist vision and all that belonged to it: racism, discrimination, far right-wing neoconservatism, ethnonationalism, and fascism. Regarding the latter, one could argue that these extremist sentiments are gradually returning to the normative discourse of mainstream politics, often in the form of increasingly inhospitable immigration policies, the building of walls and fences, reinforcement of borders, us vs. them rhetoric, and a general public acceptance of the need for protection and security at the expense of human rights. Although it would be possible to observe here that postcolonial studies has had disappointingly little to contribute to this discussion, this book will not seek to outline how the field may intervene more directly in this new political situation. Rather, my aim is to use this increasingly polarized contemporary political paradigm as an occasion to explore some of those conflicts that to some extent were always present in postcolonial discourse, and which now seem to have become even more distinct as we prepare ourselves for a world order beyond the end of history.

Literature and History It should be mentioned here that while postcolonial studies as a disciplinary field sharing a set of theoretical ideas and practices has been engaged and developed in multiple contexts across the academic spectrum, it was from the outset—and still largely is—situated in and around literary departments. To clarify: when I talk about ‘postcolonial studies’—I am addressing postcolonial literary studies. This book is an attempt to rethink the political significance of literary realism, especially

Introduction

5

in a postcolonial context. This may seem like a rather parochial or minor issue against the background of the wider political perspectives I have outlined so far. However, in many ways, literary realism constitutes an interesting blind spot within postcolonial studies, in the sense that although many postcolonial literary texts are realist by most definitions, no general theory of postcolonial realism exists to date. On the contrary, it is easy to notice a persistent reluctance among postcolonial scholars to engage with the realist tradition. As Dalley has observed, in the influential book Postcolonial Studies: The Key Concepts (Ashcroft et al. 2007), realism is not considered a key concept and only referred to negatively in comparison to magical realism and other forms of antirealism evidently perceived to be more representative of postcolonialism.12 Put very bluntly: why this persistent reluctance when much of what can be described as postcolonial literature falls within the category of realism? To anticipate the overall argument I want to develop, I suggest that postcolonial studies as an academic field formulated most of its critical insights within a post-political horizon, meaning more specifically a world order no longer attuned to or willing to engage with the specifically political. Ironically, most of the literature coming out of the newly liberated colonies were precisely oriented towards the specifically political, or questions about the legitimacy, rights, demarcations, and definitions of the social body, the collective ‘we’, as well as the conflicts, struggles and numerous challenges involved in representing or resolving these issues. It is precisely in this connection that realism as a literary style plays such a pivotal political role. The fact that postcolonial studies has largely ignored or failed to develop a theory of realism is thus, above all, a symptom of one of the field’s theoretical shortcomings. To further clarify the latter, I want to bring in a discussion of the relationship between literature and history. In the 2012 article “The Sighs of History,” Ato Quayson raises the familiar question about “the continuing relevance of postcolonial studies” (359), arguing that “perhaps the most significant accusation that has persistently been made is postcolonialism’s failure to provide a proper account of history” (360). Commenting here specifically on an article by Ann Laura Stoler,13 in which she claims that postcolonial studies suffers from a sense of apathy due to the lack of a proper understanding of history, Quayson refines his point by looking at postcolonialism’s relation to literary history, an inquiry that should appear obvious since “all the key early postcolonial theorists were based in literature departments” (360). More specifically, Quayson suggests that one of the main reasons postcolonial studies has persistently been accused of failing to provide a proper understanding of history is due to the ambiguity of the field’s disciplinary nature—developing from literary studies but quickly moving on to wider interdisciplinary concerns.14 Yet despite the field’s interdisciplinary aspirations, Quayson writes, “the question of the meaning of history … was

6

Introduction

lodged within distinctive disciplinary domains” (362)—a limitation that led to the failure of adequately bridging the disciplinary differences between literary studies and the writing of history proper. One of the consequences of this trajectory, Quayson argues, was that “postcolonial theory did not manage to provide a persuasive account of literature and history simultaneously” (362).15 On the one hand, there was the tendency to focus narrowly on literary thematics by which texts singlehandedly came to illuminate history; on the other hand, when someone like Robert Young in his monumental Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction looked at history, Quayson writes, “it was as a postcolonial literary critic writing about history but not about literature” (362).16 Postcolonial studies thus, according to Quayson, never quite seemed to strike the right balance between analyses of literary works per se, discussions of history, and accounts of literary history—switching forth and back between grand claims about world history, global politics, and small-scale literary analyses. Quayson’s point about the imbalances of literary history within postcolonial studies is an important one that still haunts the field today; it continues to raise questions about the referential discourse constituting the framework around a postcolonial literary-historical perspective. One implication here is the suspicion that postcolonial literary history—the works selected and held up as representative works of the postcolonial—constitutes a collection of texts that reflects more the aesthetic value system within postcolonial studies than whatever is ‘out there’.17 The problems of such an increasingly self-referential, institutionalized system of literature detached from history have been raised numerous times within postcolonial studies in connection with critiques of canon formation, choice of texts, teaching strategies, and methodology.18 The potential consequence of this is not simply that literary history gradually becomes more unreal and abstract,19 but also that within such a system, the production of literary texts increasingly creates the impression of actively responding and conforming to the demands and expectations of literary-historical discourse.20 This consequence is to some extent reflected in Elleke Boehmer’s authoritative work Colonial and Postcolonial Literatures, in which she outlines a literary history according to which early postcolonial writers “tended to identify with a nationalist narrative and to endorse the need for communal solidarity.”21 After this initial phase, Boehmer writes, “from the late 1980s and into the twenty-first century many writers’ geographical and cultural affiliations became more divided, displaced, and uncertain” (225). In this phase, the typical postcolonial writer is often a cultural traveler, cosmopolitan in orientation, working “within the precincts of the western metropolis while at the same time retaining thematic and/or political connections with a national, ethnic, or regional background” (227). It was during the 1980s, and especially the

Introduction

7

late1980s and beginning of the 1990s, that postcolonial studies rose to academic prominence as a response to what Neil Lazarus, in another authoritative account of postcolonial literary history, Resistance in Postcolonial Africa, has described as an atmosphere of disillusionment in the years following independence.22 Postcolonial studies as an academic field quickly dispelled this sense of disillusionment regarding failed national projects and began to develop its own set of self-confident, emancipatory imperatives.23 At times, this burgeoning self-confidence within postcolonial studies erupted into oddly disproportionate rhetoric, creating the impression that colonialism and its legacies could be effectively countered solely by means of textual strategies of dismantling, subverting, disconnecting, and deconstructing.24 Of central concern here is the way in which this early optimism was built around a sense of (theoretical) radicalism that today seems somewhat baffling, one that clearly involved a very specific formal-aesthetic poetics of the ‘ideal’ postcolonial literary text according to which irony, pastiche, satire, postmodernism, meta-realism, anti-realism and so on were seen as inherently and unquestionably radical, and thus in line with the perceived radicalism of the field itself.25 Embodying this theoretical exuberance was perhaps above all Homi Bhabha’s ubiquitous concept of hybridity—in hindsight, a somewhat equivocal concept allegedly involving progressive aesthetics, creative practice, radical resistance, and political correctness of the 1980s and 1990s.26 As several critics have pointed out, despite the massive use (and overuse) of the concept of hybridity in postcolonial literary discussions, it was never entirely clear what hybridity actually referred to (that is, other than something platitudinous), where it was located, how it performed, at what level it was supposed to be understood, and by whom.27 However, one thing remained consistent and crystal clear: hybridity was decisively anti-realist, literary realism’s diametrical opposite, its other because realism in this constellation meant homogenization, falsehood, deception, and many other bad things. Just like postcolonial studies adopted many of the textual doctrines developed within postmodernist discourse, the field also predominantly took a defiant stance against literary realism, a sentiment shared more generally within literary studies.28 At least since Roland Barthes notoriously labeled realism “a totalitarian ideology of the referent” (“To Write” 15), anti-realism has generally been the preferred critical position of literary studies, something connoting radical politics, radical critique, emancipation, subversion, resistance, magical realism, polyphony, plurality, hybridity, pastiche, parody, catachresis, irony, defamiliarization, carnival, the writerly, and so on.29 Conversely, realism is typically associated with anachronism, naïve humanism, bad faith, ideology (capitalist/imperialist/ racist, etc.), commodified culture, false consciousness, illusion, delusion, essentialism, spurious epistemology, and so on. For a long time, we have

8

Introduction

been stuck with this unfortunate dichotomy, which is mechanically (and endlessly) repeated within postcolonial studies in particular and in the broader field of literary studies in general. While literary realism, as Simon Gikandi observes, “seemed to occupy a privileged position in the politics and poetics of cultural nationalism” (“Realism” 317),30 before the rise of postcolonial studies as an academic field, this privilege subsequently disappeared.31 The dominance of hybridity with its distinct anti-realist implications had an obvious impact on the construction of postcolonialism’s literary historical trajectories: literary realism, at least in regard to formal aspects, was largely ignored if not denigrated, demonized and dismissed.32 There is, Gikandi rightly points out, “an antimimetic bend [that] undergirds the most prevalent view of postcolonial literature” (“Realism” 310).33 It would be no overstatement to claim that postcolonial studies as an academic field mainly based in literary departments has demonstrated an amazing lack of interest in discussing the formal complexities of literary realism.34 When postcolonial critics focused on literary form, it typically meant anti-realist form viewed as conduits for hybrid (and thus politically progressive) strategies. By contrast, literary realism was dismissed as an anachronistic form naively promoting false notions of authenticity, essentialism, unmediated forms of experience, the embodiment of false consciousness, totality and totalization, and hence the reinforcement of imperialist structures of feeling—a form at times seen as correlating with colonial governmentality itself.35 Realism in this version was considered utterly incapable of taking into account dynamics of interrelations, exchanges, and influences between and throughout cultures that would undermine any idea of a clearly demarcated, isolated, pure cultural discourse.36 In retrospect, it seems that this caricatured and surprisingly monolithic version of realism, more than actually referring to realism as such, essentially played the crucial role of postcolonial studies’ other, against which it was easy to claim a position of political radicalism.37 This critical practice uncritically and mistakenly repeated a tendency already widespread within the general theoretical field of literary studies. As Fredric Jameson observes, it involved constructing realism as the naïve and unenlightened predecessor according to which anti-realist texts appeared all the more radical and sophisticated.38 For example, the socalled ‘hybrid’ text; the theoretical understanding and practical application of hybridity within postcolonial studies is invariably premised on a caricatured version of realism, which is equally invariably accompanied by a rather unsophisticated and uncritical maneuver of automatically translating anti-realist aesthetics into radical politics.39 An example of this critical discourse would be Alistair Cormack’s critique of Dominic Head’s argument in the context of the British migrant novel, regarding the problematic tendency to equate cultural hybridity with anti-realist modes. To Dominic Head,

Introduction

9

cultural hybridity is commonly (and erroneously) perceived to go hand-in-glove with overtly experimental forms. In such a view, you either have a startlingly innovative style and a rapturous presentation of multicultural energies, or you have neither … such an easy equation between experiment and cultural hybridity can imply a simple opposition between experiment and tradition that is inappropriate, with traditional realism coming to embody a reactionary conservatism. (172) Criticizing this assumption, Cormack argues that Head is making a point that is “essentially content-led: for him, the radical nature of postcolonial subject matter is transmitted to the reader irrespective of the formal strategies employed by the writer” (696). Cormack’s argument is unsurprisingly set against the background of a caricatured version of realism (as hybridity’s other)—that “cultural hybridity has a formal as well as a thematic register; to depict Britain’s new hybrid society through realism is not the same as to depict it through other representational modes” (696). The underlying premise is here that realist form—viewed as a largely invisible and neutral form—cannot convey “the radical nature of postcolonial subject matter” (696). Discussing Monica Ali’s novel Brick Lane (2003), Cormack argues that the form of the novel becomes politically radical when it “ceases to be traditional, because it is called upon to depict this new social juncture; the form’s limits become visible, as do the presumptions by which it works” (696). In other words, although Monica Ali’s novel form is largely realist by common definition, Cormack insists that it only becomes genuinely relevant, aesthetically and politically, during those moments when it ceases to be realist. The above is just one among countless examples pointing toward a conspicuous inability or unwillingness to read literary realism within the field of postcolonial studies.

Poly-Cultural Writing In Colonial and Postcolonial Literatures, Elleke Boehmer outlines the dominant critical trajectory, moving from (largely realist representations of failed) nationalist projects to (hybrid, anti-realist) cosmopolitan discourses within postcolonial studies.40 Boehmer argues that cultural hybridity “is form-giving and diagnostic, lending meaning to the bewildering array of cultural translations which the writers of diasporas … must make.” This aesthetic, Boehmer continues, “will, predictably, itself produce a hotchpotch, a mosaic, a bricolage” (227). Within Boehmer’s literary history, many of the themes in the latter (cosmopolitan) phase of postcolonial literature overlapped neatly with the theoretical ambitions of postcolonial studies as it consolidated its academic status during the 1980s and 90s. Boehmer writes:

10

Introduction In the western academy and liberal literary establishments, polycultural ‘translated writing’ … is now widely accepted as one of the oppositional, anti-authoritarian literatures or textual strategies of our time … That this should be so is not too surprising. The minglings of migrant writing accord well with political and critical agendas in western universities … Its heterogeneity symbolizes the kind of integration and absence of fusty provinciality that, on a cultural level at least, many critics and opinion-makers seek to promote. (229)

Echoing arguments made by Timothy Brennan and others,41 Boehmer suggests that there exists an “agreement between the writing and the criticism”—which is partly due to location since both critics and writers “are situated in the increasingly more heteroglot yet still hegemonic western (or Northern) metropolis. Critics therefore feel able to identify with migrant writing because they occupy more or less the same cosmopolitan sphere as its authors” (229).42 Underneath this ‘acceptance’ of what constitutes “the oppositional, anti-authoritarian literatures or textual strategies of our time,” at least in a postcolonial perspective—according to which there now allegedly exists an ‘agreement’ between theory and literature43—Boehmer traces a rather a different narrative of retreat, disillusionment, and failure, one that indirectly recalls the historical crisis from which postcolonial studies as an academic field initially emerged: the emergence of migrant literature in many cases represents a geographic, cultural, and political retreat by writers from the new but ailing nations of the post-colonial world ‘back’ to the old metropolis. The literatures are a product of that retreat; they are marked by disillusionment, its turn from the political to the aesthetic as a zone of imaginative transformation … In much of the oncecolonized world, decolonization in fact produced few changes: power hierarchies were maintained, the values of former colonizers remained influential … The practical response by many writers to what Fanon called ‘the farce of national independence’ has been to seek refuge … in less repressive and richer places in the world. (230–231)44 An even more forceful exposition of this critical narrative is provided by Benita Parry, who in her book Postcolonial Studies argues with reference to the theoretical enthusiasm surrounding the merits of ‘poly-cultural’ writing endorsed by Bhabha and others that “those infatuated by the liberatory effects of dispersion do not address the material and existential conditions of the relocated communities,” thus leaving “in obscurity the vast and vastly impoverished populations who cannot and might not

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choose to migrate” (100). The development of a more pessimistic view of the radical potential of ‘poly-cultural’ writing, based on a healthy dose of skepticism toward the one-dimensional focus on oppositional and antiauthoritarian textual strategies in so-called cosmopolitan texts and combined with a more explicit interest in the material and historical circumstances of literary production is a welcome counterpoint to the critical trajectory that for a long time tended to dominate postcolonial thought. But while Homi Bhabha and others may tend to fetishize and exaggerate the emancipatory effects of diasporic thought and experience, and by implication cosmopolitan-oriented, ‘poly-cultural’ texts,46 Parry’s position—critical of the former, while seeking out the more negative, materialist history of dispersal, transit and the unhomely47—equally fails to find much value in literary realism.48 It is this consistent inability across the field of postcolonial studies to consider literary realism as anything but an outmoded, anachronistic form that indirectly yet repeatedly seems to corroborate Quayson’s point further that the field has failed to provide a persuasive account of literature and history simultaneously; that is, a theoretical account of literary potential (as well as a literary canon of texts corresponding to this account) to some extent disconnected from actual history and the interactions between the latter and literary discourses. The failure of this interaction suggests what I would call the formation of a theoreticalcritical fiction, which more precisely involves the assumption that anti-realism equals radical politics, the consequence of which was the near-unanimous agreement within the field to prioritize anti-realist literary texts that often came to be seen as allegories of writing back to or dismantling the empire.49 It is important here to clarify that I am obviously not seeking to make the argument that the current selection of canonized (anti-realist) postcolonial literary texts is simply a theoretical-critical fiction created by postcolonial academia, the Booker Prize, and other institutions situated within the global literary marketplace, but rather to make the argument that there is a body of literature that for a number of reasons is held up as specifically or especially ‘postcolonial’ by these institutions, and which happens to be anti-realist to the extent that they are discussed in formalaesthetic terms. But my goal in this book is not to reintroduce a corpus of neglected realist texts into the postcolonial canon. Rather, I am interested in the reasons behind the construction of this theoretical-critical fiction, why postcolonial studies to date has never managed to develop a realist poetics at any great length; and what the consequences of this failure are, especially in terms of the field’s status today. To recap, I argue that postcolonial studies never managed to develop a general realist poetics in part because it uncritically took over many of the textual assumptions and doctrines developed during the increasingly postpolitical epoch of the late twentieth century in the West. Put even more

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explicitly, the field of postcolonial studies was unable to read realism because of its blindness to the specifically political. It is against the background of this institutional blindness that I am interested in reviving a politicized core at the center of literary realism, which may offer new ways to approach the kinds of realist aesthetics one finds within (nonacademic) postcolonial contexts.

Postcolonial Studies and the Question of Representation Crucial to Quayson’s objections about postcolonial literary history, the failure to “provide a persuasive account of literature and history simultaneously” due to its disciplinary origins and interdisciplinary aspirations is the issue of representation. As Gikandi formulates it, “postcolonial theory came into being as a critique of Western theories of representation” (“Realism” 309). More or less all the classic texts in postcolonial studies—besides the works of Said and Fanon, one could mention Bhabha’s essays in The Location of Culture, Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak?” as well as The Empire Writes Back by Ashcroft, Griffith, and Tiffin—were crucially centered around questions about concepts of representation, albeit in rather different ways. To Neil Lazarus, questions like ‘Who is speaking?’ and ‘Of and for whom?’ make the notion of representation “perhaps the single most fraught and contentious term within postcolonial studies” (Postcolonial Unconscious 114). “It would not be too much to suggest,” Lazarus claims, “that one defining gesture of scholarship in the field has consisted precisely in its critique of a specific set of representations” (114)—from Frantz Fanon’s ‘going native’ and ‘black skin’ to Edward Said’s representational problematic in Orientalism; and which subsequently in later phases of postcolonial theory developed into a general critique: in the consolidation of postcolonial studies in the 1980s and 1990s, the signature critique of colonialist (mis-)representation tended to broaden and flatten out. The struggle over representations gave way to the struggle against representation itself, on the ground that the desire to speak for, of, or even about others was always shadowed by a secretly authoritarian aspiration. The theoretical resort has then often been to a consideration of difference under the rubric of incommensurability. (19) Lazarus goes on to make a persuasive case demonstrating that “the vast majority of ‘postcolonial’ literary writing” (19) in fact points in the opposite direction of ‘incommensurability’ toward a “deep-seated affinity and community, across and athwart the ‘international division of labour’” (19). What interests me particularly in this context is the argument (with which I largely agree) that postcolonial theory eventually

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developed a sustained infatuation with a “struggle against representation itself.” In a narrower context, it is this “struggle against representation itself” that may at least partly help us understand some of the implications of Quayson’s objections—the difficult balancing of the literary and the historical in postcolonial studies. My argument is that the “theoretical resort” within the field of postcolonial studies (albeit in a somewhat different register) in many ways illustrates the distinction I derived earlier from Jan-Werner Müller’s political theory, namely between the notions of ‘we alone represent the people’ versus ‘we are also part of the people’. The former relates to a contested site of battling social bodies, each struggling to claim monopoly over the collective ‘we’ and hence, by implication, a site whose political status is still in the process of being resolved. By contrast, the latter refers to a site where the political status has been resolved; the collective ‘we’ is no longer in doubt—only questions about whom else might also be part of this ‘we’. Within the consolidated normal space, the issue of representation and the struggle against misrepresentations or the very concept of representation in a cultural sense takes on enormous meaning, but in a political sense becomes largely insignificant. This is ultimately why, as Boehmer observes, we find this ‘agreement’ between a certain theoretical discourse and a certain kind of literary text (hybrid, cosmopolitan, anti-realist, polycultural). The kind of texts that ‘accord well’ with postcolonial studies would thus be texts that generally lend themselves to questions about their own representativity through textual strategies of difference, hybridity, the in-between, catachresis, un-representativity, and, of course, incommensurability—in other words, literary texts that articulate orthodox postcolonial theoretical discourse. Conversely, as Ulka Anjaria pertinently observes, there was always within postcolonial studies a deep-seated “theoretical suspicion of any mode of representation that claims to be mimetic or to represent reality accurately” (3). The dominance of this theoretical-critical fiction had an enormous influence on how the field subsequently came to understand itself. The numerous postcolonial articles based on some form of ‘writing back’ retrospectively look like allegories of the West’s narcissistic encounters with its own questionable deeds, and to a lesser extent, an engagement with the realities of postcolonial experiences. The history of postcolonial literary representation in its own right—that is, literary representation and not, say, an agreeable or disagreeable expression of postcolonial theoretical discourse—has, as Quayson indicates, been largely ignored. In The Postcolonial Unconscious, Lazarus observes that the term ‘postcolonial’ was originally during the 1970s, a “periodising term, an historical and not an ideological term” (11). With Homi Bhabha and others during the 1980s and 1990s, the term ‘postcolonial’ came to designate a set of theoretical imperatives that were notably ‘postMarxist’ or even ‘post-modern’ in orientation.50 This is the change to

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which Lazarus’ book title refers, the ‘postcolonial unconscious’, a notion he derives from Jameson’s political unconscious. Lazarus’ argument about the postcolonial unconscious, or a change in the meaning of the ‘postcolonial’ from a historical concept to a theoretical norm, one that is infused with the conviction that a new world order of globalized capitalism has made Marxist political vocabulary less useful, follows and extends the gist of Jameson’s original thesis of the political unconscious, albeit perhaps without the latter’s emphasis on the temporalities of aesthetic forms, and more specifically the perceived anachronism of literary realism. Concerned about the demise of the Marxist notion of social totality, Lazarus argues that some of the main problems that defined the aims and objectives of Marxism have remained as vital as ever: “developments in the first decade of our new century … have exposed the contradictions of this established postcolonial understanding to stark and unforgiving light” (15)51—hence, the term ‘postcolonial unconscious’. To Lazarus, the “established postcolonialist understanding” (15) or the institutionalized field of postcolonial studies has betrayed the legacy of this line of investigation. In The Postcolonial Unconscious, Lazarus interestingly incorporates an article published previously in different versions called “The Politics of Postcolonial Modernism.” The article from 2005 outlines the contours of a postcolonial modernist poetics, which although showing an awareness of the more problematic aspects of modernism, refuses to reject its irrelevance.52 In the much-expanded book chapter from 2011, Lazarus develops this anti-institutional modernist poetics of an aesthetic mode of writing “that resists the accommodationism of what has been canonised as modernism and that does what at least some modernist work has done from the outset: namely, says ‘no’; refuses integration, resolution, consolation, comfort; protests and criticises” (Postcolonial Unconscious 31). Polemically, one might argue that Lazarus’ staunch modernist poetics in many ways sounds eerily familiar to the position which he elsewhere in the same book criticizes for being overtly obsessed with the notion of ‘incommensurability’ whereas, as Lazarus himself goes on to demonstrate, the ‘vast majority’ of postcolonial literary writings points in a rather different direction.53 Perhaps this explains why he adds to the book version from 2011 a brief paragraph on literary realism: Just before turning to poetry, however, let me note in passing my conviction that we ought, today, to begin to redress a long-standing imbalance in postcolonial literary studies by focusing anew on realist writing. The point is that, inasmuch as the dominant aesthetic dispositions in postcolonial literary studies have from the outset reflected those in post-structuralist theory generally, the categorical disparagement of realism in the latter field has tended to receive a

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dutiful—if wholly unjustified and unjustifiable—echo in the former … there is no good reason for scholars in postcolonial studies to hang on to this dogma today. (82) It is a rather short comment on realism, given the supposed significance of this ‘long-standing imbalance’, although an acknowledgment, nonetheless. My point is that neither the materialist critique outlined by Lazarus, which at least draws attention to the unjustified “categorical disparagement of realism”, nor indeed the poststructuralist-oriented postcolonial critique, have engaged in a serious discussion of the aesthetic-formal potential of realism as a significant postcolonial literary mode.

Theoretical-Critical Fictions This book is an attempt to clarify what lies behind postcolonial studies’ reluctance to engage with literary realism, as well as an attempt to think beyond it. It is important here to stress that I am not making a direct argument for a return to realism, or that we need to replace literary antirealism with realism, or that postcolonial studies needs to reintroduce realist texts into the so-called postcolonial canon. I want to explore the reasons behind the construction of a theoretical-critical fiction according to which anti-realism became synonymous with radical politics within postcolonial studies. As I have argued, one of the reasons that postcolonial studies failed to develop a general theory of realism was because the field uncritically took over many textual doctrines developed within the post-political epoch of the late twentieth century in the West. An academic field largely based around the exclusion of an engagement with the specifically political, postcolonial studies never showed much genuine interest in literary realism as a political genre. It is against this background that one could argue that the theoretical-critical fiction—i.e., anti-realism being somehow synonymous with radical politics—constitutes a symptom of the end of history. While postcolonial critics have often viewed literary realism as synonymous with a monolithic and Eurocentric aesthetic dynamic reinforcing colonial discourse, I try to approach the issue from a rather different angle, among other things, by returning to a political Ur-scene within European history, and to which I argue the emergence of European realism as a historical style is closely associated. What is crucial here is the question of the specifically political—i.e., the friendenemy distinction, and more broadly questions about legitimacy and representation in relation to territorial relations—which in a further sense involves the question of the formation of sovereignty. The epochal consciousness of the end of history is characterized precisely by the general absence of this question; likewise, I argue, it has generally been

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absent within postcolonial studies. Yet, as the question was crucial to early European state formation, it is central to postcolonial nationbuilding. Indeed, one could argue that the ‘post’ in postcolonialism precisely relates to an ongoing engagement with the specifically political. Postcolonial history is and continues to be unfinished business in relation to who ‘we’ are, what is ‘ours’, and in relation to ‘whom’. As Robert Young observes: The problem for any aspiring nation under the rule of an alien power is that if the external authority is illegitimate, then where does legitimate authority lie? There were two possible answers to this question, once the divine right of kings was no longer considered credible: either the deposed local or national ruler or his or her descendants, assuming that such a person had previously been the ruler of the same territory that became the colony, or a new constituency, inspired by the republican revolutions of America and France: the people. (Empire 77) As Young is quick to point out, things were often extremely complicated by a series of issues, including the arbitrariness with which colonial territories had been constructed and the heterogeneity of the people living within these randomly constructed borders. It is within this comparative historical context that I delineate a formalist notion of literary realism as an aesthetic style that emerges as a response to the political idea of a normative reality, one that is still being negotiated, unstable, unnatural, semi-performative; inhabited by a ‘we’ that to some extent is still largely a fiction. This is a kind of literature engaged in the struggle to define something that does not yet exist as a self-evident, natural entity. The latter coincides, I argue, largely with the notion Benedict Anderson describes as ‘the imagined community’. This is also around the time when literary realism morphs and proliferates into other styles that, to a lesser extent, are oriented toward the specifically political, and to a greater extent, center around the reality of the individual—i.e., the private-intimate, inward-looking interior. At this point, in other words, the negotiation of the social contract—or what constitutes a legitimate, normative society—is over. Obviously, there are many kinds of realist styles, e.g., epistemological, descriptive, or naturalist styles. It goes without saying that individual literary texts, to some extent, always resist the idea of broader categories such as carefully demarcated genres.54 I am less interested in engaging in exhaustive close readings of individual works in this book; rather, I have chosen to investigate a set of broader theoretical implications based around certain macro-trends and tendencies within a corpus of texts that in a very broad sense can be described as realist, the most basic definition of which is a mode of representation ontologically consistent with and

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corresponding to the normative reality of a given social body. What I propose is less a comprehensive definition of literary realism, let alone postcolonial realism, than a certain approach aimed at opening up the specifically political within postcolonial texts; a certain way of approaching texts energized not by textual ruptures, ironies, and metalepses that postcolonial scholars typically look for, but rather by combative discourses, texts that orient themselves towards collective questions or questions about the collective, and that are deeply invested in exploring and articulating the complex relations between individual and collective levels within the social body, the performativerepresentative ‘we’—precisely because this social body is not (as yet) immersed within the frames of a consolidated normative reality.55 The important point here is that while the political significance of literary realism disappeared in Europe roughly around the middle of the nineteenth century, it reappears within a postcolonial context. It does so precisely because the question of the specifically political, yet again emerges. And it is this comparative perspective that postcolonial studies has generally been blind to, in part because its theoretical doctrines were shaped and formed within the largely depoliticized atmosphere of the late twentieth century. Literary realism reappears and disappears in many other contexts as well, of course; since the mid-nineteenth century, there have been many important realist traditions emerging within European or Western contexts, some of which have been oriented towards (or partly overlapping with concerns regarding) the specifically political but also towards many other things—e.g., epistemological concerns or the aim of promoting a specific cause or ideology, which however should be distinguished from the specifically political; the specifically political relates to the formation of the social body, whereas the representation or promotion of a specific ideology is premised on the pre-existence of a relatively unified social body. Political ideologies, in other words, presuppose the specifically political.56 Or, to put it differently, political ideologies have to do with political content, whereas the specifically political is about political form or the preconditions for discussing political content. It is beyond the scope of this book’s argument to look further into these other realist traditions; instead, I have chosen to paint with a broad brush in order to clarify some of the political potential we find specifically in connection with postcolonial realism. Returning to this political Ur-scene of early European history with the purpose of identifying certain dynamics and theoretical implications that re-emerge at different times in different places is not to reduce the heterogeneous realities of the latter. Nor is it to endorse a Eurocentric argument about postcolonial realities caught up in a crippling process of imitating the West. Where I see these two historical sites overlapping, the point of intersection, is in relation to the broad historical circumstances

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generating the question of the specifically political; that is, similar circumstances involving negotiation of or, more often, a struggle over the very concept of a normative reality prior to its consolidation into a given self-evident fact. The more the concept of reality appears undisputed, unchallenged, natural and self-evident, the more politically consolidated it is—a process that culminates with the formation of what Benedict Anderson defines as the ‘imagined community’, at which point questions about the specifically political at least in principle have been largely answered.

The Return to Literary Realism Accompanying the rise of postcolonial studies as an academic field was the emergence of a sophisticated poststructuralist framework, which the field eagerly embraced.57 However, the at times exaggerated use of distinctly anti-realist concepts, including hybridity,58 has meant that many postcolonial literary readings have tended to say more about postcolonial studies as an academic institution and as a theoretical orientation than about the texts themselves. Realism as a literary form constituted for many years a blind spot in postcolonial studies, despite the fact that a considerable amount of postcolonial literature belonged (and still belongs) to this tradition—testifying, as I have suggested, to a problematic relationship between the theoretical assumptions of the field and its literary texts. As a field obsessed with epistemological-representational critiques, postcolonial studies generally came to understand literary realism in those terms, meaning more specifically an unsophisticated, naïve, and perhaps even ideologically compromised form of representation. The point here is that this obsession with representational critiques becomes possible only after that which is being represented has reached a certain political consolidation. The merging of postcolonialism and textual discourses based on anti-mimetic critiques, which generated the identity of postcolonial studies as a radical political position critiquing Western epistemological-representational modes, made it difficult to approach literary realism (understood in the traditional sense, as an epistemological-representational problematic) in a more positive, productive way. This biased theoretical perspective thus generated a problematic relationship between literature and history, or more specifically a failure to write postcolonial literary history, as Quayson pointed out, instead of an institutionalized, self-referential literary history, potentially rendering both terms—the literary and the historical—meaningless.59 The field of postcolonial studies has failed to develop a proper literaryhistorical perspective above all because it categorically ignored or refused to engage properly with a large part of postcolonial writing written in styles disagreeable to the theoretical doctrines upon which the

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discipline was based. The disciplinary significance of the persistent rejection of realism in postcolonial studies is thus far from being incidental or marginal; the inability to say anything serious about realism is a symptomatic blind spot, potentially exposing an institutional disconnect, a sense of ‘un-reality’ (or ‘depoliticization’) of postcolonial thought as it is and has been articulated within its academic framework. What is needed, I will argue in the following chapters, is a theoretical framework exploring the question of the specifically political, and how this question is pivotal to understanding postcolonial realism. This book is thus an attempt to explore new ways of thinking about literary realism—partly because there are still many realist texts being written, but also because I sense a renewed interest in realism in recent years. Discussing “the abstraction and stylization of the old Salman Rushdie–J. M. Coetzee–Toni Morrison guard that rose to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s,” Esty argues that “Many critics patrolling the vast seas of global literature share a certain distrust of warmed-over modernisms and magical realisms; their critical energies have been clearing the way for a renewed consideration of the force and value of realism now” (“Realism” 319).60 As I have mentioned, I am less interested in introducing a corpus of realist texts into the canon of postcolonial literature, as others have done so quite elaborately, thus proving the point that there is a lot of realist literature written within areas concerning the postcolonial.61 Nor am I making the argument that postcolonial critics need to return to realism per se without first investigating the underlying reasons for its exclusion, to begin with, because this might simply reinforce the before-mentioned dichotomy of either-or, and furthermore because the kind of politicized dimension I am interested in addressing is one that we find in predominantly realist—as well as (albeit in different ways) non-realist—texts. Rather, I am interested in exploring and moving beyond the consequences of a field that emerged within the depoliticized horizon of the late twentieth century, one of which is the construction and embrace of a theoretical-critical fiction that among other things involved an either-or dichotomy, according to which it became impossible to read realist form from a postcolonial perspective. Within the last decade, perhaps in conjunction with the general feeling of postcolonial studies’ decline in popularity or the perception of the field having been surpassed by other adjacent fields,62 literary realism has made a sort of qualified comeback, not only in postcolonial studies but also perhaps more widely within the field of literary studies.63 Thus, Journal of Narrative Theory (2008), Modern Language Quarterly (2012), and Novel: A Forum on Fiction (2016) have all run special issues in which scholars have approached the issue of literary realism within or in relation to postcolonial contexts, while other scholars have approached realism in new and exciting ways such as realism and finance capitalism,64 realism and race,65 realism and slavery,66 telegraphic

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realism, urban realism, speculative realism, and other topics combined with a focus on realism. Furthermore, a number of books and scholarly articles have approached the issue of postcolonial realism, addressing both the paradox of the previous resistance to realism within a postcolonial perspective in spite of the fact that a large part of postcolonial literature could be categorized as realist, and offering sophisticated and more productive ways of understanding the potential of realism within a postcolonial context.67 The recent interest in literary realism thus offers new ways of reconceptualizing this aesthetic mode within a postcolonial perspective, and the argument I want to develop in this book should be seen as an extension of this line of work. One of the problems with realism in a postcolonial context, I want to argue, is that it has largely been approached as an epistemologicalmimetic-representational problematic both by those who dismiss it and those who defend it.68 And since postcolonial studies as an academic field essentially situated its identity around a sophisticated (poststructuralist) critique of Western epistemological-representational models, as Gikandi rightly points out, a revaluation of literary realism defined largely as an epistemological style would potentially run into many of the problems identified by Homi Bhabha and others.69 It is this notion of realism as an essentially epistemological-representational problematic that I want to expand and ultimately seek to replace by reorienting the concept more in the direction of the specifically political. As mentioned, I argue that the obsessive focus on representational critiques only becomes possible after the consolidation of the social body, the collective ‘we’ being represented; the ‘before’ here refers to Müller’s ‘we alone represent the people’, while the ‘after’ entails the notion of ‘we are also part of the people’. The post-colonial, I argue, is essentially a negotiation of the contentious ‘we’ of the social body, an ongoing issue that precisely opens itself to renewed questioning and discussion within the landscape of the post-colonial, whereas postcolonial studies as an academic field has implicitly tended to understand the ‘post’ in postcolonialism as referring to the moment after the consolidation of the social body—that is, after the end of the specifically political. My focus is more narrowly situated around the formal-aesthetic idea of realism, which I see as intimately connected to a historical notion of the specifically political. Part of my argument is that rethinking realism within a postcolonial context at the same time involves a rethinking of realism’s own pre-history, and how this pre-history emerged within the context of political formations in early modern European history, and more particularly, early formations of the idea of the collective ‘we’, the social body, and in a further sense the national. The point here is that realism as a style became widespread during times of political unrest around the late eighteenth century, and more specifically, the decades around the French Revolution. It did so among other things because it

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articulated and correlated with the emergence of a holistic (albeit largely fictional) vision of society in response to a political problem: the challenge of persuading partial entities like local communities, tribes, clans, and other communal affiliations of the idea of belonging to and identifying with the same political reality. Historically, literary realism thus emerged as a style articulating not the collective as such, but rather the particularized perspective imagining the political reality of the collective, the social body. It is this impulse that constitutes the political significance of realist style and that historically emerges as a significant aesthetic modality in times of political unrest in Europe and beyond. Once this period of political unrest comes to an end, or rather once the political reality of the collective has been consolidated and stabilized into what Anderson describes as the ‘imagined community’, realism as a politically significant genre declines, which subsequently opens the literary field to other, more subjectivized and private modes of literature, modernist styles far superior in terms of capturing and representing the uniqueness and singularity of individual life forms. It is therefore somewhat ironic that postcolonial studies, among all the academic approaches perhaps most dedicated to radical, political issues, generally would come to celebrate postcolonial modernist styles while consistently failing to see much value in realist texts. I hope to clarify and contextualize some of the reasons underneath this ironic situation in this book.

Notes 1 More specifically, Zabus identifies an ‘interregnum’ in the 2000s during which the death of postcolonial studies was frequently pronounced, and books were published with titles suggesting the need to move beyond the postcolonial. “After experiencing this near-death experience,” writes Zabus, “the ailing and still twitching discipline was then ‘relocated’ as an ‘ethics in becoming’ in relation to other fields of inquiry” (4), e.g., environmental concerns, gender issues, etc. 2 In Beginning Postcolonialism, John McLeod neatly summaries some of the main critiques of postcolonial studies over the years, including the argument that postcolonial theory is based on Western critical-theoretical models, and therefore potentially reinforces and reproduces colonialist dynamics, and that postcolonial studies implicitly assumes the end of colonialism (see 239–258). 3 I agree here with Ashcroft’s point that the “challenge for postcolonial theorists is to avoid the temptation to view ‘postcolonialism’ as a master discourse” (“Future Thinking” 236), but while it would be problematic to narrow down postcolonial theory to any specific essence, a master discourse, what it is, I believe it is on the other hand possible and even necessary to ask what the field is not, what it cannot do, what is excluded—for whatever reason—from its critical focus. In this book, I am looking at one such area, namely the field’s consistent failure to understand literary realism. 4 As Boehmer observes in Postcolonial Poetics, “Postcolonial literary studies was born out of the period of historical optimism that marked the final decade of the last century, the time of glasnost and the unfreezing of the Cold War, and, from 1989, the breaking down of barriers and walls in Berlin,

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Introduction Eastern Europe as a whole and, not long thereafter, apartheid South Africa” (43). Fukuyama’s argument about the end of history is probably one of the most cited and misconstrued ideas in modern times. Based on a theoretical construction via Hegel and Kojéve, Fukuyama essentially suggested that with the end of the Cold War, liberal democracy in combination with market capitalism represented the culmination of political thought, i.e., the political system offering the greatest amount of individual rights, security, and prosperity. While historical events subsequently would inevitably occur, these had no political significance in a positive sense, that is, radically improving the system of capitalist liberal democracy. Fukuyama’s thesis was normative in the sense that it offered a vision of how the world ideally (and eventually empirically) would look like—a self-confident, universalist claim, which probably explains why it attracted much criticism, especially among postcolonial scholars. While postcolonial studies as an academic field, I argue, emerged during the depoliticized horizon of the end of history, it goes without saying that much of the field’s critical vocabulary was precisely an expansive critique of the Eurocentric notion of a universal history; the idea, as Anghie critically observes, “that the only history which may be written of the backward is in terms of its progress towards the advanced; it assumes and promotes the centrality of the civilized; and it contemplates no other approaches to the problems of society than those which have been formulated by the civilized” (113). While this critique is absolutely relevant, my point is that underneath both Fukuyama’s Eurocentric notion of universal history and the postcolonial critique of the latter, we find the problem of the specifically political. See, in particular, Arif Dirlik’s famous argument in “The Postcolonial Aura”—that postcolonial studies constitutes a mystification of the workings of global capitalism. For a more recent version of this argument, see Vivek Chibber’s Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital. This notion of the absolutely peaceful world obviously does not mean that there are no wars or unsafe areas any longer, quite the contrary. However, within the new global regime, i.e., the entire world as a safe zone, wars have largely become regional matters, or more specifically, zones of exceptions. To secure permanent peace, as Hardt and Negri have argued, producing, engaging in, and policing these exceptional zones likewise become a permanent feature. See in particular Hardt and Negri, Empire 3–21; and Multitude 3–35. See Müller 20. While Müller here uses the distinction within a narrow focus on populism, I am using it in a broader sense to refer to a distinction between a politically unstable site versus a political space in which the specifically political issues have largely been resolved. According to the American political scientist Robert Kagan, the once USpoliced world order is currently in the process of being recalibrated; or, to use the title of Kagan’s book, The Jungle is Growing Back. To Schmitt, the political essentially comes down to the ability to distinguish friends from enemies. Thus, Schmitt writes: “The specific political distinctions to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy … The distinction of friend and enemy denotes the utmost degree of a union or separation, of an association or dissociation” (Concept 26). See Dalley, Postcolonial 10. Ann Laura Stoler, “Imperial Debris.” In the article, Stoler describes postcolonial studies as “overconfident in its analytics and its conceptual vocabulary,

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too assured of what we presume to know about the principles and practices of empire that remain in an active register” (192). For a discussion of postcolonial studies and interdisciplinarity, see Graham Huggan’s Interdisciplinary Measures and Malreddy Kumar’s “Postcolonialism: Interdisciplinary or Interdiscursive?” Although a number of persuasively argued literary-historical works on postcolonial literature exists—e.g., Nicholas Harrison’s Postcolonial Criticism and Eleni Coundouriotis’ Claiming History—Quayson’s argument is still relevant, I believe, on a more general level. For a discussion of Young’s book and his neglect of the literary, see Bongie, Friends 18–22. Esty and Lye have been attentive to this tendency within postcolonial literary history: “In ethnic and postcolonial studies the feedback loop between critical theory and artistic practice was enshrined in such classics as Toni Morrison’s Playing in the Dark and Salman Rushdie’s Imaginary Homelands” (“Peripheral” 274). For arguments along these lines, see Brennan’s At Home in the World 203; and Lazarus’ “The Politics of Postcolonial Modernism” (2005) 424. Along similar lines, Dalley has argued that the poststructuralist-oriented version of postcolonial studies has ignored “the ethical commitments to historical plausibility routinely expressed by many postcolonial novelists” (“Postcolonialism” 53). See Brennan, At Home in the World 203; see also Graham Huggan’s The Postcolonial Exotic. For similar trajectories of postcolonial literary history, see Robert Fraser’s Lifting the Sentence, and Ato Quayson’s The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature. On this issue, see also Andrade, “Realism,” and Gikandi, “Realism.” While postcolonial scholars have often, as Majumder points out, claimed “some form of affinity to the radical legacies of anticolonial third world nationalism,” they have been equally eager to “disavow—and declare the obsolescence of—nationalism itself” (214). Indeed, in Ashcroft’s view, the failed projects of national independence were paradoxically vital “to the study of utopian thinking … Postcolonial utopian vision takes various forms but it is always hope that transcends the disappointments and entrapment of the nation-state” (“Future Thinking” 239). Or, as Neil Larsen, in a critique of Bhabha’s insistence on ‘ambivalence’, dryly comments: “One might just as well believe in the propensity for imperialism to deconstruct itself” (82). For an early critique of this disproportionate rhetoric, see Arun P. Mukherjee’s “The Vocabulary of the ‘Universal’” 4. One might also here—as Benita Parry does—compare this development to Perry Anderson’s argument that Western Marxism from the 1920s onwards came to focus primarily on the study of (not the revolution but) superstructures; “it was not the State or Law which provided the typical objects of its research. It was culture that held the central focus of its attention” (Western Marxism 75–76). See Parry, Postcolonial 76. For a discussion of this issue, see Sorensen 3–25. Or, as Michael Syrotinski puts it: “a kind of fluid, catch-all counterhegemonic means of reaffirming identity over and against essentializing discourses of ethnicity or nationalism. This is then reflected in the kinds of transgressive, hybrid languages and artistic or literary expressions that characterize both internal multi-ethnic, as well as migrant, diasporic creative practices, which are seen as vehicles for such hybrid identities. So, the

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28 29

30

31 32 33

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Introduction metaphorical resources of hybridity itself allow postcolonial artistic practices to move with apparent ease between the textual and the cultural or political, and back again” (Deconstruction 27). While Bhabha’s concept of cultural hybridity has enjoyed huge success over the last three decades, quite a few scholars and critics have raised theoretical concerns. Anthony Easthope, for example, argues that Bhabha’s concept does not say very much—e.g., one can apply hybridity to pretty much anything (see “Bhabha” 343). Another critic, Amar Acheraïou, has argued in the book Questioning Hybridity, Postcolonialism and Globalization that Bhabha’s notion of hybridity may possibly undermine concepts of essentialism, but at the same time fails to articulate a resistance strategy. Other critics include Jan Nederveen Pieterse, Globalization; John Hutnyk, “Hybridity”; and Kraidy, Hybridity. In his book Diasporic Meditations, Radhakrishnan has—similarly to Aijaz Ahmad, Arif Dirlik, and Benita Parry—criticized the potentially Eurocentric aspects of the concept of cultural hybridity in the work Diasporic Mediations. See Shaw, Narrating 3. Or, as Goodlad writes: “the long-standing critical tendency to uphold modernist innovation at the expense of realism dates back to the turn of the nineteenth century when proto-modernists like Henry James, as well as modernists such as Virginia Woolf, launched strong critiques of realist aesthetics” (“‘Worlding’” 91). Thus, highly politicized versions of social realism were some of the dominant aesthetic modalities among early postcolonial writers. On this issue, see Obiechina’s Culture, Tradition and Society, Irele’s The African Experience, Quayson’s Strategic Transformations—as well as Andrade, “Realism” 183; and Gikandi, “Realism” 310 & 317. For a similar argument, see Andrade, “Realism” 183. Bhabha’s essay “Representation and the Colonial Text” and Appiah’s In My Father’s House are two early examples of this tendency. Similarly, Joe Cleary writes: “The most widely read and taught figures in postcolonial studies have always been Salman Rushdie, Gabriel García Márquez, J. M. Coetzee, Derek Walcott, and Toni Morrison; writers such as Mahfouz, Abdul Rahman Munif, Ghassan Kanafani, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Nadine Gordimer, and others who have produced classics of anticolonial or postcolonial realism have not been entirely ignored, but they have rarely been studied with the same intensity or carried the same cachet as their modernist or postmodernist counterparts” (“Realism” 265). The consequence of this bias is, according to Cleary, a preference for terms like hybridity, polyphony, pastiche, irony, and defamiliarization—instead of class, history, and totality. As Dalley observes, “To date, the postcolonial scholarship that has engaged with literary realism has largely done so suspiciously” (“Postcolonialism” 52), a neglect that is “a legacy of the poststructuralist reading practices that framed postcolonialism’s formation as a discipline” (53). For extended discussions of this issue, see in particular Carter, “Tasteless Subjects”; Moss, “An Infinity of Alternate Realities,” “Mistry’s Realism,” and “Plague”; Sorensen, Postcolonial; Gunning, “Ethnicity”; Anjaria, Realism; and Dalley, Postcolonial. See Gikandi, “Realism” 318; and, more generally, Timothy Mitchell’s Colonising Egypt 7–10. According to Bhabha, hybridity essentially involves a poststructuralist dynamic of différance; cultures are not opposed to each other but intimately intertwined, constantly affecting each other in ambiguous spaces of

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37 38

39 40 41 42 43 44

45

46 47 48

25

enunciation in which statements and systems are not fixed, coherent and logical, but rather contradictory and incoherent. In this space—or ‘third space’, as Bhabha calls it—there is both a conservative tendency to fixate meaning but also a more radical tendency that strives towards a constant renegotiation of culture. Conversely, literary realism conveys an essentialist representation of a pre-given, original reality; this normative and prescriptive notion of reality allegedly determines the formal means by which the realist text reflects reality. In Bhabha’s version, realism thus reduces literary criticism to the narrow exercise of deciding the ‘correctness’ or ‘authenticity’ of literary representation. Since literary realist texts apparently induce readers to believe in a pre-given, external structure of reality, anti-realist critics following Bhabha’s position tend to argue that it naturalizes and thus deceptively disguises ideological structures. See Bhabha, “Representation and the Colonial Text” 94–98. For a critical examination of this reductive approach to literary realism, see Shaw, Narrating 1–37. As Spillman has demonstrated, Bhabha’s approach to realism seems more convincing in relation to latenineteenth-century Western texts addressing colonial life. See Spillman 9–12. See Robbins, “Modernism” 227. See Jameson, The Political Unconscious 2. For extended discussions of this argument, see Jameson’s essay “The Ideology of the Text” in The Ideologies of Theory 17–71, and “The Existence of Italy” in Signatures of the Visible 155–229. Robbins makes a similar argument in the article “Modernism and Literary Realism.” Shaw observes that “when realism is attacked, it may simply be serving as a convenient stand-in for attitudes seen as pervasive in our culture as a whole, for ‘ideology’ or ‘commodified culture’” (Narrating 9). See Sorensen, Postcolonial 3–25. For an argument along these lines, see Appiah’s In My Father’s House 137–157. See Brennan, At Home in the World 203–207. Boehmer here lists authors like Derek Walcott, Salman Rushdie, Jamaica Kincaid, Caryl Phillips, Ben Okri, Nourbese Phillip, Olive Senior, Amitav Ghosh, Nuruddin Farah, and Vikram Seth. See Boehmer, Colonial 226. For discussions of an ‘agreement’ between theory and literature in postcolonial studies, see Brennan, At Home 425; Lazarus, “Politics” (2005) 424; Huggan, Postcolonial viii; and Esty & Lye, “Peripheral” 274. “Often retracing the biographical paths of their authors,” Boehmer writes, “novels by … Rushdie, Ghosh, Kincaid, Phillips, Okri, Kamila Shamsie, and Bernadine Evaristo, ramify across widely separate geographical, historical, and cultural spaces. They are marked by the pull of conflicting ethics and philosophies—a potential source of tragedy—and often comically contrasting forms of social behaviour” (Colonial 227). Also quoted in McLeod’s article “Diaspora and Utopia: Reading the Recent Work of Paul Gilroy and Caryl Phillips.” While acknowledging the importance of her point, McLeod objects that “Parry is in danger of devaluing or jettisoning new modes of innovative thought which may not be as remote from the ‘grim prose’ of the subaltern lives with which she is concerned” (4). See Parry’s critique of Bhabha’s position in the essay “Signs of the Time,” included in Postcolonial Studies 55–74. See here particularly Parry’s essay “Internationalism revisited or in praise of internationalism”, included in Postcolonial Studies 93–103. For example, Parry is critical of Abdul JanMohamed’s notion of realism as an emancipatory, positive form of representation in African literature (in

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50 51

52

53

54 55

56 57 58

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60 61

Introduction Manichean Aesthetics)—rejecting this position as “the ideals of bourgeois humanism” (29), which in Parry’s view simply means politics “foregrounded in the subject-matter” (Postcolonial 29). As Boehmer observes, “for the Empire Writes Back authors, a resistance poetics equates with hybrid writing” (Poetics 47). In Colonial and Postcolonial Literature, Boehmer gives a detailed account of what I call a theoretical-critical fiction: it is a criticism “which champions in particular those aspects of the postcolonial narrative that illustrate and adumbrate the theory: its interest in the provisional and fragmentary aspects of signification; its concern with the constructed nature of identity. Given their transgressive, dispersed energies, the criticism reads postcolonial texts … as symptomatic of the centrifugal pull of history. They are believed to demonstrate the fragility of ‘grand narratives’; the erosion of transcendent authority; the collapse of imperialistic explanations of the world” (237). This discourse is typically associated with a wider intellectual history of critical traditions working against Enlightenment thought, Western rationalism and universalism, as well as European imperialism. See Lazarus, The Postcolonial Unconscious 12. One could add here Vinaj Lal’s critique of postcolonial studies: “During the three decades that postcolonial studies flourished in the American academy, the United States engaged in rapacious conduct around the world … The gist of all this should, in any case, be transparent: before we convince ourselves of a postcolonial fatigue, perhaps we should seriously ask if postcolonial studies travelled as far as is sometimes believed” (“Politics” 192). Lazarus talks about “the ongoing criticality of modernist literary practice,” which he also labels “the Kafka-effect” and “‘disconsolation’ in and through literature” (431). For a discussion of Lazarus’ notion of ‘disconsolation’, see Gajarawala, “Casteized” 336. In the article “The Politics of Postcolonial Modernism” (2002), Lazarus uses Raymond Williams’ The Politics of Modernism to argue for a similar monopoly-like condition in postcolonial studies (see 775–776), something he calls “pomo-postcolonial” (777). See here Boehmer’s more recent work, Postcolonial Poetics (2018), in which she outlines a more refined postcolonial reading practice attentive to the singularity of the literary text itself. This is an approach that would potentially encompass both predominantly realist texts as well as texts deviating from realist doctrines since even distinctly anti-realist texts are still in need of an underlying realist assumption that may be transgressed, undermined, or challenged. In the same way, as Carl Schmitt formulates, “the state presupposes the concept of the political” (Concept 19). See here, in particular, Syrotinski’s Deconstruction 6f. Other concepts would include mimicry, catachresis, the in-between, etc. As Boehmer points out, “there are postcolonial critics for whom hybridity evidently carries aesthetic value, the more so when achieved in suitably grotesque, lively, uncanny, polyphonic, and other heteromorphic ways” (Poetics 26). Here, one could also mention the branch of critique within postcolonial studies focusing on the way in which postcolonial literary history, to some extent, has been the creation of global marketing systems and publishing strategies. See in particular Huggan (2001); Watts (2005); and Brouillette (2007 & 2017). For a similar point, see also Cleary, “Realism” 265. For example, see Andrade; Anjaria; Carter; Coundouriotis (2016); Gajarawala; Gikandi (2012); Moss (1998); Robinette; Sorensen.

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62 For example, fields like globalization studies, race studies, world literature, diaspora studies, etc. On this issue, see Boehmer, Poetics 20 & 145–172; and Bartels et al., Postcolonial 195. 63 See Birke & Butter 1. Several recent studies have turned to the term ‘realism’, although often within theoretical contexts quite different from the literary critical traditions in which realism has been usually discussed, e.g., speculative realism and capitalist realism. Above all, the renewed interest in the term ‘realism’ reflects—I believe—a diminished enthusiasm for poststructuralist and deconstructive dynamics that for decades dominated literary studies. 64 For example, see Shonkwiler and Claire La Berge’s edited collection Reading Capitalist Realism from 2014. 65 For example, see Jarrett’s Deans and Truants: Race and Realism in African American Literature from 2007. 66 For example, see Baucom’s Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History from 2005. 67 For example, see Anjaria’s Realism in the Twentieth-Century Indian Novel from 2012; Hamish Dalley’s The Postcolonial Historical Novel from 2014; and more recently Sourit Bhattacharya’s Postcolonial Modernity and the Indian Novel: On Catastrophic Realism from 2020. 68 See, for example, Jameson, “Antinomies of the Realism-Modernism Debate” 475. 69 See Bhabha, “Representation and the Colonial Text.”

Works Cited Acheraïou, Amar. Questioning Hybridity, Postcolonialism and Globalization. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Anderson, Perry. Considerations on Western Marxism. London: Verso, 1989. Andrade, Susan Z. “Realism, Reception, 1968, and West Africa.” Modern Language Quarterly 73.3 (2012): 289–208. Anghie, Antony. Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law. Cambridge University Press, 2004. Anjaria, Ulka. Realism in the Twentieth-Century Indian Novel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Appiah, Anthony Kwame. In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. Ashcroft, Bill. “Future Thinking: Postcolonial Utopianism.” The Future of Postcolonial Studies. Ed. Chantal Zabus. Routledge, 2015. 236–256. Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. Postcolonial Studies: The Key Concepts. London: Routledge, 2007. Bartels, Anke, Lars Eckstein , Nicole Waller, and Dirk Wiemann. Postcolonial Literatures in English: An Introduction. Berlin: J.B. Metzler Verlag, 2019. Barthes, Roland. “To Write.” The Rustle of Language. Trans. Richard Howard. Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 1989. 11–21. Baucom, Ian. Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2005. Bhabha, Homi. “Representation and the Colonial Text: A Critical Exploration of Some Forms of Mimeticism.” The Theory of Reading. Ed. Frank Gloversmith. Brighton: Harvester, 1984. 93–122.

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Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture [1994]. London: Routledge, 2004. Bhattacharya, Sourit. Postcolonial Modernity and the Indian Novel: On Catastrophic Realism. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. Birke, Dorothee, and Stella Butter, eds. “Introduction.” Realisms in Contemporary Culture: Theories, Politics, and Medial Configurations. Eds. Dorothee Birke and Stella Butter. De Gruyter, 2013. 1–12. Boehmer, Elleke. Colonial and Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors [1995]. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Boehmer, Elleke. Postcolonial Poetics. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. Bongie, Chris. Friends and Enemies: The Scribal Politics of Post/Colonial Literature. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008. Brennan, Timothy. At Home in the World: Cosmopolitanism Now. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1997. Brouillette, Sarah. Postcolonial Writers in the Global Literary Marketplace. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave, 2007. Brouillette, Sarah. “On the African Literary Hustle.” Blind Field: A Journal of Cultural Critique (2017). Web Oct. 2020. https://blindfieldjournal.com/2017/ 08/14/on-the-african-literary-hustle/. Carter, David. “Tasteless Subjects: Postcolonial Literary Criticism, Realism and the Subject of Taste.” Southern Review 25 (1992): 292–303. Chibber, Vivek. Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital. Verso: London, 2013. Cleary, Joe. “Realism after Modernism and the Literary World-System.” Modern Language Quarterly 73:3 (2012): 255–268. Cormack, Alistair. “Migration and the Politics of Narrative Form: Realism and the Postcolonial Subject in Brick Lane.” Contemporary Literature 47.4 (2006): 695–721. Coundouriotis, Eleni. Claiming History: Colonialism, Ethnography, and the Novel. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. Coundouriotis, Eleni. “Improbable Figures: Realist Fictions of Insecurity in Contemporary African Fiction.” Novel 49.2 (2016): 236–261. Dalley, Hamish. The Postcolonial Historical Novel: Realism, Allegory, and the Representation of Contested Pasts. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Dalley, Hamish. “Postcolonialism and the Historical Novel: Epistemologies of Contemporary Realism.” Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry 1:1 (2014): 51–67. Dirlik, Arif. “The Postcolonial Aura: Third World Criticism in the Age of Global Capitalism.” Critical Inquiry 20.2 (1994): 328–356. Easthope, Antony. “Bhabha, Hybridity and Identity.” Textual Practice 12.2 (1998): 341–348. Esty, Jed. “Realism Wars.” Novel: A Forum on Fiction 49.2 (2016): 316–342. Esty, Jed, and Colleen Lye. “Peripheral Realisms Now.” Modern Language Quarterly 73.3 (2012): 269–288. Fraser, Robert. Lifting the Sentence. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000. Fukuyama, Francis. The End of History and the Last Man. New York: The Free Press, 1992.

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Gajarawala, Toral Jatin. “The Casteized Consciousness: Literary Realism and the Politics of Particularism.” Modern Language Quarterly 73.3 (2012): 329–349. Gikandi, Simon. “Realism, Romance, and the Problem of African Literary History.” Modern Language Quarterly 73.3 (2012): 309–328. Goodlad, Lauren M.E. “Said and the ‘Worlding’ of Nineteenth-Century Fiction.” After Said: Postcolonial Literary Studies in the Twenty-First Century. Ed. B. Abu-Manneh. Cambridge University Press, 2018. 87–111. Gunning, Dave. “Ethnicity, Authenticity, and Empathy in the Realist Novel and Its Alternatives.” Contemporary Literature 53.3 (2012): 779–813. Hardt, Michael, and Negri, Antonio. Empire. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2000. Hardt, Michael, and Negri, Antonio. Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire. New York: Penguin, 2004. Harrison, Nicholas. Postcolonial Criticism: History, Theory and the Work of Fiction. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003. Head, Dominic. The Cambridge Introduction to Modern British Fiction, 1950–2000. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Huggan, Graham. The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins. London: Routledge, 2001. Huggan, Graham. Interdisciplinary Measures: Literature and the Future of Postcolonial Studies. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008. Hutnyk, John. “Hybridity.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 28.1 (2005): 79–102. Jameson, Fredric. The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971–1986 Vol. 1: Syntax of History. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989. Jameson, Fredric. Signatures of the Visible. London: Routledge, 1990. Jameson, Fredric. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act [1981]. London: Routledge, 2002. Jameson, Fredric. “Antinomies of the Realism-Modernism Debate.” Modern Language Quarterly 73.3 (2012): 476–485. Jarrett, Gene Andrew. Deans and Truants: Race and Realism in African American Literature. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007. Kagan, Robert. The Jungle Grows Back: American and Our Imperiled World. New York: Penguin Random House, 2018. Kraidy, Marwan M. Hybridity, or the Cultural Logic of Globalization. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press, 2005. Kumar, Malreddy. “Postcolonialism: Interdisciplinary or Interdiscursive?” Third World Quarterly 32.4 (2011): 653–672. Lal, Vinaj. “The Politics of Culture and Knowledge after Postcolonialism: Nine Theses (and a Prologue).” Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 26 (2012), 191–205. Larsen, Neil. Determinations: Essays on Theory, Narrative, and the Nation in the Americas. London: Verso, 2001. Lazarus, Neil. Resistance in Postcolonial African Fiction. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990. Lazarus, Neil. “The Politics of Postcolonial Modernism.” The European Legacy 7.6 (2002): 771–782.

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Lazarus, Neil. “The Politics of Postcolonial Modernism.” Postcolonial Studies and Beyond. Eds. Ania Loomba et al. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2005. 423–438. Lazarus, Neil. The Postcolonial Unconscious. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Majumder, Auritro. “Toward a Materialist Critique of the Postnational: Haile Gerima’s Lukácsian Realism in Harvest 3000 Years.” Research in African Literatures 49.1 (2018): 209–225. McLeod, John. Beginning Postcolonialism. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000. McLeod, John. “Diaspora and Utopia: Reading the Recent Work of Paul Gilroy and Caryl Phillips.” Diasporic Literature and Theory: Where Now? Ed. Mark Shackleton. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008. 2–17. Mitchell, Timothy. Colonising Egypt. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1991. Moss, Laura. An Infinity of Alternate Realities: Reconfiguring Realism in Postcolonial Theory and Fiction. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Kingston, Ontario: Queen’s University, 1998. Moss, Laura. “Can Rohinton Mistry’s Realism Rescue the Novel?” Postcolonizing the Commonwealth: Studies in Literature and Culture. Ed.Rowland Smith. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2000. 157–165. Moss, Laura. “‘The Plague of Normality’: Reconfiguring Realism in Postcolonial Theory.” Jouvert 5.1 (2000). Web Oct. 2020. https://legacy.chass.ncsu.edu/ jouvert/v5i1/moss.htm. Mukherjee, Arun P. “The Vocabulary of the ‘Universal’: Cultural Imperialism and Western Literary Criticism.” World Literature Written in English 26.2 (1986): 343–353. Müller, Jan-Werner. What Is Populism? Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016. Nederveen Pieterse, Jan. Globalization and Culture: Global Mélange. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003. Obiechina, Emmanuel. Culture, Tradition and Society in the West African Novel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975. Parry, Benita. Postcolonial Studies: A Materialist Critique. London: Routledge, 2004. Quayson, Ato. The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2012. Quayson, Ato. “The Sighs of History: Postcolonial Debris and the Question of (Literary) History.” New Literary History 43 (2012): 359–370. Radhakrishnan, Rajagopalan. Diasporic Mediations. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. Robbins, Bruce. “Modernism and Literary Realism: Response.” Realism and Representation: Essays on the Problem of Realism in Relation to Science, Literature and Culture. Ed. George Levine. Madison: Wisconsin University Press, 1993. 225–231. Robinette, Nicholas. Realism, Form and the Postcolonial Novel. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

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Schmitt, Carl. The Concept of the Political [1932]. Trans. George Schwab. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1996. Shaw, Harry E. Narrating Reality: Austen, Scott, Eliot. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1999. Shonkwiler, Alison, and Leigh Claire La Berge, eds. Reading Capitalist Realism. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2014. Sorensen, Eli Park. Postcolonial Studies and the Literary: Theory, Interpretation and the Novel. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. Spillman, Deborah Shapple. British Colonial Realism in Africa: Inalienable Objects, Contested Domains. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Stoler, Ann Laura. “Imperial Debris: Reflections on Ruins and Ruination.” Cultural Anthropology 23 (2008): 191–219. Syrotinski, Michael. Deconstruction and the Postcolonial: At the Limits of Theory. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007. Watts, Richard. Packaging Post/Coloniality: The Manufacture of Literary Identity in the Francophone World. Lexington Books, 2005. Young, Robert J.C. Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Young, Robert J.C. Empire, Colony, Postcolony. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2015. Zabus, Chantal. “Introduction: The Future of Postcolonial Studies.” The Future of Postcolonial Studies. Ed. Chantal Zabus. New York: Routledge, 2015. 1–16.

1

Nation, Nationalism, and the Novel Form

The Critique of Nationalism One of the reasons postcolonial studies failed to embrace literary realism was that the field never fully resolved the issue of nationalism.1 As Imre Szeman observes, the field of postcolonial studies continues to be haunted by “the specter of the nation. It is a haunting that contemporary postcolonial theory has sought to exorcise or repress” (18). As we saw in the Introduction, postcolonial studies as an academic field was from the outset explicitly transnational in orientation and ambition. McLeod argues that for many postcolonial scholars, “the idea of the nation is rapidly becoming outdated. In a world of instant mass communications, multinational capitalism and global travel, the ideas of nation, nationalism and national identity seem increasingly anachronistic in an increasingly international world” (Beginning 104).2 Thus, the field distinguished itself from earlier incarnations of the postcolonial by having a considerably more ambivalent view of nationalism.3 Most of the canonized postcolonial texts largely stem from the 1980s and onwards (with the arguable exception of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart) and largely share a critical view of the concept of the nation. As for earlier literature, especially the kind of texts belonging to the early period of what Boehmer periodizes as the second phase of postcolonial literature, postcolonial critics have tended to employ a more cautious approach.4 Szeman elaborates: Though it is very common in discussions of postcolonial literature to characterize everything, from the ‘new national literatures’ of the 1950s and 1960s to writing by contemporary authors such as Ben Okri, Salman Rushdie, Bharti [sic] Mukherjee, Jamaica Kincaid, and Rohinton Mistry, as generically postcolonial … it has been equally common to introduce a periodizing schema to account for differences within this second period. One of the most common ways of dividing up the postcolonial phase of nationalist literature is by limiting the degree to which the postcolonial is to be identified with

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nationalist literature as such, that is, by defining nationalism as an explicit characteristic only of the early part of this phase. (25) One of the reasons for this tendency, Szeman argues, is that the attractions of explicitly nationalist literature abated as the political aspirations of popular-nationalist ideologies suffered defeat at the hands of military dictatorships and other non-democratic regimes, leaving the people’s hopes of democracy and self-determination in tatters.5 This disenchantment of nationalist sentiments happened to coincide with the emergence and gradual dominance (at around the same time as the field of postcolonial studies made its entry into academia) of theoreticaldiscursive models such as Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities and Ernest Gellner’s Nations and Nationalism, both from 1983, arguing that the concept of the nation was a thoroughly constructed and artificial entity, equivalent to that of a mass delusion.6 Looking back, it is perhaps not surprising that postcolonial studies came to view the concept of the nation along with literature strongly influenced by nationalist rhetoric with suspicion, if not outright scorn.7 Anjaria observes that postcolonial scholars quickly developed a notion of the nation as a deeply compromised form, a colonial leftover, while in “literature, scholars began to identify the generic and aesthetic accompaniments to nationalism that was equivalent to nineteenth century realism’s role in colonial rule” (7).8 It is against this background, as Szeman points out, that the “early, explicitly nationalist literatures are seen as overly simplistic in intent and design, as overconfident in the political effectiveness of what are mostly imported cultural forms (pre-eminently, the novel) and so are doomed to political failure just as Third World nationalism itself” (25–6)9—in other words: far removed from the sophisticated, cosmopolitan texts with which postcolonial critics quickly came to identify. Along similar lines, Simon Gikandi has observed in his article “Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Nationalism” that the “‘post’ in postcolonial theory is the symptom of a desire to show that everything that took place before the 1980s, especially the discourse of nationalism and the narrative of decolonization, constitutes a blockage to be overcome on the way to rethinking identity in a planetary world” (69). What Gikandi finds so problematic within postcolonial studies is not only the field’s implicit as well as explicit cosmopolitan ambition—one premised on an almost instinctual dislike of anything related to the national (the latter often reduced to signifying something ‘atavistic’, ‘essentialist’, ‘nativist’ or ‘right-wing’)10—but above all the paradox that postcolonial studies, on the one hand, is largely centered around culture (i.e., the fact that by far most postcolonial scholars were and still are situated in and around literature departments, writing predominantly about literature or other cultural products), yet at the same time tends to devalue the cultural within a specific national context.11

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It is against the background of this paradox that I want to situate my discussion of postcolonial realism. Gikandi himself has of course consistently been attuned to these matters, and in the abovementioned article, he makes the relevant point that the devaluation of the national followed a change of focus, from realist novels allegorically reflecting the nation to novels that were “at odds with, or excessive of, the mechanism of representation associated with the nation-state and its public spheres” (79).12 The debacle following Fredric Jameson’s essay on nonWestern literature would seem to further underline this point, an essay published at a time when postcolonial critics were eager to dissociate themselves from naively overconfident nation-building texts. I will return to the Jameson debacle at a later stage in this book. Here, I want to make the point that the concept of allegory, especially in its nationalist versions, has tended to derail the discussion of postcolonial literary history at the expense of a proper engagement with literary realism within a postcolonial context. A wonderfully slippery term, both profoundly archaic and intensely contemporary, allegory is a term that could easily be employed in both the earlier and the later stages of what Boehmer categorizes as the second phase of postcolonial literature—that is, allegory both in the ‘old-fashioned’ Jamesonian version of ‘national allegory’ and in various poststructuralist versions.13 The field of postcolonial studies was, of course, from the beginning heavily influenced by poststructuralist theory (or, as Robert Young would have it, poststructuralism was from the beginning a postcolonial project).14 Since literary realism and poststructuralism have generally been rather uncomfortable in each other’s company, it followed that the former, so often defined simply as national allegory, presented a challenge to how postcolonial studies as an academic field came to define itself.

Imagined Community vs. DissemiNation A remarkably frequent critical gesture in postcolonial criticism begins with an uncritical evocation of Benedict Anderson’s notion of the nation as an ‘imagined community’, which is then followed by a ‘demonstration’ of how a given postcolonial text is in fact undermining, challenging, or questioning such a concept, often with reference to Homi Bhabha’s essay “DissemiNation.”15 As perhaps the most prominent representative of the kind of postcolonial critical practice that came to dominate postcolonial journals and books, conferences, and student essays from roughly the late 1980s and into the new millennium, the theoretical discourse of Bhabha became popular in part because it relentlessly addressed dynamics of the excessive, the ambiguous, the marginal, alternative, and different—all of which allegedly creates ruptures within the homogenizing space of the nation.16 My argument here is that Bhabha’s theoretical discourse is essentially post-political in the sense that it

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explores the paradoxes, gaps, and contradictions within the already consolidated political space. Because of this assumption that the specifically political has been resolved, we can ask questions about who else is part of the social body: who has been excluded, silenced, forgotten, or misrepresented. According to Bhabha’s critique of Anderson’s ‘imagined community’, the latter concept homogenizes and hence represses the ambivalent traces of otherness within the national discourse. Bhabha’s notion of the ‘postcolonial’ is thus defined in terms of the ambivalent and the uncanny. A couple of characteristic quotes from Bhabha’s essay “DissemiNation” illustrate this line of argument: The people are not simply historical events or parts of a patriotic body politic. They are also a complex rhetorical strategy of social reference where the claim to be representative provokes a crisis within the process of signification and discursive address. We then have a contested cultural territory where the people must be thought in a double-time; the people are the historical ‘objects’ of a nationalist pedagogy, giving the discourse an authority that is based on the pre-given or constituted historical origin or event; the people are also the ‘subjects’ of a process of signification that must erase any prior or originary presence of the nation-people to demonstrate the prodigious, living principle of the people as that continual process by which the national life is redeemed and signified as a repeating and reproductive process. The scraps, patches, and rags of daily life must be repeatedly turned into signs of a national culture, while the very act of the narrative performance interpellates a growing circle of national subjects. (297) Crucial to Bhabha’s deconstructive critique is the change of emphasis from the imaginative to the writerly/textual.17 It is easy to see how the realist novel could never have figured as an aesthetic form of much interest in Bhabha’s theoretical perspective; since the traditional realist novel is often associated with the imaginative process (e.g., in Anderson’s theoretical discourse), it would seem logical to conclude that it is incapable of critically embracing the writerly dimension of the nation dynamic. Thus, Bhabha writes: Having initially located the imagined community of the nation in the homogenous time of realist narrative, towards the end of his essay Anderson abandons the ‘meanwhile’—his pedagogical temporality of the people. In order to represent the collective voice of the people as a performative discourse of public identification, a process he calls unisonance, Anderson resorts to another time of narrative. Unisonance is ‘that special kind of contemporaneous community

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Nation, Nationalism, and the Novel Form which language alone suggests,’ and this patriotic speech-act is not written in the synchronic, novelistic ‘meanwhile’, but inscribed in a sudden primordiality of meaning that ‘looms up imperceptibly out of a horizonless past’ [Bhabha’s emphasis]. This movement of the sign cannot simply be historicized in the emergence of the realist narrative of the novel. It is at this point in the narrative of national time that the unisonant discourse produces its collective identification of the people, not as some transcendent national identity, but in a language of incommensurable doubleness that arises from the ambivalent splitting of the pedagogical and the performative. The people emerge in an uncanny simulacral moment of their ‘present’ history as ‘a ghostly intimation of simultaneity across homogeneous empty time’. (309)

One could argue that Bhabha here makes too much out of this alleged difference in Anderson’s discourse between the time of the ‘meanwhile’ and the time of ‘unisonance’ because both are essentially to be experienced through linguistic means, although understood in ways that are clearly far removed from the deconstructive writerly potential Bhabha reads into them.18 Unisonance here involves the exact opposite of the experience of das Unheimliche. The wider point here is that Bhabha insists on problematizing the homogeneity of Anderson’s concept of the nation—the idea that the concept of the nation is imagined by a heterogeneous collection of individuals in language, and thus, of course, dependent on language.19 What allows for the concept of the nation to be deconstructed is essentially the national imagination’s dependence on language as a concept split between the pedagogical (narratives promoting and consolidating the nation) and the performative (the interpellative address of subjects as ‘national subjects’), all of which are instrumental in shaping the postcolonial as a perspective centered around the supplementary, the uncanny, the marginal, and the incommensurable. The classic critical maneuver repeated ad absurdum in postcolonial essays consists of the following three steps: A) paraphrase uncritically Anderson’s notion of the nation as an ‘imagined community’ (while implicitly accepting that this is the way in which the nation commonly should be understood); B) use a postcolonial text (belonging to the latter stage of the second phase of Boehmer’s postcolonial literary history) to demonstrate how it problematizes Anderson’s imagined community; C) conclude that the Andersonian concept of the nation is old-fashioned, unhelpfully homogenizing, and hence politically problematic. Thus, Vilashini Cooppan writes: Midnight’s Children (1981) on the most basic level reproduces Anderson’s model of the realist nineteenth-century national novel,

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marked by ‘the movement of a solitary hero through a sociological landscape of a fixity that fuses the world inside the novel with the world outside’ (104). Yet Rushdie’s novel repeatedly frustrates these equations through a style that is more magical realist than realist, an aesthetic more fracturing than fusing, and a vision of the novel that has frequently been seen, in politics as in form, more cosmopolitan than national. (41)20 There was a time when such paragraphs were widespread and celebrated in postcolonial criticism, and to some extent, this is still the case; this critical maneuver continues to be one of the most treasured insights in the field. The uncritical repetitiveness of this critical gesture suggests that there is a need to ‘unhinge’ the development of postcolonial theoretical discourse from the development of an actual-concrete literary-historical trajectory (e.g., the postcolonial literary history Boehmer outlines). In this sense, the division Szeman makes between the earlier and later stages of postcolonial literature should not be seen in evolutionary terms but rather as one that articulates a profound gap. As a gap, a disconnect reflecting the transition into a new, depoliticized era, it is easier to understand why postcolonial theoretical discourse not only failed to develop a proper appreciation of postcolonial texts emerging within a specifically national context but explicitly came to identify these as reactionary and anachronistic. It also sheds light on why postcolonial scholars generally have insisted on a direct link between unenlightened nationalism and naïve literary realism, perhaps to the extent that the two have come to function synonymously. Thus, it is not always clear when Bhabha refers to the nation (as a form of narrative), and when he refers to realism (as a style that naturalizes the national imagination); at times, ‘realism’ can unproblematically be replaced with ‘nation’ and vice versa in his discourse.21 The fact that these two terms can imperceptibly be interchanged to the extent that they almost become synonymous further underlines the previously mentioned disconnect at the center of postcolonial literary history. That postcolonial theoretical discourse did not in a direct sense grow out of the process of decolonization but emerged independently in a separate context explains to some extent why the field so consistently chose to accept the problematic idea (one that is of course already explicit within Benedict Anderson’s own theoretical framework) that the nation’s most supreme medium of imagination happened to be the ‘old-fashioned’ realist novel—or, to put it differently, the idea that the nation is analogous to the realist novel, and vice versa. The acceptance of this premise thus led to the logical conclusion that a radical postcolonial text had to be A) cosmopolitan, or at least explicitly antinationalist, and B) modernist/postmodernist, or at least anti-realist. The point I want to make here is not simply that we need to expand the canon of postcolonial works to include texts different from what

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Gikandi describes as those “at odds with, or excessive of, the mechanism of representation associated with the nation-state and its public spheres” (“Postcolonial Theory” 79), or that we need to pay more attention to earlier (nationalist-realist) novels. What is needed is a renewed engagement with the context of the specifically political from which realist aesthetics emerges. My point is that Bhabha’s critique of the nation necessarily presupposes a homogenizing concept of the nation (i.e., Anderson’s definition), or more specifically a consolidated political space, which then in turn—and perhaps too easily and uncritically—lends itself to deconstructive strategies. Without this homogenizing concept of the nation or normative state as a necessary presupposition, Bhabha’s critique would not be possible. Here, it does not suffice to simply argue that we need to expand the canon or to look at earlier (so-called ‘pedagogic’) novels; what is needed is a reexamination of the conditions underlying a homogenizing concept of the nation, as well as the political-historical circumstances creating the need for—or during which we see the emergence of—a realist aesthetic.

Anderson’s Nation It is important here to discuss Anderson’s theory of the nation carefully, not simply because it has been so dominant (albeit often as a straw man) in postcolonial studies, but also because this theory implies a direct link between the national imaginary and literary realism. To approach the latter properly, however, I argue that it is necessary to dismantle this link. To Anderson, literary realism consolidates (i.e., homogenizes, naturalizes, and reinforces) the act of imagining collectivity in the form of a national community.22 Many critics have made the point that Anderson’s ‘imagined community’ is one of those ideas that have become detached from the book in which they originally appeared, often circulating in truncated form in all sorts of different contexts related to nationalism—no doubt an indication of the concept’s global success, but which also serves as a reminder that ‘imagined community’ as a definition of the nation has moved beyond the book in which it first found its formulation.23 This is not to suggest that Anderson’s full-length argument has not been criticized properly—it has indeed, especially within a postcolonial context.24 However, a certain interpretation of Anderson’s concept—one that frequently follows Bhabha’s reading—has tended to dominate discussions of ‘the nation’ in the field of postcolonial studies. While some critics have positioned Anderson as a late Romantic in line with Herder and others—for example, Marc Redfield, who argues that Anderson “invokes the creative imagination … [and] in doing so, he sets out to rescue nationalism from the condescension of an enlightened cosmopolitanism” (61)25—it is important to stress that Anderson’s

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theory of the national imagination is at the same time profoundly steeped in a discourse of modernity; it is essentially technological development (first and foremost print technology and hence, implicitly, the spread and consolidation of the discourse of monolingualism) that distinguishes Anderson’s communal vision (as national imagination) from previous forms of communal thinking. Thus, at the heart of Anderson’s theory, one finds the idea that the nation is a stylistic construct, artificial rather than real or organic, and because of that, we need imagination for it to work.26 The nation-community as imagined encompasses so many people that most of them never actually will meet face to face and who share nothing in common apart from an abstract sense of belonging to this expanded (and highly artificial) community, as opposed to the more concrete sense of belonging to a smaller community—in other words, a community that can only be imagined abstractly and which constantly demands or requires to be re-imagined.27 The implication here is that the more re-imagined (e.g., through realist novels or newspapers), the less abstract the artificial nation-space feels.28 Anderson points to three factors that have often confounded scholars of nationalism: 1) the objective fact that the nation is a recent invention, even if each nation conceptualizes itself as antique; 2) that nationalism possesses a formal universalism in which everyone, everywhere, seems to demand a national identity, and 3) that nationalism generates enormous political interest, while at the same time being understood so little and so badly.29 These three points have, in Anderson’s view, led academics to pathologize the concept of the nation. Anderson argues that part of the problem is that the concept of the nation has been treated as an ideology, which suggests a dimension of deception or falsehood. To Anderson, it would be “easier if one treated it as if it belonged with ‘kinship’ and ‘religion’, rather than with ‘liberalism’ or ‘fascism’” (5), i.e., concepts that seem less politicized and closer to something ‘natural’ or ‘instinctual’. However, Anderson’s argument seems less persuasive when he makes the point that the nation signifies a fundamental human need; it is clear that he wants to dissociate his concept from the state(’s interests) and thus political ideology and instead connect it to something more fundamental and primordial,30 although the recourse to human nature is a questionable move that raises a different set of anthropological problems. What Anderson is driving at, I believe, is the idea that nationalism emerges as a fundamental, collective sentiment when a sovereign power is unable to respond to the needs of a new social situation.31 What is different from communal desires in earlier periods, and what ultimately makes nationalism so successful, is the fusion of reproductive technologies (first and foremost technologies of printing, distribution, and circulation) and imagination (enhanced and empowered by the spread of literacy and education of the broad masses). The possibility of print capitalism cultivating a market of readers is at the same time the

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possibility of imagining a community in an infinitely larger and more artificial and arbitrary sense (i.e., the modern nation-state) than ever before.32 For with the possibility of reproducing signs en masse, the latter’s iterative dimension—i.e., that signs are by definition repeatable and can be understood and used in multiple contexts, regardless of their origins—is also significantly intensified.33 Through print technologies and, more precisely, the products of this technology such as pamphlets, newspapers, and books, the ability to imagine across and beyond ‘natural’ communal borders opens up a whole new field of political manipulation that radically threatens the old order.34 Thus, Anderson argues that national imagination emerges at a time in history when: … three fundamental cultural conceptions, all of great antiquity, lost their axiomatic grip on men’s minds. The first of these was the idea that a particular script-language offered privileged access to ontological truth, precisely because it was an inseparable part of that truth … Second was the belief that society was naturally organized around and under high centres—monarchs who were persons apart from other human beings and who ruled by some form of cosmological (divine) dispensation … Third was the conception of temporality in which cosmology and history were indistinguishable, the origins of the world and of men essentially identical. (36) What pushes these three fundamental axes into motion is, as we have seen, “print-capitalism, which made it possible for rapidly growing numbers of people to think about themselves, and to relate themselves to others, in profoundly new ways” (36).35 The obvious contention here is that Anderson puts too much emphasis on the event of print capitalism as the catalyst of modernity.36 Wollman and Spencer articulate a concern shared among skeptical critics when they wonder how print capitalism can carry the main explanatory weight: “print capitalism and especially the emergence of newspapers as a particularly decisive product of this branch of capitalist production seems an unlikely basis for such a momentous development” (10). To be fair to Anderson, what he is essentially saying is that there are indeed other more significant catalysts of modernity, but that it is only through new technological means that these can ever become part of a wider reality. Here, I want to present a few additional comments on the power of imagination enabled by the mass reproducibility and distribution of signs, an event that brings down the medieval age’s world image. As we have seen, Anderson argues that the reason why phenomena between which there exists no natural link can nonetheless be brought together (as if they had always belonged together) is due to the fact that they are connected within an overall framework that is essentially imaginary; the imaginary community of the nation.37 What is imagined prosthetically through technological means is

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a notion of simultaneity: the imaginary sense that everyone is doing something similar with a similar mindset (e.g., responding to events in a similar fashion) at the same time.38 Anderson somewhat curiously goes on to identify this power of imagination with Walter Benjamin’s (negative) concept of ‘empty homogeneous time’.39 In Anderson’s discourse, the latter simply refers to ‘simultaneity’, as well as the ‘standardization’ of this experience of temporal sameness.40 Anderson writes: “an idea of ‘homogeneous, empty time,’ in which simultaneity is, as it were, transverse, cross-time, marked not by prefiguring and fulfilment, but by temporal coincidence, and measured by clock and calendar” (24). Historically, Anderson argues, this imaginary sense of simultaneous temporality articulates the coordinates of a new, collective consciousness—an idea of an organic history regulated by a homogenous, empty temporal dimension that potentially includes everyone claiming a sense of national belonging.41 It is this new consciousness that the technically reproducible imagination creates or permits, one that cannot be felt or experienced concretely, or directly; the idea that other like-minded members of the nation exist, act, and move around simultaneously and in similar ways.42

The Novel and the Nation The effects of this fictional experience of simultaneity play a crucial role in the process of standardization (time, borders, history, language, culture, sentiments, affects, etc.)—and, to Anderson, the newspaper and the novel are among the exemplary technical tools that enable the representation of this new, nationally imagined community. At one point, Anderson writes: Why this transformation should be so important for the birth of the imagined community of the nation can best be seen if we consider the basic structure of two forms of imagining which first flowered in Europe in the eighteenth century: the novel and the newspaper. For these forms provided the technical means for ‘re-presenting’ the kind of imagined community that is the nation. (Imagined 24–25) The novel and the newspaper offer two narrative forms of representations that articulate a fictitious idea of simultaneity, and hence a(n equally fictitious idea of) general consciousness. But when Anderson further explains that: If we were to look at a sample front page of, say, The New York Times, we might find there stories about Soviet dissidents, famine in Mali, a gruesome murder, a coup in Iraq, the discovery of a rare fossil in Zimbabwe, and a speech by Mitterand. Why are these events juxtaposed? What connects them to each other? Not sheer

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Nation, Nationalism, and the Novel Form caprice. Yet obviously most of them happen independently, without the actors being aware of each other or of what the others are up to. The arbitrariness of their inclusion and juxtaposition … shows that the linkage between them is imagined. (33)43

Here it seems clear that the newspaper’s principle of composition serves his argument better than that of the novel.44 Again, Anderson’s experience of simultaneity, supporting the national imagination, and supported by print technology, essentially brings together on large scale phenomena between which no natural links exist as if they were naturally connected. In comparison, the traditional novel operates, as Irene Tucker observes, with “far greater connectedness … than does the juxtaposition on the front page of a variety of nonfictional events taking place throughout the world on a single day” (Probable 5). The point here is that the randomness of the newspaper’s composition is possible without undermining the sense of simultaneity and hence the national imagination only within an already established and consolidated national imaginary. The compositional principle of the novel form is different from the semi-anarchic compositional principle of the newspaper, above all because of the implicit mechanisms binding the elements together. However, it is a curious tendency in theories of the novel to conflate the novel and the newspaper. Thus, Timothy Brennan writes: It was the novel that historically accompanied the rise of nations by objectifying the ‘one, yet many’ of national life, and by mimicking the structure of the nation, a clearly bordered jumble of languages and styles. Socially, the novel joined the newspaper as the major vehicle of the national print media, helping to standardize language, encourage literacy, and remove mutual incomprehensibility. But it did much more than that. Its manner of presentation allowed people to imagine the special community that was the nation. (“National Longing” 49) My argument is that this conflation of the newspaper and the novel tends to emphasize the process of standardizing and consolidating ‘unnatural’ or ‘artificial’ communities. In contrast, I am suggesting that the genre of the realist novel, while it crucially contributes to this process of standardization, is also oriented towards the politicization of historical consciousness, and in a further sense the elaboration and production of a new concept of collective reality. In other words, the novel form is occupied with establishing the frames within which the process of standardization becomes possible. As most of the major theorists of the novel seem to agree on, including Lukács and Bakhtin, the genre of the novel emerges at a time when sovereign power transitions into different forms of power.45 What I want to argue is that Anderson—along with postcolonial scholars

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generally—is too quick in assuming that this new form of power translates directly into the nation-state; with the implication, of course, that there is an unbreakable link between the ideological workings of the novel form and the nation. While Anderson focuses on what unquestionably constitutes a crucial formal aspect of the traditional realist novel, namely simultaneity, which also plays a pivotal role in nationalism—it is, however, debatable whether the actual link between the dynamic of the national imaginary and the formal simultaneity of literary realism should be seen in any way as a determinant, or whether this encounter was, in Franco Moretti’s words, “far from inevitable” (Atlas 53).46 Regarding Jane Austen’s invention of the nation-space through the novel form, Moretti comments: “historically it wasn’t obvious at all. Readers needed a symbolic form capable of making sense of the nation-state” (20). Moretti’s point here is that the connection between novel form and the national imaginary is not a determinate-causal one, as Anderson’s theory suggests. Jonathan Culler further explores this point of view in The Literary in Theory: Though many novels represent a society conceived as national, in Anderson’s account what is crucial to the role of fiction in the imagining of nations is not this representation but that the world evoked by the novel include events happening simultaneously, extend beyond the experience of particular individuals, and be conceived as geographically situated or bounded. (49). Anderson’s argument about the novel and the nation is, as Culler observes, essentially formalist in nature; the novel may capture the nation thematically, but what makes the link to the nation a determinant, according to Anderson, is the shared formal dynamic of simultaneity.47 Yet, Culler also detects an ambiguity in Anderson’s discussion of the novel; on the one hand, Anderson seems to imply that the novel thematically represents the nation (in the sense of reproducing, describing, or imitating a pre-existing entity called the nation), while on the other hand suggesting that the novel and the nation are formally analogous (i.e., the novel is an independent form imagining simultaneity, which happens to coincide with that of the nation).48 According to Culler, it is this question of whether Anderson argues that the novel’s evocation of a community constitutes an analogous formal dynamic similar to the nation, or whether it is a thematic representation of the nation that has often been overlooked by scholars following Anderson’s theory, most of whom simply take the relationship to be one involving thematic representation—that is, literature ‘about’ the nation.49 If the novel simply thematically represents the nation, the former is inevitably repressive, homogenizing, and ideological since it excludes by way of seeking to represent a homogeneous national narrative, and hence

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represses other narratives. This is probably the most typical assumption one finds in postcolonial studies.50 However, insofar as Anderson is in fact making the argument that the novel is formally analogous to the nation, it may, of course, still contribute ideologically to the national project, but not necessarily, and perhaps only indirectly or not at all. The point here is that the link between the novel and the nation becomes far less deterministic and causal, which thus opens up new ways of reconceptualization.51 Citing Brennan’s argument that the novel form essentially performs the work of standardization (like the newspaper) through the evocation of polyphonic discourses, Culler writes: “That is, the novel’s formal encompassing of different kinds of speech or discourse enacts the possibility of a community larger than any one individual can know” (50). In an interesting footnote to this comment by Brennan, Culler cites Moretti, according to whom the novel—pace Bakhtin—does not promote polyphony but rather reduces it.52 However, Moretti’s and Brennan’s arguments respectively are not necessarily mutually exclusive, since the wider point here is that the novel form precisely because of its composite nature involves both polyphony and exclusion mechanisms, as Culler suggests later: In fact, Brennan might not disagree with Moretti. The question may be how far the novel represents the social polyphony that by its embrace or containment it in effect works to reduce. Critics’ eagerness to espouse the Bakhtinian thesis of the dialogic nature of the novel may lead them to neglect the novel’s contribution to national homogenization. (51f) To expand on this argument, one could argue that postcolonial readings of distinctly anti-realist texts tend to magnify the polyphonic aspects, whereas readings of literary realism often reduce the latter to simple, thematic representations of national homogenization. It seems to be the case that the more postcolonial critics investigate the direct and indirect connections between the novel and the nation, the more the discussion tends to revolve around arguments about content rather than form.53 My main aim here and subsequently is to sever or at least problematize the direct connection between the realist novel form and the Andersonian definition of the nation. It is evident that Culler aims for something similar without fully developing this argument. The idea that I am interested in pursuing here is that the central formal dynamic Anderson identifies in the realist novel is less directly connected to the nation as such; rather, the novel’s central formal dynamic relates to a more fundamental conception of the political and which thus precedes the Andersonian idea of the nation, while not necessarily being directly connected to—let alone representative of—the nation.54

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Later in his essay, Culler indicates a possible argument along these lines via Roddey Reid’s book Families in Jeopardy (1993), which explores social relations in post-revolutionary France and the emergence of a social community rooted in a new public discourse. This new public discourse is based on a notion of simultaneity, although one that is crucially different from Anderson’s imagined national community. Culler writes: “I argue that it was this language that was to serve as the foundation for what Benedict Anderson has termed modern, discursively based ‘imagined communities of national identity’” (53). Culler agrees that a new sense of community is being created—a fictitious (or imaginary) experience of simultaneity promoted, among other things, through the newspaper and the novel—but which should not be confused with the imagined community of the nation. The wider point Culler makes here is that the novel form articulates simultaneity per se (but not in a concretized form at the level of content, e.g., nationalism), a ‘space of community’—a perspective ‘unnaturally’ or fictionally transcending that of the individual’s perspective,55 albeit one that is not inevitably and narrowly tied to the national project. The argument I want to make here, following from Culler’s critique, is that the novelistic dynamic Anderson identifies as being either a formal analogy or a thematic representation of the nation should be seen as less directly related to the latter and more connected to a certain fundamental dynamic pertaining to the idea of a community, one that involves the specifically political regarding the unresolved and hence ongoing friendenemy distinction. It is a dynamic that conditions, presupposes, and thus precedes the possibility of national space, the imagined community. In fact, Culler touches upon an argument along these lines when he briefly evokes Carl Schmitt’s friend/enemy-distinction, arguing that the reader addressed in José Rizal’s Noli me tángere (1887)—the novel on which Anderson’s literary argument is based—is precisely not a local but rather someone in need of extra information—i.e., a stranger. Rizal’s novel, originally written in Spanish and published during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, became along with the sequel El Filibusterismo (1891) an important source of anti-colonial sentiments bolstering the Filipino insurgent movement during the Spanish colonial regime. One of the great themes in Noli me tángere is not only precisely the difficulty of articulating the friend/enemy distinction, but also the need to engage with the specifically political to ensure the survival of communal identity. After years of study in Europe, the novel’s main character, Crisótomo Ibarra, returns to San Diego, where he hopes to serve his country by building a local school, only to find himself undermined and threatened by people supposed to be friends of his family. The novel ends bleakly with Ibarra hunted by government soldiers, driven into exile, his girlfriend entering a convent, and numerous friends and allies killed, thus setting the stage for the sequel’s story of the (ultimately failed) revolution. Given their clear anti-colonial

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sentiment, along with harsh criticism of the influence of the Catholic Church, Rizal’s novels were banned by the Spanish colonial government, and the author himself was executed for having participated in the Tagalog War (a revolution whose ideological fervor in part was inspired by Rizal’s novels) in 1896. To Culler, Anderson’s imagined community is precisely not what Noli me Tángere envisions; “In fact, the mode of address of Noli me tangere often suggests that the reader is not a Manileño but someone who needs to be told how things are done there—a stranger even” (57). One could argue here that it is precisely the figure of the stranger (i.e., a potential enemy) that engenders the aesthetic modality of the novel’s realism; Rizal’s style, Culler suggests, performatively articulates a way of “assertion by way of presupposing”,56 or a realist style that presupposes a mode of description, and hence the representation of an already-existing world—but through this description and representation is actually creating something in a performative sense. It does so precisely because it is not addressing someone already familiar with this world, i.e., a local (who would not need all the anthropological ‘extra information’ provided by the realist novel). Culler writes about Rizal’s realism: The effect here is similar to Balzac: offering a veritable anthropology of Manila and its ways, with references that would not have been necessary for Manila readers, who don’t need to be told what things are called in their country or that someone is dressed like a Filipino or what every Filipino house must have. (58)57 The novel form’s technique, its realism, thus creates, according to Culler, a mode of address with which readers may identify.58 Culler concludes: novels such as Rizal’s and Balzac’s, in their evocation of a world of diverse characters, adventures, and national or regional ways of being, may do much to encourage the imagining of those communities that are or become nations, but they do not do so, I submit, by addressing readers as nationals. (60)59 One could object that this argument about the reader does not necessarily undermine Anderson’s theory about the novel and the nation; it rather merely underlines the novel form’s nationalist, interpellativeideological dynamic. In this perspective, the novel form does two things at the same time: on the one hand, it describes a world to the outsider, but also, on the other hand, creates and thus confirms the reality of a nationalist community to individuals already familiar with this space. Interestingly, Culler, albeit without being very elaborate, indicates a different novelistic genealogy, a ‘condition of possibilities’ that precedes Anderson’s linkage of the novel and the nation—one that involves the

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notion of war. It is the notion of ‘condition of possibilities’ that constitutes the main difference in Culler’s and Anderson’s conceptualizations of the relationship between the nation and the novel. In the next chapter, I want to connect this notion of the ‘condition of possibilities’ to what Michel Foucault calls the ‘historico-political discourse’ (designating the Hobbesian problem of the state of nature) in order to stress a notion of nationalism that emerges at the point when the historico-political discourse becomes ‘monopolized’, as it were, by the nation-state (whereby the latter becomes ‘naturalized’ or ‘self-evident’), something that occurs gradually throughout the nineteenth century, but in particular around the late 1840s—or, as Lukács would formulate it, in 1848.60 Referring to Linda Colley’s argument about Great Britain as a nation invented through war, as well as Gopal Balakrishnan’s argument about war as the crucial factor explaining why a given community comes together around self-sacrificing narratives about the nation,61 Culler concludes that it is when the community is at war that people gather in support of the idea of the nation: “The contribution of the plots and themes of novels is likely to be considerably smaller, but their form may be the condition of possibility of the imagined communities that are energized by discourses of war” (71). The discourses of war that Culler has in mind are related to the concept of the political developed by Schmitt, whom I will discuss further in the next chapter. Without developing this thought very far, Culler suggests that the novel form should be seen as less directly linked to the idea of the nation; rather, it constitutes a ‘condition of possibility’ for imagining social life, including the one eventually articulated through the nation. This condition is essentially a political notion, which Schmitt, as we have seen, narrowly defines as the ability to distinguish friends from enemies: “a condition of possibility”, Culler writes, “of a community organized around a political distinction between friend and enemy” (71). The point I want to make in conclusion is that Anderson’s national imagination refers to what one could call a ‘natural sense of belonging and ownership’. This ‘natural sense’ comes in the form of the ‘untranscendable’, the immanent, the space demarcating the limits of our imagination, beyond which there are only enemies, war, others.62 In his definition of the nation, Anderson writes that it is “an imagined political community—and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign” (Imagined 6); it is imagined as limited because it does not encompass everyone (e.g., foreigners). One could say that Anderson’s nation is universal in its particularity, albeit never universal as such; the (subjective) imagination only extends to other members of the nation, but it also means that these members are limited to imagine the rest of the world objectively or normatively through this particular-subjective, and hence untranscendable, national imaginary. To Anderson, the imagined community essentially articulates this experience: an affective experience

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of an untranscendable, immanent space (the imagined community), the sovereign space that constitutes all the normative coordinates of the world—that is, the necessarily limited conceptualization of the world as essentially imagined through our own untranscendable space, our reality. It is an experience that is problematized, ironically and metaleptically, by the other, the non-national, the foreigner, the transnational, albeit rarely in a specifically political sense. In this sense, one could argue that at the core of Anderson’s imagined community, one finds a negative imagination; the inability to imagine anything except through the untranscendable horizon of the sovereign, national imaginary. By contrast, the specifically political refers to a fundamentally different assumption about a given state territory: that its final shape, contents, and identity are still in the process of being defined. We cannot resolve the friendenemy distinction because the ‘we’ of the social body is still split between combating entities, each claiming ‘we alone represent the people’. Once this problem has been resolved, we begin to ask questions about who else might be part of the social body; this is the moment of the untranscendable horizon of the national imaginary.

Notes 1 Ever since its beginnings, the field of postcolonial studies came to see the concepts of realism and the nation as intertwined, if not synonymous. In Beginning Postcolonialism, John McLeod writes: “Nations, like realist novels, tend to gather together a variety of people into one collective body, but it is highly unlikely that one person will ever meet all of his or her fellow nationals” (73). Many postcolonial scholars tend to follow Benedict Anderson’s definition of the nation—along with the explicit linking of realism to the nation. 2 cf. Chrisman’s article “Nationalism and Postcolonial Studies” for a critical discussion of this issue. 3 Thus, Bartels et al. observe that from “a postcolonial perspective, the nation is a deeply ambiguous and slippery construct” (11), in part because the borders and constitutional framework of postcolonial nations were often a direct legacy from the colonial era. 4 To Boehmer, there are two main phases of postcolonial literature, the first between the two world wars, and the second post-1945. See Boehmer, Colonial, 172–178. Within the second phase, as Szeman argues, scholars often operate with two sub-phases, early (1945–1980) and late (post-1980). See Szeman, Zones 25. 5 See Szeman, Zones 25–26. For a similar argument, see also Timothy Brennan, “National” 46–47. 6 See Szeman 25. To Christopher Clausen, for example, the idea of national literature (i.e., identifying a particular kind of writing with a particular national discourse) should be abandoned because it leads to parochialism, essentialism, populism, and other unenlightened things (Clausen’s argument is also cited in Szeman 27). 7 See Szeman 25–26. In rapport with Szeman’s suggestion as to why postcolonial theory generally developed an aversion to the concept of the

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8 9

10 11 12

13 14 15

16

17 18

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national, Gikandi argues that this disinclination was furthermore consolidated by the general dismissal of historicism within the field of postcolonial studies (“Postcolonial Theory” 71). This line of critique has also been expressed in essays by McClintock, Shohat, Hall, Dirlik, and Ahmad (In Theory), to mention a few. The fact that many postcolonial countries did not avoid what Fanon identified as ‘the pitfalls of national consciousness’ meant that the ‘nation’ remained—and still remains—a rather suspicious concept within a postcolonial context. On this issue, see also Basil Davidson’s discussion of the difficulties posed by the concept of the nation as an emancipatory form vs. a legacy of the colonial partition in The Black Man’s Burden 162–196. Furthermore, the ‘nation’ was often seen as intimately connected to discrimination and marginalization of otherness, as Paul Gilroy observes: “raciologies and nationalism promote and may even produce certain quite specific types of collectivity, characteristically those that are hierarchical, authoritarian, patriarchal and phobic about alterity” (cited in Szeman, Zones 26). See Gikandi, “Postcolonial Theory.” For a similar argument, see Parry, Postcolonial Studies 10. See Gikandi, “Postcolonial Theory” 76. Ultimately, Gikandi suggests that the underlying reason why national allegories failed to attract much attention within postcolonial theoretical discourse was because of their utopian aspirations that eventually turned out to be futile, disillusioning. Due to this experience of disillusion, Gikandi argues, postcolonial theory pursued a different kind of reading—one that emphasized the ambivalent, the marginal, the excessive (see “Postcolonial Theory” 79). See Stephen Slemon’s “Monuments of Empire,” and Jeannie Suk’s Postcolonial Paradoxes in French Caribbean Writing for discussions of poststructuralism and allegory within a postcolonial context. See Young, Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction 412–413. For example, Morey uses Bhabha’s essay in his critique of national homogeneity and realism. See Morey, Rohinton Mistry 123. In the article “Grounds of Comparison,” Pheng Cheah observes that “Many postcolonial theorists take the idea of the nation as imagined community to imply that the nation is an ideological fiction and proceed to amalgamate Anderson’s ideas with their own denunciations of the pathological nature of Third World nationalism” (4). In Gikandi’s view, Bhabha’s version of the postcolonial celebrates a kind of double marginalization: “it values the narratives of those who have been disadvantaged in relation to the institutions of the modern West and those who are marginalized, or self-marginalized, from the nations that succeeded the colonial empires” (“Postcolonial Theory” 70). On this issue, see also Redfield, “Imagi-Nation” 65. Anderson defines ‘meanwhile’ thus: “Consider first the structure of the oldfashioned novel, a structure typical not only of the masterpieces of Balzac but also of any contemporary dollar-dreadful. It is clearly a device for the presentation of simultaneity in ‘homogeneous, empty time’, or a complex gloss upon the word ‘meanwhile’” (Imagined 25). This is how Anderson defines ‘unisonance’: “there is a special kind of contemporaneous community which language alone suggests—above all in the form of poetry and songs. Take national anthems, for example, sung on national holidays. No matter how banal the words and mediocre the tunes, there is in this singing an experience

50

19

20 21 22

23

24

Nation, Nationalism, and the Novel Form of simultaneity. At precisely such moments, people wholly unknown to each other utter the same verses to the same melody. The image: unisonance” (145). Parker comments that “Anderson’s account of the nation’s modularity recalls Derrida’s description of the play of difference and identity that underwrites the structure of the sign” (“Bogeyman” 42). For a more specific discussion of language, politics, and national discourse, see also Anderson’s Language and Power. I am using Cooppan’s otherwise well-argued book here as an example of how this critical gesture is ubiquitously repeated in vast amounts of postcolonial criticism. See Bhabha, Location 309–311. Anderson refers to what he calls “the old-fashioned novel” (Imagined 69)—in other words, the traditional, omniscient realist novel. Anderson writes: “It is clearly a device for the presentation of simultaneity in ‘homogenous, empty time,’ or a complex gloss upon the world ‘meanwhile’” (25). For further discussions of the connections between the novel form and the concept of the nation, see The Spectre of Comparison, in which Anderson at length discusses novelists like José Rizal, Pramoedya Ananta Toer and Vargas Llosa. In this book, Anderson further develops this idea of a relationship between novel and nation: “In Imagined Communities, I argued that the historical appearance of the novel-as-popular-commodity and the rise of nation-ness were intimately related … This line of argument today does not seem to me entirely mistaken, but it led to the unstated assumption that the deep original affinity between nation-ness and the novel meant that they would always be adequate for one another” (334). To Anderson, this assumption becomes problematic in the second half of the twentieth century—i.e., with the rise of anti-realist genres, including modernist and postmodernist literature—which leads Anderson to the point that “Nations … have less and less need of the novel” (335). In other words, the more consolidated the national imagination is the less need for an auxiliary tool like the traditional realist novel. I will come back to this point in the Conclusion. For example, Wollman and Spencer observe that the book’s “invocation has, in some cases, become a substitute for analysis” (“Goodness” 2), while Redfield comments that the concept “has become a tag phrase—almost a mantra—in academic and para-academic discussions of nationalism” (“Imagi-Nation” 60)—thus, both indicating how massively widespread this particular understanding of nationalism has become, and perhaps thereby also reflecting a general assumption that the discussion of the concept of the nation in its basic form—at least within literary academic circles—is largely over. See for example the works of Paul James, Peter Van der Veer and Sara Suleri. Perhaps the most well-known critic of Anderson’s theory of the nation, Partha Chatterjee, criticizes Anderson’s claim that postcolonial nationalism is modular, i.e., that it develops out of previous (and often colonial) models of nationalism. Chatterjee writes: “If nationalisms in the rest of the world have to choose their imagined community from certain ‘modular’ forms already made available to them by Europe and the Americas, what do they have left to imagine?” and a little later; “Even our imaginations must remain forever colonized” (“Whose imagined Community?” 216). Here, it is worth recalling that Anderson began reflecting on the concept of the nation after witnessing a series of emergent nationalisms in South Asian communist regimes during the 1970s—countries that defined themselves in national terms rather than as part

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25

26

27

28

29 30

31 32

33

51

of an internationalist order. See Anderson, Imagined 1–2. Crucial to Anderson’s argument about the nation is that it is “a ‘model’ of ‘the’ independent nation state [that] was available for pirating” (Imagined 81), similar to print books, and the somewhat speculative idea that modern nationalism originated not in Europe but among creole communities in Latin America (see Anderson, Imagined 50). For a discussion of this issue—European nationalism and the emergence of nationalism in the rest of the world—see Wollman and Spencer, “Goodness” 5; and Cheah, “Grounds” 13–16. In a response paper, Anderson accepts the label of “a late Romantic with a decadent tendency to believe in the Fall,” i.e., the problematic distinction between “a ‘true’ uncontaminated popular nationalism and the kind of Machiavellian nationalism emanating from the state” (“Responses” 231). In the article “Spectral Nationality,” Cheah writes that Anderson’s concept of the nation operates with “a strict demarcation between organic spontaneity and technical manipulation: between the nation-people and the state” (43). This is how Anderson defines the concept of the nation: “In an anthropological spirit, then, I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community—and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign,” and adds: “In fact, all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined” (Imagined 5–6). There is apparently an ambiguity in Anderson’s theory when he, at one point, suggests that all communities are imagined, even pre-historic and primordial; but then goes on to characterize the simultaneity of the imagined community as the crucial characteristic of modern nationalism. However, as Redfield observes, the point here is that the nation is “is radically imagined: it cannot be experienced immediately as a perception” (“Imagi-Nation” 61). See Anderson, Imagined 5. Anderson’s concept of the national is, as Redfield observes “an expression of fundamental human needs (for continuity, for affective bonds) in an age of mechanical reproduction. Anderson thus positions nationalism at a remove from the state: its roots are different from the state’s and run deeper, tapping, ultimately, into the substratum of the imagination itself” (“ImagiNation” 61). However, as Redfield further observes, Anderson’s theoretical framework does seem to have some difficulties in distinguishing the state from the nation (see 61). As I will argue later, the difficulties are related to the fact that Anderson’s theory does not possess an elaborate notion of the specifically political. For further discussions on this issue, see Hroch, “National Movement” 86–88; and Breuilly, “Approaches” 159–162. In Redfield’s view, the Andersonian idea of an imagined community emerges “out of developments in reproductive and communication technologies. The modernity of the nation is that of the Gutenberg revolution: as language becomes reproducible in Walter Benjamin’s sense and print-capitalism begins to create markets, the fundamentally anonymous community of the nationstate becomes imaginable” (“Imagi-Nation” 62). As Redfield observes, “The sign results from the imagination’s ability to posit what cannot simply be perceived” (62). Wollman and Spencer further add: “What made such imagining possible was a particular technological and economic development, what he called ‘print capitalism’, and the production in vernacular languages of, amongst other things, newspapers that could be read across a considerable expanse of space” (4–5).

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34 On this issue, see Redfield, “Imagi-Nation” 64. 35 As Pheng Cheah has argued, this should be distinguished from capitalism as such. Cheah writes: “[Print-capitalism] is a form of capitalism that is more ‘communal’ … for instead of leading to the shattering and vaporization of all communal bonds as Marx envisioned it, the upheavals of print-capitalism … led to the creation of new imagined solidarities from below through spectrality of vernacular print. The characterization of the nation-form as the chance product of print-capitalism is significant because it allows Anderson to suggest that the nation is originally neither a means of social organization nor an ideological superstructure emanating from the state qua tool of industrial capitalism” (“Grounds” 7). 36 On this issue, see Balakrishnan, “National Imagination” 65. 37 Anderson’s notion of imagination, as Dipesh Chakrabarty observes, derives from a long European intellectual tradition that centers around the subject: “Imagination … remains a mentalist, subject-centered category in Anderson’s thought-provoking account of nationalism” (Provincializing 175)—and thus a category that excludes the plurality and heterogeneity of the concept in other, non-European contexts. 38 See Anderson, Imagined 26. 39 Both Wollman and Spencer (“Goodness” 11) and Bhabha (Location 311) find it curious as to why Anderson uses Benjamin’s concept, while Redfield criticizes Anderson for ignoring Benjamin’s discussions of ‘shock experience’, and hence avoids the complications of ‘homogeneous, empty time’ (“ImagiNation” 64–65). 40 See Anderson, Imagined 24. Anderson contrasts ‘empty, homogeneous time’ to Auerbach’s concept of time in medieval communities (see Imagined 23). As Paul James explains, “The medieval sacred community was bound as a simultaneity-along-time. This connection was not lived as if it were the reflexive result of human practice, but as a manifestation of something else, something which has always been, something universal and omnitemporal—God in ‘Messianic time’. Past, present and future were held together by the omnitemporal Reality of the Word” (Nation Formation 6). 41 See Anderson, Imagined 77. 42 As Anderson writes: “An American will never meet, or even know the names of more than a handful of his 240,000,000-odd fellow-Americans. He has no idea of what they are up to at any one time. But he has complete confidence in their steady, anonymous, simultaneous activity” (Imagined 26). 43 There is, Anderson continues, a calendrical coincidence (see Imagined 33), which both reinforces the arbitrariness of national experience, but also dissolves this sense of randomness into a collective experience of simultaneity. 44 It is questionable whether the novel and the newspaper can be juxtaposed quite so effortlessly as Anderson does (see Imagined 33). To Anderson, the newspaper is similar to the novel in the sense that both forms seem to have down-prioritized the idea of plot (e.g., as opposed to earlier literary forms dependent on a more tight compositional structure than the more or less haphazardly organized newspaper or the long-winded, digressive form of the novel). In Anderson’s discourse, the novel is a pedagogical form; it simply consolidates the national imaginary. On this issue, see also Redfield, “ImagiNation” 63. 45 Commenting on Bakhtin, Brennan writes: “he concentrates on those periods when large, incorporating dynastic realms are in the process of decline. For the modern novel, this means precisely the period of market capitalism and the age of exploration, which was also the period of transformation of the

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46 47 48

49 50 51

52 53

54

55 56 57

58 59

60

53

vernaculars into languages of state, the creation of national economies, and the subsequent recognition of nationalism as the dominant political ideology of the bourgeoisie” (“National Longing” 54). Also cited in Culler, The Literary 52. For an argument about style and imagined community, see Axel, “Poverty” 119–122. See Culler, The Literary 49. In “Responses,” Anderson clarifies: “[Culler] is also quite right in pointing out that the form of the novel creates a social space of interaction analogous to, but not isomorphic with, the geographic space of nation” (228). For an extended discussion of this issue, see Trivedi et al., The Nation across the World. As an example, Culler refers to David Lloyd’s argument about the Irish novel in Anomalous States (1993). See Culler, The Literary 49–50. To Cheah, there is no ambiguity, although plenty of misunderstandings: the novel’s formal dynamic resembles that of the nation’s—hence analogous—without thereby being a form representing the nation. See Cheah, “Grounds” 7–8. See Culler, The Literary 50, 7n. There are arguably many traditional novels thematically connected to specifically national discourses (see Doris Sommer’s authoritative book for arguments in this direction), although I agree with Culler that the more we start to investigate the direct and indirect connections between the novel form and the nation, the more we tend to argue about content, rather than the novel form’s organization of temporality (see Culler 53). For further discussion of this issue, see Armstrong and Tennenhouse’s “Novels Before Nations.” Gregory Jusdanis reminds us that “Nations are indeed modern and manufactured, but they have been built on an old, often centuries-old, foundation. The history of nation building shows that there are as many staircases as floors between prenational and national identities” (Necessary 36–37), something according to Jusdanis which Anderson’s theory tends to neglect. See also Armstrong’s Nations before Nationalism for an extended discussion of pre-national forms of communities. Here, Culler follows Timothy Brennan’s argument about the novel’s ‘composite nature’ in the essay “The National Longing for Form.” See Culler 50. See Culler 57. In “Responses,” Anderson concedes that “Rizal’s very language clearly addresses a readership far wider (and vaguer) than Manileños or Philippine patriots or even Spaniards” (228)—and adds a little later that “It is unlikely that all the anthropological detail noted by Jonathan in the opening chapter of Noli Me Tangere was meant for Spaniards but rather for his potential political allies in Northern Europe” (229). See Culler, The Literary 59. Furthermore, Culler stresses the uncertainty of the novelistic address as one that pertains to national identity: “One might say, rather, that the posited audience is those who could recognize that the community being described is, if not a nation, one about which it is an issue whether it is a nation. At the very least, the relation between national community and the community presupposed by novelistic address is a question that needs to be examined more closely for a range of cases” (The Literary 60). As Paul James points out, “Natio, which had a similar root to ‘native’, was used before the Middle Ages for ‘uncivilized’ peoples … However, natio came later to refer to all aggregations, or classings, of people with a common

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‘ethnic’ background [the inverted commas, as James explains, indicate that the term—one invented in the twentieth century—is used anachronistically here] … The concept of ‘nation’ took on a more abstract meaning and clearer political ascriptions from the sixteenth century … The English term ‘nationalism’ … is even more recent. Rarely found even in the early nineteenth century, it referred to the doctrine that certain nations had been chosen by God. The conjoining of ‘nation’ with ‘state’ … seems, as does the use of the term ‘nationalism’, to have been generalized as late as the mid-nineteenth century” (Nation Formation 11–12). 61 See Culler, The Literary 70. In his history of the European novel form, Moretti also refers to Linda Colley’s argument about the making of the British nation between 1707 and 1837, and more particularly that a “hostile Other [became] the source of collective identity” (Atlas 29). To Colley, British national identity was forged in the heat of battle—“the men and women who were willing to support the existing order against the major threats their nation faced from without” (1). See also Balakrishnan, “National Imagination” 65–66. 62 Or, as Balibar writes: “what is decisive here is not only that the national language should be recognized as the official language, but, much more fundamentally, that it should be able to appear as the very element of the life of a people, the reality which each person may appropriate in his or her own way, without thereby destroying its identity” (98).

Works Cited Ahmad, Aijaz. In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures. London: Verso, 2000. Anderson, Benedict. Language and Power: Exploring Political Cultures in Indonesia. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1990. Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism [1983]. Rev ed. London: Verso, 1991. Anderson, Benedict. The Spectre of Comparison: Nationalism, Southeast Asia and the World. London: Verso, 1998. Anderson, Benedict. “Responses.” Grounds of Comparison: Around the Work of Benedict Anderson. Eds. Pheng Cheah and Jonathan Culler. New York: Routledge, 2003. 225–245. Axel, Brian Keith. “Poverty of the Imagination. Anderson.” Anthropological Quarterly 76 (2003): 111–133. Balakrishnan, Gopal. “The National Imagination.” New Left Review 211 (1995): 56–69. Balibar, Etienne. “The Nation Form: History and Ideology.” Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities. Trans. Etienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein. Chris Turner. Verso, 1991. 86–106. Bartels Anke, Lars Eckstein, Nicole Waller, and Dirk Wiemann. Postcolonial Literatures in English: An Introduction. Berlin: J.B. Metzler Verlag, 2019. Bhabha, Homi. “DissemiNation: Time, Narrative, and the Margins of the Modern Nation.” Nation and Narration. Ed. Homi Bhabha. London: Routledge, 1990. 291–322. Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture [1994]. London: Routledge, 2004. Boehmer, Elleke. Colonial and Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors [1995]. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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Brennan, Timothy. “The National Longing for Form.” Nation and Narration. Ed. Homi Bhabha. London: Routledge, 1990. 44–70. Breuilly, John. “Approaches to Nationalism.” Mapping the Nation. Ed. Gopal Balakrishnan. London: Verso, 1996. 146–174. Chakrabarty, Dipesh. Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. New Jersey: Princeton University, 2000. Chatterjee, Partha. “Whose Imagined Community?” Mapping the Nation. Ed. Gopal Balakrishnan. London: Verso, 1996. 214–225. Cheah, Pheng. “Grounds of Comparison.” Diacritics 29.4 (1999): 3–18. Cheah, Pheng. “Spectral Nationality: The Living On [sur-vie] of the Postcolonial Nation in Neocolonial Globalization.” Boundary 2 26.3 (1999): 225–252. Chrisman, Laura. “Nationalism and Postcolonial Studies.” The Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Literary Studies. Ed. Neil Lazarus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 183–198. Clausen, Christopher. “‘National Literatures’ in English: Toward a New Paradigm.” New Literary History 25.1 (1994): 61–72. Colley, Linda. Britons: Forging the Nation 1707–1837. London: Pimlico, 2003. Cooppan, Vilashini. Worlds Within: National Narratives and Global Connections in Postcolonial Writings. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2009. Culler, Jonathan. The Literary in Theory. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2007. Davidson, Basil. The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the NationState. London: James Currey, 1992. Dirlik, Arif. “The Postcolonial Aura: Third World Criticism in the Age of Global Capitalism.” Critical Inquiry 20.2 (1994): 328–356. Gikandi, Simon. “Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Nationalism.” Clio 36.1 (2006): 69–84. Hall, Stuart. “When was the ‘Post-Colonial’? Thinking at the Limit.” The PostColonial Question: Common Skies, Divided Horizons. Eds. Iain Chambers and Lidia Curti. London: Routledge, 1996. 242–260. Hroch, Miroslav. “From National Movement to the Fully-Formed Nation: The Nation-Building Process in Europe.” Mapping the Nation. Ed. Gopal Balakrishnan. London: Verso, 1996. 78–97. James, Paul. Nation Formation: Towards a Theory of Abstract Community. London: Sage Publications, 1996. Jusdanis, Gregory. The Necessary Nation. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2001. Lloyd, David. Anomalous States: Irish Writing and the Postcolonial Moment. Dublin: Lilliput, 1993. McClintock, Anne. “The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the Term ‘PostColonialism’.” Social Text 31/32 (1992): 84–98. McLeod, John. Beginning Postcolonialism. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000. Moretti, Franco. Atlas of the European Novel 1800–1900. London: Verso, 1999. Morey, Peter. Rohinton Mistry. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004.

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Parker, Andrew. “Bogeyman: Benedict Anderson’s ‘Derivative’ Discourse.” Diacritics 29.4 (1999): 40–57. Parry, Benita. Postcolonial Studies: A Materialist Critique. London: Routledge, 2004. Redfield, Marc. “Imagi-Nation: The Imagined Community and the Aesthetics of Mourning.” Diacritics 29.4 (1999): 58–83. Reid, Roddey. Families in Jeopardy: Regulating the Social Body in France, 1750-1910. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1993. Rizal, José. The Social Cancer [Noli me tángere (1861–1896)]. Trans. Charles E. Derbyshire. Quezon City: Giraffe, 1996. Shohat, Ella. “Notes on the ‘Post-Colonial’.” Social Text 31/32 (1992): 99–113. Slemon, Stephen. “Monuments of Empire: Allegory/Counter-Discourse/ Postcolonial Writing.” Kunapipi 9.3 (1987): 1–16. Sommer, Doris. Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1991. Suk, Jeannie. Postcolonial Paradoxes in French Caribbean Writing: Césaire, Glissant, Condé. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001. Suleri, Sara. The Rhetoric of English India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. Szeman, Imre. Zones of Instability: Literature, Postcolonialism, and the Nation. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003. Trivedi, Harish, Meenakshi Mukherjee, C. Vijayasree, and T. Vijay Kumar, eds. The Nation Across the World: Postcolonial Literary Representations. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007. Tucker, Irene. A Probable State: The Novel, the Contract, and the Jews. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000. Veer, Peter van der, ed. Nation and Migration: The Politics of Space in the South Asian Diaspora. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995. Wollman, Howard, and Philip Spencer. “‘Can Such Goodness Be Profitably Discarded?’ Benedict Anderson and the Politics of Nationalism.” The Influence of Benedict Anderson. 2006. Eds. Alistair McCleery & Benjamin A. Brabon. Edinburgh: Merchiston Press, 2007. 1–20. Young, Robert J.C. Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

2

The Historico-Political Discourse

Carl Schmitt’s Concept of the Political A crucial albeit somewhat underdeveloped part of Culler’s critique of Anderson’s concept of the nation consists of an inquiry into the possibility of rearticulating the relationship between the novel form and the nation through discourses of enmity and war. Culler briefly brings in Carl Schmitt’s concept of the political, or the ability to distinguish between friends and enemies. In this chapter, I would like to pursue this line of thought a bit further. I argue that Anderson’s concept of the imagined national community is one that avoids thinking the Schmittian notion of the political, or, to put it differently, the Andersonian imagined community is only possible insofar as the political is excluded; it constitutes itself around this exclusion. The implications of this exclusion, I will argue, is that Anderson’s definition, on the one hand, fails to take into account the continuous fractures and rifts in the national space (the theoretical lacunae Bhabha explores), but also, on the other hand, fails to acknowledge the precarious political preconditions of this space, the grey zone of warring parties each participating in the battle for territorial domination.1 The theoretical background of Schmitt’s concept of the political is the Hobbesian problem of the state of nature. Central to Hobbes’ political thought is the fictional story of a primordial time during which individuals co-existed in an atomized, stateless, and thus lawless landscape, the ‘state of nature’—a pivotal narrative not only in Schmitt’s thought but in political theory in general.2 The state of nature is essentially a warlike situation—“a war as is of every man against every man” (76), as Hobbes writes in Leviathan.3 Individuals live in perpetual fear and insecurity, anxiously watching for potential threats. Hence, there is no time for productivity or other peaceful activities, only maintaining continual readiness for fighting or escape. As Hobbes observes, “In such condition there is no place for industry … no culture of the earth, no navigation … no commodious building … no knowledge of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society” (ibid.). It is

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a place of absolute social negation, the opposite of communal identity and common values. Simultaneously, the state of nature is also paradoxically the place where people enjoy the greatest possible amount of individual freedom; every person in principle holds an absolute right to do whatever he or she prefers. However, this absolute individual right is worthless because the only entity to authorize, validate, and enforce this right is the individual him- or herself. Thus, the state of nature is a deeply unsatisfying and extremely dangerous place that leaves no one content.4 It is precisely this perpetual fear that eventually convinces terrorized, solitary, and miserable individuals to give up their right of absolute individual freedom and seek the communal, social structure ensuring a framework within which they may enjoy peace, prosperity, and security.5 The state—i.e., the opponent of the state of nature—is thus founded on collective reason; it transforms the belligerent, anxious individuals of the state of nature into citizens by molding their rational motives into a stable entity.6 In the juridico-political tradition, Hobbes’ political theory of the modern state is one devoted to the purpose of promoting the optimal prospects of individual happiness, prosperity, and development within a social collective framework. Between the state and the citizen exists a contract that binds each party to their obligations toward the collective. The state guarantees the security of the collective, while the citizen submits his or her individual freedom to the will of the sovereign “in those things which concern the common peace and safety” (Leviathan 109).7 To Schmitt, there is a danger in overemphasizing the contractual element in Hobbes’ thought because it marginalizes and perhaps even ignores the ever-present possibility of chaos and disorder. To prevent the latter, the state must be authorized with the power to protect the individual not only from other individuals but also and perhaps more crucially from him- or herself. The latter essentially involves two things. Firstly, since the state of nature is a continuous problem, the mythical force of the Leviathan is not simply anecdotal history but something that must be constantly renewed and reactivated. Secondly, the Leviathan or sovereign does not simply represent the totality of individual wills, even if the sovereign is supported by or through the totality of individual wills; the sovereign is to some extent opposed to the individuals (that is, their individuality, or rather their selfish desire for absolute and individual freedom).8 In The Concept of the Political, Schmitt articulates his skepticism regarding liberalism because it eliminates the political and replaces it with bureaucratic constitutionalism; it turns the state into a depoliticized, technocratic machine. To Schmitt, this technocratic machine is ultimately defenseless against the ever-present possibilities of chaos and disorder. The liberal-technocratic state is fatally weak because it is tied to pre-defined protocols, regulations, norms, and rules. However extensive, far-reaching, or detailed, no constitution or legal framework can anticipate every potential

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danger and future challenge. The sovereign is the ultimate legislator and arbiter of the state, and hence the ultimate entity responsible for the security of individuals in an uncertain world. This is the reason why Schmitt defines the sovereign as the one who can declare the state of exception.9 What Schmitt fears above all and which is the reason why he defines the concept of the specifically political as the ability to distinguish between friends and enemies, is the discourse of war, the dissolution of the social body—i.e., the danger of regressing into the state of nature again. To Schmitt, this is the crucial issue: how do we prevent the war of all against all?

Michel Foucault’s Society Must Be Defended Both Schmitt and Anderson draw on the idea that the modern nationstate emerges out of and, to some extent (albeit in a radically transformed way), preserves a sacred dimension, an aspect of the miraculous surviving in the profane-secular world. To Anderson, this religious dimension is articulated through an idiomatic discourse, whereas to Schmitt, the sacred is first and foremost linked to the legitimizing process of exceptional political power, one that derives from and preserves the memory of the Behemoth, war and chaos.10 Schmitt’s and Anderson’s theories can seem quite far apart, although occasionally at certain ambiguous moments, Anderson’s theory, in fact, comes close to that of Schmitt’s. Thus, Anderson writes at one point: … the great wars of this century are extraordinary … in the colossal numbers persuaded to lay down their lives … The idea of the ultimate sacrifice comes only with an idea of purity, through fatality … Dying for one’s country, which usually one does not choose, assumes a moral grandeur which dying for the Labour Party, the American Medical Association, or perhaps even Amnesty International can not rival, for these are all bodies one can join or leave at easy will. (144) Anderson here seems to concede that what essentially constitutes the imagined community, what ultimately binds it together, is an idea of community that comes into or maintains its existence through something special, namely the willingness to die in battle. It is a somewhat odd moment in Anderson’s theory because it generally tends to move in the opposite direction.11 It would be more accurate to describe Anderson’s notion of the ‘imagined community’ as one that arrives after the war has come to an end and, to some extent, has been forgotten. Anderson’s example of the “Unknown Soldier’s Tomb” commemorates the death of a person willing to die fighting for the community, but at the same time serves to eliminate the specific memory of the horror of war itself.12 It is precisely this act of forgetting that allows the imagined community to come into existence. In this sense, the word ‘imagine’ is perhaps too

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strong a word; it suggests something active, perhaps even something forced, an act of opposing the realities or facts—hence, the need for imagination. On the contrary, Anderson’s idea of the national community is one that feels ‘natural’ or ‘given’, forever having existed and forever to exist—that is, to the extent that one does not even need imagination at all, or only in a weak sense. I agree here with Culler’s point regarding Anderson’s main example of a novel articulating the imagined community, namely José Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere (1887). Culler argues that the novel provides an excess of anthropological details as if it addresses foreigners or outsiders, or at least readers who are not quite familiar with local traditions.13 To Hobbes, the imaginary impulse emerges in connection with fear of the unknown.14 The point here is that it is precisely because the national community articulated in Rizal’s novel is not yet a ‘nation’ in the Andersonian sense of an ‘imagined community’—that a strong imagination (i.e., one that is capable of imagining the not-yet-existing) is needed all the more. What Anderson’s ‘imagined community’ implies is, I would argue, more akin to a ‘negative imagination’—i.e., the difficulty of imagining anything except through the nationalist perspective.15 Precisely because one does not really need imagination within the imagined community, or only in a weak sense, Anderson’s concept cannot think the Schmittian political; it would undermine the felt naturalness of the national community, expose its unnaturalness, abstraction, artificiality, and fictional harmony. The link between Anderson’s imagined community and Schmitt’s concept of the specifically political, I will argue, is articulated through what Michel Foucault calls the ‘historico-political discourse’. Foucault develops this concept in the lecture series ‘Society Must be Defended’ (French 1996; English 2003), a transcription of a series of lectures Foucault gave at the College de France from January to March in 1976. In those lectures, Foucault outlines what I see as a crucial elaboration of the implications and consequences of both Schmitt’s concept of the specifically political and Anderson’s concept of the nation. The lectures develop a theme that became increasingly important to Foucault during the 1970s, namely that of sovereignty and, in a more general sense, power. Historically, as Antony Anghie has observed, the “sovereign European state was established through reliance on the concept of society. Once constituted, however, the sovereign asserts supremacy by presenting itself as the means by which society operates and comes into being” (99). How does sovereign power establish itself through the notion of society? In the lectures, Foucault starts by claiming that a concrete analysis of power relations cannot be based on what he calls a Hobbesian ‘juridico-political model of sovereignty’, which is premised on the assumption that the individual is in possession of natural rights and that the law is the fundamental expression of power.16 To Foucault, power takes on a radically different form; the question is not

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so much who has power or what power looks like. Instead, Foucault wants to discover “how multiple bodies, forces, energies, matters, desires, thoughts, and so on are gradually, progressively, actually, and materially constituted as subjects, or as the subject” (28)—that is, how a multiplicity of individual wills are subjugated and forced into the shape of a single body ruled by the sovereign. Foucault wants to abandon the Hobbesian model of the Leviathan, the juridico-political notion of sovereignty, and replace it with what he describes as “the techniques and tactics of domination” (34). The latter involves understanding relations of power as manifold, multiple, diverse, different, and specific. It is in this context that Foucault raises the topic of war, by which he means “an extreme [case] to the extent that war can be regarded as the point of maximum tension, or as force-relations laid bare” (46). When Foucault hypothesizes that underneath the order of peace, we find a discourse of a permanently raging war, his argument converges with Schmitt’s concept of the political.17 To Foucault, the question is when this discourse of war began.18 The argument he develops is that war, the armed conflict, constitutes a model for the understanding of social power relations, which thus leads to the hypothesis that war is not a pre-political condition or a political instrument, but rather ‘the grid of intelligibility’ in terms of modern politics; it is a hypothesis suggesting that war structures social and political relations.

The Historico-Political Discourse Foucault spends an extensive part of the lectures exploring how this model of understanding emerged, how it became consolidated during specific epochs in different places, and how it eventually was repressed, transformed, and monopolized by the emergence and consolidation of the nation-state. His starting point is Clausewitz’ famous dictum that war is politics continued with other means—which to Foucault, turns out to be itself an inversion of an earlier mode of thought, namely the discourse of war: politics itself being a continuation of war.19 Throughout the medieval age, Foucault argues, war is gradually being eliminated as the state eventually monopolizes war.20 Here, Foucault locates a paradox: the moment the state manages to expel or marginalize violence and war, something else emerges, namely what he calls the historico-political discourse, a certain belligerent way of understanding relations and institutions of power. Preceding Clausewitz’ inversion is, according to Foucault, the ‘historico-political discourse’, and it is precisely this discourse that Hobbes’ ‘juridico-political’ model of sovereignty, in Foucault’s view, seeks to destroy and eliminate.21 Foucault traces this discourse back to figures like Sir Edward Coke and John Lilburne in the 1630s,22 to whom it served the cause of English popular movements rising against absolute monarchy.23 Thus, it was employed

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by the Puritans, the Levellers, and the Diggers who promoted the idea that the English society from the eleventh century had been and remained a conquered and occupied society.24 The monarchy and the aristocracy were Norman imports, it was claimed, and the Anglo-Saxon people struggled to preserve traces of their original freedom. To some English historians such as Coke, who published a series of politically charged texts between 1600 and 1630, the most important historical events in English history were those following or rediscovering the original condition of war between two hostile races with fundamentally different institutions, dispositions, and interests. To these historians, the revolution was the latest battle of (and revenge for) the old war. Foucault describes the ‘historico-political discourse’ as: a discourse that certainly had an immense number of popular and anonymous speakers. What is this discourse saying? Well, I think it is saying this: No matter what philosophico-juridical theory may say, political power does not begin when war ends. The organization and juridical structure of power, of States, monarchies, and societies, does not emerge when the clash of arms ceases. War has not been averted. War obviously presided over the birth of States: right, peace, and laws were born in the blood and mud of battles … the law is born of real battles, victories, massacres, and conquests which can be dated and which have their horrific heroes; the law was born in burning towns and ravaged fields. It was born together with the famous innocents who died at break of day. (50; italics mine) To Foucault, the historico-political discourse is a political idea essentially claiming that the war never ended, even though institutions of power may pretend that it has. The task is thus to interpret the war that still goes on underneath what looks like peace. “Peace,” Foucault writes, “itself is a coded war” (51). This discourse comes close to Schmitt’s definition of the political—for example, when Foucault writes that “There is no such thing as a neutral subject. We are all inevitably someone’s adversary” (51), and when he talks about a divide that runs through society, the social, as “two groups, two categories of individuals, or two armies” that are “opposed to each other”: And beneath the lapses of memory, the illusions, and the lies that would have us believe that there is a ternary order, a pyramid of subordinations, beneath the lies that would have us believe that the social body is governed by either natural necessities or functional demands, we must rediscover the war that is still going on, war with all its accidents and incidents … It will end only to the extent that we really are the victors. (51; italics mine)

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The crucial point about the historico-political discourse is that the ‘I’ or ‘We’ that speaks is never neutral, even when this voice claims to be neutral, representative or objective: it is a perspectival voice inevitably situated on one or the other side of warring parties engaged in a particular battle, a voice speaking for or against particular entities within the social body. The right that this voice claims is not universal, or philosophical, but precisely historical and political, as Foucault writes: the subject who speaks in this discourse, who says ‘I’ or ‘We’, cannot, and is in fact not trying to, occupy the position of the jurist or the philosopher, or in other words the position of a universal, totalizing, or neutral subject. In the general struggle he is talking about, the person who is speaking, telling the truth, recounting the story, rediscovering memories and trying not to forget anything, well, that person is inevitably on one side or the other: he is involved in the battle, has adversaries, and is working toward a particular victory. Of course, he speaks the discourse of right, asserts a right and demands a right. But what he is demanding and asserting is ‘his’ right—he says: ‘We have a right’ These are singular rights, and they are strongly marked by a relationship of property, conquest, victory, or nature. It might be the right of his family or race, the right of superiority or seniority, the right of triumphal invasions, or the right of recent or ancient occupations. (52; italics mine) The historico-political discourse is one that establishes a direct connection between force and truth,25 and more specifically interprets force as a way of articulating a one-sided notion of truth, or a correction of the enemy’s alleged falsifications of history.26 The discourse is, as Foucault describes it, a ‘truth-weapon’.27 The emergence of this discourse brings together in a confusing mixture relations of history, politics, truth, and force—a discourse that marginalizes or even eliminates the position of the philosopher, the figure striving for universal truth. Instead, historicopolitical discourse uses truth as a means to win the war.28 At the heart of this combination of force and truth is thus a radically different conceptualization of the historical. History within the historicopolitical discourse is constantly in the process of being written and rewritten by warring entities. It is, as Foucault writes, the “rationality of calculations, strategies, and ruses; the rationality of technical procedures that are used to perpetuate the victory, to silence, or so it would seem, the war, and to preserve or invert the relationship of force” (54–55). This is a history that potentially has no definitive shape, no end, and no limits.29 It is this kind of discourse that around the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century presents itself as a radical challenge to monarchical power.30 This war or historico-political discourse raging underneath the king’s provisional peace is what Foucault

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designates a ‘race war’31 because it embodies a principle of difference that cuts through the social body: a conflict emerging amidst at least two beings or entities perceiving themselves to be irreconcilably different and that eventually generates what Balibar has called ‘fictive ethnicity’—i.e., racism embodied or institutionalized in the modern nation-state.32 In “Lecture 28 January 1976,” Foucault mentions that for a long period of time, history’s role was “to speak the right of power and to intensify the luster of power” (66). History had the function of ensuring continuity, making certain events, persons, and things memorable and dazzling and terrorizing us.33 Within the historico-political discourse—or the history of warring races—the dazzling history of sovereignty is under erosion; people no longer accept the history of the sovereign as a way of justifying power.34 The historico-political discourse is a counter-history of Nietzschean ressentiment in the sense that it speaks from the darkness of history, the history of lesser people, the defeated, colonized—of those who were left out when the question of power was decided. It is a discourse that attempts to show that sovereign power, or power in general, as well as the institutions and laws reflecting those in power, originated in false, lowly, and accidental circumstances: the fog of war, injustice, deception.35 The aim of this counter-history is not to resurrect justice in the juridico-political sense, nor is it simply a critique of power. “Power is unjust,” Foucault writes, “not because it has forfeited its noblest examples, but quite simply because it does not belong to us” (73). It is a discourse that does not seek the truth but instead wants to undermine and tear up the laws that support sovereign power.36 With the rise of this new discourse, one that presents a radically different way of conceptualizing social hierarchies, we see a number of historical endeavors striving to reorganize power constellations.37 Foucault writes: “Europe becomes populated by memories and ancestors whose genealogy it had never before written. A very different historical consciousness emerges and is formulated through this discourse on the race struggle and the call for its revival” (76). The historico-political discourse is a critical tool by which people seek to rewrite history in order to challenge sovereign power—to claim it for themselves and their partisans.38 What we have here is Foucault’s version of the origins of national consciousness, which only much later in history turns into the ‘natural’ spectacle of the Andersonian imagined community when such a rewriting is no longer simply counter-history but has become synonymous with reality itself.

Foucault’s Hobbes It is within this context of historico-political discourse that Foucault situates Hobbes’ Leviathan. Foucault’s argument is that what Hobbes reacts against is exactly the advent of this new, politicized conception of history that radically questions the legitimacy of all laws and legal

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foundations by stirring up ancient, spurious memories in order to mobilize people against the sovereign.39 Whereas Hobbes is often thought of as a political thinker of war, Foucault insists that he represents the opposite.40 What characterizes Hobbes’ state of nature is above all radical equality; individuals in the state of nature are so equal that no natural hierarchy manifests itself; anyone can kill anyone.41 Hence, Foucault argues: “What does characterize the state of war is a sort of unending diplomacy between rivals who are naturally equal. We are not at war; we are in what Hobbes specifically calls a state of war” (92). But how does this state of war, which is in fact not war at all, come to be replaced by the state, the artificial figure of the Leviathan? Hobbes outlines several ways.42 One involves people deciding to have someone represent them; this is sovereignty by institution. Then there is sovereignty by acquisition, which entails real battle. The victor may spare the lives of the vanquished, but these are not necessarily dominated since they choose to make the new warlord their representative out of fear. Hobbes then curiously adds a third form of sovereignty, that between parents and children, and argues that in both sovereignty by acquisition and parental sovereignty, the sovereign can decide to let the subordinate live or die.43 For this kind of sovereignty to exist, Foucault argues, there must be a radical will to live. Sovereignty in Hobbes, Foucault writes, “is always shaped from below, and by those who are afraid” (96). This is then what Foucault’s reading of Hobbes essentially comes down to: “Hobbes wanted to eliminate the historical reality of war, as though he wanted to eliminate the genesis of sovereignty … The establishment of sovereignty has nothing to do with war. Basically, Hobbes’ discourse is a certain ‘no’ to war” (97).44 Hobbes wants in a concrete sense to eliminate the ‘Conquest’, which of course is the event that figures like Coke and Lilburn incorporate in their historico-political discourses. This is the reason why Hobbes constantly talks about contracts and covenants between people and sovereignty, about juridico-political discourses, and about the barbarism and dangers of writing counter-histories in order to challenge political order. Foucault’s Hobbes is similar to Schmitt’s interpretation in the sense that the ‘historico-political discourse’ is essentially the barbarism, the prospect of permanent civil war, that Hobbes and Schmitt want to avoid at any cost.

Boulainvilliers and the Birth of the Nation After the emergence of the historico-political discourse in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, Foucault argues that it reappears “in France at the end of the seventeenth century, at the end of the reign of Louis XIV, and in other political struggles” (49). This time, it is the French nobility using the historico-political discourse against absolute monarchy. The main figure in Foucault’s narrative here is Comte Henri

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de Boulainvilliers (1658–1722), who wrote a history of the king’s treachery against the French aristocracy and the king’s irregular appropriation of sovereignty via secret agreements with a people of GallicRoman origins.45 What fuels Boulainvilliers’ discourse is the theme of the nation’s problematic dualism, one that eventually leads to the repudiation of the conception of society as homogeneous—that is, the rejection of the political pedagogy of the monarchy.46 What emerges here is a set of new and subversive questions regarding the (previously assumed) homogeneity of people living on the same piece of land and ruled by the same royal institution, which may lead to the potential rejection of the unified social body.47 According to Foucault, a new historical subject emerges along with Boulainvilliers; a new ‘I’ or ‘We’—that is, a group of individuals tied together by status, with their own norms and traditions.48 To Boulainvilliers, this group constitutes a ‘nation’. The concept of the nation is at this point in history not characterized by a demarcated territory or a certain system of power; there is not simply one nation, but several. The nobility is a nation on par with other nations. Boulainvilliers’ concept of the nation is an important precursor of nineteenth-century nationalism, but also concepts like race and class.49 What Foucault is interested in here is not the particular predisposition of the noble class as such, but rather how power’s way of working creates a certain intellectual weapon that can sway the opinions of the people, a new form of knowledge fueled by the politicization of history. This weapon—the historico-political discourse of the narrative of the Gauls and Germanians—becomes the wedge that the nobility attempts to drive between absolutism’s knowledge and the knowledge of the administration, and hence an attack on absolutism as such. It is a discourse, Foucault implies, which reappears every time a group is about to challenge an existing power structure in order to claim power for itself. When Foucault puts a lot of emphasis on Boulainvilliers, it is because the latter introduces a form of analysis that becomes crucial to all subsequent historico-political discourses from the eighteenth century to the present. The crucial gesture here is the importance and centrality he attributes to a renewed conceptualization of war: Until the seventeenth century, a war was essentially a war between one mass and another mass. For his part, Boulainvilliers makes the relationship of war part of every social relationship, subdivides it into thousands of different channels, and reveals war to be a sort of permanent state that exists between groups, fronts, and tactical units as they in some sense civilize one another, come into conflict with one another, or on the contrary, form alliances. There are no more multiple and stable great masses, but there is a multiple war. (162; italics mine)

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In earlier discourses, war is a disruptive episode that for a limited period suspends right. In Boulainvilliers, the war, on the contrary, reveals natural right as something abstract, and in a certain sense, fictional. There is no original or natural juridical condition. Everywhere, one finds either direct wars (including invasions, conquests, etc.), inequalities that relate to circumstances of war, or threats from hostile powers. Even if there might have existed an original equal natural law, it is too weak to resist history’s ‘inequality-generating’ forces. History has, in other words, preserved the state of nature. Furthermore, Boulainvilliers generalizes war due to the character of the battle. What or who decides that a certain nation wins a battle, and another loses it? The decisive factor here is the nature and organization of military institutions, the army: who has the weapons? War is not simply seen as invasion, leaving certain traces in society; the war is a relation that via military institutions influences and restructures the whole civil society. To Foucault, the point is not whether Boulainvilliers’ analysis is true, but rather that he discovers a way to write a history in which two basic forces are combined: the people (who are powerless) and sovereign power (that is traditionally conceived without the people).50 The historico-political discourse transforms the notion of history from essentially a form of legitimizing and glorifying the king and his right—into an idea of history as a form of an ongoing struggle, a war of illegitimate conquerors and rulers who have covered up their illegitimacy through false histories.51 Before I move on to Foucault’s theoretical ideas about how the historico-political discourse becomes monopolized by the nation-state, I briefly want to anticipate the wider argument of this book by listing some of the multiple sites where this discourse has re-emerged in more recent times within many postcolonial contexts, especially from around the 1950s to the mid-1970s. The implication here is not simply that the historico-political discourse as a European phenomenon reappears elsewhere, but rather that this discourse was always from its first appearance in history distinctly postcolonial: a postcolonial event that speaks across historical and geographical trajectories. Just a cursory glance at the list of postcolonial sites from the second half of the twentieth century—e.g., African countries like Ghana (independence 1957), Cameroon (1960) Senegal (1960), Somalia (1960), Nigeria (1960), Algeria (1962), and Kenya (1963)—indicates two obvious things related to my argument: firstly, as a common denominator, a deep and profound engagement not with the imagined community, but rather with intensely disturbing political questions about the fractured, disrupted social body emerging within borders often arbitrarily created by colonizers, meaning more specifically a difficult transitional phase during which distinct regions, tribes, people (often speaking different languages, and with long histories of mutual hostility), and religious communities as well as other forms of

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affiliation and association would have to find a way to come together, live together, perhaps even identify with each other in what eventually would become an imagined community—i.e., a social constellation moving beyond the unifying anti-colonial experiences of having a shared enemy. The second thing is the prominent role of the realist novel in these contexts or, more concretely, forms of realism that engage with the specifically political against the background of specific historical contexts. It goes without saying here that the latter encompasses many kinds of specialized forms of realism like nineteenth-century realism, social realism, critical realism, historical realism, naturalism, psychological realism, lyrical realism, animistic realism, and even modernist realism. But what is so characteristic of novels like Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born or Fragments (Ghana), Mongo Beti’s Perpétue (Cameroon), Ousmane Sembène’s God’s Bits of Wood (Senegal), Nuruddin Farah’s Blood in the Sun trilogy (Somalia), Chinua Achebe’s A Man of the People (Nigeria), Rachid Mimouni’s Le Printemps n’en sera que plus beau (Algeria), and Ngũgĩ’s Petals of Blood (Kenya) is the preeminent focus on the political relations between the individual and collective levels along a historically specific context, and an acute awareness of the fact that the formation of the social body is precisely not a naturally occurring phenomenon. Thus, it is a kind of literature keenly attuned to the specifically political, articulating a notion of what it means to be ‘postcolonial’ both in a local, specific sense and in more general ways akin to other sites of the historico-political discourse emerging at other times in history. However, this notion of the ‘postcolonial’ differs from what the term has come to signify within postcolonial studies—which, as I have argued, makes it easier to understand why the field generally has tended to ignore literary realism.

The French Revolution: The Birth of a Nation Foucault’s historical trajectory eventually leads to the argument that the historico-political discourse becomes colonized by the state, a process that successfully occurs with and during the French Revolution and its aftermath.52 In the decades prior to the Revolution, the king mobilizes counter-attacks on the historico-political discourse by trying to regain control over the relations between politics and historical knowledge. Thus, from around the 1760s, the king attempts to organize and administer historical knowledge through institutions, libraries, and ministries of history.53 Foucault writes at length about how various fields of knowledge were subsumed by the state, such as disciplinary technologies, science, and history.54 The generalized war—the historico-political discourse—is, in Foucault’s view, constitutive of the production and management of historical knowledge throughout the eighteenth century. As Elden has argued, “In The Order of Things, a decade previously,

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Foucault had aimed to show how general grammar, natural history, and the analysis of wealth became linguistics, biology and political economy: in ‘Society Must Be Defended’ there is a politicization of this argument” (Foucault’s Last Decade 40).55 During the revolutionary epoch, the war is not simply understood as something that is necessary in order to protect and maintain society, nor is it simply excluded from the historical discourse, but rather limited, differentiated, and subjugated. This development occurs simultaneously with a reformulation of the concept of the nation-state.56 It is at this point that the assertion ‘we have to defend ourselves against society’ will be displaced with the inverted claim that provides the title of the lecture series: ‘Society Must Be Defended’. Balibar has described this process as the imaginary emergence of the concept of the ‘people’ inscribing itself in real structures: It is that of a community which recognizes itself in advance in the institution of the state, which recognizes that state as ‘its own’ in opposition to other states and, in particular, inscribes its political struggles within the horizon of that state—by, for example, formulating its aspirations for reform and social revolution as projects for the transformation of ‘its national state’. (“The Nation Form” 93) Henceforth, Foucault claims, the role of war “is no longer to constitute history but to protect and preserve society; war is no longer a condition of existence for society and its political relations, but the precondition for its survival in its political relations” (216).57 The crucial figure here is Abbè Sieyes, and more particularly his text about the third estate from 1789.58 In the absolute monarchy’s understanding, there is no nation—or, it exists only via the monarch’s unifying body. The king’s body and its physical-legal relation to every single subject constitute the nation’s body; in contrast to this understanding, the nobility articulates a plurality of ‘nations’, or at least two nations. Here, it is not the king’s body that constitutes the nation; on the contrary, it is the nation that creates a king in order to fight against other nations.59 In Sieyes, one finds a definition of the nation that differs from both absolutism and the nobility,60 a definition that becomes the matrix for an extensive political discourse articulating a new relationship between the particular and the universal. Contrary to Boulainvillier’s historico-political discourse (aimed at restoring lost rights), Sieyes’ new discourse relates to virtuality, a coming future whose starting point is already here in the present. This new matrix also has the theoretical consequence that the nation’s character is not primarily decided by its relation to other nations; the crucial thing is not a horizontal relation (to other groups), but a vertical relation to those individuals who are able to form and maintain a state. The nation’s function and historical role are no longer about achieving

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dominance and rule in relation to other nations, but about governing itself, to unfold and guarantee the protection of its own entities, resources, and forces. This becomes the basis of an understanding of history according to which civil relations gradually replace relations of war. The war as a dynamic of understanding is replaced with a different kind of struggle—not an armed confrontation, but a rivalry and a striving toward the universalization of the state. This fight takes place first and foremost in and around the economy, the institutions, means of production, and administration. In relation to this civil fight, the military war is (once again) made an exception (to peace, which becomes the norm), a crisis, a rupture, or a temporary episode.61 Foucault then suggests that the French Revolution, in fact, did not cut off the head of the king.62 Rather, “The Revolution finished what the kings had begun, and literally speaks its truth. The Revolution has to be read as the culmination of the monarchy; a tragic culmination perhaps, but a culmination that is politically true” (232).63 This historical narrative thus presents the people as the legitimate heirs of the monarchy.64 This historical discourse is one that, according to Foucault, “makes the present function as the moment of fullness … From this moment [onward] all the historical processes … finally reach their culminating point in the constitution of a Statist totality that is in the hands of a national collectivity” (233; italics mine). The consequences of this historical development are briefly explored in the last lecture in ‘Society Must be Defended’ but elaborated more extensively elsewhere.65 During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a variety of disciplinary techniques of power emerge, serving the purpose of optimizing the capabilities of the human body. In the second half of the eighteenth century, these disciplinary techniques are supplemented by another set of techniques and strategies, targeting larger groups, populations, and their life processes like birth, death, illness, and so on—i.e., what Foucault calls biopolitics. Foucault traces the shift from the notion of war understood as the condition of a society’s existence to the idea of a society’s biological survival: society must be defended.66 Biological survival is dependent on the identification of the figure of the enemy, who is both internal and permanent; the enemy as someone (or something) threatening the health, progress, happiness, and meaning of the population. What must be defended is less the territorial demarcation line in a physical and geographical sense (which by now is secure), but rather the necessary conditions for the optimal reproduction of a domestic social body. Thus, the aim and purpose of war are no longer to defeat and keep out the external enemy at the border of the nation-territory, but rather to constantly eradicate traces of the internal enemy in whatever (biological) shape it comes: impure, criminalized life that endangers the national body politic. Paradoxically, biopolitical enmity exterminates life on an

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unprecedented scale in order to create and promote life, health, and vitality. Biopolitics seeks to optimize the former and terminate the latter with a distinction between ‘worthy life’ and ‘unworthy life’. It is in this sense that the killing of life becomes part of the process of sustaining and promoting life; “entire populations are mobilized for the purpose wholesale slaughter in the name of life necessity” (History 137).67 Racism in the modern sense should, according to Foucault, be understood as originally related to a phase in the development of power as war.68

Lukacs’s Historico-Political Discourse In the afterword to the English edition of ‘Society Must be Defended’, “Situating the Lectures,” Alessandro Fontana and Mauro Bertani speculate on the possibility that Foucault, in formulating his concept of the historico-political discourse, might have been inspired by the German historian Friedrich Meinecke.69 In a general sense, both Meinecke and Foucault address the use and empowerment of history for political purposes, although Meinecke’s concept of ‘historism’ is somewhat different from Foucault’s ‘historico-political discourse’.70 Fontana and Bertani furthermore assert that Lukács also addresses the discourse of race wars in the late work The Destruction of Reason, although this is again a rather abstruse connection.71 However, Lukács’s 1937 work The Historical Novel does indeed outline a vision similar to Foucault’s historico-political discourse and which, crucially, places the novel form at the center of this politicization of the concept of the historical.72 The standard reception of The Historical Novel is that it conceptualizes the historical novel as a genre emerging out of romantic nationalism and eventually ends in ideological delusions once the middle class becomes dominant after the failed 1848 revolutions.73 This reading is essentially correct, I believe, although it fails to acknowledge the way in which Lukács understands the genre as symptomatic of the politicization of history as a ‘weapon’ in the legitimization and mobilizations of political forces—that is, much in the same way as Foucault envisions the driving forces of the historico-political discourses. The Lukácsian historical novel is closely connected to the historical formation of an actual bourgeois consciousness during the beginning of the nineteenth century. Lukács talks explicitly about “the national idea” (Historical 25) in connection with the advent of the historical novel as a genre, although this idea is closer to Foucault’s historico-political discourse than Benedict Anderson’s imagined community; it is nationalism less as a stable entity and hence concrete reality, and more as a fragile collective subject haunted by immediate memories of civil war, conquest, colonization, unrest, internal strife, combat, and division.74 To Lukács, the rise of the historical novel coincides with the first formations of the “modern mass

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army” (24). It is against the background of national wars and conflicts throughout Europe that a new historical perspective emerges that stresses the specificity of each nation and its history. The awareness of but also a sense of being homeless in historical time constitutes the departing point for the modern genre of the historical novel, which for Lukács becomes a paradigm of historical interpretation in times of rupture.75 Historical awareness is essentially the awareness of the necessity of thinking—indeed, imagining, artificially, unnaturally—the community as collective, an artificial mass experience, and furthermore the awareness that the present is never just a given, but conditioned by a specific history: “the concrete (i.e. historical) significance of time and place” (21).76 Lukács writes: “It was the French Revolution, the revolutionary wars and the rise and fall of Napoleon, which for the first time made history a mass experience, and moreover on a European scale” (23). The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars created an urgent demand for a national, common, and popular identity.77 Previously, wars were waged by and fought between small professional armies, often in locales far removed from civilians.78 With the French Revolution, this radically changes: In its defensive struggle against the coalition of absolute monarchies, the French Republic was compelled to create mass armies. The quantitative difference between mercenary and mass armies is precisely a question of their relations with the mass of the population. If in place of the recruitment or pressing into professional service of small contingents of the declassed, a mass army is to be created, then the content and purpose of the war must be made clear to the masses by means of propaganda. (23; italics mine)79 This spread of nationalist literary propaganda, Lukács notes, occurs not only in France but also throughout Europe. Such propagandist narratives cannot simply describe an isolated war; in order to move (‘unnaturally’ imagined) masses into action, these narratives must reveal … the social content, the historical presuppositions and circumstances of the struggle, to connect up the war with the entire life and possibilities of the nation’s development … The inner life of a nation is linked with the modern mass army in a way it could not have been with the absolutist armies of the earlier period. (24) The way in which Lukács links literature to nationalist propaganda brings his argument into close dialogue with Foucault’s notion of the historico-political discourse;80 we are back in the dirty terrain of warlike relations, a landscape in which history, politics, and force constellations

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are combined with the aim of winning the battle. The role of literary imagination, Lukács argues, is absolutely integral to the endeavor of mobilizing the masses—or, as Balibar has observed, “to produce the people” (“The Nation Form” 93; italics mine), precisely because such a notion does not exist naturally for all time. Ordinary people, civilians, need to imagine not the nation but the existential threat of war and how war potentially will change everyday lives to be moved to action.81 This kind of collective imagining does not come about naturally on its own; it has to be created, produced. It would require an event like the French Revolution to initiate and consolidate the kind of imagination that mobilized the people, the peasantry, the lower classes—those making up the numbers of the professional mass army.82 As Lukács writes: … it is clear that these movements—real mass movements—inevitably conveyed a sense and experience of history to broad masses. The appeal to national independence and national character is necessarily connected with a re-awakening of national history, with memories of the past, of past greatness, of moments of national dishonor, whether this results in a progressive or reactionary ideology. (25)83 What Lukács articulates here coincides with the process Foucault identifies during which the nation-state eventually appropriates and monopolizes the historico-political discourse. Lukács’s historical novel offers a kind of collective imagination of a given people’s history that intensifies the historico-political discourse to the extent that it eventually becomes interchangeable with the concept of reality itself. As a response to Legitimist Restoration pseudo-historicism, the defenders of progress must, Lukács argues, stress the historical necessity of the French Revolution.84 To argue this involves a new kind of historical thinking: not simply an unhistorical struggle between reason and unreason, but the (Hegelian) idea that history itself “is the bearer and realizer of human progress” (27).85 To Lukács, the most efficient historical art brings “the past to life as the prehistory of the present, in giving poetic life to those historical, social and human forces which, in the course of a long evolution, have made our present-day life what it is and as we experience it” (53). The formal dynamic of the historical novel articulates the past, present, and future within a coherent perspective as a corrective to a history-less society; it presents historical time as linearirreversible temporality, where the past is seen as the precondition and necessary pre-history of the present. In Lukács’s view, the first representative of this new historical dynamic is Walter Scott, whose plots typically revolve around times of national crisis; these become the background against which various epochal conflicts are played out. In Scott’s historical novel, the protagonist is often a relatively unhistorical, neutral figure who, rather than interfering

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directly with the process of historical formation (like world-historical figures), becomes a link between different historical conflicts. The main character, a plastic figure more a ‘type’ than an individual, thus illuminates a form of experienced history within the larger historical paradigm of the novel. By becoming subject to the events, the protagonist in the historical novel is shaped or traversed by history, albeit without creating it. In this sense, Lukács observes an inner kinship between Scott’s historical novel form and the epic: “In epic, the individual is, so to speak, subject to the event; the event over-shadows the human personality by its magnitude and importance, drawing our attention away from him by the interestingness and multiplicity of its images” (Historical 35). To Lukács, Scott is able to capture epochal types that articulate the historical event.86 The difference between epic and novel is that the protagonist in the epic is a universal hero, a brilliant character in every way, whereas Scott’s characters are typical and hence average.87 Lukács writes: Scott presents great crises of historical life in his novels. Accordingly, hostile social forces, bent on one another’s destruction, are everywhere colliding. Since those who lead these warring forces are always passionate partisans of their respective sides, there is the danger that their struggle will become a merely external picture of mutual destruction incapable of arousing human sympathies and enthusiasms of the reader. It is here that the compositional importance of the mediocre hero comes in. Scott always chooses his principal figures such as may, through character and fortune, enter into human contact with both camps. The appropriate fortunes of such a mediocre hero, who sides passionately with neither of the warring camps in the great crisis of his time can provide a link of this kind without forcing the composition. (36–37) It is precisely the mediocrity and averageness of the historical novel’s protagonist that makes him or her nationally representative. The averageness of the protagonist is also what allows the novel to transcend the political problem of the historico-political discourse—that is, civil war. For Scott realizes, Lukács argues, … that no civil war in history has been so violent as to turn the entire population without exception into fanatical partisans of one or other of the contending camps. Large sections of people have always stood between the camps with fluctuating sympathies now for this side, now for the other. And these fluctuating sympathies have often played a decisive role in the actual outcome of the crisis. In addition, the daily life of the nation still goes on amidst the most terrible civil war. (37)

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There is war, stirred by the imagination of the historico-political discourse, and then there is the mass body of individuals, some of whom, temporarily, disloyally, without ever being fully convinced, support one side or another. Lukács’s historical novel is one that captures a median point embodied in the average main character, which both intensifies the partisan historico-political discourse, but also perspectivizes or rather elevates it to a level of collective reality as such.88 Similar to a point made in Theory of the Novel, Lukács argues that the compositional principle becomes more important than ever in the historical novel.89 In Scott’s novelistic composition of history, Lukács writes, the historical ‘here and now’ … means that certain crises in the personal destinies of a number of human beings coincide and interweave within the determining context of an historical crisis. It is precisely for this reason that his manner of portraying the historical crisis is never abstract, the split of the nation into warring parties always runs through the centre of the closest human relationships. (41) The personal crisis mirrors the crisis of collective-historical importance; this is how Scott avoids the abstract. The historical novel’s major contribution to the historico-political discourse is essentially the avoidance of the abstract by way of linking the personal to the collective, whereby it establishes a way of imagining this discourse all the more directly. Lukács writes: What matters therefore in the historical novel is not the re-telling of great historical events, but the poetic awakening of the people who figured in those events. What matters is that we should re-experience the social and human motives which led men to think, feel and act just as they did in historical reality. (42) In fact, the further removed the average main character is from the event of collective-historical importance, the more imagination—and hence the notion of the fictional (as opposed to concrete reality)—is needed. The popular imagination emerges through the distance between power and the people. Lukács writes: The closer the ‘maintaining individuals’ are to the ground, the less fitted they are for historical leadership, the more distinctly and vividly do these disturbances make themselves felt in their everyday lives, in their immediate, emotional responses … It must disclose artistically the connection between the spontaneous reaction of the masses and the historical consciousness of the leading personalities. (44)

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When Lukács writes that “the relation between individual and nation in the age of heroes require that the most important figure should occupy the central position, while in the historical novel he is necessarily only a minor character” (45), he is again stressing the importance of imagination as a way of reducing the danger of abstraction and distance; the larger the community of individuals and the more divided this community is, the greater the need for a strong imagination. In the epic, the antagonism occurs within and in relation to a relatively small and homogenous community; in the historical novel, the individual is “a representative of one of the many contending classes and strata” (47). The historical novel is an important development of the notion of historico-political discourse in the sense that it introduces a medium for imagination that reduces historical abstraction to the extent that the entire social body may be included; in this sense, the historical novel intensifies the historico-political discourse.90 Thus, it becomes a genre crucial in terms of the development occurring around the French Revolution and its aftermath, the time during which the notion of historico-political discourse is gradually monopolized by as well as absorbed into that of the nation-state. Commenting on Scott’s Ivanhoe, Lukács writes: He makes it very clear that this opposition is above all one between Saxon serfs and Norman feudal lords. But, in a true historical manner, he goes further than this opposition … Scott sees and shows with eminent plasticity how important sections of the Saxon nobility sink into apathy and inertia, how others again are only waiting for the opportunity to strike a compromise with the more moderate sections of the Norman nobility whose representative is Richard Coeur de Lion. (49) Lukács’s historical novel ultimately strives beyond the partisan views of historico-political discourse by elevating the latter to the level of collective—un-transcendable, indivisible—reality as such. At one point, Lukács observes that the genre of the historical novel “has a very clear historical-political and popular content” (49), which might easily lead to divisive and partisan views; however, as Lukács writes, Scott’s great artistic aim, in portraying the historical crises of popular life, is to show the human greatness which is liberated in its important representatives by a disturbance of this all-embracing kind. There is no doubt that, consciously or unconsciously, it was the experience of the French Revolution which awoke this tendency in literature. (51) Lukács’s humanism here—‘human greatness’—simply refers to a point at which reality is no longer experienced as divided and partial, but precisely

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the opposite, at least among members of the national community. To Lukács, Scott can identify the transformational forces that eventually create the (imagined) nation as well as its people: “Scott sees and portrays the complex and intricate path which led to England’s national greatness and to the formation of the national character” (54). When Lukács talks about type, middling hero, etc., he is in fact addressing the articulation of a normative political ideal; how things within a political perspective ought to be (but presented as if this ideal had already become constitutive of reality itself). One brief comment before I move on to discuss Lukács’s reflections on nineteenth-century realism and the consolidation of the nation-state. As several scholars have observed, Walter Scott’s engagement with the novel form’s representation of collective crises in history has seen a remarkable revival within many postcolonial contexts such as Chinua Achebe’s wellknown village novels, including Things Fall Apart (1958), No Longer at Ease (1960), and Arrow of God (1964), which as Nicholas Brown rightly argues, reinvent the historical novel “in the precise Lukácsian sense” (194). What is central to these novels is, above all, the politicization of the relationship between individual and collective, and in a further sense historicization of the unhistorical life—individual lives suddenly caught up in events of world-historical significance. Out of this often turbulent and violent process, the postcolonial historical novel envisions or imagines contours of a collective reality, one that is not simply abstract or distant but precisely brought down to a level of the concrete because of this novelistic individual-collective perspective.91 I will discuss these issues further in the last chapter

Necessary Anachronism and ‘1848’ Derived from Goethe and Hegel, Lukács’s concept of ‘necessary anachronism’ attempts to dissolve the sharp distinction between a historical ‘before’ and ‘now’; ‘necessary anachronism’, Lukács writes, “can emerge organically from historical material, if the past portrayed is clearly recognized and experienced by contemporary writers as the necessary prehistory of the present” (61). To Lukács, the novelist must endow his or her characters with a greater historical awareness than would have seemed historically plausible. The crucial problem here is the relationship between past and present, and more specifically, the question of how to represent it in narrative form. To historicists like Ernst Troeltsch and Wilhelm Dilthey, historical phenomena are generally viewed as einmalig or unique, which means that a given past epoch can only be understood in terms of its own time. The question is: how can the historian transcend the present time’s epistemological perspective? To Lukács, the notion of ‘necessary anachronism’ seeks to avoid this problem by having characters expressing thoughts and feelings that are

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historically insightful in an almost implausible, uncanny way. Thus, Lukács (via Scott) presents a way of representing the historical in a narrative form that articulates the continuity of past and present. Implicit in this concept is the idea that it is possible to ‘translate’ the past into the present, a process by which the past is seen as being part of the present—that is, as the present’s causally necessary pre-history. However, the idea of ‘necessary anachronism’ must not be conceived as a ‘modernization’ of history—that is, a projection of the present onto the past. Instead, one must recognize from the present stage of historical development, and despite the specificity of each historical epoch, the possible conditions for progression toward the later, well-known historical epoch. Operating with a chronological-linear, causal, and irreversible conception of temporality, Lukács argues that the historical novel form thus possesses an explanatory power to capture the essence of history. The actual history’s narratability and representability, Lukács suggests, is possible insofar as history becomes part of the history of the present. As a narrative, the historical novel re-enacts the narrative elements of history—the national moments of crises, ruptures, the antagonistic forces of production that disrupt continuity—and thus creates (or indeed imagines) a reality from it. To Lukács, the historical novel finds its aesthetic culmination in the novels of Balzac. With Balzac, we see the culmination of the kind of style today most often associated with traditional or classic realism. In this realist style, the collective everyday life of people takes the foreground, while the historico-political gradually recedes into the background; the latter is still there, but considerably less prominent than in Scott’s combative historical novels.92 It is during this time that literary realism not only intensifies the historico-political discourse but gradually replaces it with a notion of reality itself—what becomes the pre-conditions for Anderson’s imagined community.93 To Lukács, the year 1848 is extremely important; this is the year of the failed European revolutions94 and thus the moment the progressive middle-class—Lukács’s collective subject—betrays its ideals and loses faith in the future. Subsequently, the sense of the historical—and by implication realism as a progressive style—changes from being politically revolutionary to becoming more reactionary. After 1848, Lukács argues, bourgeois literature becomes superficial and empty, mere entertainment—a reflection of aesthetic confusion, alienation, and escapism. To Lukács, the post-1848 historical novel is obsessed with details such as milieus, costumes, decorations, and surfaces at the expense of the narrative dynamic, thus losing the perspective of the social totality. This is literature that promotes the interests of a class that views history not as progressive and developing, but on the contrary, as static and unchanging. In a wider perspective, what Lukács is referring to here is an inward turn—history reduced to a background against which the individual-private sphere is

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explored ever more intensively. A change occurs from an epic ‘we’ to an individual ‘I’, after which the novel form’s ability to depict history epically is no longer possible. After 1848, a new type of historical novel arises. Lukács’s key example here is Flaubert’s Salammbô (1862), whose ‘exotic’ and ‘decadent’ style in Lukács’s view distorts and trivializes history. Whereas Balzac integrates individual actions into a larger, dynamic process of transformation whereby his novels generate a continuous narrative perspective, this aspect is generally absent in Flaubert’s style; his characters inhabit small, self-sufficient milieus while their projects and endeavors—their dreams and hopes—emerge in isolation, far from any form of meaningful interaction or redemption. To Lukács, Flaubert projects a contemporaneity into the concept of history whereby the latter becomes increasingly irrelevant, flattened, and superficial: … [Flaubert] chooses an historical subject whose inner socialhistorical nature is of no concern to him and to which he can only lend the appearance of reality in an external, decorative, picturesque manner by means of the conscientious application of archaeology. But at some point he is forced to establish a contact with both himself and the reader, and this he does by modernizing the psychology of his characters. (188–189) To Lukács, Flaubert’s writing is merely an example of a widespread tendency in the late nineteenth century; an obsession with the exotic, stylized, and excessive, which turns history into something incomprehensible and “of no concern to us” (Historical 195), that is, to the collective social body as a whole. Lukács interprets Flaubert’s orientalism in Salammbô as the first signs of a process of alienation and dehumanization invading modern literature.95 While Lukács pursues the decline of post-1848 realism mainly through the lenses of class struggle, my argument expands this approach by bringing it into dialogue with Foucault’s theoretical framework; the time around the mid-nineteenth century coincides with what Foucault identifies as the nation-state’s successful incorporation and monopolization of historico-political discourse.96 Or, it is the moment when a change occurs from ‘we have to defend ourselves against society’ to ‘society must be defended’; it is during this process that the nation-state is increasingly experienced as a self-evident, ‘natural’, and normative discourse—i.e., the Andersonian imagined community.97 The historico-political discourse questions and ultimately seeks to undermine the official genealogies of kings and monarchs by creating and insisting on subversive interpretations of history in the attempt to expose the king’s false legitimacy. The nation-state’s monopolization of historico-political discourse incorporates this latter force into an experience of the total

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community; as an un-transcendable space, a negative imagination, an indivisible reality—that is, something that does not have a compatible outside. Subsequently, the national becomes the monopolized frame through which experience appears in the form of something natural and self-evident—experiences of fullness, of home, and of reality as such.98 It is the fictionality of an untranscendable space as the universalization of the particular that is so crucial to the understanding of literary realism as a politically significant form. In a formal sense, literary realism in the same way as the form of nationalist discourse constitutes an untranscendable discourse; it contains everything, there is nothing compatible outside its discourse, nothing but otherness—that is, a fundamentally different world, a different reality, something that threatens the realist discourse’s realism. Literary realism’s ontology is defined through its radical incompatibility with that which lies beyond the specific norms of what constitutes realism within a given social discourse. The formal mechanisms of Anderson’s notion of the imagined community—empty homogenous time, simultaneity, and unison experience—simply point to the inability to transcend the national imagination. It is through the national imagination that one imagines the rest of the world as a particularization of the universal. As Neal observes, “The national is in many ways an expression of the particular, but it is also a particular expression of the universal. The ‘enemy’ does not simply pose a threat to ‘our way of life’, but frequently comes to offend the liberal universalistic ideas that come to be expressed within national cultural and political space” (396). This is a negative imagination that becomes consolidated and monopolized to the extent that it is no longer seen, felt, imagined, or experienced as fictional or fictitious (as opposed to concrete reality), but on the contrary, as self-evident, objective, concrete reality itself. Anderson notes how the scientific comparative study of languages got underway in the later eighteenth century in conjunction with the spread of national print-languages, something which “could only be accommodated by homogeneous, empty time” (Imagined 70)—i.e., the standardization (and invention) of collective national experience. To David Gramling, however, this scientific work had already to some extent begun in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; “the scientific discovery of monolingualism preceded and laid the groundwork for subsequent (imperial, national, civic, and disciplinary) technologies of governance, ultimately making a global federation of isomorphic language-states plausible and thinkable” (10). The scientific construction (or invention) of a discourse of monolingualism that subsequently becomes the basis of national print-language is a linguistic phenomenon, and this is also how Anderson ultimately defines nationalism. But the imagined community accommodated by homogeneous, empty time is anything but a linguistic phenomenon: it is precisely the (monolingually constructed) experience

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of the world as reality itself—that is, a negative imagination, the world seen through monolingual reality.99 The conceptual force of Anderson’s ‘imagined community’ is negative in the sense that it limits the national imagination from imagining anything except through the imagined community. This is what Hobsbawm calls the “idea of ‘us’”: “as a body of people united by an uncountable number of things ‘we’ have in common—a ‘way of life’ in the widest sense, a common territory of existence in which we live, whose landscape is familiar and recognizable” (“Ethnicity” 263).100 Henceforth, the frames of the national space are simply tacitly taken for granted, as natural as the weather. Katherine Verdery, following the anthropologist John Borneman, formulates a distinction between nationalism and nationness, “the former referring to conscious sentiments that take the nation as an object of active devotion, the latter to daily interactions and practices that produce an inherent and often unarticulated feeling of belonging, of being at home” (229). The affective notion of nationness, I would argue, is closer to Anderson’s imagined community than nationalism. In this sense, it is a mistake to pursue a deconstructive reading of Anderson’s theory by reading the imagination as essentially a series of unstable signs; the imagined community is precisely that which is not a (fictional) sign, but rather an untranscendable horizon—that is, experienced affectively as concrete reality itself.101 The imaginative work of literary realism precedes this monopolization of reality; Jane Austen is, after all, only writing fiction, signs on paper, stylizations, not reality itself.102 The reason why realism declines around the mid-nineteenth century is that this style eventually ceases to be merely fictional. When Lukács criticizes naturalism, a style he associates with the time after 1848, he is at the same time talking about what Benjamin calls ‘empty homogenous time’, and which Anderson identifies as the time of the nation. The decline of realism is a sign of the nation-state’s completion of the process of monopolizing historico-political discourse—a unified, imagined community of individuals fatefully bound together, one that was always meant to be and always will be. It is the point at which there is nothing more to question, in a political sense; there are no more social contracts to negotiate, no more buried histories to recover or past events to be avenged, no more wars to fight with one’s neighbor.103 At this point, realism loses its fictionality while increasingly becoming politically irrelevant, transitioning into being primarily a genre of epistemological interest—and hence, the point at which individuals gain the luxury to turn inwards, a situation that allows modernism and other subjectivepsychological genres to emerge in the late nineteenth century and flourish into the twentieth. This is where Benjamin begins to worry about fascism and the aestheticization of politics.104 Lukács’s criticism of abstract, modernist techniques, as Mary Gluck points out, “had to do not so much with the modernists’ complicity with fascism but, rather, with their

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impotence to forge effective weapons against it” (881).105 The argument I have been pursuing in this chapter is close to this discussion, although I would argue that fascism is essentially driven by a particular populistnationalist sentiment seeking to revive the realm of the specifically political within an already existing social body. My argument about the decline of realism (and subsequently the emergence of non-realist aesthetic forms such as modernism) is primarily related to a process of radical depoliticization enabled by the consolidation of the imagined community, which may, of course, at some point reopen itself to questions about the specifically political. Impressionism, psychological realism, symbolism, expressionism, surrealism, modernism, anti-realism; what these genres have in common is that they are premised on the tacit assumption that citizens will no longer have to worry about the identity and essence of who possesses the historico-political right to rule the territory they inhabit; they do. The moral notion of the national identity is solid, no longer unnatural, fictitious, questionable, or uncertain. At this stage, the collective ‘we’ will no longer have to worry about itself, who this ‘we’ in fact is, what it consists of—and hence will no longer have to worry seriously about the specifically political. The war is over, it no longer threatens to destroy our concept of reality; indeed, it is no longer part of our reality. This chapter has looked at some of the precarious political preconditions of what Anderson calls the imagined community, and which more specifically relate to the distinctly postcolonial challenge of what Foucault calls historico-political discourse, an elaborate and historicized version of Schmitt’s concept of the specifically political; a divided, unstable, insecure social body haunted by a multiplicity of entities claiming to represent the collective ‘we’. Postcolonial studies as an academic field rose to prominence in the late 1970s and 1980s, a time during which the West manifested its global-universal dominance politically, militarily, technologically, economically, culturally, and morally. As Schmitt observes in The Concept of the Political: “A world in which the possibility of war is utterly eliminated, a completely pacified globe, would be a world without the distinction of friend and enemy and hence a world without politics” (35). In many ways, this was the new world order in which the field of postcolonial studies formulated its most influential insights, largely centered around epistemological-representational critiques of the West. Despite being profoundly occupied with political issues—e.g., the politics of representation—the field, however, tacitly operated along the depoliticized horizon of the end of history. This is one of the main reasons why postcolonial studies came to misread literary realism in such a spectacularly ironic way, precisely because of a profound blindness to questions relating to the specifically political. It is perhaps even more ironic given the fact that the historical reality of what constitutes the ‘postcolonial’ in so many ways directly overlaps with

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what is involved in the concept of the specifically political, an unstable social body divided by entities that do not add up to a naturally formed collective ‘we’; much more, I would argue, than with notions of writing back to empire, even if the political instability of the ‘we’ no doubt in large part was and continues to be caused by violent historical trajectories of imperialism and colonialism. When Celia Britton, with specific reference to the French Caribbean historical context, writes that “In these violently dislocated populations, there could be no ‘natural’ sense of community evolving peacefully over the years; rather, the problem of community … generates deep-seated anxiety” (1), she describes the challenge confronted by most if not all newly decolonized societies. Literary realism is a style negotiating and articulating the specifically political problem of the divided social body and its future.

Notes 1 For further discussion of this issue, see Balakrishnan, “National Imagination” 66. 2 See Hobbes’s Leviathan, “XIII: Of the Natural Conditions of Mankind as Concerning their Felicity and Misery” 76–88. 3 As Spieker comments, “The state of nature is a state of war, then, in the sense that it continually gives rise to different and competing attempts to make sense of and order life. In this sense, the Hobbesian state of nature can be understood as a ‘field of forces’, the constituent elements of which are different and competing wills to truth/knowledge, which, in turn, drive different and competing wills to power/authority. It is the multiplicity of wills to knowledge and power and the multiple and mutually exclusive pursuits of security emanating from the immanent condition of mankind that produce the state of war” (“Foucault and Hobbes” 193). 4 See Hobbes, Leviathan 78. 5 As Blits has argued, the perpetual fear that eventually drives individuals out of the state of nature is not merely the fear of other individuals, “but a deeper, more radical fear … man’s deepest insecurity arises not from what men can know of one another, but from what they cannot know of the natural world … Hobbesian fear is best understood as a primal, indeterminate fear of the unknown” (“Hobbesian” 418). In this connection, imagination plays a crucial role; individuals in the state of nature, Hobbes argues, tend to imagine the unknown causes of effects (see Leviathan 64)—and which eventually leads individuals toward the religious. The Hobbesian sovereign, the common power keeping everyone in awe, is a secular version of ‘the first mover’. See also Spieker, “Foucault and Hobbes” 196. 6 In The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes, Schmitt writes that the leviathan is a mortal god “who transforms wolves into citizens and through this miracle proves himself to be a god” (31–32). 7 Hobbes talks about a “covenant of every man with every man, in such a manner as if every man should say to every man I authorise [sic] and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition, that thou give up thy right to him, and authorize all his actions in like manner” (Leviathan 109). Among the juridico-political interpretations

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The Historico-Political Discourse of Hobbes, see in particular Strauss’ The Political Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, Tönnies’ Thomas Hobbes, and Spieker and de Vries’ “Hobbes, War, Movement.” See Schmitt, The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes 33. In Schmitt’s political realist discourse, Hobbes’ description of the solitary individual in the state of nature is to some extent mirrored in the Leviathanfigure (although with the crucial difference that the latter’s task is to secure the state, whose main purpose is to prevent the state of nature). In Elements of Law (1640), Hobbes argues that violence emerges from irreconcilable disagreements about what is yours and mine, right and wrong, good and evil. To Hobbes, the state of nature is a place of conflicts, and in a further sense a conflict of irreconcilable interpretations—without a higher judge to make a final decision (see Hobbes, Human Nature Chapter XX: 109–118; and Chapter XXII: 126–129). In Hobbes’ state of nature, individuals have absolute rights, which in effect means that there are potentially as many authoritative realities as there are individuals. In Schmitt’s Hobbesreading, the mythical Leviathan is the figure who has the right to make the decision, one that is justified or bound by nothing apart from the contractual obligation to guarantee security. This is the opening sentence of Political Theology: “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception” (5). Schmitt writes further: “It is precisely the exception that makes relevant the subject of sovereignty … The precise details of an emergency cannot be anticipated, nor can one spell out what may take place in such a case, especially when it is truly a matter of an extreme emergency and of how it is to be eliminated” (6–7). See Schmitt, Political Theology 36. For further discussion of this issue, see Balakrishnan, “National Imagination” 66; and Redfield, “Imagi-Nation” 69. See Anderson, Imagined 9–10; and Anderson, Spectre 55. See Culler, The Literary 57. See Hobbes, Leviathan 64. On this issue, see also Elaine Scarry’s essay “The Difficulty of Imagining Other People,” 100–102. For an extended discussion of imagination and nation, see “Chapter 6: Nation and Imagination” in Chakrabarty’s Provincializing Europe 149–179. See Foucault, ‘Society’ 43. Foucault asks: “Is the power relationship basically a relationship of confrontation, a struggle to the death, or a war? If we look beneath peace, order, wealth, and authority, beneath the calm order of subordinations, beneath the State and State apparatuses, beneath the laws, and so on, will we hear and discover a sort of primitive and permanent war?” (‘Society’ 46–47). Foucault was clearly familiar with Schmitt’s concept of the political (See Security, Territory, Population 505), and may have used it indirectly in preparing for his lectures in ‘Society Must be Defended’. For a further discussion of the connections between Schmitt and Foucault, see DeuberMankowsky’s “Nothing is Political,” and Neocleous’s “Perpetual War.” See Foucault, ‘Society’ 47. ibid. 48. Near the end of his lectures, Foucault concludes that the “reason Clausewitz could say one day a hundred years after Boulainvilliers and, therefore, two hundred years after the English historians, that war was the continuation of politics by other means is that, in the seventeenth century … someone was able to analyze politics, talk about politics, and demonstrate that politics is the continuation of war by other means” (165). See also

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Spieker, “Foucault and Hobbes” 188; Neal, “‘Cutting off the Head’” 384–385; and Elden, Foucault’s Last Decade 30–34—for further discussions of this issue. See Foucault, ‘Society’ 48. As Neal observes, this threshold “coincides with the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which in the textbooks of international relations marks the point at which the wars of religion were ended by the inception of the principle of modern state sovereignty” (“‘Cutting off the Head’” 385). It is also around the time of the Peace of Westphalia that a permanent military apparatus is established, as Foucault writes in Security, Territory, Population, one that comprises “[first] professionalization of the soldier, setting up a military career; second, a permanent armed structure that can serve as the framework for exceptional wartime recruitment; third, an infrastructure of back-up facilities of strongholds and transport; and finally, fourth, a form of knowledge, a tactical reflection on types of maneuver, schemas of defense and attack, in short an entire specific and autonomous reflection on military matters and possible wars” (305). Foucault writes: “And what was the date of birth of this historico-political discourse that makes war the basis of social relations? Symptomatically, it seems … to be after the end of the civil and religious wars of the sixteenth century” (‘Society’ 49)—in other words, around the time of Hobbes’ juridico-political model of sovereignty. John Lilburne was a leading figure in the popular movements against the monarchy, spending much of his life writing critical pamphlets in prison. Inspired by Edward Coke’s Institutes of the Lawes of England (published between 1628 and 1644), a work that had a crucial impact on the law reformations, Lilburne promoted the view that the freedom of the English people was compromised under the Norman yoke. See Rees, The Levellers 23–42; and Smith, Edward Coke 19–90. Foucault writes that while the historico-political discourse emerged in the wake of the civil wars of the sixteenth century, it was already “clearly formulated at the beginning of the great political struggles of seventeenth-century England, at the time of the English bourgeois revolution” (‘Society’ 49). Here, it is used by the bourgeois against absolute monarchy; later, in France, it is used by the aristocrats against absolute monarchy. See Neal, “‘Cutting off the Head’” 386–387. See Foucault, ‘Society’ 52–53. Ibid. 53. Foucault writes: “It is, rather, about establishing a right marked by dissymmetry, establishing a truth bound up with a relationship of force, a truth-weapon and a singular right. The subject who is speaking is … a subject who is fighting a war” (‘Society’ 53–54). Neal comments: “Historico-political discourse was not … simply an argument over the facts of what happened, but a practice of valorizing certain interpretations of historical events or even myths to great political or indeed tactical effect” (“‘Cutting of the Head’” 387). As Foucault writes: “It is a discourse in which truth functions exclusively as a weapon that is used to win an exclusively partisan victory” (‘Society’ 57). See Foucault, ‘Society’ 55. The historico-political discourse is one that is obsessed with—as Foucault puts it—“rediscovering the blood that has dried in the codes, and not, therefore, the absolute right that lies beneath the transience of history; it is interested not in referring the relativity of history

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The Historico-Political Discourse to the absolute of law, but in discovering, beneath the stability of the law or the truth, the indefiniteness of history” (56; italics mine). See Foucault, ‘Society’ 58. When Foucault talks about ‘race war’, he is not referring to the biological meaning of that word: “Although this discourse speaks of races, and although the term ‘race’ appears at a very early stage, it is quite obvious that the word ‘race’ itself is not pinned to a stable biological meaning … Ultimately, it designates a certain historico-political divide” (‘Society’ 77). As Elden comments, “[Foucault’s] point is not undertaking a history of ‘racist discourse’, but rather of ‘the war or the struggle of races’. Modern racism is in a sense a reprise of this older discourse. He is undertaking a genealogical study of the struggle of races, in order to make more general points about modern racism, as a history of the present” (Foucault’s Last Decade 32). As Laura Stoler has pointed out, “For [Benedict] Anderson, racism derives from class. For Foucault … it is the other way around: a discourse of class derives from an earlier discourse of races” (Race 30). See also Elden, “The War of Races” 147–148. See Balibar 96 & 99–100. See Foucault, ‘Society’ 67. Ibid. 69. Ibid. 72. Foucault writes: “The role of history will, then, be to show that laws deceive, that kings wear masks, that power creates illusions, and that historians tell lies. This will not, then, be a history of continuity, but a history of deciphering, the detection of the secret, of the outwitting of the ruse, and of the reappropriation of a knowledge that has been distorted or buried. It will decipher a truth that has been sealed” (72; italics mine). Ibid. 73. As Foucault observes: “History does not simply analyze or interpret forces: it modifies them. The very fact of having control over, or the fact of being right in order of historical knowledge, in short, of telling the truth about history, therefore enables him to occupy a decisive strategic position” (‘Society’ 171). “For a long time,” Foucault writes, “it was an oppositional discourse; circulating very quickly from one oppositional group to another, it was a critical instrument to be used in the struggle against a form of power, but was shared by different enemies or different forms of opposition to that power … This is, then, a mobile discourse, a polyvalent discourse” (‘Society’ 76). Ibid. 124. Foucault points out that “There are no battles in Hobbes’ primitive war, there is no blood and there are no corpses. There are presentations, manifestations, signs, emphatic expressions, wiles, and deceitful expressions; there are traps, intentions disguised as the opposite, and worries disguised as certainties. We are in a theatre where presentations are exchanged, in a relationship of fear in which there are no time limits; we are not really involved in war” (92; italics mine). As Hobbes writes, “For as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination, or by confederacy with others that are in the same danger with himself. And as to the faculties of the mind … I find yet a greater equality amongst men than that of strength” (Leviathan 74–75). See Hobbes’s Leviathan, Chapter XIV 79–88. Ibid. Chapters XVII–XX 106–135.

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44 What Hobbes—according to Foucault—wants to destroy is the ‘historicopolitical discourse’. Foucault writes: “What Hobbes is trying, then, not to refute, but to eliminate and render impossible—his strategic opposite number—is a certain way of making historical knowledge work within the political struggle” (‘Society’ 98). 45 See in particular “Lecture 11 February 1976” (‘Society’ 115–140). As Spieker writes, Boulainvilliers’ binary notion of society “posed a direct challenge to the philosophicojuridical discourse of the state, which conceived of society in terms of an organic homogeneity” (“Foucault and Hobbes” 189). Boulainvilliers’ historico-political discourse, as Neal observes, “radically posited the idea of the ‘nation’ as a subject of history in its own right, separate from both the line of kings and the institution of the state” (“‘Cutting of the Head’” 387). 46 See Foucault, ‘Society’ 121 & 126. Foucault wants to relate this situation to “what has happened in England at the same time … The common feature … is that invasion, with its forms, motifs, and effects, became a historical problem … the invasion is being asked to define the very principles of public right” (124). 47 Ibid. 127. 48 Ibid. 133 49 Ibid. 134. 50 Ibid. 168. Foucault here observes that Boulainvillier’s analyses demonstrate how “to constitute a historico-political field, and to make history function within the political struggle. This is how the organization of a historicopolitical field begins. At this point, it all comes together: History functions within politics, and politics is used to calculate historical relations of force” (164; italics mine). 51 See Foucault’s comment that “the constitution of a historico-political field is an expression of the fact that we have gone from a history whose function was to establish right by recounting the exploits of heroes or kings, their battles and their wars and so on … to a history that continues the war by deciphering the war and the struggle that are going on within all the institutions of right and peace … there is now a link between the political fight and historical knowledge” (171; italics mine). 52 See also Neal, “Cutting of the King’s Head” 390; and Spieker, “Foucault and Hobbes” 189—for discussions of the state’s colonization of the historico-political discourse. 53 See Foucault, ‘Society’ 136–137. See also Ken Alder’s The Measure of All Things and Engineering the Revolution for a historical documentation of the intimate relationship between political power and science during the latter half of the eighteenth century in France. 54 Foucault observes that “When historical knowledge … became an instrument in the political struggle that lasted for the whole eighteenth century, the State attempted, in the same way and for the same reason, to take it in hand and disciplinarize it” (‘Society’ 186). Already in Hobbes, we find an argument about discipline and power. In a comparative analysis of Foucault and Hobbes’ arguments on discipline, Spieker argues that “Hobbes invoked the necessity of discipline for the purpose of forming political subjects. It is important to note that when Hobbes speaks of ‘discipline’, which is often translated as ‘education’, he refers not merely to the idea of pedagogical instruction but to the much wider range of disciplines through which individuals are made fit for society, by society” (“Foucault and Hobbes” 195). Thus, as Burchell argues, “Hobbes’ ‘multitude’ are turned into a population of orderly citizens through

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The Historico-Political Discourse the inculcation of a series of social virtues which together amount to an ethos of self-disciplined citizenhood” (“The Disciplined Citizen” 516). The crucial passages in The Order of Things are to be found in ‘Part II’, and in particular Chapter 8 (“Labour, Life, Language”), in which Foucault describes the way in which knowledge changes from “an anterior and indivisible mode of being between the knowing subject and the object of knowledge” (274) to a modifiable mode, a strategic space of discursive production, and hence a question of who is in control of scientific and historical knowledge production (see 272–329). Foucault’s argument is essentially that the historico-political discourse within the national space eventually changes into a discourse of normalization, biological racism and exclusion. For a discussion of Foucault’s nation and the monopolization of the historico-political discourse, see Reid 147; Neal, “Cutting off the King’s Head” 392–393; Elden, Foucault’s Last Decade 38–39; and Spieker, “Foucault and Hobbes” 189. Sieyes’ text What is the Third Estate? appeared in January 1789. As William H. Sewell, Jr. writes, “It probably did more than any other work to chart out the radically democratic path that the revolution was to follow in its first year” (Rhetoric 1). See Foucault, ‘Society’ 217. Ibid. 219. Ibid. 225. Ibid. 229. Foucault repeats this in an interview from 1977: “What we need, however, is a political philosophy that isn’t erected around the problem of sovereignty, nor therefore around the problems of law and prohibition. We need to cut off the King’s head: in political theory that has still to be done” (Power 121). See also Andrew Neal’s article “‘Cutting off the King’s Head’” for a discussion of Foucault’s attempt to rethink the political problem of the sovereign. See Foucault, ‘Society’ 232. See in particular ‘Part Five: Right of Death and Power over Life’ in Foucault’s History of Sexuality: Volume 1. See in particular “Eleven: 17 March 1976” (239–264) in ‘Society Must be Defended’ for the argument about state racism and biopolitics. See also Foucault, History of Sexuality: Volume 1 241. “From this point onward,” Foucault observes, “war is about two things: it is not simply a matter of destroying a political adversary, but of destroying the enemy race, of destroying that [sort] of biological threat that those people over there represent to our race” (‘Society’ 257). Fontana and Bertani write: “Foucault calls this historico-political discourse on conquest ‘historicism’, and thus picks up, either directly or indirectly, the thesis formulated, in a very context and for very different purposes, in 1936 by Friedrich Meinecke in his Die Enstehung des Historismus. This is a discourse of struggles, a discourse of battles, and a discourse of races. In the nineteenth century, the ‘dialectic’ appears to have coded, and therefore ‘neutralized’, these struggles” (Foucault, ‘Society’ 283). A work by Meinecke that seems more directly related to Foucault’s concerns in his lecture series would be The Age of German Liberation, 1795–1815, in which Meinecke writes that “Modern man … entered the political organism with the intent of conquering it … [They] wanted to possess the state, and infuse it with their blood” (45).

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71 Lukács refers to Meinecke’s World Citizenship and the National State (1907) a few times during a discussion of neo-Hegelianism, and later discusses the racial theories of Gobineau, H.S. Chamberlain and others (without mentioning Meinecke’s works). 72 This is also a point that Perry Anderson drives at when he suggests that out of the many different genres of fiction the historical novel has “been the most consistently political” (“From Progress” 1). 73 For example, see Katie Trumpener’s Bardic Nationalism and Perry Anderson’s “From Progress to Catastrophe.” On the other hand, Jarrells, in the essay “We Have Never Been National,” makes the important argument that Lukács to some extent misreads Scott’s nationalism at the expense of a more refined focus on the local vs. the global. My argument is that the concept of the ‘nation’ in Lukács’s theory is less stable than (and hence rather different from) the more modern understanding in the form of Anderson’s imagined community. 74 As David Cunningham rightly points out, in the article “The Historical Novel of Contemporary Capitalism”—Perry Anderson’s argument fails to take into account the central thought in Lukács, namely the problem of representing history in an aesthetic form. Cunningham—here referring to the early Lukács—stresses the contradictory nature of the novel form (it attempts to represent something unrepresentable), and then proceeds to make the point that this is essentially what Lukács attempts to solve in The Historical Novel (the historical novel becomes an epic form that eventually culminates in 19th century Balzacian realism). 75 Earlier historical novels, Lukács argues, lack proper historicity; in these novels, history functions as a pretext for a-historical themes. 76 Lukács repeatedly stresses the unnaturalness of the masses: “And the quick succession of these upheavals gives them a qualitatively distinct character, it makes their historical character far more visible than would be the case in isolated, individual instances: the masses no longer have the impression of a ‘natural occurrence’” (Historical 23). 77 As Linda Colley asks, within a British context: “How were large numbers of men living on the edge of poverty to be brought to risk life and limb for a nation in which active citizenship was denied them? What kind of appeals could make them take up arms? And what meaning was to be given to their service and possible sacrifice?” (Britons 285–286). To Lukács, the historical novel emerges in part as a response to these questions. 78 Lukács writes: “The wars of absolute states in the pre-Revolutionary period were waged by small professional armies. They were conducted so as to isolate the army as sharply as possible from the civilian population supplies from depots, fear of desertion, etc.” (Historical 23). 79 To Lukács, “the war inevitably destroyed the former separation of army from people” (Historical 24). This constitutes a major historical shift, according to Lukács, from small mercenary armies controlled and paid by sovereigns, to large-scale groups of people representing nations. 80 In Lukács’s view, “the wars of the Revolution and, to some extent, those of Napoleon were waged as conscious propaganda wars” (Historical 24). 81 See Lukács, Historical 24–25. 82 Ibid. 25. 83 Ibid. 26–27. 84 Ibid. 27. 85 Ibid. 27–28. 86 Ibid. 35. 87 Lukács writes that the epic hero is “eminent and all-embracing,” whereas

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The Historico-Political Discourse the “the principal figures in Scott’s novels are also typical nationally, but in the sense of the decent and average” (Historical 36). Only after we have been persuaded does the historical figure enter the narrative. Lukács writes: “Scott, by disclosing the actual conditions of life, the actual growing crisis in people’s lives, depicts all the problems of popular life which lead up to the historical crisis he has represented. And when he has made us sympathizers and understanding participants of this crisis, when we understand exactly for what reasons the crisis has arisen, for what reasons the nation has split into two camps, and when we have seen the attitude of the various sections of the population toward this crisis, only then does the great historical hero enter upon the scene of the novel” (Historical 38). Ibid. 40. Duncan writes that “Scott as master ideologue of internal colonialism converges with Benedict Anderson’s claim on the particular efficacy of the novel in producing the ‘imagined community’ of the modern nation” (Scott’s Shadow 97), which I think is partly true, although ‘imagined community’ should here be understood in a fictional-performative sense, before it has actually come into existence as something experienced as axiomatic, or, as reality itself. See here Dalley’s The Postcolonial Historical Novel from 2014. There is generally very little difference between Lukács’s theory of the historical novel and his realist theory. However, as Brooks observes, “Balzac’s major fiction was written following the demise of the Restoration in the July Revolution of 1830, though it generally is set during the Restoration. In this sense, Balzac is able to make use of the lesson of the historical novel provided by Walter Scott, whom he prized above all other novelists. Balzac could be said to create the novel of modern society by decreasing the gap between the moment of writing (and reading) and the moment represented, making the historical gap a matter of a decade rather than some centuries. But even the retrospective of a decade allows him to see the France he represents as a whole, as a complete society” (Realist 21). This is the moment when the concept of the nation transcends its linguistic reality, i.e., its existence as image and representation only. Ryan Bartholomew comments that “1848 represents an important moment in the history of modern Europe … The age of utopian promise and disintegration was upon Europe; the ideas of modernity witnessed a breakthrough in cities from Vienna to Berlin, Paris to Copenhagen. 1848 symbolised, at least for the thinkers of the twentieth century, the real possibility of self-awareness of the individual to change society through action, which, unlike the French and American revolutions at the end of the eighteenth century, held the actual promise of international movement pointing towards world utopia” (Kierkegaard’s Indirect Politics 13). In the essay “Narrate or Describe,” Lukács argues that in realism action is primary, while description is secondary; in naturalism, it is the other way around. Lukács writes: “In Scott, Balzac or Tolstoy we experience events which are inherently significant because of the direct involvement of the characters in the events and because of the general social significance emerging in the unfolding of the characters’ lives … In Flaubert and Zola the characters are merely spectators … As a result, the events themselves become only a tableau for the reader” (Writer 116). To Furst, “The increasing importance of place through the nineteenth century is an offshoot of larger patterns of thought developing simultaneously in various domains” (All is True 174), especially the ascendancy of determinism—“the

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biologically inspired perception of human life as conditioned by certain internal and external factors” (ibid.). “The nineteenth century in Europe,” writes Basil Davidson, “above all its middle years, were the nation-state’s great gestation period; and the births that would follow were many” (Black Man’s Burden 118–119). This is also the moment we move from Müller’s ‘we alone represent the people’ to ‘we are also part of the people’; the first notion refers to a divided social body as well as the collective ‘we’ in plural (hence the need to assert representative authority), whereas the latter tacitly assumes the existence of a unified (or at least monopolized) social body. See Müller 20. That is, in opposition to those who do not identify with this experience of ‘fullness’—the foreigners, the marginalized, the others, the outsiders, the outcast, or the Schmittian enemy. Monolingualism, Gramling observes, does not mean “that other languages are bad or inferior, but that they are contextually unnecessary. Monolingualism manages other languages; it does not oppose them” (11)—and, in a further sense; monolingual discourse presupposes the idea of a world of different national languages. On this issue, see also Thomas Paul Bonfiglio, Mother Tongues and Nations 21–50. In the essay “Enjoy Your Nation as Yourself,” Slavoj Zizek observes that this ‘common way of life’ is upon closer inspection essentially empty; “All we can do is enumerate disconnected fragments of the way our community organizes its feasts, its rituals of mating, its initiation ceremonies” (Tarrying 201); to Zizek, the essence (or Freudian das Ding) of the national is organized around a reflexive structure: “Members of a community who partake in a given ‘way of life’ believe in their Thing, where this belief has a reflexive structure proper to the intersubjective space: ‘I believe in the (national) Thing’ equals ‘I believe that others (members of my community) believe in the Thing … The national Thing exists as long as members of the community believe in it” (ibid.). The paradox is that this national essence is at the same time inaccessible to the foreigner (its most important function) and threatened by the possibility that the foreigner might steal it from us. To Derrida, the notion of ‘transcending’ of course refers to the opposite of how I am using it; as a reading practice closely related to the mimetic text (i.e., realist text)—whereas the ‘non-transcendent’ is related to Derrida’s notion of the literary, i.e., reading the sign itself rather than reading through it. Derrida argues that “‘Transcend’ here means going beyond interest for the signifier, the form, the language … in the direction of the meaning of the referent … One can do a nontranscendent reading of any text whatever” (Acts 44), but also that “a text cannot by itself avoid lending itself to a ‘transcendent’ reading. A literature which forbade that transcendence would annul itself” (45). However, to Derrida “poetry and literature have as a common feature that they suspend the ‘thetic’ naivety of the transcendent reading” (45). Discussing Jane Austen’s novels and the geographical space of England, Moretti argues that “The novel didn’t simply find the nation as an obvious pre-formed fictional space: it had to wrest it from other geographical matrixes that were just as capable of generating narrative—and indeed clashed with each other throughout the eighteenth century” (Atlas 53). What I am describing here is a normative historical development, which, however, involves numerous exceptional cases that have raised and continue to raise the issue of the specifically political within the consolidated European nation-states, e.g., the Troubles, the Basque conflict, Balkan, etc.

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104 See Benjamin, “Work of Art” 235. For a discussion of this issue, see also Berman, “Aestheticization of Politics.” 105 It is worth recalling here—as Gikandi points out—that many African writers also rejected modernism as inherently Eurocentric and fascist (see “Realism” 314). See also Esty, “Realism” 320.

Works Cited Alder, Ken. The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error That Transformed the World. New York: The Free Press, 2002. Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism [1983]. Rev ed. London: Verso, 1991. Anderson, Perry. “From Progress to Catastrophe.” London Review of Books 33.15 (2011): 24–28. Balakrishnan, Gopal. “The National Imagination.” New Left Review 211 (1995): 56–69. Balibar, Etienne. “The Nation Form: History and Ideology.” Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities. Eds. Etienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein. Trans. Chris Turner. London: Verso, 1991. 86–106. Bartholomew, Ryan. Kierkegaard’s Indirect Politics: Interludes with Lukács, Schmitt, Benjamin and Adorno. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2014. Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Illuminations. Ed. Hannah Arendt. Trans. Harry Zorn. London: Pimlico. 211–244. Berman, Russell. “Aestheticization of Politics: Walter Benjamin on Fascism and the Avant-Garde.” Modern Culture and Critical Theory. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989. 29–41. Blits, Jan. “Hobbesian Fear.” Political Theory 17.3 (1989): 417–431. Bonfiglio, Thomas Paul. Mother Tongues and Nations. New York: Walter de Gruyter. 2010. Britton, Celia. The Sense of Community in French Caribbean Fiction. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008. Brooks, Peter. Realist Vision. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005. Burchell, David. “The Disciplined Citizen: Thomas Hobbes, Neostoicism and the Critique of Classical Citizenship.” Australian Journal of Politics and History 45.4 (1999): 506–524. Chakrabarty, Dipesh. Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. New Jersey: Princeton University, 2000. Colley, Linda. Britons: Forging the Nation 1707–1837. London: Pimlico, 2003. Culler, Jonathan. The Literary in Theory. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2007. Cunningham, David. “The Historical Novel of Contemporary Capitalism.” Raison Publique (2014). Web Oct. 2020. http://www.raison-publique.fr/ article704.html. Dalley, Hamish. The Postcolonial Historical Novel: Realism, Allegory, and the Representation of Contested Pasts. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Davidson, Basil. The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the NationState. London: James Currey, 1992.

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Derrida, Jacques. Acts of Literature. Trans. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby. Ed. Derek Attridge. New York: Routledge, 1992. Deuber-Mankowsky, Astrid. “Nothing is Political, Everything Can Be Politicized: On the Concept of the Political in Michel Foucault and Carl Schmitt.” Telos 142 (2008): 135–161. Duncan, Ian. Scott’s Shadow: The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2007. Elden, Stuart. “The War of Races and the Constitution of the State: Foucault’s ‘Il faut defendre la societé’ and the Politics of Calculation.” Boundary 2 29.1 (2002): 125–151. Elden, Stuart. Foucault’s Last Decade. London: Polity, 2016. Esty, Jed. “Realism Wars.” Novel: A Forum on Fiction 49.2 (2016): 316–342. Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality: Volume 1 [1976]. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978. Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences [1966]. London: Routledge, 2002. Foucault, Michel. ‘Society Must be Defended’. Lectures at the Collège de France 1975–1976. Eds. Mauro Bertani and Alessandro Fontana. Trans. David Macey. New York: Picador, 2003. Foucault, Michel. Security, Territory, Population. Lectures at the Collège de France 1977–1978. Ed. Michel Senellart. Trans. Graham Burchell. New York: Picador, 2007. Furst, Lilian R. All is True: The Claims and Strategies of Realist Fiction. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995. Gikandi, Simon. “Realism, Romance, and the Problem of African Literary History.” Modern Language Quarterly 73.3 (2012): 309–328. Gramling, David. The Invention of Monolingualism. London: Bloomsbury, 2016. Hobbes, Thomas. Human Nature and De Corpore Politico [1650]. Ed. J.C.A. Gaskin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan [1651]. Ed. Edwin Curley. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1994. Hobbes, Thomas. The Elements of Law: Natural and Politic [1640]. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2018. Hobsbawm, Eric. “Ethnicity and Nationalism in Europe Today.” Mapping the Nation. Ed. Gopal Balakrishnan. London: Verso, 1996. 255–266. Jarrells, Anthony. “We Have Never Been National: Regionalism, Romance, and the Global in Walter Scott’s Waverley Novels.” Global Romanticism: Origins, Orientations, and Engagements (1760–1820). Ed. Evan Gottlieb. Bucknell University Press, 2015. Lukács, Georg. “Narrate or Describe” [1936]. Writer and Critic. Ed. & Trans. Arthur Kahn. London: Merlin, 1978. 110–148. Lukács, Georg. The Destruction of Reason [1954]. Trans. Peter Palmer. London: Merlin Press, 1981. Lukács, Georg. The Historical Novel [1937]. Trans. Hannah and Stanley Mitchell. London: Merlin Press, 1989. Meinecke, Friedrich. The Age of German Liberation, 1795–1815 [1906]. Trans. Peter Paret and Helmut Fischer. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1977.

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Meinecke, Friedrich. Historism: The Rise of a New Historical Outlook [1936]. Trans. J.E. Anderson. Routledge: London, 1972. Moretti, Franco. Atlas of the European Novel 1800–1900. London: Verso, 1999. Müller, Jan-Werner. What is Populism? Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016. Neal, Andrew W. “Cutting of the King’s Head: Foucault’s Society Must Be Defended and the Problem of Sovereignty.” Alternatives 29 (2004): 373–398. Neocleous, Mark. “Perpetual War, or ‘War and War Again’.” Philosophy and Social Criticism 22.2 (1996): 47–66. Rees, John. The Leveller Revolution. London: Verso, 2017. Rizal, José. The Social Cancer [Noli me tángere (1861–1896)]. Trans. Charles E. Derbyshire. Quezon City: Giraffe, 1996. Scarry, Elaine. “The Difficulty of Imagining Other People.” For Love of Country? Eds. Martha C. Nussbaum and Joshua Cohen. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 1996. 98–110. Schmitt, Carl. Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty [1922]. Trans. George Schwab. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1985. Schmitt, Carl. The Concept of the Political [1932]. Trans. George Schwab. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1996. Schmitt, Carl. The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes: Meaning and Failure of a Political Symbol [1938]. Trans. George Schwab and Erna Hilfstein. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996. Sewell, Jr., William H. A Rhetoric of Bourgeois Revolution: The Abbé Sieyes and What is the Third Estate? Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1994. Smith, David Chan. Sir Edward Coke and the Reformation of the Laws: Religion, Politics and Jurisprudence, 1578–1616. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Spieker, Jörg. “Foucault and Hobbes on Politics, Security, and War.” Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 36.3 (2011): 187–199. Spieker, Jörg, and Leonie Ansems de Vries. “Hobbes, War, Movement.” Global Society 23.4 (2009): 453–474. Stoler, Laura. Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1995. Strauss, Leo. The Political Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes: Its Basis and Genesis. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago University Press, 1952. Trumpener, Katie. Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1997. Verdery, Katherine. “Wither ‘Nation’ and ‘Nationalism’?” Mapping the Nation. Ed. Gopal Balakrishnan. London: Verso, 1996. 226–234. Zizek, Slavoj. Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1993.

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Introduction In Michel Foucault’s reading of Leviathan, the behemoth that Hobbes is up against is the subversive-radical force of the historico-political discourse, that is, a politicized history aiming to delegitimize absolute sovereign power, which on the one hand potentially creates new and more inclusive constellations of power, but on the other hand threatens to bring everything down to a level of permanent chaos. Underlying the historico-political discourse is, according to Foucault, the assumption that war is an all-pervasive phenomenon: war is, as Foucault writes, “the ineradicable basis of all relations and institutions of power” (‘Society’ 49). The solution to this problem comes in the form of the modern nation-state monopolizing the historico-political discourse, whereby the latter is gradually transformed into the kind of homogeneous social life to which Benedict Anderson’s discourse of the imagined community largely refers. It is in this context that one may understand Georg Lukács’s theory of the historical novel—and, more generally, the development of modern literary realism—as an aesthetic genre that provides an imaginative instrument contributing to the transformation of the historico-political discourse into a consolidated social body, and in a further sense the imagined national community. As Lukács argues, the genre of the historical novel evolves out of a growing nationalist-collective sentiment, which eventually culminates in nineteenth-century realism. What happens, then, around the midnineteenth century is that this transition reaches its ‘completion’, what Foucault describes as “the moment of fulness … the moment of effectuation, the moment of totalization” (‘Society’ 233). This moment of totalization entails the elimination of the seditious and subversive force of historico-political discourse, the transformation of the plural ‘we alone represent the people’ into a singular, collective ‘we’: the moment when the collective national sentiment is no longer understood as politicized history, but precisely as the totality of reality itself. This is also

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when the politico-aesthetic landscape of realism starts to change dramatically, and when subjective psychological individual genres like naturalism, symbolism, psychological realism, and later modernism gradually take its place. Instead of questions about the outer political frames of existence, since these frames have now, by and large, become axiomatic, natural, inevitable, and untranscendable, we shift to questions about who might also belong to this consolidated social body of the collective ‘we’. The historico-political discourse in seeking to expose the legitimacy of the king’s authority as profoundly fictitious constitutes itself as a kind of subversive Nietzschean moment that threatens to transform everything into fiction. The historico-political discourse challenges the king’s narrative in order to replace it with its own, but in doing so, this discourse leaves itself vulnerable to questions about its own legitimacy and representativity, its own truth-claims, and hence its right to make authoritative claims in the first place. It is against the background of this problematic that one could argue that the nation-state’s monopolization of historico-political discourse, as well as the production and consolidation of ‘nationness’ in the modern sense, constitutes a kind of double-fiction, a fictionalization of the fiction. This double-fiction basically claims: ‘this world, this people, this society is untranscendable, its reality is indivisible; this is the natural form of its people, its relations and its land’. What was originally a seditious, fictionalizing force—the historico-political discourse seeking to delegitimize and transform the king’s narrative into a fiction, a lie—in turn, becomes absorbed by a rivaling fictionalizing force that transforms it into the nation-state’s monopolized, untranscendable notion of reality. It is around this aspect that I locate the political significance of literary realism. Literary realism, as I approach it here, is an aesthetic discourse that generates a fictional onto-political reality—the historico-political discourse’s (fictional) ‘we’—which eventually becomes monopolized around the mid-nineteenth century by the nation-state, at which point it becomes untranscendable, self-evident, ‘reality as such’, no longer in need of being imagined, at least not in the strong sense of that word. It should be mentioned here that when I refer to ‘reality’ or ‘reality as such’ throughout this book, I am obviously not implying some objectiveempirical or universal-scientific notion, but rather a socio-political framework of what constitutes normative experience, or how the individualized perspective relates to or experiences a normative idea of the reality of ‘everyone’ or ‘anyone’ within a given communal context. The point here is that following the monopolizing process leading to the consolidation of the nation-state and in a further sense the concept of ‘reality as such’, the political dimension of literary realism is gradually replaced by ever more narrow, collectively irrelevant, singular, privatized, heterogeneous, and eccentric forms of textual expression.

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The Rise of Realism As many scholars have pointed out, one of the problems with the word ‘realism’ is that it refers to many different things: it is used in widely different contexts, in different ways, and for different purposes.1 Thus, it refers to something different depending on the context—e.g., within literary studies, philosophy, international relations, aesthetics, or even everyday language.2 It should be noted here that although the kind of literary realism I am interested in shares some similarity with the notion of ‘realism’ in international politics, it ultimately differs in significant ways. Schmitt has sometimes been categorized as a realist thinker within the history of political ideas, outlining an international order akin to that of Hobbes’ state of nature, in which ‘ideal’ scenarios would be temporary alliances, provisional agreements, and the absence of war.3 The kind of literary realism I am interested in touches upon the same framework—i.e., the idea that the state of nature is always there, somewhere, at least potentially, although it is not a philosophical doctrine as much as an aesthetic-formal genre aiming towards the fictionalization of a ‘general consciousness’, which implicitly generates a certain political effect: the assumption of alliances, agreements, and hence potentially the absence of war from the social body. Realism was, of course, never a homogeneous aesthetic style, but really only ever appeared (and appears) through a range of different (and internally divided and impure) styles, much like there are only ever multiple modernisms and postmodernisms.4 Within a literary-historical perspective, the notion of ‘realism’ generally refers to a specific kind of text during the nineteenth century.5 Literary histories on realism tend to view the genre’s appearance in close connection with the rise of modernity at large, and particularly concomitant with modern events like capitalism, the development of new markets, industrialization, the rise of the middle class, democracy, science, imperialism, colonialism, slave trade, race, science, or technology.6 One common denominator among these various approaches is the idea that literary realism as a profoundly modern style emerged as an aesthetic discourse confronting a dominant classicist poetics, both in terms of style and content.7 Here, literary realism and historico-political discourse—challenging the legitimacy of the king—overlap in their ambition to subvert hierarchical structures. In his classic study of the rise of the novel, Ian Watt argues that literary realism embodies a rejection of idealist-classicist metaphysics in favor of a materialist-sensuous aesthetic perspective;8 Auerbach suggests that realism is characterized by “the serious treatment of everyday reality” (491), while Harry Levin observes that realism iconoclastically seeks to break down idealism.9 As Stephen Heath argues, literary realism “undercuts traditional forms and values in the interest of a prosaic world … Its world is secular and secure in the voice of the ‘objective totality’ that

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homogenises the disparate actions and dramas its narratives reveal” (108–109). With the rise of realism, we move away from universalistidealist or archetypical-mythical perspectives and towards the sphere of the individual, the unique, the particular, the empirical, and the nominalist.10 Thus, while idealist-classicist styles generally tended to articulate a vertical-hierarchical perspective, literary realism is essentially a horizontal style with ordinary characters like Scott’s middling hero replacing noble, aristocratic, or mythological figures.11 Historically, literary realism emerged from secularization and reformation in close alignment with a general devaluation of ‘high’ or ‘official language, and conversely, the promotion of national or local vernaculars.12 As such, literary realist style at least in principle operated on the side of the populist or criticalsubversive forces of history—an aesthetic genre oriented towards gestures of unmasking and stripping away the empty symbols of the king, of revealing the king’s naked body, the body’s realism13—and additionally, in a further sense, the human and historical (not divine or universal) dimensions of power, the frailty and fictionality of sovereignty.

The Novel as a Form of Secondariness A common focus in theories of the novel (particularly the realist novel) is centered on its dialectic of conservative and radical formal dynamics. This dialectic is crucial in terms of how the novel form aligns itself with the forces of the historico-political discourse in a very general sense. Given that realism, on the one hand, reproduces already existing aspects of reality, it is often seen as (and criticized for) being inherently conservative; it reproduces and thus reaffirms ruling social norms.14 At the same time, realism involves far more than the narrow epistemological ambition of portraying reality accurately.15 As Lukács (via the concept of ‘irony’) and Bakhtin (with his notion of ‘carnival’) in particular have observed, the novel form also problematizes and challenges this reproduction of already existing norms.16 In his early work Beginnings, Edward Said employs the terms ‘authority’ and ‘molestation’ to describe how the novel form arose at a specific moment in Western history as a secular human intention to complement, enrich, and expand the aesthetic registers of representing the world. His novelistic theory here, to some extent, corresponds with Foucault’s description of the historicopolitical discourse, also propelled by a subversive force directed at the existing order, but at the same time haunted by its own potential fictitiousness. To Said, the novel form’s apparent ‘naturalness’, ‘formlessness’, or ‘realism’—that is, its ‘prosaic’, ‘un-stylistic’, and ‘transparent’ strategies of rendering reality—illuminate its “desire to create an alternative world, to modify or augment the real world through the act of writing” (Beginnings 81).

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From a class perspective, the novel institutionalizes the subjectivity of the bourgeoisie, a class whose ambition overlaps with that of the novel’s: on the one hand, a desire for change, subversion (of the feudal class), and progression, while on the other hand a desire to normalize and naturalize conventional laws. The novel constitutes, as Said puts it, “a literary form of secondariness” (93), a genre articulating the desire to create and control a discourse of meaning.17 Secular novelistic authority establishes its (human) authority through a self-legitimizing and thus ultimately illegitimate act—that is, a transgression of the transcendental order that the novel seeks to re-represent, re-interpret, and re-code.18 The novel form creates a discursive space that allows it to configure itself as a heretical, alternate representation of reality, an excess, or a form of repairing (of the natural order). As such, the novel form as a selfproclaimed authority cannot repress its inherent conventionality and arbitrariness, its inability to find confirmation of its ontology outside itself. It is because the novel form’s authority is established through an illegitimate act of ‘situating’ an alternative order of meaning, that its universe is haunted by what Said calls ‘molestation’, a term signifying …. a consciousness of one’s duplicity, one’s confinement to a fictive, scriptive realm, whether one is a character or a novelist. And molestation occurs when novelists and critics traditionally remind themselves of how the novel is always subject to a comparison with reality and thereby found to be illusion. Or again, molestation is central to a character’s experience of disillusionment during the course of the novel. (84) Molestation names that movement of subversion or irony that the novel form inadvertently produces as it initiates an alternative, secular order of representation. The ‘validity’ of the novel’s self-proclaimed authority is thus established by repressing the novel form’s hubristic desire or ambition to re-present an order of meaning in a secular, modern, contingent, and fundamentally un-representable world.19

Realism and Transparency The negative force of irony generated as a consequence of the attempt to emulate the act of natural creation at the same time becomes a reaction against representative-mimetic writing as such. As Lukács argues, irony opens up the literary text to the contingencies of the world.20 The latter issue touches upon what is arguably the most characteristic stylistic aspect of literary realism—its transparency, or what one could call realism’s ‘untranscendable’ space in the sense that it seeks to break down the clear distinction between an inside and an outside, between what is fictional and what is outside the domain of the fictional.21 In this

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connection, J. Hillis Miller makes the argument that the realist novel often refuses to recognize itself as a solely fictional discourse.22 Contrary to modernism, fairy tales, or other highly stylized genres whose interior textuality implicitly communicates the texts’ literariness, realism is, at least in principle, indistinguishable from non-literary texts. Lukács argues that “realism is not one style among others, it is the basis of literature; all styles (even those seemingly most opposed to realism) originate in it or are significantly related to it” (“Franz Kafka” 48), while Brooks makes the point that realism constitutes a standard norm of all literary genres: “today we tend to think of [realism] as the norm from which other modes—magical realism, science fiction, fantasy, metafictions—are variants or deviants” (Realist 5).23 In the book The Modes of Modern Writing, David Lodge—arguing that realism tends to disguise itself as non-fictional writing—proposes the following definition of literary realism: “the representation of experience in a manner which approximates closely to descriptions of similar experience in nonliterary texts of the same culture” (25). Likewise, Furst observes that the realist novel involves “the sustained dialogue between reference to actuality and the textual creation of a fabricated realm,” and a little later: “Through its incessant oscillation between reference to an actual world and the imagined realm of the fiction, it manages to merge them so seamlessly that readers are persuaded to take illusion for truth” (True 12). The discursive textuality of realism from its earliest manifestations to contemporary texts potentially includes (or perhaps rather absorbs) all kinds of discourses, literary as well as non-literary—e.g., scientific treatises, letters, journalism, reports, travel diaries, and historical accounts—but, crucially, without thereby necessarily problematizing its own diegetic discourse; quite the contrary, in fact. As Käte Hamburger has argued, any non-fictional event appearing within a fictional discourse, including realist fiction, “is divested of any question as to its reality” (Logic 111). Dorrit Cohn expands this argument, suggesting that literary prose is essentially a ‘non-referential narrative’ in the sense that “it signifies that a work of fiction itself creates the world to which it refers by referring to it” (13). This obviously does not mean that “internal frames of reference are by no means entirely independent of the actual world we know” (14), as Cohn points out, but rather that these references are inevitably meaningful first and foremost through fictional discourse.24 This malleability and adaptability make the attempt to define realism a challenging task, both as a literary genre occupying a specific location within literary history and as a normative concept that runs across different epochs. Despite his evident reservations about realism,25 Roland Barthes captures one of its main features with the concept of the ‘reality effect’, the articulation of a contingent, non-idealized world, a ‘thereness’ unsupported by a metaphysical order.26 A textuality of impurity: realism’s absorption of elements (e.g., familiar everyday objects) whose

The Political Significance of Literary Realism 101 independent and separate realities are to some extent preserved within the realist diegesis, but which nonetheless at the same time become integrated into the latter, creates a ‘reality effect’ that at least potentially undermines the realistic aspect, threatening to undermine its fictional diegesis by way of molestation, that is, by elevating it to allegory, irony, or metafiction.27 Realism’s fictional diegesis faces a constant battle to integrate elements insisting on their own realities and which sometimes manage to detach themselves from the diegetic frame in which they have been inserted, as Lukács argues in connection with the atomized, naturalist novel. In naturalism, Lukács suggests, the objects are never properly integrated into the fictional world, but on the contrary, threaten to dismantle it. In the essay “Narrate or Describe?” Lukács writes: The autonomy of details has varied effects, all deleterious, on the representation of men’s lives. On the one hand, writers strive to describe details as completely, plasticly and picturesquely as possible; in this attempt they achieve an extraordinary artistic competence. But the description of things no longer has anything to do with the lives of characters. Not only are things described out of context with the lives of the characters, attaining an independent significance that is not their due within the totality of the novel, but the very manner in which they are described sets them in an entirely different sphere from that in which the characters move. (132) This is ultimately why there is a dimension of ‘vacancy’ in the realist text, a deep obsession with the local, the quotidian, the trivial, the insignificant, and hence the potentially accidental, meaningless, and contingent. Adorno, for example, outlines such an argument about Balzac’s obsession with details—an obsession that to Adorno ultimately stems from “a loss of reality” (128), or rather the loss of deep meaning, behind reality’s dull surface (hence ‘vacancy’)—a reality that cannot unproblematically be referred to, but which follows its own, separate, and to some extent incomprehensible logic. In alignment with the Frankfurt School’s preference for modernism, Adorno largely views realism with suspicion, as a style that naturalizes the social order of rational functionalism.28 More generally, as Morris observes, “realism is associated particularly with the secular and rational forms of knowledge that constitute the tradition of the Enlightenment, stemming from the growth of scientific understanding in the eighteenth century” (Realism 9). In this connection, one could also mention Foucault’s attack on the Enlightenment ideals of knowledge and progress—and hence, by implication, realism.29 However, although Foucault’s literary preferences mainly seem to include anti-realist writings, it would be too hasty to simply read realism as a synonym of Enlightenment values (objectivity, scientific certainty, universality, progress, etc.) in Foucault’s theoretical discourse. In ‘Society’, Foucault in passing mentions

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that “there is probably an essential kinship between the novel and the problem of the norm,” and then adds: “perhaps we should look into all this” (175), but subsequently moves on to a broader discussion of the disciplinarization, normalization, and homogenization of knowledge—i.e., the monopolization of historico-political discourse.30 This is a process that might seem obvious to associate with the project of the realist novel. Yet, while the realist novel clearly contributes to this process in a variety of ways, it also develops alongside and from within those political visions participating in what Foucault a little earlier in the same lecture describes as “an immense and multiple battle, but not one between knowledge and ignorance, but an immense and multiple battle between knowledges in the plural” (179)—i.e., the historicopolitical discourse potentially exposing the grand narrative of the Enlightenment project as fictitious.

The Lure of Realism In a very general sense, fiction offers itself as a form of seduction—that is, as a spectacle luring the reader to believe in its fictional world (realistic or not) and to forget any notion of an outside reality. “To read a novel,” J. Hillis Miller writes, “is in one sense to be carried out of the real world and transported into an imaginary world generated by the words” (Form 9).31 The realist diegesis intensifies this seductive spectacle by implicitly or explicitly suggesting that the realistically told story is potentially real—i.e., it could have been real and might possibly be real. Thomas Pavel sees this as one of the distinctive aspects of realism: it embodies “a fundamental attitude toward the relationship between the actual world and the truth of literary texts. In a realist perspective, the criterion of the truth and falsity of a literary text … is based upon the notion of possibility (and not only logical possibility) with respect to the actual world” (Fictional 46–47). This was allegedly what some of the great realist novelists intended, perhaps to the extent that they themselves believed in their creations.32 Their ‘poetic license’, one could say, derived from the possibility that their characters and stories could plausibly have been real.33 It is precisely in this sense that classic realism is generally alien to metafictional irony: it must necessarily avoid the earlier novel form’s ironic-humoristic distance, and self-referential author figure (e.g., Tristram Shandy or Don Quixote),34 and furthermore avoid (at least explicitly) making the reader aware of its (foregrounding-)techniques.35 The classic realist text presents itself as a window to the world; the window itself must be transparent, invisible.36 Realism as a style understands and defines itself as the process of describing not merely a fictitious world (in the sense of an invented, stylized world), but rather a plausible world bound by rules and norms external to its own diegetic universe. Hence, realism absorbs reportage, historical writing, political speeches, science, specific geographical

The Political Significance of Literary Realism 103 markers, and authentic dates in addition to its own invented elements, whose fictionality may threaten to undermine its diegesis but generally never does.37 Early incarnations of realism—e.g., Walter Scott’s historical novel—still needed the support of historical discourse to anchor the fictional dimension within reality;38 later manifestations of realism—e.g., the novels of Balzac—would let their realist diegesis speak for itself. As I have argued, the realist novel form generally tends to flourish around the time when the idea of a national community would still feel unnatural and artificial. The time of traditional European realism was, as Brooks observes, “a time of massive change” (Realist 13)—a period of turbulence which, according to Brooks, is manifested in realism’s style. In a similar vein, Auerbach describes Stendhal’s realism as one in which “all the human figures and all the human events … appear upon a ground politically and socially disturbed” (Mimesis 463). However, it was not until the 1850s that the word ‘realism’ was used as a stylistic term,39 around the time the national becomes naturalized.40 In the age of ‘transcendental homelessness’, the novel form lacks the epic’s self-evident form; hence, as Lukács would argue, compositional principles become all the more crucial to it. As Lukács writes, in the contingent world of transcendental homelessness, the novel’s parts “must have a strict compositional and architectural significance” (Theory 76). This sense of constructed-ness and unnaturalness is arguably why the realist novel is often considered a ‘closed form’. Its action or plot is rounded, finite; there is an increasing concern with causal and motivational trajectories—that is, meticulous explanations of every action, as well as scenes carefully and orderly presented by an authoritative narrator.41 By comparison, earlier prose texts—e.g., the picaresque novel—generally tended to be more open-ended, episodic, less causal-linear, and hence less complete.42 But the less composed the text is, the more artificial or constructed it paradoxically appears, whereas the compositionality of the realist novel has the opposite effect of making the text seem less artificial and hence more natural. Thus, Prendergast characterizes realism as deliberately naïve, arguing that “as with all epistemologically naïve positions, naivety is purchased at a price, which is precisely what, in order to proffer itself as ‘naïve’, it is compelled to mask; it rests on making tacit what, if brought out into the open and critically examined, might cause the whole theoretical edifice to collapse” (Order 27). Literary realism is a textual style that de-stylizes the text’s literariness, an act of peeling off everything that makes the literary text seem unnatural or artificial.43 Although the realist text often contains distinctly antirealist moments, it is at the same time the case that the fantastic, the magical, and the extra-real remain foreign elements in it, at least in principle.44 It is precisely in this sense that the realist novel limits the free ramblings of the private-individual, the interior, and the psychological. Instead, what the realist text—qua its form—implicitly asserts is an idea

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of a commonly accepted reality. Stern, following Gombrich, argues that realist representation involves a balancing act between ‘making’ and ‘matching’ (with an emphasis on the latter), which consolidates as well as creates a recognizable world shared by both characters and readers.45 In this sense, realist style is less about reproducing reality accurately, but rather about reproducing (and hence creating) the idea of what Stern calls “our common reality” (152), or what Ben Yishai has called “the reality of what is commonly accepted as real” (Common 15). In realism, the subject is, in principle, barred from creating the world entirely in and according to his or her own mental image. The latter becomes a sign of madness. As Stern writes: “Among the countless human sentiments realism can represent is that which makes us call one kind of experience ‘more real’ than another, but it can only do this on the premise of a single, undivided reality” (68). When epistemological cracks appear within the realist diegesis, Stern observes, “they are not explored but transformed into the psychology of characters” (31). To Lukács, this breakdown of realism is ultimately connected to madness and horror: “If reality cannot be understood … then the individual’s subjectivity—alone in the universe, reflecting only itself—takes on an equally incomprehensible and horrific character” (“Ideology” 38). Madness and literature—the literary articulating or occupying a position outside or deviating from the common epistemological order—is also something Foucault touches upon throughout his oeuvre.46 As Foucault’s reflections illustrate, madness is often associated with modernist styles—that is, deviations from the realist-classical order. By contrast, individual figures within a given realist discourse are bound to accept a performatively asserted notion of a commonly accepted reality—i.e., a reality that in principle is shared by everyone. This is a commonly explored problematic in much of the literature coming out of the newly decolonized countries regarding the failure of generating genuine communal structures—a failure that ultimately ends in individual alienation, madness, or death. Thus, the idealistic main character Baako in Ayi Kwei Armah’s novel Fragments (1970), after having returned from studies abroad in order to serve his country, finds himself (like Fanon’s homecoming intellectual) unable to reintegrate properly into a Ghanaian society portrayed as both corrupt and thoroughly permeated by capitalist-material obsessions. There is no real individual development in the novel, at least not in a positive sense; Baako eventually ends up involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, abandoned by his family who blames him for not having used his foreign education and network (i.e., engaging in corruption and nepotism) to improve the quality of their lives. The novel includes two curious chapters in which Baako’s grandmother, Naana, poetically evokes communal visions of the precolonial world, which stand in sharp contrast to the fragmented and alienating present. It would be tempting to

The Political Significance of Literary Realism 105 invest these monologues with a utopian potential, but the novel more generally suggests that these are yet another symptom of the desperately trapped subjectivism of the present; Baako’s desperate but ultimately misguided and deluded search for an alleged ‘authentic’, untainted, and organic communal structure. The novel’s dominant realist style strives towards the communal and common world but ultimately succumbs to a fragmented plot structure and an impressionistic style, reflecting an isolated, individual perspective about to collapse into a complete mental breakdown. Madness here becomes a trope of the splintered society, the failure of creating sustainable communal identities—‘our common reality’—in the aftermath of decolonization.

Performative Realism In his essay on Anderson, Culler hints at ways in which realism performatively “posits the reality and independence of the world it describes—asserts by presupposing” (Literary 57). Michael Riffaterre similarly argues that the fictional work forces the reader “to perform a hermeneutic procedure not unlike analysis”—i.e., reading as a kind of “unlocking, of uncovering. This is equivalent to a pattern of truth, whether or not consistent with actual truth, and with or without truth content” (Fictional 110). It is a maneuver that generates an assumption of a pre-existent reality, which thus, in turn, endows the fictional work with an aura of objective reality.47 This is perhaps why realism is obsessed with the inclusion of everyday details whose rootedness in their own discursive reality is preserved while at the same time being integrated into the diegetic discourse of the text. The reality effect is here less related to some privileged epistemological relation to reality as such, but rather an effect that creates a plausible resemblance to the discursive forms of non-literary texts’ way of being in the world.48 In this sense, the notion of ‘plausibility’ and the inclusion of everyday objects are crucial to the realist novel. In his 1969-essay “‘Vraisemblance’ and Motivation,” Gérard Genette argues that when reading a realist fictional text, one is always to some extent measuring or evaluating it in terms of a discursive set of commonsensical values, norms, and beliefs.49 If a fictional text is considered to be realistic, this has less to do with its inherent textual features than with its correspondence to a particular system generally agreed upon as commonsensical—i.e., a common socio-cultural horizon. However, the common cultural horizon is never an empirically given, neutral, universal, or objective fact; there is always a normative-performative aspect built into this act of asserting a common social space, something that intimately links this articulation to the fictional. The implication here is that the central question of realism relates less to an epistemological problematic and

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more to a political—not what is actually there, in a scientifically accurate sense, but rather why it is there, for whom (and for whom it is not) at this particular moment in this particular place.50 The gravitational pull between conservative and radical forces that Said identifies in the novel form is central to what I see as the form’s working towards a commonly accepted reality.51 My argument is that this ‘assertiveness’ of the novel, its (hubristic) ‘authority’, is essentially a performative gesture that asserts a commonly accepted reality, rather than simply referring to an already existing empirical-objective reality.52 The performative-interpellative gesture works precisely in the sense of pretending (hence the realist novel form’s emphasis on ‘transparency’, ‘naturalness’, ‘plausibility’, ‘probability’, ‘typicality’, the empirical, or what we can perceive through our senses)53 to merely describing something already existing—which, however, only comes into existence to the extent that readers at least in principle accept the idea that the reality conjured up before them is one that is merely described, referred to, and not performatively created through words only—in other words, readers must be persuaded or seduced into believing.54 The realist novel form implicitly refers to, assumes, and is premised on the existence of commonly recognizable reality, even if this reality may not be recognizable to every individual. This issue is closely related to Catherine Gallagher’s argument in Nobody’s Story about realism’s fictionality—that realist stories are familiar and recognizable, yet seem to belong to no one. Gallagher argues that at some point during the eighteenth century, fictional characters became “universally engaging subjectivities … unmarked by a proprietary relationship to anyone in the real world” (171). Fiction engenders broad sympathies precisely because it is more straightforward (or less complicated) to identify with a story that seems to belong to no one than it would be to identify and sympathize with “anybody else’s story and share anybody’s sentiments. But, paradoxically, we can always claim to be expanding our capacity for sympathy by reading fiction because, after all, if we can sympathize with nobody, then we can sympathize with anybody” (171). The degree of the character’s fictionality is crucial here—that is, as nobody in the specified form: “the particularities had to be fully specified to ensure the felt fictionality of the character … realism was the code of the fictional. The very realism of the new form, therefore, enabled readers to appropriate the stories sympathetically” (174).55 It is in this sense, as Elizabeth Deeds Ermarth has argued in the book Realism and Consensus in the English Novel, that the realist novel implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) offers itself as a genre articulating epistemological consensus; realism’s striving for transparency, plausibility, commonsense, causal logic, explicitly or implicitly motivated structures, coherent and complete plots, metonymic descriptions, a central perspective—these are all stabilizing functions of a performative gesture that is anything but

The Political Significance of Literary Realism 107 grounded in a stable and commonly accepted empirical reality. Elsewhere, Ermarth observes that Without the production by modern culture of neutral space and time, those homogeneous media in which mutually informative measurement is possible, modern science would have been unthinkable, and so too, for that matter, would certain forms of political organization. These representational conventions … have everything to do with certain habitual conceptions of identity, simple location, structure, consciousness, the subject, and social ‘laws’. (“Crisis” 214) Thus, the more the realist text repeats and mimetically reproduces Doxa, common belief, and normativity (the conventionally accepted social world), the more it solidifies the implicit premise that a commonly accepted social world really exists. Part of realism’s performative force is precisely the necessity of stressing this fact that a commonly accepted world exists (i.e., because of the concrete absence of such a world); when people no longer need to be persuaded that this world exists, the necessity of realism as a form entirely dependent on its persuasive or seductive powers disappears, and hence its political significance. As a genre opposed to classicist-idealistic discourse, literary realism is a transitional style that emerges in periods of transition from one political regime to another—that is, an unstable, floating world. It is out of this transitional phase that a new epistemological order eventually manifests itself.56 Realism constitutes a response to a society that is fundamentally divided, torn, ravaged by conflict and disagreement—in other words, a society haunted by the historico-political discourse; it constitutes a response to a political situation in which there is no solid consensus and, by implication, a lack of authoritative institutions powerful enough to enforce a lasting consensus. The political context of realism is the sphere of possible or actual civil war; realism as an aesthetic style is prompted by disturbing political circumstances, gesturing performatively in an attempt to persuade, seduce, or lure its readers toward the idea of a commonly imagined world, precisely because such a notion is under pressure or absent.57 It is thus at least in part misleading to view realism as a style that always simply refers unproblematically to an already existing, stable, common notion of reality. Some do, no doubt, although the kind of realism I am interested in here involves a gesture that emerges as a political necessity in a collapsing world. This kind of realism responds by performatively asserting a commonly accepted reality that does not as yet exist except in a performative sense—as a potentially common reality. Here, Rae Greiner formulates some ideas similar to my argument about the political significance of realism. To Greiner, realism engenders sympathetic thinking that “leads to fellow-feeling, an affective, social mode of understanding central to

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reality as the nineteenth-century novelists sought to depict it … a reality whose realism found sanction in the imaginative fellowship we have with others” (Sympathetic 4). When Greiner writes that the realism of nineteenth-century novels “is an effect of the imaginative experiences of mental sharing they generate, and of the fellow-feeling to which those experiences give rise” (16), her argument initially seems to overlap with Anderson’s concept of the imagined community. However, as I have argued, literary realism in its political form precedes that of Anderson’s ‘imagined community’ or the modern nation-state, precisely because the former articulates a fictional or potential vision of reality, whereas the latter emerges from within the self-evident, natural space of what is experienced as reality itself. It is within this precursory space leading up to the consolidated nationstate that we see the emergence of a remarkable twentieth-century realist tradition, namely the novels depicting the Nigerian civil war of 1967–1970.58 As Coundouriotis observes, “every major Nigerian novelist has written about the war” (98), including Chinua Achebe, Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Cyprian Ekwensi, Wole Soyinka, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Ben Okri, Chris Abani, Isidore Okpewho, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. After decolonization at the beginning of the 1960s, the country was soon ravaged by an extended period of ethnic, religious, cultural, political, and economic conflicts and attempted military coups, culminating with the independence declaration of Biafra in 1967 and its subsequent blockade by federal troops. After three vicious years of civil war, the Biafran army eventually surrendered, and the region was reunited with Nigeria.59 It is in this violent context that literary realism as a style becomes a way of addressing not simply injustice and cruelty carried out by either party, but also a larger perspective that transcends partisan views and recalls affective sentiments of fellow-feeling, of collective suffering at the hands of terrible events tearing people apart, even if this novelistic perspective at the same time is far from articulating the objective, self-evident, natural sentiment of the imagined community. Rather, realism here aligns itself more closely with Foucault’s historico-political discourse, one that seeks to expose the lies and deceptions by which people are mobilized into action. Thus, in Festus Iyayi’s Heroes (1986), a novel that follows a journalist’s journey into the darkest truths about the cost of war and the sacrifices made by both soldiers and civilians, the war is essentially fueled by false narratives, “a lie used by each side to frighten its own people so that they are prepared to stand up and be counted” (102). Similar to Cyprian Ekwensi’s journalist protagonist in the novel Divided We Stand (1980), Iyayi’s journalist Osime Iyere witnesses firsthand the inhumanity and cruelty of federal troops, which makes him question the truthfulness of the government’s stories about the Igbo people, and he eventually realizes that the only truth of this war is the suffering of the people.60 We find a similar drive towards exposing the truth of war in Flora Nwapa’s novel Never

The Political Significance of Literary Realism 109 Again (1975), which focuses on how the war was experienced by civilians trapped in battle zones. Written in a simple, direct style, the novel captures the acute anxiety and terror felt by individuals desperately uncertain about what to do—wait and hide or attempt to flee from the fighting armies. Never Again is thus a novelistic testimony to the time inside the horrors of civil war that led to thousands of civilians slaughtered, a novel that addresses, as Coundouriotis writes, “those outside Biafra who need to be educated about the war. Although Biafra is in the foreground, the larger Nigerian nation is evoked” (People’s Right 107). Nwapa and Iyayi’s novels, along with many other realist texts delving into the horrors of the Nigerian civil war, re-engage realism as a combative, politicized style seeking above all to articulate and mobilize a sense of collective imagination, precisely because this imagination is fractured, under pressure, and hardened and ravaged by partisan positions, lies, and deceptions. Mobilization of the imagination is one of the important (although often ignored) themes that runs through Georg Lukács’s reflections on realism—e.g., the historical novel, which emerges around the time when there is a political need for collective narratives that may legitimize by stirring the imagination of the masses a certain political vision of historical forces, which is then in turn used to legitimize a certain political vision of the present. Lukácsian realism, beginning with the historical novel and culminating in Balzacian 19th-century realism, is a literary style that appears in those moments during which the political is at stake in a very fundamental sense, when the discourse of the national has not yet been fully consolidated— that is, when the reality of civil war is still a concrete possibility.61 After the failed 1848 revolutions and the bourgeois betrayal of the working classes, realism degenerates into a kind of depoliticized pseudo-realism—what Lukács calls ‘naturalism’—which, I will argue, represents the moment when realism starts to become less performative-assertive, less imaginative, less seductive, and thus ultimately less political; this latter kind of realism is one that precisely refers to collective reality unproblematically under the assumption that it already exists. It is precisely this naturalness to which Lukács objects in Zola’s naturalist style; the latter captures a world of autonomous, already existing things— i.e., naturally existing things. This is the unproblematic reality of “Static situations … states or attitudes of mind of human beings or conditions of things—still lives” (Writer 130), a reality that is very much taken for granted, which precisely allows Flaubert and others to delve into psychology and modes of subjectivity. It is a realism that has come to believe, like Don Quixote, too much in its own fiction.62 Lukács’s ‘1848’, the moment realism starts to degenerate into a deterministic description, correlates in a strategic sense (that is, as a symbolic marker of what was, of course, a much more fluid transitional process) with Foucault’s argument about the nation-state’s monopolization of historico-political discourse; at this point, realism loses its

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normative-performative force and hence its political significance, since the idea of a unified, objective reality it performatively conjures up already exists as the common denominator underneath the imagined community that binds individuals together. Literary realism constitutes an aesthetic style that attempts to rethink a new political landscape; its characteristics—e.g., transparency, plausibility, common sense, causality, motivation, plot, part-whole, the central perspective—are essentially attempts to articulate an idea of a collective reality shared by potentially everyone within the social body. It does so by way of an implicit, performative declaration: implicit in the realist form is the suggestive imagination, ‘it could have been this way’ while simultaneously asserting: ‘this is how it is’. The imagined ‘it could have been this way’—containing doubt, uncertainty, the need for assertion as well as confirmation—is precisely that which is eliminated in Lukácsian naturalism. The style of naturalism largely coincides with the consolidation of national consciousness in the Andersonian form of ‘imagined community’—i.e., the nation-state’s monopolization of historicopolitical discourse; a stable, no longer challenged notion of reality, one taken for granted by its members—that is, an untranscendable horizon. The historical context of early realists like Stendhal was political in the extreme; with the French Revolution, and hence the birth of the idea of nationalism in the modern sense, literary realism literally emerged out of and developed through a time of turmoil, instability, divisions, revolutions, a continent at war. As Pam Morris observes, “The literary field in which realist novelists took up their positions as writers was thoroughly inter-penetrated by partisan struggles of conflicting political affiliations” (66), including Lukács’s favorite realist and reactionary novelist, Honoré de Balzac. After the failed 1848 revolutions throughout Europe, many writers increasingly turned away from politics, as Morris observes; Republicanism and revolution failed in 1848 and the Second Empire, that crushed radical political hopes, was a travesty of the ideals that had brought the first Empire into existence under Napoleon. For many writers after 1852 [the end of Napoleon III’s Second Empire] the only integrity that seemed available was the disinterested pursuit of art for art’s sake and a disdainful contempt for bourgeois values that had brought Louis-Napoleon to power as Napoleon III. (Realism 67) My notion of literary realism here, in particular, builds on Elizabeth Deeds Ermarth’s Realism and Consensus, Ayelet Ben-Yishai’s Common Precedents, Sandra Petrey’s Realism and Revolution, Catherine Gallagher’s Nobody’s Story, Harry Shaw’s Narrating Reality, Rae Greiner’s Sympathetic Realism, and Ian Duncan’s Scott’s Shadow. These works move away from the more traditional epistemological

The Political Significance of Literary Realism 111 definition of realism to explore notions of realism centered on ideas of consensus, commonality, common identity, collectivities, and communities. My argument differs in its emphasis on the political significance of realism. Literary realism, I argue, emerges as a political response to and within a divided community potentially on the verge of (or in some cases already plunged into) civil war. To clarify, I am here talking primarily about the formal characteristics of realism, not the thematic content of a given novel (which may or may not be about strife, conflicts, or war). It is the awareness of the possibility of civil war—of common reality falling apart—that constitutes the crucial horizon along which realist form finds its political coordinates. That is, the Hobbesian war of all against all: “For as long as every man holdeth this right of doing anything he liketh, so long are all men in the condition of war” (Leviathan 80). It is an event that opens a space of radical individual freedom, one in which everyone potentially has the right to claim their own reality; a world atomized by multitudes of individual realities, the antithesis of society. Realism emerges as a form that implicitly attempts not necessarily to unite people in a straightforward propagandistic sense (and not necessarily at a thematic level), but rather to assert performatively the possibility of a collectively experienced reality, a collective reality that potentially includes the realities of all individuals belonging to a given social body. This is essentially a political gesture; realism is a genre that attempts to level and synchronize everyone’s individual realities into one common reality. Once this vision has been consolidated, the political dimension of literary realism declines. Moretti observes that in Western cultures, “the substantial function of literature is to secure consent. To make individuals feel ‘at ease’ in the world they happen to live in, to reconcile them in a pleasant and imperceptible way to its prevailing cultural norms” (Signs 27). I generally agree here, although what prevents the kind of politicized realism to which I refer in becoming ideological-conservative, in Moretti’s sense, is realism’s historical context of a politically unstable reality; or rather, the absence of a common concept of reality altogether. Once the latter has been established and consolidated to the extent that it generates no more political disagreement at a fundamental existential level, realism in the sense of ‘securing consent’ may be understood more straightforwardly as an ideological-conservative project.

Realism as Historico-Political Discourse The traditional realist style emerges in response to a period of transition during which the very idea of the social body is being redefined, and hence potentially a period of political crisis, the prospect of communal collapse, the possible return to the state of nature. This is the time when people will ask questions like ‘what kind of collective reality do we inhabit’, ‘what is it that makes us a collective’, ‘what is the relationship

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between state and individual’, ‘what legitimate right does the state have to represent us’, ‘what is the state’, and ‘who constitutes the “we”’? When these questions are urgent to the extent that they cannot be ignored, there is a historical context for a politicized realist aesthetic. Conversely, when these questions are no longer asked in any urgent way, the political dimension of realism generally disappears. The absence of such questions suggests the existence of an agreement, acceptable to most people within a given community, about the fundamental existential political issues that would otherwise create dissension and conflict. It goes without saying that realism as an aesthetic style developed many other significant dimensions—e.g., as seen in Zola’s extreme verisimilitude, Flaubert’s and James’ psychological realism, photographic realism, as well as realist styles in post-1945 Western societies.63 Yet, realism as a politically significant aesthetic genre, as an aesthetic form addressing what Chantal Mouffe (following Schmitt) defines as “the political as antagonism” (10), largely disappears within the imagined community, even if many contemporary novels thematically address political issues. Hobbes’ state of nature is a place deprived of definitive standards of truth, morality, and customs, and is hence a place absent of any form of collective agreement.64 In the state of nature, every individual in principle possesses absolute rights, and there are thus potentially as many authoritative realities as there are individuals.65 To Hobbes, the only solution to such a profoundly unstable situation—this multiplicity of political wills, of realities, a war of all against all—is a situation secured by a contract, a mutual agreement between individuals and a state that must be fearsome enough to deter any individual will from claiming their absolute right. Hobbes attempts to solve the problem of the state of nature by delineating a vision of the commonwealth. Literary realism emerges out of those subversive forces driving the historico-political discourse, the discourse Hobbes feared above all, providing the imaginative instrument that allows this discourse eventually to transmute into the imagined community of the nation—that is, when the nation-state has successfully monopolized the historico-political discourse and eliminated the possibility of civil war. Nationalism here simply means the monopolized embodiment of historico-political discourse at the state level. This monopolization of reality in the singular was articulated at many levels—political, administrative, scientific, economic, etc. Foucault talks about an “immense and multiple battle between knowledges in the plural—knowledges that are in conflict because of their very morphology, because they are in possession of enemies, and because they have intrinsic power-effects” (‘Society’ 179).66 To Foucault, Hobbes defines the essence of the state of nature as a problem of plurality—the plurality of political wills, realities, and interpretations; the sovereign is the one who has the right to monopolize (and censor) knowledge

The Political Significance of Literary Realism 113 (a secular right transferred from the religious right of interpreting God’s word). It is this process of monopolization across all levels of society that manifests itself in the ‘natural’ feeling of one’s national reality, an untranscendable horizon. As Foucault argues, the historico-political discourse is a fiction that wants to conceal its own fictionality in order to expose another fiction as fictitious (the king’s authoritative legitimacy). Fiction here should be understood not simply as that which can be differentiated from the truth, but rather in the political sense of ‘this is how we should normatively understand society, its history, its collective reality’. What makes this sentence fictional is its performative dimension—that is, it does not refer to an already existing empirical reality but precisely postulates a politically imaginative vision that does not yet exist in actual reality. As a genre developing out of the historico-political discourse, realist style constitutes an attempt to articulate a political postulate about a common reality performatively. It is when this postulate becomes consolidated—when the nation-state monopolizes historico-political discourse—that the political significance of realism dwindles; at this point, the postulate has been replaced by the idea of an ‘objective reality’. After 1848, there are no longer plural nationalisms, only nationalism in the singular. This nationalist discourse monopolizes the concept of reality, a notion that in principle encompasses everyone (even if reality at an individual level may be experienced in multiple ways). To clarify, the date ‘1848’ is here used in a strategic sense, as a symbolic marker of a much more fluid and complex historical phenomenon. It should also be mentioned here that nationalism in the singular does not necessarily reduce the heterogeneity of national reality; on the contrary, the monopolization of national space leads to an intensification of regional awareness and local identities, albeit typically within the frames of the imagined community. At this stage, realist discourse opens itself towards what one could call epistemological-mimetic-anthropological modes of representation, precisely because the concept of a unified, common reality in a political sense is secure and hence largely taken for granted. Literary realism more generally plays a crucial aesthetic function that lends itself to political dynamics in terms of its efforts to create and establish connections and interpretive patterns, its consensus-seeking dynamic, and its operative formal dynamic as a total or untranscendable horizon. The historico-political discourse that Foucault identifies as the Hobbesian challenge (in response to which Hobbes writes Leviathan) claims that ‘we alone represent the people’, or simply: ‘we are the people’.67 This was always a political-performative rather than an empirical-objective claim; the historico-political discourse claims that the people or the will of the people is not directly represented, but rather falsely represented by fraudulent leaders and impostors who have colonized the body politic. The authentic will of the people is always in

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danger of being falsified.68 Literary realism is closely connected to this fear of misrepresenting the unmediated articulation of the collective. This is perhaps one of the reasons why realism, as Roman Jakobson has argued, is essentially metonymic in nature, rather than metaphoric: it distrusts the metaphor as an abstract form of representation (crown, scepter, etc.),69 whereas the metonymic offers a more organic, transparent vision of reality (as part of the whole).70 When Jakobson claims that realism is metonymical in nature, he is at the same time saying that realism attempts to create the illusion of transparent-direct representation—that is, not a representational modality represented abstractly by elected politicians or symbolically through the king, but directly by all true citizens. The historico-political discourse is thus essentially populist in nature long before the term takes on its modern meaning; it claims to represent the authentic nation’s people—e.g., Indira Gandhi’s political slogan ‘Indira is India, and India is Indira’. It attacks power while referring to a more authentic, non-institutionalized people ‘out there’, like the English living under the Norman yoke.71 One of the reasons why Foucault calls the historico-political discourse a ‘race war’ is not because it involves racism, at least not in the modern sense.72 It is a race war in the sense that it is premised on the distinction between the ‘true people’ and the ‘false people’.73 Subsequently, nationalism as a discourse resolving the issue of who belongs and who does not emerged as one of the most powerful ways to give voice to this premise. It monopolized the sentiment that ‘we alone represent the people’. It was only after this sentiment had been consolidated that it was possible to articulate the notion that ‘we are also the people’.74 The historico-political discourse should be distinguished from this latter notion of ‘we are also the people’, which refers to people who have been forgotten, marginalized, excluded within the consolidated nation-state. It is a sentiment that only ever becomes meaningful to the extent that an already consolidated nation-state exists.75 The crucial difference between nationalism and other discourses of community is that the former says: ‘we alone represent the people of the nation, and anyone who claims anything else is an impostor, a potential enemy’. By contrast, the other is not one of us, nor has this other any claim to this primordial notion of representation. Within the nation-state, we alone can decide this other’s fate—to be welcomed, tolerated, accepted, integrated, or the opposite.

Realist Omniscience The historico-political discourse only ever exists surrounded by other, equally politicized narratives of history—that is, other historico-political discourses. Yet it only ever understands itself as singular, as mutually exclusive alongside other politicized narratives; every historico-political discourse strives for monopoly.76 The monopolized (and fictional) ‘we,

The Political Significance of Literary Realism 115 the people’ is formally reproduced in the realist novel through the narratorial perspective. Elizabeth Ermarth comments: It is precisely the narrator’s function in the realistic novel to be faceless and even to be without identity in the ordinary sense of the word. The fundamental conventions of realism entail a narrative perspective without local particularity; consequently, to think of this narrator as an individual runs counter to the whole movement of realistic form. (Realism 39) The narratorial voice is without a face and therefore without identity—in short, nobody—and is therefore invisible, non-existent;77 (it is the) ‘no one’ (that) narrates. That is to say, in the realist text, the personalized narrator withdraws; the narrator typically does not comment, does not reveal herself (e.g., her prejudices, biases, particular perspectives), and does not signal her wish to participate in what is being narrated.78 There is simply invisible, omniscient narration, zero focalization.79 It is in this sense that the realist omniscient narrator performatively monopolizes the concept of common reality.80 In the article “Omniscience” (in The Literary in Theory), Jonathan Culler wonders why we tend to operate with two extreme assumptions in discussions of the concept; either total knowledge or limited human knowledge. To Culler, we assume that the narratorial perspective must be omniscient if it reveals more than what can naturally be known because we see the narrator as a person.81 Within the realist tradition, Culler argues, it seems to make more sense to see the omniscient narrator as an appeal to community standards or social consensus.82 And it is in this connection that Culler brings up Anderson’s argument about the imagined community; the latter does not involve a principle of omniscience, but rather the possibility of identifying as an individual with the collective consciousness of a community, a common way of thinking, which thus is expressed in the form of narrative consensus.83 There is an element of performativity involved in the concept of omniscience, in the sense that the narrator, by implicitly claiming to know everything thus, in fact, at the same time does know everything, that is, in a performative sense. In this sense, the realist novel, much like Foucault’s historicopolitical discourse, articulates a performative narratorial perspective, implicitly suggesting that this is how the world already is—i.e., a consensual perspective—even if there is no empirical consensus at all. The omniscient realist novel is thus an aesthetic form ultimately rebelling against the Cartesian cogito, the individual forever trapped in their solitary mind. The omniscient realist novel creates an impossible perspective, a trans-individual consciousness—or, as Miller formulates it, a general consciousness84—which is fictional, unreal, illusory, non-existent (in the sense that no individual consciousness—and thus consciousness

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as such—can transcend the limits of the Cartesian cogito), but which allows the solitary individual to imagine what everyone might imagine; a kind of double-imagination similar to the double-imagination in H.C. Andersen’s fairy tale The Emperor’s New Clothes: to each individual (including the emperor), the emperor is naked, yet to everyone he is (unrealistically) dressed in the finest clothes. Within the world of the traditional sovereign, the experience of collective reality is created out of fear; in the imagined community, the distinction between individual and collective reality has collapsed—hence, the need to invent privatesubjective spaces of pure individuality. A classic example of realism’s general consciousness, and more specifically its political significance, is illustrated in Ousmane Sembène’s God’s Bits of Wood (1960), a novel written during the years 1957–1959, just before Senegal’s independence in 1960. The novel tells the story of a general strike among railway workers along the Dakar-Niger railroad, 1947–1948. The European-owned company refuses to increase the meager salaries of its black workers, using the military to maintain the status quo. The novel portrays the various strategies and counterstrategies employed by the company and the workers, respectively; while the former seeks to isolate the workers and prevent any formation of a general consciousness (e.g., through multiple arrests, violent attacks, pressure, waiting, cutting off water and food supplies, and bribery as well as strategies of ‘divide and rule’), the latter desperately attempt to create alliances and bonds of collective solidarity through organized protests, demonstrations, meetings, inflammatory speeches, spontaneous confrontations in the streets, but also collective, homogenizing processes of internal exclusion, as well as suppression of individual dissent. Hence the title of the novel refers to a Senegalese proverb stressing the importance of individual protection against evil spirits by way of a collective identity. The plot spans across three main locations along the country’s railroad: Bamako, Thiès, and Dakar. Central to the novel is the ongoing formation of a collective subject that does not yet exist. The omniscient narratorial perspective of the novel constantly switches between these three locations spread across a vast geographical area, generating a fragile, anxious sense of simultaneity—anxious in the sense that the general strike is only a reality to the extent that everyone participates. In contrast to a railway line’s unilinear perspective, the novel’s plot, regularly leaping from one location (as well as one storyline about an individual character or a cluster of individuals) to another, emphasizes a horizontal perspective of physically distanced scenes striving towards a sense of collective simultaneity. The novel employs a realist omniscient perspective to create an uncertain, unstable (preAndersonian) imagined community, one that involves everyone looking anxiously at everyone else to ensure that the collective subject in the form

The Political Significance of Literary Realism 117 of a general strike, which becomes a representative figure of the collective subject’s struggles at large, comes into being.

The Monopolization of Reality As I have attempted to illustrate in this chapter, one of the important formal dynamics of the realist novel aligns itself with the political vision of one commonly accepted, unified reality. Emerging from the discursive battlefields of politicized history and historicized politics—i.e., historicopolitical discourse, realism is a style that engages the reader in a complex relationship with the concept of reality. Realist style wants the reader not only to believe in its fiction, but also to believe that it could have happened in real life, and in a further sense that it is so. Realism’s transparent style (i.e., the fact that it does not seem to have a distinctly recognizable literary style) supports this duplicity: it underscores the impression that the text could have been a real story, and in a more general sense that it is a real story. Transparency articulates a vision of direct representation, one that is not filtered by intermediaries. The illusion of transparency is furthermore expressed through the narratorial perspective—its disembodied, omniscient invisibility. The omniscient narrator is not an embodied human character but rather a perspective that strives to envision a general, common, collective sentiment. In this way, the realist style contributes to the articulation of a new political consciousness, one that intensifies in times of crises when the outer frames of a community are under pressure, when consensual-collective identity is no longer a given, natural, or perhaps even possible. Within the consolidated national space that Anderson outlines in Imagined Communities, the political relevance of realism eventually dwindles. In Foucault’s view, the long-term solution to the historicopolitical discourse was not, as Hobbes believed, the erection of the Leviathan, but rather the nation-state’s monopolization of those subversive forces that threaten power. Historically, realism emerges as an aesthetic style along the trajectory towards this monopolization. It is a style reflecting a world whose ontological coordinates have not yet been fixed but which in realism are imagined as if they were—a representational genre that still struggles with competing narratives in a world haunted by the subversive forces of historico-political discourse. After the Lukácsian date of 1848, this struggle eventually comes to an end; that is, at this point, the reality of the nation-state has successfully asserted its monopoly, which in effect means that not only do we accept living within a common epistemological-ontological horizon, but we also come to experience this condition as the absolute limits of our reality. Imagined community here means a negative imagination or the absence of the need for imagination in the strong sense; a limit of imagining anything else except through our own national communal life form, which becomes synonymous with the

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notion of reality itself. Realism performatively asserts that this is indeed everyone’s reality, not simply the reality of the individual. When the need to articulate this vision explicitly emerges, the coordinates for realism as a politically significant form likewise appear. Once this assertion becomes self-evident, natural, taken for granted, its political significance largely disappears. As Morris observes, “By the mid-1860s, almost all of the major realist writing of the nineteenth century had been achieved” (87)—e.g., Dickens, Gaskell, Thackeray, and Brontë—with the exception of Thomas Hardy’s late-century realist novels. As poststructuralist-oriented postcolonial scholars have been eager to point out, Anderson’s concept of imagined communities relies on a discourse of language, which thus lends itself to deconstructive strategies. However, this deconstructive procedure precisely misses the essential point of Anderson’s definition: that the latter’s concept is no longer a sign but is experienced as reality itself.85 And it is precisely due to this feeling—the national as natural, real, and not as a sign or something constructed or artificial—that individuals begin to imagine and dream beyond the now secure notion of the collective; that is, an inwards turn to the inner psyche of individuality, as well as to the heightened awareness of the difference between individual psychological reality and the externalcollective national reality. When the concept of reality is no longer understood or experienced as a concept, an idea, a fiction, but reality as such—when there is broad agreement about what reality is, in a political sense—the performative-political force of realism becomes largely anachronistic. Realism becomes a politically significant genre, I argue, during those historical moments when the imagined community does not as yet exist—that is, when the coordinates of the collective-communal reality are under pressure or are as yet to be fixed and consolidated. While modernism as a style generally articulates the individual’s often alienated or fragmented experience of the imagined community, it thereby also at the same time tacitly asserts this community’s existence, its reality, however shattered and ravaged it may be. In many ways, postmodernism constitutes a desperate extension of this narcissistic process, albeit in overdrive, an ironic gloss on the artificial bliss and dead ends of the depoliticized life. The academic field of postcolonial studies politicized this narcissistic process in overdrive by turning it into an elaborate set of epistemologicalrepresentational critiques, thereby also becoming institutionally blind to reading postcolonial realism as a politically significant genre.

Notes 1 It may be true, as Stern argues, that realism “is no more than the dispensable cultural option of an era” (Stern qtd in Barton, “‘Enter Mariners’” 31), or, as Heath suggests—that the “history of realism is a history of writings—discursive modes of the organization of a representation of reality” (“Realism” 114).

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Yet despite the conceptual difficulties in defining the notion of realism, I agree with Morris’ argument that the “epistemology that underwrites all uses of realist representation is the same: the need to communicate information about the material, non-linguistic world” (Realism 44). For a discussion of the definitional ambiguity of the term ‘realism’, see Wellek’s essay “The Concept of Realism in Literary Scholarship” in Concepts of Criticism 222–255; Chapter 1 in Shaw’s Narrating Reality 1–37; and Morris’s Realism 2–6. See Schweller, “Neoclassical Realism” 227–250. See Becker’s Documents for an overview of the historical developments of various European traditions 3–38. Thus, Birke and Butter define realism as a term denoting “an epoch in literary history: it refers to a specific tradition of writing in the nineteenth century” (2), in relation to which literary scholars have been extrapolating additional definitions that transcend the notion of realism as a specific epochal moment, e.g., formalist definitions of realism; as a form that further extends and thus maintains traditional realist features, e.g., in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; and finally an expanded notion of realism as meaning the realistic depiction of real life, which would include stream-of-consciousness techniques reflecting, perhaps more adequately, inner life (see Birke and Butter 2). The kind of politicized realism I am interested in is primarily centered around a formalist definition; it overlaps to some extent with the second notion of realism but rejects the third version of realism. For example, see Watt’s Rise on realism and the rise of the middle-class; Heath’s “Realism” on realism and capitalism; Levine’s Realism on realism and science; Levin’s Gates on realism and democracy; Jarrett’s Deans on realism and race; and Baucom’s Specter on realism and slavery. See Morris, Realism 53–53. Watt writes: “Modern realism … begins from the position that truth can be discovered by the individual through his senses” (Rise 12). See Levin, Gates 62. For a further discussion of realism and the critique of idealism, see also Morris, Realism 49–52. For a discussion of the philosophical implications of these issues, see Villanueva’s Theories of Literary Realism 1–35. That is to say, literary realism as a genre is committed to the portrayal of a horizontal notion of reality, one that is distinctly different from the verticalhierarchical construction of the king’s reality. See Brennan, “National Longing” 48–49. Mikhail Bakhtin argues that the genre of the novel emerges “from a socially isolated and culturally deaf semipatriarchal society, and its entrance into international and interlingual contacts and relationships” (Dialogic 11), and a little later: “The period of national languages, coexisting but closed and deaf to each other, comes to an end. Languages throw light on each other: one language can, after all, see itself only in light of another language” (12). Here, I agree with Franco Moretti, who argues that “In general, the novel has not stimulated social polyphony … but rather reduced it” (Atlas 45n). Via Gellner’s notion of ‘single intellectual currency’, Moretti argues that “State-building requires streamlining … of physical barriers, and of the many jargons and dialects that are irreversibly reduced to a single national language. And the style of nineteenth-century novels—informal, impersonal, ‘common’—contributes to this centralization more than any other discourse. In this, too, the novel is truly the symbolic form of the nation-state” (45). For a discussion of representations of the king’s body, see Kantorowicz’s The King’s Two Bodies (especially chapter 1); for more general works on realism

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and the body, see Cohen and Prendergast’s Spectacles of Realism, and Brooks’ Body Works. An early and influential proponent of this position was Colin MacCabe, and particularly his essay “Realism and the Cinema” from 1974, which was later further developed in Belsey’s equally influential Critical Practice from 1980. The idea that realism attempts to accurately represent the world—with the further implication, as Morris writes, “that literary realism practices a form of dishonesty, veiling its status as art to suggest it is simply a copy of or reflection of life” (Realism 97)—is, as Brooks observes, “a very old line of critique of realism, reaching back at least to Plato” (Realist 7). One could add here that at least since Aristotle’s Poetics (in which he presents the idea of mimetic literature as a ‘model’ rather than ‘accurate representation’), more productive approaches to realism have been in circulation. As Prendergast writes, “The language of mimesis re-presents not the world but the world as already organized in discourse” (Order 68). For an extensive discussion of this issue, see Shaw, Narrating 1–38. As Bakhtin writes, “The novel gets on poorly with other genres … The novel parodies other genres (precisely in their role as genres); it exposes the conventionality of their forms and their language; it squeezes out some genres and incorporates others into its own peculiar structure, reformulating and reaccentuating them” (Dialogic 5). See Said, Beginnings 83. Likewise, Prendergast has argued that “the model of the authoritative narrator standing at the apex of the triangle of representation does not adequately explain … the success of the mimetic endeavour. The limitation of the model is that it is internally self-confirming; the authority of the narrator ensures mimesis because the narrator is authoritative; it thus lacks genuine explanatory power in so far as it presupposes what it is designed to explain” (Order 30). This is why the novel form, as Said argues, exhibits an “extraordinary fear of the void that antedates private authority” (Beginnings 92)—a fear of losing its self-legitimized, secular authority through the ‘molesting’ disclosure of an illegitimate origin. This fear is, in Said’s view, a symptom of the perplexities and terrifying responsibilities that emerge in the wake of a secularized world no longer governed by a transcendent order. See Lukács, Theory of the Novel 75. That is, the opposite of metafictional gestures, which precisely insist on a distinction—albeit oftentimes a very blurred and problematized distinction—between the fictional and the non-fictional. See J. Hillis Miller, “Narrative” 455. For a similar argument, see Zimmerman, Boundaries 43–44. For an extended discussion of realism and history (including Lukács’s discussion of the topic), see Shaw’s Narrating Reality (especially chapter 1). To Shaw, realism involves a process or ‘balancing act’ enabling readers to “come to terms with realities, imagined and real” (xi)—at a time when the concept of history (in the modern sense) is in the process of coming into existence. Jameson’s concept of modernism—as ‘cancelled realism’—likewise builds on this idea of realism as a standard norm. See Ideologies Vol. 2 8. Critics who have similarly stressed this aspect include Harshaw (1984) and Margolin (1991). In the essay “To Write: An Intransitive Verb?” (in The Rustle of Language), Barthes discusses realism as “the docile and ‘transparent’ expression of either so-called objective (or chronicle) time, or of psychological subjectivity … [a] literature … placed within a totalitarian ideology of the referent” (15).

The Political Significance of Literary Realism 121 26 See Barthes, “The Reality Effect” (in The Rustle of Language) 141–148. Barthes’ example is a barometer—presumably without any practical function or symbolic meaning in terms of the plot development—in Flaubert’s story Un coeur simple (1877). As Martin Swales writes: “realism offers an acknowledgement of the physical world’s ‘thereness’ … a redundancy beyond the process of artistic structuring and symbol-making. It is the purpose of such details that they are not—and that they do not need to be—‘recuperated’ into any artistic significance above and beyond their physical existence in the extra-literary world” (“Problem” 80). 27 See here Anjaria’s important discussion of colonial realism in Realism in the Twentieth-Century Indian Novel. To Anjaria, realist texts “represent something in the world, but they are also representing realism itself—its possibilities, its limitations, its complicities, and its subversions” (13–14); an important genre deeply involved in the construction of political modernity in India, and, as such, a utopian genre “constituted by desire [which] situates it, from the outset, outside of the discourse of mimesis or transparency” (15). 28 For a discussion of this issue, see Morris, Realism 17–22; and Hohendahl, “Theory” 75–98. 29 See Morris, Realism 136–137. 30 See Foucault, ‘Society’ 180–181. 31 Brooks further writes that “Fictions are what we make up in order to make believe: the word in its Latin root, fingere, ficto, means both to make, as in the model builder’s activity, and to make up, to feign. Making in order to make up, to make believe, seems a reasonable description of literary fictions, and why we write them and read them” (Realist 2). See also Kendall Walton’s article “Appreciating Fictions: Suspending Disbelief or Pretending Belief” for a discussion of this issue. 32 See Hillis Miller, “Narrative” 457–458. 33 See Gallagher, Nobody’s 171–174. 34 Furst notes that “While eighteenth-century narrators were a strong presence within their fictions, addressing readers on numerous occasions, the realist program of a true and faithful copy of reality demands an apparently autonomous action emanating from an impersonal, disembodied, imperceptible voice” (True 57). 35 As Robert Stam observes, “[Realism] pretends to be something more than mere artistic production; it presents its characters as real people, its sequence of words or images as real time, and its representations as substantiated fact. Reflexivity, on the other hand, points to its own mask and invites the public to examine its design and texture” (Reflexivity 1). 36 Stendhal famously declared that “a novel is a mirror riding along a highway,” while Hippolyte Taine saw the novel as “a kind of portable mirror which can be conveyed everywhere, and which is most convenient for reflecting all aspects of nature and life” (both quotes from Levin, Gates 19). 37 For a discussion of this issue, see Riffaterre 33. 38 Thus, David Lodge writes that “the realist novel, from its beginnings in the eighteenth century, modelled its language on historical writing of various kinds, formal and informal: biography, autobiography, travelogue, letters, diaries, journalism and historiography” (Modes 25). 39 See Morris, Realism 63–69; Brooks, Realist 16. 40 See also Petrey’s Realism and Revolution for a discussion of realism’s role during and after the French Revolution. 41 See Kern’s A Cultural History of Causality for a historical exploration of the idea of causality and the ways in which it became a crucial dynamic in terms

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of a scientific understanding of reality. To Kern, “In the course of the nineteenth century, as industrialism and urbanism transformed life beyond recognition and beyond conventional explanations, new disciplines emerged that looked increasingly to the past for causal understanding of human origins and the meaning of life” (27). “Nineteenth-century novelists,” Kern observes at an earlier point, “typically crafted clear and strongly deterministic causal factors” (4). See also Meir Sternberg’s essay “Mimesis and Motivation” for a discussion of this issue. For a discussion of the early episodic novel, see Jerry C. Beasley’s “Life’s Episodes,” H.K. Russell’s “Unity in Eighteenth-Century Episodic Novels,” and Matthew Garrett’s Episodic Poetics. To a modernist like E.M. Forster, by contrast, the compositionality threatens the natural ‘growth’ of the text. The overdetermined causality along with complete plots in modern fiction are to him unfortunate formal leftovers from classic realism. See Aspects of the Novel 95–99. At the same time, as Stam correctly points out—“Realism and reflexivity are not strictly opposed polarities but rather interpenetrating tendencies quite capable of coexistence within the same text” (Reflexivity 15). In fact, one could argue that reflexive, anti-realist moments within a predominantly realist discourse often tend to intensify the work’s realism. See Stern, Realism 75. See in particular The Order of Things (e.g., the chapter on Don Quixote 51–55), the afterword to A History of Madness (“My Body, This Paper, This Fire”), as well as essays including “Maurice Blanchot: The Thought from Outside,” “Preface to Transgression” and “Language to Infinity.” See here also Wolfgang Iser’s Austin-inspired discussion of the literary text as an ‘illocutionary act’ (Act 54); Pam Morris’ argument about a performative realism “based upon a consensual contract with the reader that communication about a non-textual reality is possible” (Realism 162); and Sandy Petrey’s argument about French nineteenth-century realism and Austin’s concept of speech acts (Realism 1–15). As Wayne C. Booth points out, “the author cannot choose to avoid rhetoric; he can choose only the kind of rhetoric he will employ” (Rhetoric 149)—in other words, there is no writing that simply transparently, artlessly, and invisibly renders itself to the reader; at most, the writing can employ rhetoric that strives to create the impression of transparency, artlessness, and invisibility. As Nicholas Harrison writes, “The dictionary translation of vraisemblance tends to be ‘verisimilitude’, but the English term is less flexible and more technical than the French; the adjective vraisemblable can be rendered as ‘plausible’, ‘probable’ or ‘convincing’ … When as readers we assess whether a literary representation is vraisemblable we are in part measuring it, Genette argues, against a commonsensical and intuitive set of beliefs and values; and if it measures up, and in that sense we decide to accept it as ‘realistic’, as a reliable picture of the real world, it thereby seems to endorse those beliefs and values” (Postcolonial 24). Genette is of course critical of this dynamic because the ‘commonsensical’ is politically inflected, not neutral; literature—because of its normative-performative force—thus politically persuades or indoctrinates the reader of its plausibility as well as probability. For a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of epistemological vs. socio-political definitions of the concept of realism, see Robbins’ article “Modernism and Literary Realism.” To Robbins, the reformulation of “the argument over realism as an argument over the size and shape of community

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seems … an excellent way around what might otherwise appear to be a theoretical and argumentative impasse” (225). However, Robbins also acknowledges that a socio-political approach to the concept of realism brings its own set of problems. “Community,” he writes a little later, “isn’t necessarily any easier to delimit or achieve than certainty is” (229), which of course is true, although Robbins’ discussion of the socio-political discourse of realism—arguing, for example, that “Knowledge about communities that produce knowledge is itself the product of knowledge-producing communities” (229)—never really seems to leave the epistemological ground. Stephen Heath also identifies conservative as well as revolutionary forces in realist discourse: realism presents “a particular representation of the real as a reality, not the sum of a few separate and universal elements. This is why, indeed, realism is so quickly gathered up into positions of conservatism or revolutionism: realism as a given and known quantity-quality … or realism as an historical act of production that necessitates the shattering of old forms, accepted representations, in the interests of a new, effective hold on reality” (“Realism” 104). In fact, this dialectic is also reflected in the poststructuralist/ contemporary debates on realism; on the one hand, the argument that realism simply reproduces Doxa, e.g., Belsey’s argument that “Realism is plausible … because it is constructed out of what is (discursively) familiar” (Critical 44); and, on the other hand, the argument that realism self-consciously problematizes this reproduction, e.g., J. Hillis Miller’s essay “The Fiction of Realism” and Levine’s argument that traditional realist writers selfconsciously used “language to get beyond language, to discover some nonverbal truth there” (Realism 6). For an extended discussion of this critical debate, see Morris, Realism 24–44. In a similar vein, Duncan argues that Scott’s Waverly “and its successors do not just fictionalize history—representing the events, figures, forms, and forces that constitute history in the medium of the novel. They historicize history as an institution, a set of material forms and social practices” (Scott’s Shadow 136; italics mine). In a wonderful image, Ben-Yishai observes that the “reality of realism is ‘afloat’ as it were, only insofar as there exists an ‘everybody’ sufficient to hold it up—to recognize these texts as realistic, to suspend our disbelief that the reality these fictions reference is in itself a construction” (“Walking” 210). Hence, as Brooks writes, “The claim of ‘realism’ in both painting and literature is in large part that our sense of sight is the most reliable guide to the world as it most immediately affects us” (Realist 3). Developing an argument along David Hume’s philosophical skepticism, Duncan argues that “the imaginary production of reality is customary—habitual and social—rather than solipsistic; its great work of fiction, common life, is an ongoing, collective project, consensually shared and reproduced” (Scott’s Shadow 120; italics mine). Further discussion of this idea is presented in Gallagher’s “The Rise of Fictionality.” Historically, European realism emerges during the epistemological order of ‘the classical age’—roughly from the middle of the seventeenth century to the first half of the nineteenth century (see Foucault, Order 86–135), and more particularly during the transitional phase between the classical age and modernity, 1775–1825 (see Foucault, Order 235–240). See also Ermarth, Realism 21–22. As Ben-Yishai writes, “The conventions of fiction require that readers trust the implied author and the narrator if he or she is presented as reliable; the

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fictional facts posited by the novel are always true” (Common 143)—even if, as Ben-Yishai continues, “so many facts are unstable … one cannot help but reconsider the truth of its narrative discourse” (ibid.). For a discussion of this body of work, see Coundouriotis, The People’s Right 98–151. See Moses and Heerten’s Postcolonial Conflict for discussions of the Nigerian civil war. For an extended discussion of the novel, see Fírinne Ní Chréacháin 43–53. As Lukács writes in The Historical Novel, Balzac recognizes that his task “is to present this section of France’s history, from 1789 to 1848, in its historical connections” (83). A little later, Lukács observes: “The great experience of Balzac’s youth is the volcanic character of social forces, concealed by the apparent calm of the Restoration period. He recognized with greater clarity than any of his literary contemporaries the profound contradiction between the attempts at feudal-absolutist Restoration and the rapidly growing forces of Capitalism” (84). As noted previously, Booth makes the important argument that writing (including realist writing) always at some level involves rhetoric; there is no writing entirely devoid of some degree of rhetorical configuration (see Rhetoric 149). Zola’s obsession with an accurate, objective-positivist representation of reality paradoxically leads to the opposite, i.e., ideology and subjectivism. Lukács writes: “The method of observation and description developed as part of an attempt to make literature scientific, to transform it into an applied natural science, into sociology. But investigation of social phenomena through observation and their representation in description bring such paltry and schematic results that these modes of composition easily slip into their polar opposite—complete subjectivism” (Writer 140). For example, see Mercer’s Repression and Realism in Post-War American Literature, or Dominic Head’s The State of the Novel: Britain and Beyond. See Hobbes, Leviathan 78. As Jörg Spieker comments: “In the absence of definitive standards of truth and morality, the Hobbesian state of nature constantly generates different and competing political movements. There are, at least potentially, as many political bodies as there are individuals since every individual is capable of constructing her own understanding of the world” (“Foucault and Hobbes” 193). I agree here with Stuart Elden’s argument that the thesis Foucault develops in the lecture series ‘Society Must Be Defended’ in many ways can be seen as “a politicizing of the argument of The Order of Things” (“The War of Races” 138). As noted previously, I am here following Jan-Werner Müller’s definition of populism, a modern phenomenon closely connected to the consolidation of representative democracy and the nation-state (see Müller, Populism 20). I use it in a slightly expanded—and possibly more positive—sense to refer more broadly to the specifically political problem of defining a holistic notion of the social body, one that emerges in connection with the historico-political discourse. The latter essentially embodies a democratic impulse, a challenge to the king’s authority, but also a corrosive force that threatens to tear apart society. It is this idea that is subsequently regulated and controlled through the nation state’s monopolization of the historico-political discourse; at this point, I would argue, the idea of the people manifests itself as ‘objective reality’. Müller’s concept of populism is one that emerges after this manifestation, a moralizing (and, at least historically, often deranged, distorted, and racist) gesture of reclaiming the legitimacy and validity of the nationstate’s original monopolization. Within a broader perspective, one could

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argue that Müller’s definition of populism is merely an intensified and extreme version of what most political ideologies claim—to represent, in a morally legitimate and singular sense, ‘the people’. See Müller on leadership and populism, Populism 32–38. This perhaps explains, as Müller points out, why “the French revolutionaries never found a satisfactory way symbolically to represent the principle of popular sovereignty: the whole people could not appear as such, and particular symbols, such as the Phrygian cap, a crowned youth, or Hercules, clearly failed to convince” (Populism 20). See here Jakobson’s essay “Linguistics and Poetics,” in which he presents his famous argument about the paradigmatic and syntagmatic axes of language. Jakobson relates the latter axis to metonymy (something standing in for the whole) and the idea of contiguity, e.g., the idea of temporal and spatial closeness. For an extended discussion of Jakobson’s realist poetics, see David Lodge’s The Modes of Modern Writing 73–124. It should also be mentioned here that my understanding of the role metonymy plays in terms of realist aesthetics differs from the way it has been used by postcolonial scholars to signify difference as well as anti-universalist resistance (see Bhabha, “Representation” 114–120; and Ashcroft et al. Empire 50–58). See Müller, Populism 27. See Foucault, ‘Society’ 65–66. In his definition of populism, Müller furthermore makes a crucial distinction between ‘authentic people’ and ‘common people’: only a part of the population is the people (see Populism 22–23). Both terms are of course discursive constructions—or, as Müller puts it, illusions: “For the whole people can never be grasped and represented—not least because it never remains the same, not even for a minute: citizens die, new citizens are born” (28). Due to the elusiveness of ‘the people’, one could argue, realism emerges as a form that presents this fiction as reality, albeit no particular reality as such, as Gallagher argues (see Gallagher, Nobody’s 174). See Müller, Populism 19–25. In her critique of human rights, Hannah Arendt addresses the dilemma of the state- and nation-less subjects, i.e., those in need of human rights protection—but who were left unprotected because they were no longer members of a nation-state: “We became aware of the existence of a right to have rights (and that means to live in a framework where one is judged by one’s actions and opinions) and a right to belong to some kind of organized community, only when millions of people emerged who had lost and could not regain these rights because of the new global political situation … Only with a completely organized humanity could the loss of home and political status become identical with expulsion from humanity all together” (Totalitarianism 296–297). Once nation-states had claimed the entire world’s habitable surface, it became possible to reduce non-nationals to non-humans, absolute others. Similarly, realist diegesis can never contain several—equally valid, mutually existing—concepts of reality. See also Miller’s The Form of Victorian Fiction (53–90) for a similar discussion. The narrator’s participation would ‘contaminate’ the fictional diegesis, i.e., make the latter seem less plausible, less general. At the same time, the omniscient narrator brings assurance, as Lukács observes: “the author in his omniscience knows the special significance of each petty detail for the final solution and for the final revelation of character since he introduces only details that contribute to his goals. The reader takes confidence from the

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author’s omniscience and feels at home in the fictional world” (“Narrate” 128–129). Within postcolonial studies, the concept of the omniscient narrator has often been linked to colonial authority, which is one of the reasons why postcolonial scholars have generally found realist discourse problematic. On realist omniscience and imperial rule, see Henry, George Eliot 10–11; on the realist novel and colonial discourse more generally, see Azim, The Colonial Rise of the Novel 29–33. Genette’s term ‘focalization’ (see Narrative Discourse 189) is a term that—as Furst observes—“is most common later in the [19th] century that earlier” (All is True 117), e.g., in connection with predominantly subjective-psychological texts, or texts that explicitly move away from realist modes, as well as later literary discourses in the early twentieth century, like Virginia Woolf’s modernist texts (for a discussion of Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, realism and focalization, see Morris, Realism 15–17). See also Greiner’s discussion of free indirect discourse, Sympathetic 36–44. See Culler, Literary 188. Some texts focalized through specific characters—like Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying—are generally not considered texts involving an omniscient narrator, but rather ‘limited point of view’, even if they involve unnatural acts of mindreading suggesting an omniscient narrator. As Culler writes: “If there is a consciousness somewhere about, as there is in focalized narratives, we feel less need to invent another person who knows what goes on in the first character’s head” (193). It should be noted that Culler—generally dismissive of the usefulness of the term ‘omniscience’—is likewise skeptical when it comes to this idea of a general consciousness, even if he uses the idea in his essay on Anderson’s imagined community (see Literary 48 & 200). Likewise, Miller views the Victorian omniscient narrators as imagining “the mind of the community,” “a transindividual mind,” and a “general consciousness” of the community (Forms 67). Describing Trollope’s novels, Miller argues that “Surrounding all, like the glass case and its atmosphere, there is the mind which knows all and judges correctly, sees everything clearly in all space and time, like an immanent god. Within this there is the community mind, sustained from moment to moment by the living together of English men and women in their society as they share habits and judgments” (86). To Miller, this is by no means an absolute, omniscient perspective: “The community mind is more or less confused. It has within it clouds of uncertainty and misjudgement, cannot see the future clearly, misinterprets people” (86). See Miller, Forms 67. It is ‘transcendent’ in the sense that Derrida—following Sartre’s definition of prose—has formulated it in an interview with Derek Attridge: “‘Transcend’ here means going beyond interest for the signifier, the form, the language … in the direction of the meaning or referent” (Act 44).

Works Cited Adorno, Theodor W. “Reading Balzac.” Notes to Literature. Vol. 1. Ed. Rolf Tiedemann. Trans. Shierry Weber Nicholson. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991. 121–136. Anjaria, Ulka. Realism in the Twentieth-Century Indian Novel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

The Political Significance of Literary Realism 127 Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism [1951]. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company. 1976. Armah, Ayi Kwei. Fragments. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970. Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. The Empire Writes Back [1989]. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Routledge, 2002. Auerbach, Erich. Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature [1946]. Trans. Willard R. Trask. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2003. Azim, Firdous. The Colonial Rise of the Novel. New York: Routledge, 1993. Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin. Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 2002. Barthes, Roland. “The Reality Effect.” The Rustle of Language. Trans. Richard Howard. Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 1989. 141–148. Barthes, Roland. “To Write.” The Rustle of Language. Trans. Richard Howard. Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 1989. 11–21. Baucom, Ian. Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History. Durham, North Carolina.: Duke University Press, 2005. Beasley, Jerry C. “Life’s Episodes: Story and Its Form in the Eighteenth Century.” The Idea of the Novel in the Eighteenth Century. Ed. Robert W. Uphaus. East Lansing, Michigan: Colleagues Press, 1988. 21–45. Becker, George J. ed. Documents of Modern Literary Realism. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1963. Belsey, Catherine. Critical Practice [1980]. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2002. Ben-Yishai, Ayelet. Common Precedents: The Presentness of the Past in Victorian Law and Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Ben-Yishai, Ayelet. “Walking the Boundaries in Victorian Fiction: Realism as Communal Epistemology.” Nineteenth-Century Contexts 37.3 (2015): 197–214. Bhabha, Homi. “Representation and the Colonial Text: A Critical Exploration of Some Forms of Mimeticism.” The Theory of Reading. Ed. Frank Gloversmith. Brighton: Harvester, 1984. 93–122. Birke, Dorothee, and Stella Butter, eds. “Introduction.” Realisms in Contemporary Culture: Theories, Politics, and Medial Configurations. Eds. Dorothee Birke and Stella Butter. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013. 1–12. Booth, Wayne C. The Rhetoric of Fiction. 2nd ed. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago University Press, 1983. Brennan, Timothy. “The National Longing for Form.” Nation and Narration. Ed. Homi Bhabha. London: Routledge, 1990. 44–70. Brooks, Peter. Body Works: Objects of Desire in Modern Narrative. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1993. Brooks, Peter. Realist Vision. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005. Chréacháin, Fírinne Ní. “Festus Iyayi’s ‘Heroes’: Two Novels in One?” Research in African Literatures 22.1 (1991): 43–55. Cohen, Margaret, and Christopher Prendergast, eds. Spectacles of Realism: Gender, Body, Genre. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Minnesota University Press, 1995.

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Cohn, Dorrit. The Distinction of Fiction. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999. Coundouriotis, Eleni. The People’s Right to the Novel: War Fiction in the Postcolony. New York: Fordham University Press, 2014. Culler, Jonathan. The Literary in Theory. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2007. Derrida, Jacques. Acts of Literature. Trans. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby. Ed. Derek Attridge. New York: Routledge, 1992. Duncan, Ian. Scott’s Shadow: The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2007. Elden, Stuart. “The War of Races and the Constitution of the State: Foucault’s ‘Il faut defendre la societé’ and the Politics of Calculation.” Boundary 2 29.1 (2002): 125–151. Ermarth, Elizabeth Deeds. Realism and Consensus in the English Novel. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998. Ermarth, Elizabeth Deeds. “The Crisis of Realism in Postmodern Time.” Ed. George Levine. Madison, Wisconsin: Wisconsin University Press, 1993. 214–224. Forster, E.M. Aspects of the Novel. Ed. Oliver Stallybrass. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1987. Foucault, Michel. “Maurice Blanchot: The Thought from Outside.” Foucault/ Blanchot. Trans. Brian Massumi. New York: Zone Books, 1987. 8–58. Foucault, Michel. “A Preface to Transgression.” Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology: Essential Works of Foucault 1954–1984. Vol. II. Ed. James D. Faubion. Trans. Robert Hurley and others. New York: The New Press, 1998. 69–87. Foucault, Michel. “Language to Infinity.” Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology: Essential Works of Foucault 1954–1984. Vol. II. Ed. James D. Faubion. Trans. Robert Hurley and others. New York: The New Press, 1998. 89–101. Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences [1966]. London: Routledge, 2002. Foucault, Michel. ‘Society Must be Defended’. Lectures at the Collège de France 1975-1976. Eds. Mauro Bertani and Alessandro Fontana. Trans. David Macey. New York: Picador, 2003. Foucault, Michel. History of Madness [1961]. Ed. Jean Khalfa. Trans. Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa. London: Routledge, 2006. Furst, Lilian R. All is True: The Claims and Strategies of Realist Fiction. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1995. Gallagher, Catherine. Nobody’s Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace 1670-1820. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1994. Gallagher, Catherine. “The Rise of Fictionality.” The Novel vol. 1: History, Geography, and Culture. Ed. Franco Moretti. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2007. 336–363. Garrett, Matthew. Episodic Poetics: Politics and Literary Form After the Constitution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. Genette, Gérard. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. Trans. Jane E. Lewin. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1983.

The Political Significance of Literary Realism 129 Genette, Gérard. ‘“Vraisemblance’ and Motivation.” Trans. David Gorman. Narrative 9.3 (2001): 239–258. Greiner, Rae. Sympathetic Realism in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012. Hamburger, Käte. The Logic of Literature. Trans. Marilyn J. Rese. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1973. Harrison, Nicholas. Postcolonial Criticism: History, Theory and the Work of Fiction. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003. Harshaw, Benjamin. “Fictionality and Fields of Reference.” Poetics Today 5 (1984): 227–257. Head, Dominic. The Cambridge Introduction to Modern British Fiction, 1950–2000. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Heath, Stephen. “Realism, modernism, and ‘language-consciousness’.” Realism in European Literature. Essays in honour of J.P. Stern. Eds. Nicholas Boyle and Martin Swales. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. 103–122. Henry, Nancy. George Eliot and the British Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan [1651]. Ed. Edwin Curley. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1994. Hohendahl, Peter Uwe. “The Theory of the Novel and the Concept of Realism in Lukács and Adorno.” Georg Lukács Reconsidered: Critical Essays in Politics, Philosophy and Aesthetics. Ed. Michael J. Thompson. London: Continuum, 2011. 75–98. Iser, Wolfgang. The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response. London: Routledge, 1978. Iyayi, Festus. Heroes. Harlow: Longman, 1986. Jakobson, Roman. “Closing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics.” Style in Language. Ed. Thomas A. Sebeok. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT University Press, 1960. 350–377. Jameson, Fredric. The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971–1986 Vol. 2: Syntax of History. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989. Jarrett, Gene Andrew. Deans and Truants: Race and Realism in African American Literature. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007. Kantorowicz, Ernst. The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1957. Kern, Stephen. A Cultural History of Causality: Science, Murder Novels, and Systems of Thought. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2004. Levin, Harry. The Gates of Horn: A Study of Five French Realists. New York: Oxford University Press, 1963. Levine, George, ed. Realism and Representation: Essays on the Problem of Realism in Relation to Science, Literature, and Culture. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1993. Lodge, David. The Modes of Modern Writing: Metaphor, Metonymy, and the Typology of Modern Literature. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1977. Lukács, Georg. “Narrate or Describe” [1936]. Writer and Critic. Ed. & Trans. Arthur Kahn. London: Merlin, 1978. 110–148.

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Lukács, Georg. Writer and Critic. Ed. & Trans. Arthur Kahn. London: Merlin, 1978. Lukács, Georg. “Franz Kafka or Thomas Mann?” The Meaning of Contemporary Realism. Trans. John and Necke Mander. London: Merlin Press, 1979. 47–92. Lukács, Georg. The Historical Novel [1937]. Trans. Hannah and Stanley Mitchell. London: Merlin Press, 1989. Lukács, Georg. The Theory of the Novel [1914–15]. Trans. Anna Bostock. London: Merlin, 2003. MacCabe, Colin. “Realism and the Cinema: Notes on Some Brechtian Theses.” Screen 15.2 (1974): 7–24. Margolin, Uri. “Reference, Coreference, Referring, and the Dual Structure of Literary Narrative.” Poetics Today 12 (1991): 517–542. Mercer, Erin. Repression and Realism in Post-War American Literature. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Miller, J. Hillis. The Form of Victorian Fiction: Thackeray, Dickens, Trollope, George Eliot, Meredith, and Hardy. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968. Miller, J. Hillis. “The Fiction of Realism: Sketches by Boz, Oliver Twist, and Cruikshank’s Illustrations.” Dickens’ Centennial Essays. Eds. Ada Nisbet and Blake Nevius. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1971. 85–153. Miller, J. Hillis. “Narrative and History.” ELH 41.3 (1974): 455–473. Moretti, Franco. Atlas of the European Novel 1800–1900. London: Verso, 1999. Moretti, Franco. Signs Taken for Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms [1983]. London: Verso, 2005. Morris, Pam. Realism. London: Routledge, 2003. Moses, A. Dirk, and Lasse Heerten, eds. Postcolonial Conflict and the Question of Genocide: The Nigeria-Biafra War, 1967–1970. New York: Routledge, 2018. Mouffe, Chantal. On the Political. London: Routledge, 2005. Müller, Jan-Werner. What is Populism? Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016. Nwapa, Flora. Never Again. Enugu: Nwamife Publishers, 1975. Pavel, Thomas. Fictional Worlds. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1986. Petrey, Sandy. Realism and Revolution: Balzac, Stendhal, Zola, and the Performances of History. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1988. Prendergast, Christopher. The Order of Things. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Riffaterre, Michael. Fictional Truth. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990. Robbins, Bruce. “Modernism and Literary Realism: Response.” Realism and Representation: Essays on the Problem of Realism in Relation to Science, Literature and Culture. Ed. George Levine. Madison: Wisconsin University Press, 1993. 225–231. Russell, H.K. “Unity in Eighteenth-Century Episodic Novels.” Quick Springs of

The Political Significance of Literary Realism 131 Sense: Studies in the Eighteenth Century. Ed. Larry S. Champion. Athens, Alabama: University of Georgia Press, 1974. 183–196. Said, Edward W. Beginnings: Intention and Method. New York: Basic Books, 1975. Schweller, Randall L. “Neoclassical Realism and State Mobilization: Expansionist Ideology in the Age of Mass Politics.” Neoclassical Realism, the State, and Foreign Policy. Eds. Steven E. Lobell, Norrin M. Ripsman, and Jeffrey W. Taliaferro. Cambridge University Press, 2009. 227–250. Sembène, Ousmane. God’s Bits of Wood [1960]. Trans. Francis Price. London: Heinemann, 1970. Shaw, Harry E. Narrating Reality: Austen, Scott, Eliot. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1999. Spieker, Jörg. “Foucault and Hobbes on Politics, Security, and War.” Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 36.3 (2011): 187–199. Stam, Robert. Reflexivity in Film and Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992. Stern, J.P. On Realism. London: Routledge, 1973. Sternberg, Meir. “Mimesis and Motivation: The Two Faces of Fictional Coherence.” Poetics Today 33.3–4 (2012): 329–483. Swales, Martin. “The Problem of Nineteenth-Century German Realism.” Realism in European Literature. Eds. Nicholas Boyle and Martin Swales. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. 68–84. Villanueva, Darío. Theories of Literary Realism. Trans. Mihai I. Spariosu and Santiago García-Castañón. New York: State University of New York Press, 1997. Walton, Kendall L. “Appreciating Fictions: Suspending Disbelief or Pretending Belief?” Dispositio 5.13 (1981): 1–18. Watt, Ian. The Rise of the Novel. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1957. Wellek, René. Concepts of Criticism. Ed. Stephen G. Nichols, Jr. New Haven: London, 1963. Zimmerman, Everett. Boundaries of Fiction: History and the Eighteenth-Century British Novel. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1996.

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Jus Publicum Europaeum While I have situated the emergence of postcolonial studies as an academic field within the depoliticized horizon of the end of history, this obviously does not entail that the field actively supported the concept of a teleological, universal history upon which Fukuyama and others have based their political frameworks. The postcolonial critique of universal history is one of the field’s most substantial contributions. I am arguing that the end of history describes a certain Zeitgeist characteristic of much thinking in Western discourses around the turn of the millennium, the premise of which is an inability or unwillingness to engage with the specifically political. A symptom of the latter has been postcolonial studies’ general inability or unwillingness to engage with the historical and theoretical assertions of literary realism. As I have argued, this is particularly ironic because the postcolonial field from the outset concentrated its energies, especially around political issues, yet largely failed to address the specifically political re-emerging in connection with postcolonial realism. Here, I want to clarify the grounds for this re-emergence a bit further, which by no means is coincidental or unrelated to European empirebuilding; quite the contrary. In the third edition of her influential introduction to postcolonial studies, Colonialism/Postcolonialism from 2015, Ania Loomba provides a new conclusion in which she briefly reaches back to Carl Schmitt’s 1950 book, Nomos of the Earth. In that book, Schmitt reflects on the notion of an international order, both within a contemporary context and in the past. To Schmitt, it was the creation of what he calls the Jus Publicum Europaeum—an order based on the ‘Lines of Amity’, and ratified at the treaty of Cateau-Cambresis in 1559—that allowed sovereign European powers to operate alongside the assumption of an international order based on a distinction between an ‘inside’ and an ‘outside’ (i.e., inside and outside the boundaries of European territories), and which in reality translated into a distinction between a legal sphere and a lawless or exceptional sphere.1 What is interesting to Schmitt in this context is, firstly, that it increasingly led to an internal stabilization of

Postcolonial Realism 133 sovereign European powers. Although wars continued to be fought over the centuries, they ceased to be primarily wars of conquest and annihilation. And when wars of conquest were fought on the European continent—e.g., Napoleon’s wars of conquest—these were countered by fierce collective-nationalist resistance. “In Germany,” Robert Young writes, “Herder’s ideas were galvanized into a wider popularity by Napoleon’s invasion of German territories and his (unsuccessful) attempt to impose the French language on the Germans” (Empire 82). Young here outlines an argument similar to the one Lukács presented in connection with the emergence of the historical novel: nationalism as a way of mobilizing people with a common culture and desire for self-determination against an oppressive colonial power. This meant the gradual formation and implicit recognition of essential differences of territories, affiliations, people, and nations regardless of concrete-physical borders. In Nomos of the Earth, Schmitt is interested in the effects of the ‘inside’/‘outside’ distinction which, on the one hand, prevented and eventually eradicated destructive and catastrophic wars of conquest within the legal boundaries of the Jus Publicum Europaeum, while on the other hand allowing, enabling, and even encouraging such belligerent activities to take place outside this order.2 This, then, is where Loomba identifies “the historical moment when European colonial and soon-to-be-colonial nations established … a colonial order that divided Europe and non-Europe” (262). What is crucial here is Schmitt’s argument that the very idea of ‘Europe’ as a stable entity—a reality—came into existence through the emergence of the colonies as an exceptional sphere. Schmitt writes: “the whole spatial structure of the earth in European international law was based on the distinctive territorial status of colonial and overseas lands” (Nomos 221). Young puts it even more bluntly: “Europe developed into its current form through the process of amassing colonies: colonialism was a central element in the formation and construction of the European nation-states” (Empire 66). Likewise, Anghie makes the argument that the European ideas of sovereignty and international legal order “emerged out of the colonial encounter” (3). To Anghie, traditional histories of European sovereignty established through and around the time of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and gradually extended to the rest of the world are misleading because they repress the colonial origins of international law. What prevented a historical situation in which sovereign European states would engage in bloody and annihilating wars was essentially the legal fiction of “a sovereign European state and a nonEuropean society that was deemed by jurists to be lacking in sovereignty” (Imperialism 5). The more sovereign and consolidated the former became, the more the latter came to be seen as lawless, exceptional, and free to be claimed by way of conquest or other forms of land appropriation.3 This legal fiction allowed European states to develop a

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sophisticated and bureaucratic vocabulary legalizing theft, plunder, dispossession, and violence overseas and, crucially, bestowed upon European states the definitional right “to determine who is and is not sovereign” (100).4 As Anghie argues, it is crucial to avoid creating the impression of a linear, evolutionary trajectory according to which “the non-European world is the past and the European world the future” (103). While parts of my overall argument are dependent on a comparative perspective, I am not simply making the point that while European states managed to overcome the problem of sovereignty in the form of the nation-state’s monopolization of the historico-political discourse, this project largely failed in postcolonial contexts. While the latter is indeed true in many cases, as I will come to a little later, it is important to bear in mind that this failure was directly connected to the ways in which European states managed to solve the problem of sovereignty—that is, through the creation of the Jus Publicum Europaeum and the subsequent legalization of the conquest of non-European territories. This historical context is crucial in terms of understanding the myriad challenges and problems emerging in many postcolonial contexts. Decolonization spelled an end to the European idea of international law by blurring or eradicating the previously sharply divided border between colonial territory and state territory.5 However, as Anghie observes, achieving “sovereignty was a profoundly ambiguous development, as it involved alienation rather than empowerment, the submission to alien standards rather than the affirmation of authentic identity” (108)—alienation in the sense of forming a sovereign collective identity within a legal language and framework that for centuries had supported an international system engaged in violent colonial practices, methods and strategies and that had originally been designed to subordinate those that now sought emancipation, autonomy, and selfdetermination. “For these reasons,” as Kohn and McBride observe, “foundational narratives of decolonization bear little resemblance to the ones more familiar to audiences that have been accustomed to thinking of the French, American, and Russian revolutions as paradigmatic” (16). Literature was to play a crucial role in these contexts as one of several forms of representations articulating and negotiating the complex and ambiguous process of rediscovering or reinventing autonomous, collective identities and social realities after decades, sometimes centuries, of negation.

Postcolonial Realism Within postcolonial contexts, Cheah argues, literary novels were often “meant to have an active causal role in the nation’s genesis” (Spectral 240). There is no doubt that literature frequently played a vital cultural role regarding many decolonization movements and nationbuilding efforts. To many postcolonial writers, as Szeman observes,

Postcolonial Realism 135 “a (genuine) literature is less a sign of the nation than an important—perhaps even the most important—force for bringing about a substantive political transformation of the colonial situation; it is literature that is seen as laying the cultural groundwork that allows the nation to become a reality” (Zones 1–2). Quite a few of the intellectual figures who took part in decolonization movements and nation-building efforts were educated in colonial school systems or abroad,6 bringing back ideas about how culture had been mobilized in efforts to bring about justice during other locales and moments of human history. Above all, many of the decolonization movements were directly inspired by Marxist-socialist discourses, including often Lukácsian-inspired aesthetic doctrines of realism, and more generally notions of literature as a form of weapon against oppressive social structures. At the same time, one could argue that there is also a widespread tendency among literary critics to exaggerate the concrete social effects and impacts of literature, including the realist novel. This may seem like an odd concession to make at this point in a book about the political importance of literary realism, but I want to clarify where exactly I see my own argument within this ongoing discussion. Although, as Sartre famously argued, prose and thereby the novel initially would seem to lend itself to political commitment more than introverted, individualistic, or elitist poetry,7 the novel as a national-political form in many ways also presents a number of problems, at least when seen along these lines, as Brennan has argued: “under conditions of illiteracy and shortages, and given simply the leisure-time necessary for reading one, the novel has been an elitist and minority form in developing countries when compared to poem, song, television and film” (Salman Rushdie 17–18).8 Literature no doubt occupied a privileged site within and after decolonizing phases, but at the same time, it is perhaps fanciful to imagine that novels generally played a determining role in the dismantling of empire and the direct processes of state-building. It no doubt did so in some cases—e.g., José Rizal’s novels inspiring the Filipino insurgent movement during the Spanish colonial regime—but at the same time, there is a danger of misreading postcolonial literature along this narrow set of assumptions (i.e., the extent to which it has had a direct and concrete social impact). My argument in this book is primarily focused on a set of formalist inquiries—how realist form emerges as an aesthetic response to historical contexts that set the stage for the re-emergence of the specifically political; contexts in which questions about the idea of a stable, common notion of reality far more troubled, insecure and traumatized than Anderson’s consolidated imagined community have once again become acutely relevant, and how we may read and approach this formal dimension without necessarily making large claims about the direct and concrete role or impact of literature, novels, and realism within specific historical contexts.

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The kinds, variations, and degrees of realism emerging within postcolonial contexts are, of course, as diverse and heterogeneous as the kinds of realism written at any other time in literary history. It might seem obvious at this point to turn to some of the early socialist-realist novels directly addressing the colonial/postcolonial situation, but I am less interested in pursuing this direction mainly because I want to keep a fairly narrow focus on the theoretical implications of realism in connection with the question of the specifically political.9 While many postcolonial writers, especially during the early phases, were committed writers in the Sartrean sense, and furthermore explicitly inspired by Marxist doctrines (in some cases, like Ousmane Sembène, educated in Moscow), I will not be pursuing this aspect here, partly because it has already been done quite extensively, and partly because my focus is more narrowly centered on the specifically political and hence to a lesser extent class/economic-related issues. More specifically, I am arguing that many postcolonial writers found themselves in historical circumstances that in one particular respect were similar to those setting the stage for the emergence of realisms in other historical contexts—i.e., those sites of political instability and the general absence of a consolidated imagined community. In other words, realism as a politically significant genre reemerges long after having declined in European literary contexts in postcolonial locales, precisely because these sites in very direct and intense ways engage with problems related to the specifically political. Postcolonial studies as an academic field decided early on to focus primarily on the devastating impacts of European colonial endeavors, as well as the effects of neocolonialism while being significantly less attentive to the categories and conditions of the specifically political: the relation between state and individual, the formation of a new state, the consolidated imagined community vs. the possibility of war, the everpresent danger of sliding back into chaos, anarchy, the state of nature. This perhaps also, to some extent, explains why the field has largely been a moralizing academic discourse. As Chantal Mouffe writes, albeit in a different context: “What is happening is that nowadays the political is played out in a moralizing register … in place of a struggle between ‘right and left’ we are faced with a struggle between ‘right and wrong’” (Political 5). Much postcolonial scholarship, one could argue, has contributed to this general development. Meanwhile, Neil Lazarus laments that postcolonial studies generally has failed to produce much writing about ongoing state violence: But the depiction of state violence has been central, too, to the literature that has emerged everywhere in the formerly colonial world since decolonization—hence the repeated representation of state-decreed ‘resettlement’ schemes, land theft, slum clearances, forced sterilization campaigns, the crushing of opposition

Postcolonial Realism 137 movements and parties, mass imprisonment, torture, political murder, and so on. This specifically postcolonial depiction has received relatively little sustained attention from critics in postcolonial studies. (2002: 779) The list of aspects Lazarus believes postcolonial critics have failed to address in a sustained way pertains directly to the effects of what I call the specifically political. Aside from the specificities and singularities of concrete, particular postcolonial situations, postcolonial intellectuals and writers, at the most general level, were faced with the realities of complicated power transitions, an unstable state, a divided community inhabiting a contested social space, and the challenges of constructing a notion of ‘the people’, often out of myriad local communities brought together arbitrarily through colonization.10 And it is because of these specifically political challenges that we see the re-emergence of a realist style that carries political significance.11 The crucial point I want to stress here is that the political dimension of postcolonial realism continues long after the disappearance of what Szeman describes as the “early, explicitly nationalist literatures [that] are seen as overly simplistic … [and] overconfident in the political effectiveness of what are mostly imported cultural forms (pre-eminently, the novel) and so are doomed to political failure just as Third World nationalism itself” (25–26), and long after postcolonial scholars came to define the idea of the nation as anachronistic. Thus, both Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun (2007) and Aminatta Forna’s The Memory of Love (2010) explore ways in which postcolonial realism in the twenty-first century continues to play a significant role; in Adichie’s case, realism offers a way to revisit the complex interconnections between domestic life and public discourses during the Nigerian civil war, while Forna’s realism delves into the equally complex and multi-faceted challenges of coming to terms with the aftermath of the Sierra Leone civil war. In the novel Links (2003), the first in the so-called Past Imperfect trilogy (including Knots from 2007 and Crossbones from 2011), the Somali author Nuruddin Farah similarly envisions the ongoing political implications of realism as he draws the contours of a highly unstable situation in the years after the collapse of General Mohamed Siad Barre’s dictatorship (1969–1991). Jeebleh, the novel’s main character, returns to Somalia in the late 1990s after many years of exile. Originally, he left the country because of Barre’s dictatorship, but the present situation has hardly improved—quite the contrary, now that the former dictator has been replaced by two warlords, Strongman North and Strongman South, whose armies are engaged in a bloody civil war. Jeebleh returns partly to visit his mother’s grave, who died while he was still in exile, but also because of some unfinished business with his ‘half-brother’ Caloosha, a prominent villain belonging to one of the warring factions. Just as

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Jeebleh arrives, the niece of his other ‘half-brother’ and best friend, Bile, is kidnapped, most likely by Caloosha and his henchmen. Eventually, Jeebleh brings back the niece to her family while also exacting revenge on Caloosha. What is interesting from our perspective is how the novel employs a realist form to interweave the personal-individual and the collective dimensions; Jeebleh’s relationship with his half-brothers in a wider sense mirrors the situation of the country. While the Somali population in contrast to many other decolonized African countries is relatively homogenous in the sense of having a common culture (including language and religion), the development of a larger imagined community was always challenged by the country’s centuries-old clan structure.12 In the power vacuum created after Barre was deposed, this clannism led to violent rivalries and eventually full-scale wars, heavily fueled by a massive influx of foreign weapons and misguided international interventions that radically intensified the conflict. Like Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Forna’s The Memory of Love, Farah’s realism envisions the dynamics of a social body immersed in a common but also deeply fractured world in which the fates of enemies and friends, and thus the individual and the collective levels, are inextricably linked. The unwillingness to engage with forces of political homogenization is, as we have seen, connected to the unwillingness to engage with the political significance of realism, past, and present. The postcolonial canon, as Joe Cleary observes, may include, “a Chinua Achebe or a Naguib Mahfouz who were to be read for their ‘realism’, but pride of place always went to the ‘modernists’ and their apparent successors the ‘magical realists’” (265). The postcolonial canon largely consists of texts wistfully dwelling on melancholy themes about loss, exile, assimilation, guilt, blame, or what Hallward has described as “interminable ‘negotiations’ of culture and psychology” (xx). These were the texts that from the outset became the focus of postcolonial studies, and in many ways, subsequently came to define the field. Underneath this trajectory of postcolonial literary history—e.g., as described by Boehmer—was the unaddressed issue of the specifically political: the attempts to articulate visions of a new collective reality, the challenges of creating a social body out of disparate communities brought together or divided under colonialism, and how all these aspects related to literary form. It is an issue that has been buried underneath cosmopolitan, multicultural, and largely individualistic fantasies that came to dominate postcolonial thought since the 1980s—that is, depoliticized visions of individualized forms of life. If postcolonial studies is still haunted by the ‘specter of nationalism’, as Szeman suggests, it is because the field came to define itself in opposition to the historical realities of failed or problematic national projects across the decolonizing continents—but thereby also, in a sense, defined itself in opposition to the ongoing challenge of what one may call the postcolonial political condition. The argument I am making here is an

Postcolonial Realism 139 attempt to formulate a new understanding of the ongoing importance of postcolonial realism, not a call for a return to traditional realism; nor is it a critique of anti-realist writing per se. As I discussed earlier, even antirealist prose is in one way or another related to realism, and hence to a normative notion of what constitutes experienced, collective reality. In this sense, what I am offering is more of a reading approach to any kind of postcolonial text, regardless of its dominant stylistic features. To restate my argument about the ongoing relevance of postcolonial realism, once the scene of the historico-political discourse no longer presents a real concern, or once the nation-state monopolizes the collective notion of reality, realism ceases to be a politically significant genre. While some postcolonial contexts developed stable political communities that eventually created domestic spaces for more individualized aesthetic articulations, many others were and still are facing challenges of civil war, lethal border disputes, illegitimate sovereignties, neocolonialism, dictatorship, state of emergency, state corruption, public distrust, violence, failed states, and the suppression of individual freedom—that is, contexts in which elites typically gained power, often in collaboration with former colonial powers and often empowered through populist-nationalist rhetoric, while people’s rights and the prospects of genuine emancipation were suppressed.13 In those cases, the historico-political discourse as a corrosive force radically questioning the despot’s power and legitimation never convincingly transitioned into monopolized reality (i.e., as a naturally existing imagined community), but rather extended and deepened the fractures in the social body. The failures of these postcolonial sites, to some extent, explain why postcolonial scholars came to embrace anti-realism, postmodernist styles, Bakhtinian carnivalesque literature, irony, and parody. In a political sense, these styles challenge absolute power and monopolized sovereignty.14 The carnivalesque, as Stam writes, “is profoundly subversive of all that is official and oppressive since it abolishes hierarchies, levels social classes and genres, and creates an alternative second life free from conventional rules and restrictions” (Reflexivity 166)15—although, one could add, typically only within a limited time span. Mocking the king intermittently is not enough; one must cut off the king’s head, to paraphrase Foucault.16 To Foucault, Hobbes’ authoritarian model of the Leviathan never fully solved the problem of historico-political discourse; the problem was eventually overcome through the nation-state’s monopolization of this discourse—which, as I have argued, in a further sense meant the monopolization of the notion of a normative reality and hence the conditions necessary for the imagined community. The continued political problem of sovereignties raging in many former colonies had a direct as well as indirect impact on the formation of postcolonial studies as an academic field. Timothy Brennan has described the complexities of exiled writers’

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relations to their home countries as “the lament for the necessary and regrettable insistence of nation-forming, in which the writer proclaims his identity with a country whose artificiality and exclusiveness have driven him into a kind of exile—a simultaneous recognition of nationhood and alienation from it” (“National Longing” 63). The exilic nature of canonized postcolonial writing is, as Elleke Boehmer suggests, in some ways a sign of defeat: the retreat from the efforts to create the homogenous, stable community at home because of despotism, corruption, civil war, etc., and instead a melancholy engagement with loss and displacement, or ironiccarnivalesque forms of writing back at a distance and at a literarytheoretical level.

Commonality vs. Singularity In this book, I have outlined a general framework through which we might resituate, renegotiate, and ultimately reread realist form within postcolonial contexts, as well as from a postcolonial theoretical perspective. My main argument is that the form of literary realism implicitly generates or strives for an idea of commonality or common identity that does not yet exist as a stable, tangible reality—i.e., as an imagined community. This is essentially what makes the form politically significant. It is an argument that is less reliant on an exhaustive demonstration of the existence of myriad particular postcolonial realist texts ‘out there’; the general theoretical framework I propose here is meant to serve primarily as a background revaluating the general political significance of realist form, against which we might engage more extensively with concrete-particular contexts. Thus, my argument here does not pertain directly to theological-hermeneutical readings of individual works. The identity of each literary text is always, at least in principle, singular—much in the same way as every specific postcolonial site presents its own internally unique constellation of historical circumstances. There is no common identity for all literary texts, let alone realist texts; each literary work performs and unfolds its own unique, idiomatic, and idiosyncratic prose of the world. However, to paraphrase Balibar, albeit in a rather different context, “there is no individual identity that is not historical or, in other words, constructed within a field of social values, norms of behaviour and collective symbols” (94). The general framework that I have proposed in this book is primarily centered on this ‘field of social values, norms of behavior and collective symbols’, which, however, does not add up to an exhaustive definition of a model potentially encompassing all the multiple effects, values, impacts, and circulations of each postcolonial text that might conceivably be labeled ‘realist’. To repeat: each text generates and establishes its own premises of a singular literary eco-system of problematics, visions, and challenges, and should be read singularly along these lines.17 While I

Postcolonial Realism 141 address more elaborately how such a general framework might be employed at the practical-individual level in the last chapter of this book, I briefly want to sketch how we may recognize some of the key tendencies deriving from this general framework within concrete texts as a way of showing how these texts engage deeply with the specifically political. Although the great Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o explicitly dismissed Lukácsian realism for being inattentive to the specifics of colonialism with the possible further implication that realist form, at least in its European version, might be inadequate in terms of capturing African realities, his oeuvre nonetheless offers some prime examples of literary realism within a specifically postcolonial context.18 Thus, crucial to Ngũgĩ’s novelistic work is, as Kohn and McBride have observed, the question of the newly independent state’s legitimacy.19 This is particularly the case in one of the author’s most famous novels, A Grain of Wheat (1967), the historical context of which is the Mau Mau uprising and the aftermath of British colonization: the founding of an independent state. Although the Mau Mau uprising eventually gained force as a broad national movement, it mainly consisted of the Kikuyu people.20 The uprising led to the colonial government’s declaration of a state of emergency in 1952. The Kikuyus instigated and led the uprising in part because the reservation politics of the colonial government had seriously disrupted their traditional way of life, especially among the younger generations.21 Due to lack of military training and external support, the Kikuyus were ultimately defeated by the British colonial army, and the state of emergency came to an end in 1959. Four years later, Kenya achieved self-rule, and in 1964 the independent state of Kenya was proclaimed. A Grain of Wheat mainly focuses on the uprising itself and then jumps to the Uhuru, the moment of independence. Thus, there is a vacuum at the heart of the novel’s plot regarding the actual circumstances leading up to independence. It is a gap that signifies something unresolved; in the years prior to independence, the colonial government, among other economic restructuring initiatives, allowed limited forms of individual land ownership, thus creating a class of local, wealthy farmers that complicated the otherwise stark contrast between the country’s impoverished rural proletariat and European landowners. It was to this relatively small elite class that power was given when the colonizers eventually left the country. Thus, since most land and power were still in the hands of the few, independence was in many ways a disappointment to the many. Further indicating this unresolved issue surrounding the moment of independence is the fact that while the story takes place around the time of independence, the chronology of the plot is punctured by alternate chapters reiterating past events. Eventually, via multiple narrative strings, the reader can piece together a murky tale of betrayal that

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culminates with Mugo, one of the novel’s main characters, stepping forward to reveal the truth—i.e., that he betrayed the rebel leader, Kihiga (who was subsequently executed by the colonial army)—a redemptivesacrificial act that creates an opening for the foundation of a new community, one that is no longer based on lies, betrayal, and violence. A rich and complex novel, A Grain of Wheat presents a series of isolated, minor narratives that are occasionally haphazardly intertwined; the novel form thus creates an image of a fractured society in which most of the characters largely pursue or are driven by individual goals. As Karanja, another central character in the novel, says: “As for carrying a gun for the whiteman, well, a time will come when you too will know that every man in the world is alone, and fights alone, to live” (149). The novel’s realist form brings together these individual trajectories almost against their will as if to suggest that individual detachment within this particular context is impossible. Kihiga, for example, commands the reluctant Mugo to organize an underground movement in his village. Mugo knows that doing so will most likely lead to torture or death at the hands of the colonial army, but if he does not follow Kihiga’s orders, the latter will kill him. In the end, he decides to tell the colonial authorities Kihiga’s whereabouts, believing that he might get a reward; the British officer, however, treats him with scorn.22 What the novel so pervasively demonstrates is an orientation towards unresolved, collective issues that prevent the social body from healing its wounds and fractures to the extent they remain unaddressed at a collective level. More generally, the novel’s realism, in addition to its commitment to historical representation, implicitly points us in the direction of the idea of commonality and common identity via a series of formal devices such as the trans-individual narratorial perspective and repetition of scenes focalized through different characters, as well as causal patterns reaching across the individual trajectories. Crucially, however, the main political tension between the individual and the collective is never fully resolved, the novel suggests, because true independence in the sense of selfdetermination of the people of Kenya was never fully achieved, resulting in the vacuum at the heart of the novel’s plot. It is in this way that Ngũgĩ’s novel articulates its own, singular aesthetic vision of a particular postcolonial context while at the same time employing a general, historical form that intensifies the problematic of the specifically political and, by implication, questions of commonality and common identity.

‘Living Reality’ and the Question of the Nation As Joshua B. Forrest observes, most countries that went through an extensive period of colonial rule came to embrace nationalism as a stabilizing political discourse in the post-independent period.23 “Nationalist leaders of varying backgrounds,” Forrest writes, “shared a common

Postcolonial Realism 143 interest in extricating the nation from colonial rule and in establishing an independent nation-state within a distinct, unified national identity” (“Nationalism” 33). Often, however, the artificiality of the borders crafted during colonial rule was internally contested and challenged on historical grounds, which, as Forrest points out, “made the erstwhile unifying bond of nationalism difficult to sustain” (ibid.).24 It was because of this radical instability at the heart of these newly independent formations that the concept of the nation, as Timothy Brennan has argued, became “a gestative political structure which the Third World artist is consciously building or suffering the lack of” (“National Longing 46–47; italics mine). Hence, one could add, the need for an aesthetic form capable of articulating a strong imagination: the imagination of a normative vision of a not-yet-existent collective. To Simon Gikandi, realism constituted an important aesthetic form expressing the revolutionary sentiment of a nation more authentically than any other literary style.25 Quoting Frantz Fanon, Gikandi writes that “Any legitimate claim to national sovereignty … had to start ‘from living reality and it is in the name of this reality, in the name of the stark facts that weigh down the present and the future of men and women, that they fix their line of action’” (“Realism” 317). Here, it is important to clarify that Fanon’s realism is very far from the notion of mimeticism—i.e., realism as a style striving to portray reality accurately. Fanon’s realism, as Gikandi indicates, is essentially a politicized literary style. Referring to an observation Dipesh Chakrabarty makes in Provincializing Europe, Gikandi writes: Focusing on literary debates in Bengal at the beginning of the twentieth century, Chakrabarty shows how, in Rabindranath Tagore’s oeuvre in particular, the desire for realism constantly came up against the force of nationalist desire, and ‘a photographic realism or a dedicated naturalism could never answer all the needs of vision that modern nationalisms create’. (318) The kind of realism that emerged around the beginning of the twentieth century in India is, as Chakrabarty describes it, comparable to the aestheticpolitical dynamic identified by Lukács in The Historical Novel, and in a further sense, Foucault’s historico-political discourse. Chakrabarty writes: If the nation, the people, or the country were not just to be observed, described, and critiqued but loved as well, what would guarantee that they were indeed worth loving unless one also saw in them something that was already lovable? What if the real, the natural, and the historically accurate did not generate the feeling of devotion or adoration? An objectivist, realist view might lead only to disidentification. (149)26

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Chakrabarty here describes an example of literary realism as an aesthetic style emerging from and engaging in a concrete political situation—that is, produced, employed, and received within a specific political context. However, it would be mistaken to simply equate this kind of politicized realism with ideology or propaganda, much as it would be wrong to dismiss Walter Scott’s historical novels as propaganda. My argument is that the distinction between realism and propagandist ideology relates to the distinction between historico-political discourse and the Andersonian imagined community. In the latter case, the nationalist discourse exists as a commonly accepted idea, a widespread and simultaneous (albeit fictional) general consciousness manifested across individual consciousnesses—i.e., as an already-existing reality that needs constant ideological support (at which point, what Chakrabarty refers to as an ‘objectivist, realist view’ in the quote above becomes possible). However, in terms of historico-political discourse, there is no homogeneous, singular reality, a situation precisely defined by the absence of the concept of an already existing reality. The focus of postcolonial realist writers generally tended to revolve around these matters—the divided community, the possibility of destabilization, but also the need for communal thinking. Along these lines, Susan Andrade mounts a forceful argument against Appiah’s harsh dismissal of postcolonial realism as nationalist propagandist ideology,27 arguing that By the late 1960s, no African writer I know who depicted the public sphere also in good faith represented a political landscape without recognizing the failures of the national bourgeoisie and the hollow promises of a more equitable society for all, a critique presciently uttered in Fanon’s chapter ‘The Pitfalls of National Consciousness’. (185) To Andrade, these writers did not wholeheartedly identify in an ideological sense with the national community, nor did they identify with the ideological imagination this discourse would permit—again, because this ideological imagination did not pre-exist as a stable, commonly accepted idea. On the contrary, when Fanon militantly talks about national sovereignty, this is very much a nation-to-come, not one that derives from the past (an idea of which he was rather dismissive).28 It is a national consciousness created and shaped through decolonizing combat: Decolonization, which sets out to change the order of the world, is, obviously, a programme of complete disorder. But it cannot come as a result of magical practices, nor of a natural shock, nor of a friendly understanding. Decolonization, as we know, is a historical process: that is to say that it cannot be understood, it cannot become intelligible nor clear to itself except in the exact measure that we

Postcolonial Realism 145 can discern the movements which give it historical form and content. Decolonization is the meeting of two forces, opposed to each other by their very nature, which in fact owe their originality to that sort of substantification which results from and is nourished by the situation in the colonies. Their first encounter was marked by violence and their existence together—that is to say the exploitation of the native by the settler—was carried on by dint of a great array of bayonets and cannons. (Wretched 28) What Fanon here re-activates within a specific, postcolonial context is the old ‘race war’, the historico-political discourse that reacts, responds, and attempts to rewrite an earlier discourse, namely that of the colonial regime. Fanon constantly stresses the division between two fundamentally different people—one true, one false—who cannot possibly live alongside each other. There is necessarily a fundamental incompatibility at the heart of the race war—one that is necessary precisely because it constitutes the very starting point of a new communal reality. The explicit binary logic in Fanon’s thinking—colonizer vs. colonized—has sometimes been viewed with a degree of skepticism among postcolonial scholars, a militant dichotomy that at times threatens to reproduce the violent logic of colonialism.29 However, the crucial point here is to understand Fanon’s revolutionary rhetoric in terms of historico-political discourse, the reconceptualization of history, the order of things through relations of war. Fanon’s historico-political discourse is one that aims to carve out a new reality to be inhabited by ‘the people’ in a broad, collective sense. It is only through this radical reconceptualization that ‘the people’ will come into existence, become a reality as a political community. The goal for Fanon is obviously not the war itself, but rather the stable, unified, and independent nation, the imagined community—which, however, can only come into existence through the historico-political discourse. It is, essentially, the war against the oppressors that brings together the (artificial construction of the) Algerian people as a nation. Before the war, there is no nation, no unified, normative reality—only the violent, oppressive reality of the colonizers, inhabited by both the latter and the colonized.30 In Fanon’s tripartite emancipation theory, the first stage is represented by the native intellectual who tries to make the most of the few available opportunities within the colonizer’s normative reality, albeit ultimately ending up alienated and confused. During the second stage, the native intellectual tries (and fails) to create an independent reality, often by returning to ancient history and exotic folklore in a deluded attempt to restore a pre-colonial authentic identity. However, only during the third stage does the intellectual find a truly emancipatory identity. Fanon writes: Finally, in the third phase, which is called the fighting phase, the native, after having tried to lose himself in the people and with the

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Postcolonial Realism people, will on the contrary shake the people. Instead of according the people’s lethargy an honoured place in esteem, he turns himself into an awakener of the people; hence comes a fighting literature, a revolutionary literature, and a national literature. During this phase a great many men and women who up till then would never have thought of producing a literary work, now that they find themselves in exceptional circumstances—in prison, with the Maquis or on the eve of their execution—feel the need to speak to their nation, to compose the sentence which expresses the heart of the people and to become the mouthpiece of a new reality in action. (Wretched 179)

Literature occupies a somewhat curiously privileged place in Fanon’s revolutionary discourse, almost as a kind of barometer indicating how far emancipatory consciousness has developed.31 In a political situation troubled by what Fanon calls “tribal dictatorship,”32 where all the representative politicians are chosen from the same regional tribe, there emerges a genuine need to articulate the nation in the form of a general consciousness; this is the impulse that characterizes the third stage—not a past nation and not simply a nation-state as such, but precisely a new collective reality that only comes into existence for the first time through battle. Here, one could argue that the reason Fanon privileges literature (and in a further sense culture) is because it articulates a not-yet-existent idea of a general consciousness as if it already existed: a performative aesthetic claim articulating the reality of the national people as yet to come into existence. Szeman is here partly correct in claiming that “the anticolonial ‘nation’ understood in Benedict Anderson’s sense of the nation as an ‘imagined community’, is only brought into existence through the struggle against colonialism,” adding that “both in terms of the people conducting the struggle and the space in which the struggle takes place, it must already be presumed to exist” (Zones 38). My argument is that Fanon’s ‘nation’ is an idea that only exists performatively, as essentially a realist-fictional discourse pretending to already exist—but which eventually, through war, becomes reality. However, Anderson’s ‘imagined community’ only truly manifests itself once the war is forgotten, the traumatic scars of colonialism healed. As Jane Hiddleston observes, it is true that “Fanon’s vision of Algerian national unity was excessively optimistic” (133), as were similar visions in several other decolonizing contexts. In many instances, as Basil Davidson observes, newly decolonized nation-states inherited dictatorship, not democracy,33 and by “the middle of the 1980s, this generalized collapse of the nation-statist project was widely perceived, whether inside or outside of Africa” (252). Davidson makes several illuminating comparisons between the dynamics of nation-building in the postcolonial era and the European context of nation-building throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century. Citing Achebe’s Anthills of

Postcolonial Realism 147 the Savannah (1987), in which the character Ikem Osodi blames not foreign influence but the failure of the government for the chaotic state of things, Davidson argues that the prime reason why “the postcolonial nation-state had become a shackle on progress” was that it “was not liberating and protective of its citizens, no matter what its propaganda claimed: on the contrary, its gross effect was constricting and exploitative, or else it simply failed to operate in any social sense at all” (290). The story in Anthills of the Savannah takes place in a fictional state called Kangan. A corrupt civilian government has been forcefully removed by the military, whose intervention, in the beginning, enjoys the support of the people. Fed up with the incompetent and corrupt government, people expect great things to come after the coup, yet the new military dictatorship, led by the young commander Sam, turns out to be equally inept and corrupt. But what it lacks in terms of visions for a better society, the authoritative regime makes up for in terms of brutal violence inflicted on the people. Meanwhile, Sam and his cronies have amassed huge fortunes, private jets, and expensive foreign cars. Ikem, the embodiment of the novel’s political voice, is a journalist whose critical editorials and pieces eventually get him killed by the authorities. This is a novel that traces the failures of forming a political infrastructure solid enough to articulate a viable collective identity. As Ikem reflects, the catastrophe of the country is not simply corruption, foreign manipulation, dysfunctional capitalism, or state terror; “It is the failure of our rulers to re-establish vital inner links with the poor and dispossessed of this country, with the bruised heart that throbs painfully at the core of the nation’s being” (Anthills 141). If the historico-philosophical discourse had generated anti-colonial sentiments embodied in the idea of a new collective reality—the dreams, aspirations, hopes of freedom, and visions of a new, independent nation—the postcolonial state often failed to realize this sentiment; in other words, the idea remained an idea only. One finds an illustration of this problematic in Wole Soyinka’s novel Season of Anomy (1973), which tells the story of a fictional local community, Aiyero, gradually being pulled into civil war.34 Soyinka was part of a group of Nigerian authors, including Cyprian Ekwensi, Chinua Achebe, and many others who shared concerns about imagining the national community in the wake of a devastating civil war, the causes of which were intimately connected to political issues generated through British colonialism. Written after the author’s two-year imprisonment for having criticized the federal government during the Nigerian civil war, Season of Anomy presents an aesthetic dissection of the dynamics that led the country into civil war, and furthermore an exploration of the reasons underneath the failures of forming a national community.35 An interesting feature of Soyinka’s novel is the relative absence of the history of colonialism; rather, what we witness are the effects of colonialism. Moreover, the novel clearly insists on the need to take collective action beyond the shadows of

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colonial history. While clearly realist, the novel’s compositional form is loose, digressive, and at times implausible, including numerous scenes that seem logically disconnected from the main narrative. For example, as the main character Ofeyi sets out to rescue his beloved Iriyise in the north of the country, he embarks on a strange journey, the contours of which are difficult if not impossible to map in terms of movement, chronology, or causality. Characters appear, disappear, and then reappear in the most unlikely places, while events frequently lack explanatory or causal frameworks; and the ending provides an artificial solution that challenges the novel’s realist discourse. The novel’s many digressions—sometimes part of the plotline, sometimes not—further underline a fundamental problematic regarding novelistic representation: it is a form that in many ways expresses the difficulties of imagining a collective subject as an agent of history. While the collective subject in the novel is generally portrayed as passive, the novel’s focus is centered around individual action—a focus perhaps underlining the idea of an avant-garde leader stirring the masses. To Soyinka, the war is fought not between the poor and dispossessed and the wealthy classes, but rather between warring leaders who employ the people to promote their own ideological agendas. What is fundamentally lacking is collective organization—hence, perhaps, the novel’s emphasis on the importance of the individual figure of the radical intellectual to bring about the mobilization of the collective imagination. As a politically significant form, postcolonial realism engages with a broad, fictional vision of a normative, collective reality alongside all its discrepancies, divergences, and deviations. Within the European context, realism emerges around the same time as states struggled to incorporate and monopolize the historico-political discourse. This historical background runs parallel with literary realism’s emergence as a politically significant form in many postcolonial contexts. It is important here to clarify my argument in relation to Chakrabarty’s important charge that “‘Europe’ remains the sovereign, theoretical subject of all histories, including the ones we call ‘Indian’, ‘Chinese’, ‘Kenyan’, and so on. There is a peculiar way in which all these other histories tend to become variations on a master narrative that could be called ‘the history of Europe’” (“Postcoloniality” 1). While I agree with Chakrabarty about the risks of reducing non-Western histories to footnotes of European history, my argument is that at least in one particular respect, postcolonial writers found themselves in historical circumstances similar to those of many European realist writers, namely regarding the specifically political. In many ways, the latter is a uniquely modern challenge that emerges in connection with the birth of the modern territorial nation-state and the monopolization of historico-political discourse—the process of which is precisely postcolonial. One could argue that it would be Eurocentric simply to dismiss realism as a politically significant form within a

Postcolonial Realism 149 postcolonial context simply because it also happened to play a role in a certain period of European history.36 The postcolonial historical scene is, however, extraordinarily complex and heterogeneous. Often, colonial regimes were replaced by equally brutal dictatorships, creating situations in which sovereignty found itself in constantly raging, never-ending battles with historico-political discourse, indefinitely postponing the development of homogenous, stable communities. The trauma of colonialism, the toxic legacies of the colonial era, the continued reproduction of colonial and neocolonial structures, the countless brutal power struggles and civil wars among classes, communities, clans, and tribes arising during chaotic transitional phases, the inevitable questions of legitimate borders, tribal, religious or political affiliations buried underneath artificial colonial structures suddenly reemerging—all this and much more made it so much harder to turn the fictionality of realism into an experience of actual, lived reality: a stable, homogeneous, imagined community. As Michael Mann observes, in many formerly colonized countries, one often finds “collapsing Hobbesian states whose regimes are unable to penetrate their territories to provide even minimal social order—let alone to pursue the development goals required by the new global culture of instant gratification.” As Mann dryly observes, “Their problem is not postmodernism, but the absence of a genuinely diffused modernism in their civil societies” (“Nation-states” 313).

Lukács’s Critique of Modernism The European nation-states’ successful monopolization of historicopolitical discourse roughly coincides not necessarily or simply with the permanent stabilization of national territorial borders, but rather with the permanent stabilization of identities and identifications, the invention and consolidation of nationness; when the process of developing a collective experience of national simultaneity—not simply as an idea, but as reality—had largely come to an end. At this stage, what was imagined was no longer the behemoth, the fearful resurrection of the state of nature, but rather communality and commonality. Protected not only by sovereign power but more importantly supported by a naturally imagined sense of belonging, a communal identity, the national citizen could now enjoy the luxury of attending to their inner life; the domestic sphere of the private-individual, the psychological, the non-political. Albeit formulated within an orthodox Marxist framework, one could argue that it is precisely this moment Georg Lukács’s critique identifies as the time of modernism, an argument that would provide a new context for his aggressive and somewhat dogmatic promotion of traditional realism at the expense of other literary styles. As Astradur Eysteinsson has argued, Lukács essentially divides modern literature into a

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“modernist/realist binary system” (186), two categories—one politically relevant, and one largely irrelevant in a political sense.37 The hyperbolic rhetoric apart, Lukács identifies an important aspect of the development of modern literature, namely the gradual depoliticization of the literary, the privatization, interiorization, and individualization of literary discourse, which generally occurs around the same time as the idea of the imagined community becomes a concrete reality. In his 1955 essay “The Ideology of Modernism,” Lukács argues that the problem with modernist writers is their “exaggerated concern with formal criteria, with questions of style and literary technique” (17). Lukács’s point here is that the more private, individual, and subjective literature becomes, the more it emphasizes style; the more the text deviates from a common representational idea of a normative-objective world, the more idiosyncratic-stylistic it becomes. In Lukács’s view, modernist literature insists on imagining the world from the individualistic perspective—not, as in realism, the individual-particular imagination of a collective-universal vision of a normative reality. Modernists, Lukács writes, “are almost without exception supporters of extreme subjectivism, the static nature of reality, and the senselessness of its surface phenomena, are absolute truths requiring no proof. Naturally, phenomena in the outer world, governed by their own immanent laws, exist outside human consciousness” (“Franz Kafka” 72). The concept of a collective reality exists naturally outside the human mind precisely because it is no longer contested politically; it is at this stage that “the negation of outward reality” (“Ideology” 25) becomes possible because it already exists as an ontologically undisputed fact.38 It is the secure, stable borders of the nation-territory that allows the individual to dream of all the potential possibilities of the private-intimate life and, conversely, the imagined community that makes these borders stable. Potentiality, Lukács argues (following Hegel), is in an abstract or subjective sense “richer than actual life. Innumerable possibilities for man’s development are imaginable, only a small percentage of which will be realized. Modern subjectivism, taking these imagined possibilities for actual complexity of life, oscillates between melancholy and fascination” (“Ideology” 22). To Hegel, potentiality comes in two forms: abstract and concrete (or real); the problem for the subjective mind is that there is no way to distinguish between concrete-real and abstract-imaginary potentialities.39 The consequence is a “bad infinity of purely abstract potentialities” (24), which deprives “literature of a sense of perspective” (33), the principle that “enables the artist to choose between the important and the superficial, the crucial and the episodic” (ibid.). Losing this ‘selection principle’, modernist form is unable to portray development as history, as a dynamic reality; the “static apprehension of reality,” Lukács observes, “is no passing fashion; it is rooted in the ideology of modernism” (35). When everyone imagines the world from his or her

Postcolonial Realism 151 own private perspective—that is, not imagining the world as it might be imagined by a collective—“the artist’s world disintegrates into a multiplicity of partial worlds” (39); this is, of course, not the splintered historico-political discourse threatening to bring everything down to the reality of war, but rather the individual withdrawing into a private realm precisely because this private realm has become possible due to the consolidation and stabilization of the imagined community. It is around this time, Jameson argues, that domestic life becomes more and more incomprehensible and incoherent, since a significant part of what supports material forms of existence flows from nameless, anonymous sources, the origins of which are located far beyond the imperial center: colonialism means that a significant structural segment of the economic system as a whole is now located elsewhere, beyond the metropolis, outside of the daily life and existential experience of the home country, in colonies over the water whose own life experience and life world–very different from that of the imperial power–remain unknown and unimaginable for the subjects of the imperial power, whatever social class they may belong to. (“Modernism” 50–51) To Jameson, this is “the problem and the dilemma, the formal contradiction, that modernism seeks to solve” (51). It is in this context that Walter Benjamin’s shock experience becomes a source of subversion, disrupting and defamiliarizing a reality that has come to appear selfevident, natural, and given.40 Jameson’s late nineteenth-century period here coincides with Benedict Anderson’s notion of ‘official nationalism’, “the merger of nation and dynastic empire,” which “developed after, and in reaction to, the popular national movements proliferating in Europe since the 1820s” (Imagined 86).41 Lukács’s idea of realism, on the contrary, essentially situates itself in opposition to this gloomy description of modernism: it involves an individual perspective articulating a vision of the collective imagination, a shared reality, a common ground, an ‘objective world’—and hence a normative perspective that transcends bad infinity, solipsism, extreme subjectivism, and abstract potentiality, one that may articulate a dynamic-progressive vision of history. The ‘typical’, a crucial category in Lukács’s realist theory, involves the idea that the individual imagines the world as if it were imagined by a collective. “In realist literature,” Lukács writes, “each descriptive detail is both individual and typical” (“Ideology” 43), whereas the idiosyncrasy and inventiveness of modernist style eliminate the typical; “By destroying the coherence of the world, they reduce detail to the level of mere particularity” (43). To Lukács, realism is thoroughly grounded in the historical and hence the extra-diegetic. It captures the typical—i.e., the individual as a type—while plot coincidences and randomness are elevated to something

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that may be interpreted as a force of necessity. To Lukács, the monotony we find in modernist works is an expression of abandoning this attempt to collectively reflect the world. When Lukács raises the prospect of a re-emergence of realism within a socialist context, he is trying to revive an older, politicized notion of realism as a revolutionary counterforce, but in fact, comes close to endorsing a Zhdanovist doctrinal notion of literature. My argument is that realism only genuinely becomes a significant political form once it re-emerges within postcolonial contexts; it is in these latter contexts that political circumstances create the possibility for the prospect of a re-emergence of a realist form that engages with the idea of a normative, collective reality—i.e., an engagement with the specifically political. Lukács’s critique of the rise of modernism (and more broadly anti-realism) is a response to the failure of the 1848 revolutions, a moment which in Lukács’s view leads to a depoliticization of the cultural realm (or perhaps rather an escape into the cultural, away from the political). It is against this background I am arguing that postcolonial studies’ preference for anti-realist literary works can similarly be viewed as a depoliticizing response to the political failures of many postcolonial historical sites during the 1960s and 1970s.

Jameson’s National Allegory What I have been suggesting so far leads to the argument that the literary style most responsive to the intense cultivation of the private sphere that the Andersonian imagined community enables is, in fact, modernism, a style precisely centered on the concerns of the private individual. The style of the traditional realist novel that Benedict Anderson explicitly links to the imagined community is, I would argue, one that precedes the kind of consolidated nationalist discourse he has in mind.42 Here, we may return yet again to Fredric Jameson’s infamous essay on ‘Third World’ literature. The simple premise of Jameson’s argument is that while the political dimension in Western literature has disappeared (or, rather, now appears only in an ‘unconscious’ form), it re-emerges in nonWestern literature: the latter is essentially allegorical in nature, while the former is characterized by its ‘libidinal economic’ dynamic—that is, the private-individual.43 Among the most controversial arguments following this thesis is the suggestion that: The third-world novel will not offer the satisfactions of Proust or Joyce; what is more damaging than that, perhaps, is its tendency to remind us of outmoded stages of our own first-world cultural development and cause us to conclude that ‘they are still writing novels like Dreiser or Sherwood Anderson’. (65)

Postcolonial Realism 153 Jameson’s statement, provocative rhetoric aside, in many ways corresponds to the argument I have been developing in this book: that after the monopolization of the historico-political discourse, literary realism as a politically significant form ceases and is eventually replaced by private-individual forms such as modernism—or what Jameson simply calls ‘Western literature’.44 Jameson is right, I believe, to claim that this is different in many non-Western contexts.45 What is essentially different is the different role played by the specifically political; when the historico-political discourse has not as yet been monopolized, the political articulates itself in literature in a way that can only appear foreign to many Western readers. Western literature, it seems, has withdrawn further and further into ever more exotic forms of privatism, isolationism, and individualism. The implication here is that we no longer understand a literature directly connected to its social surroundings—that is, as anything but strange and irrelevant to us. Jameson further underlines this point when he suggests that “our want of sympathy for these often unmodern third-world texts is itself frequently but a disguise for some deeper fear of the affluent about the way people actually live in other parts of the world—a way of life that still has little in common with daily life in the American suburb” (66). The Western way of life described here designates a profoundly depoliticized life. This is why “a popular or socially realistic third-world novel tends to come before us, not immediately, but as though already-read” (66)—that is, as a style whose political significance is difficult to relate to or engage with precisely because it emerges in circumstances so vastly different from our imagined communities, or relevant only to the extent that it serves as a historical-anthropological document, something from the past. The argument that “All third-world texts are necessarily … allegorical, and in a very specific way: they are to be read as what I will call national allegories, even when, or perhaps I should say, particularly when their forms develop out of predominantly western machineries of representation, such as the novel” (69)—essentially involves the idea that these non-Western texts are attuned to a trans-individual situation, rather than a mere private-individual one. To fully appreciate Jameson’s argument here, the following passage is important: one of the determinants of capitalist culture, that is, the culture of the western realist and modernist novel, is a radical split between the private and the public, between the poetic and the political, between what we have come to think of as the domain of sexuality and the unconscious and that of the public world of classes, of the economic, and of secular political power: in other words, Freud versus Marx. (69)46 The point is of course that in the West, this division is generally taken for granted—to the extent that the political seems like a gunshot in the opera.

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Again, this is very different outside the Western hemisphere. Jameson writes: Third-world texts, even those which are seemingly private and invested with a properly libidinal dynamics—necessarily project a political dimension in the form of national allegory: the story of the private individual destiny is always an allegory of the embattled situation of the public third-world culture and society. Need I add that it is precisely this very different ratio of the political to the personal which makes such texts alien to us at first approach, and consequently, resistant to our conventional western habits of reading? (69)47 While I agree with Jameson’s emphasis on the ‘different ratio’ of the political and the personal, my argument is that this is the case because, in most of the Western Hemisphere, the nation-state has indeed monopolized historico-political discourse to the extent that literature has more or less become a purely private-individual endeavor, whereas the political situation is often different in many postcolonial contexts. The latter situation sets the stage for a politically charged notion of literary realism, a style engaging with normative visions of collectivity, communal identity, and a synchronous mode of experience. Jameson’s overall point is that the West is condemned to psychology and “‘projections’ of private subjectivity. All of this is denied to thirdworld culture, which must be situational and materialist despite itself” (85), which is followed by the argument that “it is this, finally, which must account for the allegorical nature of third-world culture, where the telling of the individual story and the individual experience cannot but ultimately involve the whole laborious telling of the experience of the collectivity itself” (85–86). Although I agree overall with Jameson’s argument about the general difference between Western and non-Western literature—that the former has largely withdrawn into a mode of radical subjectivity and psychologizing, whereas the latter more often tends to engage with the political—I am more hesitant when it comes to the stylistic figure of the allegorical; in fact, much of the postcolonial criticism of Jameson, I believe, derives from the fact that he tends to misidentify allegory with what I have described as the political significance of realism.48 The main problem with allegory is that it is already so intimately integrated into the very concept of the literary—what we mean by literariness (any literary reading is per se allegorical)—that its quality as a distinct figure tends to disappear, whereby it lends itself to the possibility of signifying all kinds of things: the nation, difference, resistance, etc. Moreover, Jameson’s reading of Lu Xun’s text, “A Madman’s Diary” from 1918, seems to undermine his overall argument. To Jameson, the psychotic world created by Lu Xun,

Postcolonial Realism 155 in reality, creates a horrible, objective world underneath the appearance of the world: “an unveiling or deconcealment of the nightmarish reality of things, a stripping away of our conventional illusions or rationalizations about daily life and existence” (“Third-World” 70). Jameson’s point is that the text about cannibalism is allegorical in the sense that it envisions a society in which everyone must devour each other to survive. Would Lu Xun’s text be considered tedious or remind us of an outdated stage according to (Jameson’s) Western aesthetic standards? Hardly—which is why Jameson’s example works less well as an illustration of his previous argument. The more general point Jameson makes about satire—that the latter can, under certain circumstances, become even more politically adequate and relevant than realism—is no doubt valid, but again seems to undermine his overall argument. One could perhaps argue that during those moments when the relation between power and individuals is characterized by radical, disproportionate, or grotesque inequality, satire (in the form of the Bakhtinian carnivalesque) tends to thrive as a kind of short-term and short-lived relief. More importantly, as Szeman has rightly argued, “the nation is more or less simply conflated with the ‘political’ [in Jameson’s essay] and, when it is not, it becomes a term that seems to make reference to a kind of collectivity or community that is idealized” (Zones 57). The lack of a clear distinction between ‘nation’ and ‘political’, the lack of a more specified notion of the political, and the misguided use of the concept of ‘allegory’ ultimately lead Jameson to formulate a well-intentioned but confusing framework for the political significance of non-Western literature. Literary realism emerges, as I have argued, as an aesthetic form performatively envisioning or engaging with political coordinates for a common reality, a synchronized level of reality. Realism constitutes an aesthetic form that—pace Anderson—precedes the reality of the nationstate, one that gradually disappears the moment the latter comes fully into being. This is the main reason why traditional realism not only has largely lost its political significance in the West, but above all, why this style appears somewhat anachronistic, tedious, or irrelevant to many Western readers. The counterargument often made by postcolonial scholars—that non-Western literature is not at all tedious realism, typically followed by elaborate engagements with magical realism, modernist literature, and other anti-realist styles somehow seen as being more representative of the postcolonial experience—makes sense only to the extent that one ignores the role of the specifically political. As I have argued, the realist novel constitutes an important genre within those postcolonial sites where the specifically political still poses a distinct challenge—i.e., where the existential survival or coming-into-being of the community is at stake. There is a context for realism as a politically significant form when the relationship between individuals and the territorial nation-state is fundamentally unresolved.

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Conclusion In the history of European literature, realism emerges and prospers during a transitional period from roughly the French Revolution to the midnineteenth century, at a time when there is a political need for an imaginative genre capable of negotiating and performatively enacting the coordinates of a vast, synchronized discourse of a normative, common reality—in which populations rather than isolated individuals or individual communities may interact in rational and peaceful ways. Politically, this transitional period, albeit vastly different in so many other respects, is at a fundamental level comparable to those historical circumstances we find in many postcolonial contexts—transitional phases during which realism for similar reasons becomes politically significant once again. After the midnineteenth century, European realism largely declines and turns inwards or continues in increasingly depoliticized forms—that is, around the time when the nation-state consolidates itself into a self-evident, natural form of the imagined community. In postcolonial contexts, this transitional phase often took a different route: not the consolidation of the imagined community, the nation-state’s monopolization of historico-political discourse, but rather the continuation in various disguises of an earlier form of political power, that of absolute sovereignty. The result was not inwardlooking, private-individual forms of expression, but rather the growth of a different kind of literature: the transnational, exilic, migrant, carnivalesque aesthetic that has since become canonized as the postcolonial literary style per se. Indeed, one could argue that the academic field of postcolonial studies emerges directly out of this lost cause; the aesthetic preference for anti-realist literary works here constitutes a largely depoliticized response to the political failures of many postcolonial historical sites. In conclusion, I want to stress once again that the way I have addressed realism in the singular should not be understood as a monolithic discourse. Realism as a politicized style was only one among many competing styles; there is not one singular-monolithic history of realism, but rather realisms that developed differently in different geographical and historical contexts and influenced in different ways by different political events (in the same way as there is not one modernist or postmodernist style, but only many). Hence, there is no singular definition of realism as a politically significant genre, but rather a more general tendency that emerges in the cracks between other political dynamics, first and foremost the will to imagine a general consciousness through which the notion of a common world and hence reality may be glimpsed. As I have described it in this book, postcolonial realism is important precisely because it engages with the specifically political; how to articulate and represent (and possibly solve or overcome) the challenges of the postcolonial situation. This engagement is largely absent or only indirectly (or, to use Jameson’s term, unconsciously) present in other forms of

Postcolonial Realism 157 literature; modernist style essentially involves a narrow focus on the individual-private (albeit often in relation to the public), while grotesque and satirical literature are largely short-lived modes of resistance coming out of a deep sense of desperation, the desperate but also to some extent hopeless attempt to challenge absolute sovereignty. As I have defined it here, the political dimension of realism refers to an aesthetic attempt to formulate a vision of collectivity, a synchronized level on which an infinite number of individual realities may come together in a collective experience of one undivided world. Much of the postcolonial criticism of realism is based on the premise that the latter is essentially an epistemological-representational genre that fails to capture the complexities of postcolonial realities—or worse, that it reproduces and thus reinforces colonial structures. As I have argued, postcolonial studies’ monopolization of what is representative postcolonial writing—i.e., antirealist literature—exposes the field’s own depoliticized theoretical foundation. Literary realism constitutes a symptomatic blind spot, one that ultimately testifies to an inability to address the specifically political.

Notes 1 2 3 4

5 6 7

8

9

See Schmitt, Nomos 92–99. See Schmitt, Nomos 140–151. See Anghie, Imperialism 82–84. It is in this sense, as Kalyvas has pointed out, that European international law included the colonies—in the form of exclusion (i.e., colonial territories as being excluded from the law); see Kalyvas, “Postcolonial” 38. The nonEuropean parts of the world were, in other words, defined as a vast state of exception. On this issue, see also Mbembé, On the Postcolony 24–65. See Schmitt, Nomos 199. For a discussion of this issue, see Harrison’s Our Civilizing Mission. See Sartre, “Writing” 10–11. However, it is important to remember here that the genre of poetry within postcolonial contexts often emerged out of situations much more oriented towards the collective and hence the political than its Western counterpart. For a discussion of this issue, see Amuta, Theory 176–196 (the same, incidentally, could be said about drama). The reason I have chosen to focus on the novel form is primarily because I am interested in literary realism, a style most often associated with the genre of the novel. Obviously, the dynamics of poetic and dramatic form are very different from the formal dynamics of the novel; but I think at least some of the arguments I make about the political significance of the postcolonial realist novel could equally be applied to these other genres. This is one of the reasons why Ousmane Sembène—one of the eminent, early realist novelists of the Senegalese decolonial phase—eventually chose to become a filmmaker; the medium of the film could reach a wider (and often illiterate) audience. See Gadjigo 23. On this issue, see in particular Chidi Amuta’s The Theory of African Literature (esp. 52–76); and Drews-Sylla’s article “Ousmane Sembène’s Hybrid ‘Truth’,” which looks at “the aesthetic interrelationship between postcolonial literatures and Soviet-style Socialist Realism” (70).

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10 Here we touch upon a crucial—albeit often overlooked—problem within postcolonial studies about which Briault-Manus, within an African context, observes: “Postcolonial studies, focusing mainly on literature in the European languages of imperialist hegemony, has barely contested the anomalous colonialist construct of ‘African’ literature, which reduces over two thousand languages and cultures of that vast continent to what has been conveyed in metropolitan languages for the consumption of Western—and local but Western-educated minority—readerships” (51). While this book will not delve further into this vast problematic, my arguments about literary realism indirectly lend themselves to a discussion of this challenge, viz. the need for communal identities, while at the same time the need to preserve local identities, traditions, and languages in the aftermath of colonization. 11 While I am generally in agreement with Hallward’s critique of the (superficial) politicization of cultural discourse within postcolonial criticism (see Absolutely xiv; for a similar argument, see also Chris Bongie’s Friends and Enemies 263), I would argue that realism as a style bridges these two domains, the cultural and the political—perhaps more than any other aesthetic style. 12 See Mansur, “Contrary to a Nation” 107. 13 See Basil Davidson’s The Black Man’s Burden (esp. 197–242), which outlines a history largely describing the reality Fanon—in the essay “The Pitfalls of National Consciousness” (Wretched of the Earth 119–165)—feared would come into existence when the national middle class came to power. 14 Literary examples here would include some of the satirical writers emerging out of the Nigerian civil war, e.g., Wole Soyinka’s plays or Chukwuemeka Ike’s novels; or the satirical critique of the Senegalese postcolonial phase in Ousmane Sembène’s Xala. 15 For a discussion of postcolonial thought and the carnivalesque, see Flora Veit-Wild’s “Carnival and Hybridity” 553–556. 16 See Foucault, Power 121. 17 See here in particular Attridge’s The Singularity of Literature, and, within a specifically postcolonial context, Boehmer’s Postcolonial Poetics. 18 See Ngũgĩ, Globalectics 21–22. 19 See Kohn and McBridge, Political 80. 20 See Branch, Histories 23–27. 21 See Buijtenhuijs, Essays 142–149. 22 See Ngũgĩ, Grain 191. 23 Or as Appiah formulates it, “a way to articulate a resistance both to the material domination of the world empires and to the more nebulous threat to precolonial modes of thought represented by the Western project of cultural ascendancy” (Father’s House 54). 24 See also Walzer’s discussion of the question of why many liberal-secular, nationalist independence movements eventually reverted to authoritarian, religious regimes in The Paradox of Liberation 1–33. 25 Gikandi argues that “Realism seemed to occupy a privileged position in the politics and poetics of cultural nationalism because it promised narratives that would produce the objective world of the colonized and represent their spaces as autonomous and self-engendered” (“Realism” 317). 26 Also quoted by Gikandi, “Realism” 318. 27 See Appiah, Father’s 150. 28 As Szeman observes, “The ‘national culture’ that interests Fanon is the one being produced in the present struggles for independence for the future” (Zones 34).

Postcolonial Realism 159 29 The key example here would be Homi Bhabha, who deconstructs Fanon’s discourse on nationalism into something almost diametrically opposite, e.g., “a certain, uncertain time of the people” (Location 218). See also Szeman, Zones 34; Hiddleston, Decolonising 133; and Stafford, “Fanon” 172—for discussions of this issue. 30 It is also in this context, one should situate the concept of negritude—developed and promoted particularly by Léopold Sédar Senghor, León Damas, and Aimé Césaire—as an oppositional strategy challenging the ideological reality of French colonialism. Inspired by French surrealism and its critique of bourgeois values, Césaire’s central work Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (1939; with a preface by André Breton) thus sought to rediscover an essential ‘blackness’ underneath the layers of French colonial reality, using surrealist strategies to reinterpret, reorganize and liberate experiences of the real. To Fanon, however, the philosophy of negritude—and the aesthetic-emancipatory strategy of surrealism—essentially came down to a delusional form of escapism, a mirage (see Fanon, Towards 27). 31 During the second stage, Fanon likewise refers to a symptomatic literary style: “Sometimes this literature of just-before-the-battle is dominated by humour and by allegory; but often too it is symptomatic of a period of distress and difficulty, where death is experienced, and disgust too. We spew ourselves up; but already underneath laughter can be heard” (Wretched 179). 32 See Fanon, Wretched 183. 33 See Davidson, Burden 208. 34 While Aiyero is a fictional invention, it shares certain similarities with the Yoruba society, Soyinka’s ancestral roots. The important point in the novel is that it is a society that has followed a different (egalitarian/idealistic) developmental trajectory compared to the rest of the country—hence its ‘utopian’ potential. 35 For a discussion along these lines, see Szeman, Zones 138–151. 36 For a critique of the tendency to limit discussions of literary form to European aesthetics, see Julien, “Extroverted” 669–677. 37 Lukács’s dogmatic ‘modernist/realist binary system’ is not entirely consistent; he praises Thomas Mann’s works, which others would perhaps characterize as modernist, while generally criticizing Kafka, but also suggests that “Kafka belongs with the great realist writers” (“Ideology” 77). The value and importance of Lukács’s perspective—at least today—is perhaps less related to readings of individual authors and their specific works, but rather to the broad socio-political tendencies within literary history that his framework identifies. 38 To Lukács, modernism is the triumph of Kierkegaard over Hegel; whereas Hegel insists on a dialectics of the inner and outer world of the subject, Kierkegaard sees no unity; “According to Kierkegaard, the individual exists within an opaque, impenetrable ‘incognito’” (“Ideology” 27). See also Lukács’s chapter on Kierkegaard in The Destruction of Reason 243–296. 39 See Lukács’s “Ideology” 21–23. 40 See Benjamin, “Baudelaire” 173. 41 For a more comprehensive discussion of this issue, see Goodlad’s The Victorian Geopolitical Aesthetic (2015). 42 One could also argue that Anderson’s concept of the imagined community essentially embodies what Habermas, in a different context, has called ‘communicative rationality’, that is, the awareness of an ideal communicative situation or social interaction without external influence. The imagined

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community constitutes, in many ways, the frames guaranteeing ideas of objectivity, universal truth, and neutrality. See Habermas, Reason 1–74. It is possible that Jameson wished he had never published this essay, given the massive criticism it generated, as Neil Lazarus suggests in one of the few sympathetic readings of the text (see Unconscious 89). I agree with Nicholas Brown’s opinion that “One might wish after the fact that the essay had been worked into the introduction to The Political Unconscious as a final dialectical twist, where it would have made clear that Jameson did not have in mind a radically different theory for Third-World literature but rather a kind of completion of the theory he had laid out earlier” (8). In the essay “Beyond the Cave,” Jameson describes modernism as “simply cancelled realistic ones,” that is, “not apprehended directly, in terms of their own symbolic meanings, in terms of their own mythic or sacred immediacy … but rather indirectly only, by way of the relay of an imaginary realistic narrative of which the symbolic and modernistic one is then seen as a kind of stylization” (Ideologies Vol. 2 129). I largely agree with this argument (although his definition of realism in “Beyond the Cave” and elsewhere is somewhat problematic)—with the addition that the ‘imaginary realistic narrative’ coincides with the nation-state’s monopolization of the historicopolitical discourse. While Jameson may or may not have used the terms ‘the West’ vs. ‘the Third World’ strategically in his essay, I am mainly referring to these terms as discourses signifying categorical differences in terms of their relation to the specifically political—not the objective-neutral, empirical realities to which these terms otherwise refer. Extending this line of thought, Szeman observes that within a postcolonial context, “literature and the nation are conceptualized as being mutually dependent on one another in a way that gives to the writing of national literature an urgency and importance that it has perhaps entirely lost in the West” (Zones 2). As Jameson argues, the national allegories “are not so much absent from first-world cultural texts as they are unconscious, and therefore they must be deciphered by interpretive mechanisms that necessarily entail a whole social and historical critique of our current first-world situation” (“Third-World” 79). This, of course, overlaps with the argument Jameson presents in The Political Unconscious. In the so-called third-world novel, Jameson argues, the national allegories (i.e., the political) “are conscious and overt: they imply a radically different and objective relationship of politics to libidinal dynamics” (“Third-World” 80). cf. Hamish Dalley’s reinterpretation of Jameson’s concept of allegory, which among other things, stresses the importance of reading postcolonial historical novels in terms of their commitment to plausible representations of history and “their engagements with social life and corporeal existence” (“Postcolonialism” 66). See also Dalley, Postcolonial 34–41.

Works Cited Achebe, Chinua. Anthills of the Savannah. London: William Heinemann, 1987. Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Half of a Yellow Sun [2007]. London: 4th Estate, 2009. Amuta, Chidi. The Theory of African Literature. London: Zed Books, 1989.

Postcolonial Realism 161 Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism [1983]. Revised edition. London: Verso, 1991. Andrade, Susan Z. “Realism, Reception, 1968, and West Africa.” Modern Language Quarterly 73.3 (2012): 289–208. Anghie, Antony. Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law. Cambridge University Press, 2004. Appiah, Anthony Kwame. In my Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. Attridge, Derek. The Singularity of Literature. London: Routledge, 2004. Balibar, Etienne. “The Nation Form: History and Ideology.” Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities. Eds. Etienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein. Trans. Chris Turner. London: Verso, 1991. 86–106. Benjamin, Walter. “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire.” Illuminations. Ed. Hannah Arendt. Trans. Harry Zorn. London: Pimlico. 152–196. Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 2004. Boehmer, Elleke. Postcolonial Poetics. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. Bongie, Chris. Friends and Enemies: The Scribal Politics of Post/Colonial Literature. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008. Branch, David. Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire. W.W. Norton & Company, 2005. Brennan, Timothy. Salman Rushdie and the Third World: Myths of the Nation. London: Macmillan, 1989. Brennan, Timothy. “The National Longing for Form.” Nation and Narration. Ed. Homi Bhabha. London: Routledge, 1990. 44–70. Briault-Manus, Vicki. “Future Linguistic Approaches to African Literature.” The Future of Postcolonial Studies. Ed. Chantal Zabus. London: Routledge, 2015. 48–66. Buijtenhuijs, Rob. Essays on Mau Mau: Contributions to Mau Mau Historiography. Leiden: African Studies Centre, 1982. Chakrabarty, Dipesh. “Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History: Who Speaks for ‘Indian’ Pasts?” Representations 37 (1992): 1–26. Chakrabarty, Dipesh. Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University, 2000. Cheah, Pheng. Spectral Nationality: Passages of Freedom from Kant to Postcolonial Literatures of Liberation. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003. Cleary, Joe. “Realism after Modernism and the Literary World-System.” Modern Language Quarterly 73.3 (2012): 255–268. Dalley, Hamish. The Postcolonial Historical Novel: Realism, Allegory, and the Representation of Contested Pasts. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Dalley, Hamish. “Postcolonialism and the Historical Novel: Epistemologies of Contemporary Realism.” Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry 1.1 (2014): 51–67. Davidson, Basil. The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the NationState. London: James Currey, 1992. Drews-Sylla, Gesine. “Ousmane Sembène’s Hybrid ‘Truth’—Social(ist) Realism and Postcolonial Writing Back.” Realisms in Contemporary Culture: Theories,

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Politics, and Medial Configurations. Eds. Dorothee Birke and Stella Butter. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013. 70–89. Eysteinsson, Astradur. The Concept of Modernism. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1990. Fanon, Frantz. Toward the African Revolution [1964]. Trans. Haakon Chevalier. New York: Grove Press, 1967. Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth [1961]. Trans. Constance Farrington. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1974. Farah, Nuruddin. Links. London: Duckworth, 2005. Forna, Aminatta. The Memory of Love. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2010. Forrest, Joshua B. “Nationalism in Postcolonial States.” After Independence: Making and Protecting the Nation in Postcolonial and Postcommunist States. Ed. Lowell W. Barrington. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2006. 33–44. Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings 1972–1977. Ed. Colin Gordon. Trans. Colin Gordon et al., New York: Pantheon Books, 1980. Gadjigo, Samba. Ousmane Sembène: Dialogues with Critics and Writers. Boston, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993. Gikandi, Simon. “Realism, Romance, and the Problem of African Literary History.” Modern Language Quarterly 73.3 (2012): 309–328. Goodlad, Lauren M.E. The Victorian Geopolitical Aesthetic: Realism, Sovereignty, and Transnational Experience. Oxford University Press, 2015. Habermas, Jürgen. Reason and the Rationalization of Society: Vol. 1 of The Theory of Communicative Action. Trans. Thomas McCarthy. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 1984. Hallward, Peter. Absolutely Postcolonial: Writing Between the Singular and the Specific. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001. Harrison, Nicholas. Our Civilizing Mission: The Lessons of Colonial Education. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2019. Hiddleston, Jane. Decolonising the Intellectual: Politics, Culture, and Humanism at the End of the French Empire. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2014. Jameson, Fredric. “Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism.” Social Text 15 (1986): 65–88. Jameson, Fredric. The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971–1986 Vol. 2: Syntax of History. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989. Jameson, Fredric. “Modernism and Imperialism.” Nationalism, Colonialism and Literature: Terry Eagleton, Fredric Jameson, Edward W. Said. Ed.Seamus Deane. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990. 43–66. Jameson, Fredric. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act [1981]. London: Routledge, 2002. Julien, Eileen. “The Extroverted African Novel.” The Novel. Vol. 1. Ed. Franco Moretti. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2006. 667–700. Kalyvas, Andreas. “Carl Schmitt’s Postcolonial Imagination.” Constellations 25 (2018): 35–53. Kohn, Margaret, and Keally McBride. Political Theories of Decolonization: Postcolonialism and the Problem of Foundations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Postcolonial Realism 163 Lazarus, Neil. “The Politics of Postcolonial Modernism.” The European Legacy 7.6 (2002): 771–782. Lazarus, Neil. The Postcolonial Unconscious. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Loomba, Ania. Colonialism/Postcolonialism. 3rd ed. London: Routledge, 2015. Lukács, Georg. “The Ideology of Modernism.” The Meaning of Contemporary Realism. Trans. John and Necke Mander. London: Merlin Press, 1979. 17–46. Lukács, Georg. “Franz Kafka or Thomas Mann?” The Meaning of Contemporary Realism. Trans. John and Necke Mander. London: Merlin Press, 1979. 47–92. Lukács, Georg. The Destruction of Reason [1954]. Trans. Peter Palmer. London: Merlin Press, 1981. Mann, Michael. “Nation-states in Europe and Other Contintents: Diversifying, Developing, Not Dying.” Mapping the Nation. Ed. Gopal Balakrishnan. London: Verso, 1996. 295–316. Mansur, Abdalla Omar. “Contrary to a Nation: The Cancer of the Somali State.” The Invention of Somalia. Ed. Ali Jimale Ahmed. Lawrenceville: The Red Sea Press, 1995. 107–116. Mbembé, Achille. On the Postcolony. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. Mouffe, Chantal. On the Political. London: Routledge, 2005. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. A Grain of Wheat [1967]. London: Penguin, 2002. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. Globalectics: Theory and the Politics of Knowing. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012. Sartre, Jean-Paul. “What is Writing?” What is Literature? Trans. Bernard Frechtman. London: Routledge, 2001. Schmitt, Carl. Nomos of the Earth in the International Law of the Jus Publicum Europaeum [1950]. Trans. G.L. Ulmen. New York: Telos Press, 2003. Soyinka, Wole. Season of Anomy. London: Rex Collings, 1973. Stafford, Andy. “Frantz Fanon, Atlantic Theorist; or Decolonization and the Nation State in Postcolonial Theory.” Francophone Postcolonial Studies: A Critical Introduction. Eds. Charles Forsdick and David Murphy. London: Arnold, 2003. 166–172. Stam, Robert. Reflexivity in Film and Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992. Szeman, Imre. Zones of Instability: Literature, Postcolonialism, and the Nation. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003. Veit-Wild, Flora. “Carnival and Hybridity in Texts by Dambudzo Marechera and Lesego Rampolokeng.” Journal of Southern African Studies 23.4 (1997): 553–564. Walzer, Michael. The Paradox of Liberation: Secular Revolutions and Religious Counterrevolutions. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2015. Young, Robert J.C. Empire, Colony, Postcolony. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2015.

5

The Politics of Realism Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey

Introduction In this last chapter, I want to narrow the scope by focusing on one particular text, the Canadian-Indian writer Rohinton Mistry’s first novel, Such a Long Journey from 1991. I do this for several reasons, in part to compensate for the fact that the preceding chapters have primarily sought to clear the groundwork for a more general theoretical framework of postcolonial realism. Secondly, while I have made references to mainly African postcolonial sites throughout this book, this chapter will attempt to clarify that the political significance of realism is by no means limited to this continent. Lastly, Mistry’s oeuvre lends itself to further development of some of the main ideas discussed in this book, not least because the novels’ distinct realist style has rarely been given much attention, thus yet again underlining the fact that the academic field of postcolonial studies, in general, has had very little positive to say about realism. Born in 1952, Rohinton Mistry left his native India at the age of 23 and moved to Canada, where he embarked on a highly successful career as a writer in the late 1980s. However, India—and particularly the city Mumbai (Bombay)—figures centrally in all his works. Thus, in the eleven stories included in the short story anthology Tales from Firozsha Baag (1987), Mistry traces the fates of a group of characters connected to the same Mumbai apartment building, called Firozsha Baag. His first novel, Such a Long Journey, tells the story of a bank clerk in Mumbai set during the Indo-Pakistani war in 1971. In the novel Family Matters (2002), we follow an old man with Parkinson’s Disease living in Mumbai during the 1990s, while the story in Mistry’s perhaps most successful novel to date, A Fine Balance from 1995, unfolds in Mumbai around the time of Indira Gandhi’s state of emergency in 1975. Read together, Mistry’s three published novels incidentally illustrate the overall theoretical trajectory of realism that I have outlined in this book; Mistry begins with a realist style still dependent on a historical discourse (Such a Long Journey), moves on to a more panoramic and

The Politics of Realism 165 expansive style (A Fine Balance), and finally ends with a style centered more narrowly around the private-domestic sphere (Family Matters). Although the three texts are clearly molded in the realist tradition, they each demonstrate important formal differences, which interestingly pertain to differences in terms of what I have called realism’s political significance. While Mistry’s first novel stylistically and thematically adheres to the norms of the Lukácsian historical novel—as I will discuss a little later—his second novel, A Fine Balance, is in many ways the text that comes closest to the nineteenth-century Balzacian novel. The historical background still plays a crucial role in A Fine Balance, although the novel places much stronger emphasis on the dynamics of interpersonal relations and stylistic heterogeneity, as well as digressive and multiple plot developments. The story of Family Matters begins some twenty years after the timeframes of his first two novels (the 1970s), i.e., the beginning of the 1990s. The novel occasionally alludes to history, although only in passing, and without those having any real consequences or impact in terms of the plot development. The realist style is significantly more complex, detailed, inward-looking, and nuanced, but also less energetic, and ultimately less political. With Family Matters, we seem to arrive at a point where the urgency of the political questions of what constitutes a common reality has decreased. The novel’s world is one in which the realist style seems less purposeful, perhaps because the memories of the national wars and crises of the 1960s and 1970s at this point are fading, even if the present (the 1990s) from an individual point of view seems even more disparate and heterogeneous. It is precisely when the outer frames of reality have been consolidated—to the extent that there are few significant political questions left to ask—that the stage is set for a private-individual realm to flourish, unhindered by fears of collective crisis, the existential threat of war. Once the political negotiation of what constitutes common reality is over, Mistry’s realism and perhaps realism more generally as an aesthetic form of political imagination becomes less effective; at this point, aesthetic means more perceptive to the complexities and nuances of the private-individual realm present themselves more readily and with greater relevance.

Not Enough or Too Much Realism When Rohinton Mistry’s novel A Fine Balance was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1996, Germaine Greer commented: “I hate [A Fine Balance]. I absolutely hate it … I just don’t recognize this dismal, dreary city. It’s a Canadian book about India. What could be worse?” (Ross 240). In support of her opinion, Greer mentioned that she had taught a few months at a college in Mumbai, which had given her an impression distinctly different from the grim, impoverished world depicted in Mistry’s second novel.1 Mistry possibly responded—in a rather

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humorous spirit—to this vitriolic attack by incorporating the incident in his third novel, Family Matters. Here, the character Vilas—while discussing a novel about the Emergency (i.e., A Fine Balance)—at one point disapprovingly comments that according to “a big professor at some big university in England” (who has been in India for a short period but nonetheless become a self-proclaimed expert), the book is completely out of touch with the realities. Quoting T.S. Eliot, Vilas reflects that “Humans cannot tolerate too much reality” (210). As a migrant writer based in Canada writing about particular epochs in recent Indian history in a distinct realist style, Mistry has often encountered critical questions regarding authentic representation, authorial legitimacy, and accuracy of historical representation—perhaps to a greater extent than postcolonial writers employing a less direct representational style, e.g., the magical realist works of Salman Rushdie and others. Realism as a literary form quite simply seems to prompt these questions more readily than other forms2—as the anecdote about Greer perhaps illustrates. Even the author’s right to fictionalize Indian history as a migrant writer has been questioned. Thus, the critic Nilufer Bharucha has argued that Mistry as a “diasporic writer … dusts off old cobwebs and catches up with the happenings in India during his absence from it” (164).3 To Bharucha, Mistry’s historical-realist prose about Indian society is essentially ethnocentric and exoticizing, while his character portraits come across as “cardboard figures” (167)—the underlying premise being that Mistry’s realist style is not realistic enough. On the other hand, several critics have been eager to point out that while Mistry seems to be using traditional realism, his works are, in fact, engaging in a more sophisticated critique of realism. Thus, David Williams views Mistry’s realism as a “postcolonial resistance to a form of realism which would naturalize the status quo,” and situates Mistry’s style within what he calls “the postrealist ideology of postcolonial writing” (67), while Morey observes further that Mistry’s work is not simply “perpetuating the traditions of the nineteenth-century European realist novel” but should instead be seen as an example of “post-colonial ‘metarealism’” (Fictions 169). Deepika Bahri looks at the novel’s mimetic-epistemological discourse, arguing that traditionally this discourse is problematic “because it is associated with such terms as ‘copy’, ‘reproduction’, and ‘imitation’, and so in danger of contributing to rather than challenging the problems of fixed identity that postcolonial discourse has consistently struggled against” (123). To Bahri, however, Mistry’s realist style redeems itself by drawing attention to the artificiality of realism and hence transcends this problematic. One could argue that these critical positions, to some extent, eliminate the specificity of realism, a kind of modernist ‘over-writing’ of realism’s aesthetic style.4 What seems to be needed here, I would argue, is a nonapologetic approach to Mistry’s realist style. Such a Long Journey flirts

The Politics of Realism 167 with the ‘real’ in a challenging and often revisionary way, something evidently provoking both literary critics and Shiv Sena supporters alike.5 The novel frequently refers to significant historical figures and events such as Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the notorious and mysterious event central to the novel’s plot: the case of Captain Sohrab Rustom Nagarwala. These fictional appropriations, I would argue, do not lead away from realism, as Williams, Morey, and others suggest; on the contrary, they push us further into the distinct workings of Mistry’s realism. As we have seen, Lukács makes the argument that historical realism enters literary history as a significant genre when fiction becomes historically self-conscious—i.e., self-conscious of being part of political discourse.6 It is when “the personal, private, egoistic activity of individual human beings” (Historical 39) enters the orbit of the public that these non-narratable, individual activities lend themselves to narrative significance.7 My overall argument in this chapter is that Such a Long Journey’s historical realism is intimately connected to the political in the sense that realism, as Stern puts it, is based on “the premise of a single, undivided reality” (68), or what Ben-Yishai describes as “the reality of what is commonly accepted as real” (15). The key notion here is the idea of the common as a collectively negotiated and hence political reality, as opposed to a private individual reality. Mistry’s collectively and hence politically imagined world essentially addresses the troubled relationship between the private and the public spheres, or more specifically, when this relation turns into an ironic experience. In Mistry’s novel, we witness a plethora of impressionistic everyday scenes; a private realm concentrated on domestic family concerns. At the same time, we see an ever-intensifying narrative impulse in the form of digressive, minor, and extraneous stories that proliferate in multiple directions, as if to mitigate the experience of the ironic. However, they remain formulated largely within the private sphere. Ultimately, once the novel has correlated the private and the public spheres, that is, the point at which they engage in direct relation and together form a whole narrative, we see the workings of Mistry’s realism. Thus, Mistry’s realist style is an attempt to overcome irony by synchronizing the proliferating, private narratives that emerge as symptoms of a fractured relationship between private and public spheres within a collective, hence political, framework.

The Public vs. the Private In Such a Long Journey, we follow a small and relatively isolated Parsi community in and around the Khodadad Building, more specifically the Noble family. The novel begins with a scene in which the novel’s main character, Gustad Noble, prepares for his morning prayer. Alone and embittered, Gustad reminisces about the mornings when he used to carry

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out this ritual with Bilimoria, his close friend for many years. Bilimoria left the Khodadad Building without any notice shortly before the novel begins. Only later in the novel do we learn that Gustad, at this point, is already in possession of a letter from Bilimoria, in which the latter explains he had to leave so abruptly due to being sent on a secret government mission. Thus, from the beginning of the novel, we find the contours of an encounter between two essentially separate realms: the private sphere of Gustad and the public discourse to which the character of Bilimoria essentially belongs. It is, of course, important to acknowledge the extent to which the story unfolds within a specifically Parsi context. As Bharucha rightly points out, Mistry’s oeuvre looks particularly at “the detailing of Parsi identity. It also reveals how Parsis are learning to cope with the reality of postcolonial India and how they are coming to terms with their new lives in the West” (“‘When’” 59). Although Parsis have resided in India for hundreds of years, contributing to all areas of Indian culture and society, today, the ethnic minority constitutes only a fraction of the total Indian population. Aspects of marginality and questions about who is also part of the collective ‘we’ are obviously present in Such a Long Journey, a novel that demonstrates a keen awareness of the problems involved in identifying with a homogenizing and totalizing idea of national identity formation. More generally, all of Mistry’s novels portray characters immersed in the specific rites and traditions of the Parsi community, as Jagdish Batra observes: “They have Parsi names, they pray and observe rituals the way Parsis are expected to do. Also they eat and dress in a particular way” (115)—albeit not without conflict or undivided enthusiasm, especially among members of the younger generation (such as Sohrab in Such a Long Journey and Murad in Family Matters). However, I would argue that unlike Family Matters, in particular, Mistry’s first novel is less centered on the Parsi community per se (even though this aspect evidently plays an important role) and is more focused on the interrelationships between citizens and the state in a general sense. In Such a Long Journey’s opening scene, Gustad reminisces about how he used to perform the Parsi morning ritual with his friend Major Bilimoria; the point is, of course, that this activity takes place within the private intimate sphere. Gustad is disappointed with Bilimoria because the latter has chosen to prioritize the state’s affairs over the values of family and, from a wider perspective, those of the Parsi community. To Gustad, Bilimoria has always been “a good example” (13) for the children, a “legendary hero” (13), “a loving brother,” and “a second father to the children” (14). Bilimoria was very much a part of Gustad’s inner sanctuary of the private realm. In the letter, which is rendered in full only later in the novel (after it has been referred to enigmatically several times), Bilimoria discloses that he felt compelled to prioritize his duty to the country over familial loyalties, something that Gustad,

The Politics of Realism 169 fanatically devoted to the private sphere, sees as a kind of betrayal. At the same time, the letter worries Gustad because, while addressed to him as a trusted friend,8 it nonetheless implores him likewise to prioritize public duty over family life, an act that would involve great risk. Bilimoria’s favor involves the illegal and highly risky enterprise of channeling the huge sum of ten lakh rupees (whose origins Gustad knows nothing about) into a secret bank account.9 While reading Bilimoria’s letter, Gustad remembers an accident that happened nine years earlier when he jumped in front of a bus to save his son Sohrab. On that occasion, Bilimoria had taken the badly injured Gustad in his strong arms and carried him to a clinic where he received a miraculous treatment: “For the thousandth time, his heart filled with gratitude for Jimmy Bilimoria. If it hadn’t been for Jimmy’s taking him to Madhiwalla Bonesetter, he would be a complete cripple today” (60–61). Gustad finds some paper, remembers his father’s bookstore fondly, and finally writes the letter to Bilimoria. In the end, what makes Gustad write back to Bilimoria is the affective landscape of the private in which the latter still plays a vital role.10 But writing back to Bilimoria, and in a further sense accepting his request, is at the same time an act that breaks the carefully constructed, protective shield around Gustad’s private realm. From this moment in the novel, the relationship between private and public trajectories intersecting Gustad’s life becomes increasingly problematic and unstable. The irony here, which is revealed only much later in the novel, is, of course, that Bilimoria originally took the corrupt government money in order to distribute it to his friends, to transfer the money from the public realm to that of the private. As a bank employee, Gustad earns a modest salary, while Dilvanaz works at home looking after their three children, Roshan, Darius, and Sohrab. Dominating this sphere are primarily private problems and worries, such as quarrels with neighbors and other minor squabbles. The overall historical backdrop relates to the time before, during, and after the Indo-Pakistani war in December 1971. In several scenes, Mistry describes how this distant historical sphere affects people’s everyday lives directly and indirectly. The government’s war preparation is an aspect that always simmers in the background,11 sometimes through newspapers and rumors; other times through norms, prohibitions, or decrees such as the blackout law. Since the bitter war with China in 1965, Gustad has kept newspapers covering all the apartment’s windows, which again underlines how Gustad’s private experience is closely, albeit never directly, tied to the (abstract) events of public discourse. Gustad’s personal memories, the birth of his daughter, and his accident are intimately dotted along a line interwoven with events like burning buses and riots, whose remote causes are located elsewhere. When Dinshawji, Gustad’s friend and colleague, visits the Noble family to celebrate

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Roshan’s birthday and Sohrab’s admission into the India Institute of Technology, he wonders why all the windows are covered with newspapers. Gustad responds: “You remember the war with China” (40). However, the children interrupt them when he is about to explain further. At this stage, the largely non-narrativized discourse of private everyday life as such prevents any further development of the relation to the public. Why Gustad still covers his windows with newspapers so long after the war is thus a question that is never answered directly. The novel suggests, however, that the blackout paper functions as protective darkness surrounding the private sphere, parentheses around Gustad’s domestic life, like the furniture from his childhood home and the wall around the Khodadad Building, objects that keep the private sphere separate from politics and history, the external world’s contingency, indifference, and violence. Throughout the novel, Gustad is portrayed as a character zealously devoted to the private sphere, the non-political existence. Further emphasizing this desire for non-political existence are numerous scenes during which Gustad reminisces about the past: memories of his grandfather’s furniture workshop, his grandmother’s cooking, his father’s bookstore, the family’s happy holidays, the day he saved Sohrab’s life, the blissful moments with Bilimoria doing the morning rites in front of the Khodadad Building. These nostalgic memories typically are stitched together with descriptions of a more prosaic present time—or, rather, they appear mostly in the form of interruptions within an otherwise densely prosaic everyday-ness that fills many of the novel’s pages. The novel’s scenes always seem on the verge of disintegrating into a quotidian realm of radical inconspicuousness, a certain kind of historical invisibility, lethargy, or blankness. Mistry’s realist style is haunted by what Georg W.F. Hegel would call the blank pages of history,12 that is, a style of repetition, redundancy, reality effects; an expression of satisfaction, or of the lack of desire for change, movement, progress. It is one that veers toward the static, transparent, descriptive mode that Lukács saw as the articulation of the ideology of the complacent post-1848 bourgeoisie.13 Mistry’s realism, however, only becomes realism, I would argue, insofar as it steps out of this blankness and into the realm of collective or trans-individual history, a historical reality that encompasses potentially everyone within the community; the moment these multitudinous impressions of spontaneous, immediate everyday life are molded into a narrative chain of events of historical—and not simply private—significance. As the basic unit of the narrative, however, the event is always potentially threatened by disintegration into smaller events; there is a lack of naturalness about the proper delimitation of the event.14 To Lukács, this is the condition of modernity, a world in which “the natural principle of epic selection is lost” (Writer 130). In this world, Lukács muses

The Politics of Realism 171 wistfully that a genuinely narratable sequence, a chain of proper events selected and organized out of a mass of indistinguishable matter, becomes fundamentally problematic. I argue that this tension constitutes, albeit in a rather different context, one of the driving forces of Mistry’s realist style. On page after page, Such a Long Journey patiently describes a plethora of routine activities like meals, morning prayers, tea-drinking, newspaper reading, work habits, and so on, all of which tend to merge into an atmosphere of indistinguishability, a discourse of temporal simultaneity. It is as if the many repetitive, quotidian activities swallow up time itself, preventing any sense of narrative dynamic. When this quotidian and fundamentally non-narratable realm is situated within a problematic relationship to the public, we see the emergence of irony and, as a response, a proliferation of private narratives that, however, fail to overcome the experience of irony. Mistry’s style essentially captures the transitional moment when the private realm becomes irreversibly entangled in public discourse. This moment is, however, one that is potentially fraught with irony. The latter emerges because of a prevailing sense of un-reality—that is, the moment one at an individual level becomes aware of being part of the public is the moment one becomes aware of the un-reality of (the nation-state’s distorted version of) history, of history’s constructed-ness and relativity, its manipulations and hence its potential falsity. The figure of irony is precisely increased during those moments when the experience of national consciousness is intensified—that is, during moments when the nation is under pressure, in crisis, or at war.

Ironic Distance In several of the novel’s scenes, Mistry describes how the event of war affects people’s everyday life, such as when the government initiates an emergency program in which a siren sounds at a specific time every day across the country: For several weeks the threnodic siren had been wailing every morning at exactly ten o’clock … There had never been any official announcement, so the public assumed that in preparation for war with Pakistan, the government was checking to see if the air-raid sirens were in working order … Cynics said it seemed more like a conspiracy, because if the Pakistanis ever wanted to carry out a successful bombing raid, all they had to do was make sure they reached the skies overhead at exactly ten o’clock. But perhaps the most wishful explanation was that the siren sounded to let people check their watches and synchronize them at ten, as part of the prewar effort to improve punctuality and productivity in government offices. (143)

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This ironic distance—the war never being fully manifest, yet never entirely absent either—generally characterizes the individual characters’ relation to the government and, in a further sense, the public; it is an abstract relation. In Such a Long Journey, the local municipality (and, more generally, the state) represents a kind of abstract, anonymous, and subterranean force. In the beginning, it makes everyday life increasingly difficult for the local citizens around the Khodadad Building due to a barrage of constantly changing rules, regulations, protocols, and prohibitions. People initially complain about the lack of milk ration cards,15 the fact that people are allowed to use only a limited amount of public water,16 and that incomprehensible public decrees are being posted around the Khodadad Building.17 As the novel progresses, this anonymous public force gradually becomes considerably more harassing in nature, which in the end leads to a brutal confrontation between people and the authorities. The only time a representative of the local municipality shows up in the novel occurs near the end when a wall is about to be demolished to the distress of the local people. Ironically, the person in charge of the crew is a personal friend of Gustad’s.18 As part of the government’s plans for urban renewal, the local municipality has made the unpopular decision to expand the road adjacent to the Khodadad Building, which means that a wall covered with divine images is to be torn down.19 The culminating clash between locals and the authorities near the end of the story offers perhaps the novel’s most concrete and direct manifestation of individuals’ troubled relation to the public. Thus, throughout the novel the state (or representatives of the state) is portrayed as one that acts either with indifference to citizens’ needs (access to water, for example) or in an irrational, violent way (through authoritarian and militaristic initiatives) or simply as another private individual, in the case of Indira Gandhi withdrawing money from the State Bank of India for what the novel suggests are her own private purposes. In contrast, the citizens are, to a lesser extent, bound by a national community or ethos; their relation, focus, and commitment are articulated through narrower domestic structures or, indeed, through the local community in and around the Khodadad Building. Public discourse never quite seems to attain a real presence in people’s lives. It remains, as it were, abstract, fictional, or unreal—ambiguous, mysterious, and random. The abstract or problematic relationship between public discourse and the private realm is thus above all articulated through the novel’s shifting perspectives, veering between the too-close (the quotidian descriptions) and the too-abstract (the official historical trajectory). A key object illustrating this troubled, unresolved relation between the small, non-narratable dramas of everyday life and abstract public discourse is the newspaper. At a private level, the novel continuously orchestrates conjectures, hints, and suggestions, often through newspapers or rumors; at the same time, the text undermines any notion of

The Politics of Realism 173 absolute certainty. While Gustad reads newspapers and thus follows public life attentively, the gap between the private and public discourses is not narrowed but deepened. In numerous scenes in the novel, we find people reading newspapers, especially stories about the escalating conflict with Pakistan, as well as scenes in which the newspaper is used for more practical purposes—for wrapping up meat, for recycling, and, of course, for covering the windows. It is in the newspaper that Gustad reads about the disturbing events unfolding in Pakistan: He ignored the grim headlines about Pakistan, barely glanced at the half-naked mother weeping with a dead child in her arms … He turned to the inside page, the one which listed the Indian Institute of Technology’s entrance exam results. He laid the page flat on the dining-table. From the sideboard he fetched the little piece of paper with Sohrab’s roll number, checked and went to wake Dilvanaz. (6–7) Here again, the novel offers a concrete example of how public discourse and the individual realm meet briefly, albeit only peripherally and in a fundamentally abstract-ironic way; between distressing stories of war and dreadful photos of suffering and death, Gustad learns to his great relief that Sohrab has been admitted into the Indian Institute of Technology. It is through the newspaper that Gustad, at a distance, follows the case against Bilimoria, who at this stage in the novel has been accused of embezzlement. As Ghulam, Bilimoria’s trusted comrade in India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), observes at one point, “everything that appears in newspapers is not the truth” (202). Gustad does become more skeptical of what he reads in the papers as the case against Bilimoria unfolds: “I read the papers and I know what goes on. Rumors and allegations all the time, and no proof!” (93). What Gustad confronts here is essentially the choice between the official version (conveyed through the newspapers), and the unofficial version related to him by Bilimoria when Gustad visits his friend in the hospital one last time. According to Bilimoria, Indira Gandhi’s accusations (that Bilimoria imitated her voice and took the money for himself) are false; when Gustad naively suggests that they tell the truth to the newspapers, Bilimoria rejects the idea: “Gustad, it has been tried. Everything is in their control … courts in their pockets. Only one way … quietly do my four years … then forget about it” (280; ellipses in original). ‘They’ refers here not merely to the government and to corrupt journalists, but also to official history as such: history not as neutral-universal-transparent, but as a politicized history. The historical awareness of being in or part of history, generated through the character of Gustad, is one that exposes the public relation as political manipulation—that is, an ironic experience.

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The truth nonetheless reveals itself, indirectly or ironically, in the newspaper; near the end of the novel, sometime after Gustad has come home from his visit to Bilimoria, he reads two adjacent stories in the newspaper, one about India’s victory celebrations, which fills Gustad with national pride, and the other about Major Bilimoria’s death in prison under suspicious circumstances: There was a detailed description of the surrender ceremony, with the text of the instrument of surrender included. Like everyone else, Gustad had begun to feel the glow of national pride. Every day, he read every page, column by column, which was fortunate, or he would have missed an item that appeared inside, in an obscure corner. It was barely an inch of column space. And when he read it, the glow of national pride dropped from him like a wet raincoat … He sat staring at the paragraph, reading it over and over, the small paragraph which stated that Mr. J. Bilimoria, a former officer with RAW, had died of a heart attack while serving his four-year prison sentence in New Delhi. (311) In Gustad’s mind, the obituary seems to confirm that Bilimoria was right after all.20 Here, we find the novel’s perhaps most arresting example of a meaningful correlation of the individual’s experience of the public (i.e., the relation between state and individual), which at the same time is a fundamentally disillusioning and ironic experience.21

Narrative and Rhetoric A common situation that we find in different variations in all of Mistry’s novels involves a minor character indulging in some high-flown rhetoric while the main character is torn between listening and thinking about the practicalities of life. In A Fine Balance, the protagonist Dina Dalal reluctantly seeks advice from the pseudo-lawyer Mr. Valmik, but soon wishes that “Mr. Valmik would stop talking in this high-flown manner. It had been entertaining for a while but was rapidly becoming wearisome … Bombast and rhetoric infected the nation” (563). In Family Matters, amateur actors Bhaskar and Gautam pompously discuss the art of acting, while the main character Yezad “grew impatient, wishing they would stop sounding their own theatrical trumpets” (331). And in Such a Long Journey, Gustad Noble, at one point, listens to street seller Peerbhoy Paanwalla spinning a patriotic yarn about the history of the nation. A little later, “Gustad looked at his watch and reluctantly tore himself away from the group” (309). Taken together, the ironic scenes draw the contours of one of the main motifs in Mistry’s oeuvre: the rift between rhetoric and reality, the abstract and the concrete, the public and the private, or storytelling and life. It is a

The Politics of Realism 175 rift that is never quite overcome, one that points toward some deeper, more profound structure, a grand pattern, but also toward the very opposite; the confusing, quotidian experiences of everyday life unredeemed by the ineffective ramblings of rhetoric. What is demonstrated in this recurrent tableau, one could argue, is the need for narration in a world submerged in an increasingly politicized world. Narrative becomes necessary as an attempt to overcome irony, the experience of the discrepancy between the quotidian and public discourse.22 Such a Long Journey delves into a multitude of minor, digressive narrative lines, some connected, others simply tangential. The common denominator for all these digressive narratives is that they are largely enacted within the realm of the private; they fail to achieve larger, collective significance. One of the longer narratives relates to Mrs. Kutpitia’s superstitious activities and the illness of Roshan, Gustad, and Dilvanaz’s daughter. Interpreting the hidden meanings behind random occurrences, Mrs. Kutpitia tries hard to convince Dilvanaz that Roshan’s illness is caused by evil forces. Here, superstition serves the purpose of illustrating a kind of alternative (private) explanatory framework to science and narrative. However, Mrs. Kutpitia is not the only superstitious character. In fact, most of the novel’s figures show to varying degrees some receptivity to superstition. The characters are immersed in the modern world yet occasionally are prone to revert to the superstitious, especially in those situations when other narratives have failed to provide plausible explanations. Overall, however, Such a Long Journey remains ambiguous on the issue of superstition as to whether it works, which more generally is characteristic of all the novel’s alternative explanatory models. Thus, Such a Long Journey is likewise critical of medicine’s explanatory power. Dr. Paymaster, who represents the scientific approach, cannot find the cause of Roshan’s disease. Gustad goes from having absolute faith in Dr. Paymaster to being deeply skeptical (Journey 191, 193). At one point, Dr. Paymaster delivers a grandiose, allegorical analysis of the country’s political situation, according to which the important thing is to treat root causes rather than symptoms. He compares the country to a patient with gangrene at an advanced stage: [‘]Dressing the wound or sprinkling rose-water over it to hide the stink of rotting tissue is useless. Fine words and promises will not cure the patient. The decaying part must be excised[’] … Once again their fervid exuberance bubbled forth, and Dr. Paymaster and Peerbhoy relented, overpowered by the contagion of enthusiasm. (312–313) Here, we find yet another example of the juxtaposition between abstract word flow versus practical circumstances of lived life. As a rival to Dr. Paymaster’s abstract medical metaphors on politics, we find

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Peerbhoy Paanwalla, who spins yarns with great artistic conviction and with which people strongly identify: In deference to the mood of the country and the threat from without, Peerbhoy Paanwalla had mobilized his talents for the common good, using his skills to weave a tale that defied genre or description. It was not tragedy, comedy or history; not pastoral, tragical-comical, historical-pastoral or tragical-historical. Nor was it epic or mockheroic. It was not a ballad or an ode, masque or anti-masque, fable or elegy, parody or threnody. Although a careful analysis may have revealed that it possessed a smattering of all these characteristics. But since things such as literary criticism mattered not one jot to the listeners, they were responding to Peerbhoy’s narrative in the only way that made sense: with every fibre of their beings. They could see and smell and taste and feel the words that filled the dusk and conjured the tale; and it was no wonder they were oblivious to the gutter stink. (306) The difference between Dr. Paymaster and Peerbhoy Paanwalla is that whereas the former’s story is abstract, the latter’s is spontaneous and emotional. Furthermore, one could say that the novel gradually presents a multitude of non-narrativized, spontaneous forms of experience in the process of being converted into small, private narratives that emerge as explanatory responses to an increasingly ironic everyday existence. In contrast to both the abstract and the spontaneous, the novel’s realism attempts to negotiate a kind of balance between the two, thereby correlating or synchronizing the private realm and public discourse. The pavement artist is another important character whose story illuminates this problematic. When Gustad finally has had enough of people urinating by the wall behind the Khodadad Building, he asks a pavement artist to paint a series of religious portraits on the foul-smelling concrete surface. The pavement artist enthusiastically paints all the world’s holy figures, and soon, the wall has miraculously been transformed into a local attraction. One day, Gustad and the pavement artist talk about one of the illustrations, and the conversation develops into a discussion about the nature of human imagination. Here, the novel almost seems to break into a metafictional dialogue, one that is both part of the diegetic story and a reflection on the novel’s compositional principles. The pavement artist observes: You see, I don’t like to weaken anyone’s faith. Miracle, magic, mechanical trick, coincidence—does it matter what it is, as long as it helps? Why analyse the strength of the imagination, the power of suggestion, power of auto-suggestion, the potency of psychological pressures? Looking too closely is destructive, makes everything disintegrate.

The Politics of Realism 177 As it is, life is difficult enough. Why simply make it tougher? After all, who is to say what makes a miracle and what makes a coincidence? (289) Gustad agrees with the pavement artist and adds that whereas the wall earlier was a foul-smelling disgrace, it has become a “beautiful, fragrant place which makes everyone feel good” (289). But even if Gustad thus seems to agree with the pavement artist’s semimetafictional reflections—that is, the argument that seeing too closely can be destructive, just as one may analyze a literary text too much—one of the novel’s great themes is ironically that Gustad, in the end, does look a little too closely at the illusion, the illusion of history, the nation, and the individual’s relation to these. In the last paragraph of the novel, Gustad removes the newspapers that have covered his windows since the war with China, long after the blackout has been lifted.23 The symbolism here is obvious: by covering the windows with old newspapers containing all the misleading news about the war, Gustad attempts to keep the abstract reality of history at a distance from himself and his family. Yet despite this symbolic gesture, the novel is essentially about the ways in which Gustad involuntarily is caught up in the mess of concrete history via Bilimoria—that is, how he comes too close to history as such. When Gustad thus listens to Bilimoria’s ill-fated story, he is disgusted by the government and its lies. Whether Bilimoria’s version of historical events is true or not is never confirmed in the novel. How he really dies remains another unanswered question.

Improbable Connections Ultimately, it is the story of Bilimoria that creates a correlating perspective within the ironic and fractured relationship between the public discourse and the private realm, and which thus prevents the disintegration of the latter into a myriad of proliferating narratives while at the same time transforming the abstract nature of the former into a concrete, personal experience. In the novel, the character of Major Jimmy Bilimoria is a fictionalization of Captain Sohrab Rustom Nagarwala, a real historical figure, and the plot involving him overlaps to a large extent with the story of Nagarwala, albeit with the difference that Mistry creates a fictional background out of many of those rumors and conjectures surrounding the mysterious Nagarwala incident. Nagarwala was allegedly an agent in India’s RAW, a foreign intelligence agency, whose mission was to provide support for the guerillas fighting behind enemy lines. In 1971, he was accused of having illegally withdrawn a very large sum of money from the State Bank of India. However, the bank accountant insisted on having spoken on the phone with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi herself. Nagarwala confessed

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to having imitated Gandhi’s voice and was arrested immediately. Subsequently, Nagarwala changed his story and claimed that he was innocent—that he had, in fact, been set up by people in government. Later, after a period of illness, Nagarwala died under mysterious circumstances in a military hospital. Although there were indications of foul play, with traces leading all the way to the top of the government, no one apart from Nagarwala was ever indicted officially. During and after the event, several people close to the incident died or disappeared, and a series of unanswered questions marred the case. Was Nagarwala innocent? How was it possible that he could imitate the prime minister’s voice successfully? Was the prime minister involved? What was the money supposed to be used for? Was it a secret government plot that had been inadvertently disclosed by the bank accountant, after which Nagarwala was used as a scapegoat? And how was it possible that the bank accountant, in any case, could simply approve and transfer such a huge sum of money following a single phone call from the prime minister?24 Many of these (still unanswered) questions are recounted in Such a Long Journey. The novel offers a fictional account of what actually happened; thus, if we are to believe Bilimoria (and the novel encourages us to do so), he was indeed set up as a scapegoat taking the blame for Indira Gandhi’s misdeeds. Located diegetically within the main plot, the Bilimoria plot seems almost unreal or unrealistic, even exotic, like a hole in an otherwise strictly realist surface; a “political thriller,” as Morey calls it (Mistry 70), that surrealistically breaks into a realistic frame. It constitutes a disruptive moment within Gustad’s world both at the thematic level and, regarding the text’s genre discourse, at the formal level. The irony here is, of course, that while the Bilimoria plot draws on a real historical source, it becomes fictionalized within the novel’s realist frame, which is entirely fictional. The latter is realistic in the sense of being credible and plausible, whereas the former is not. Adhering to the genre conventions of the spy thriller, the character of Bilimoria is portrayed as a mysteriously elusive figure. In fact, he appears in the novel only through rumors and through other people’s accounts, memories, and letters, except for the scene during which Gustad visits him in the hospital, at which point Bilimoria has changed almost beyond recognition: “On the bed lay nothing more than a shadow. The shadow of the powerfully-built army man who once lived in Khodadad Building” (267). Also coming straight out of a spy thriller is the shady character of Ghulam, who acts as a contact between Gustad and Bilimoria. The mystique surrounding Ghulam is reinforced particularly by the fact that he often figures in connection with strange coincidences and inexplicable events in the novel. A key scene here is the accident that occurred nine years before the novel began when Gustad was seriously injured while saving his son’s life; as Gustad lay bleeding, helpless, and

The Politics of Realism 179 semi-unconscious, a taxi driver, in an act of what then seemed to be sheer compassion toward a stranger, took him home to the Khodadad Building. It is a scene referred to numerous times throughout the novel, thus perhaps underlining its traumatic nature. Gustad never got the chance to thank the taxi driver, something he still deeply regrets when the novel begins nine years later. However, shortly before the Bilimoria plot begins in the novel’s present time, Gustad and Dinshawji watch a man being hit by a car, and suddenly Gustad realizes that it is indeed the taxi driver: “It was a great shock. I know that man on the Lambretta. He helped me when I fell from the bus. You remember my accident? … This man was the taxi-driver, who took care of me and Sohrab, brought us home” (75). All these years, Gustad has waited for an opportunity to thank him: “Then I see him flying through the air and smashing his head” (75). Arguably, this coincidence—that is, Gustad waiting nine years to find and thank the man who helped him back then, only finally to encounter this person in the very moment the latter is involved in a traffic incident of his own—would still be feasible within a strict realist framework. However, what seems to undermine the realist imagination is the subsequent plot development. When Gustad goes to collect Bilimoria’s mysterious package (the contents of which Gustad at this point has no clue) in Chor Bazaar, it turns out that the man whose head was crushed in the accident not only is still alive but also was supposed to meet Gustad: “And as the man approached, he recognized him despite the bound head. What a coincidence!” (104).25 What is more, the man turns out to be Bilimoria’s comrade Ghulam, a fact that changes retroactively the circumstances of the accident nine years earlier, at least potentially; was it simply a coincidence that the taxi driver happened to be there at the moment when Gustad was hit by a bus? The character of Ghulam introduces an element of radical uncertainty that threatens to destabilize the realist frame; the moment he enters the plot, it becomes complicated by a series of secretive, mysterious, almost conspiratorial elements that question the plausibility of the realist narrative. Thus, it is never fully resolved whether Ghulam was implicated in one of the more curious incidents in the novel, one that involves beheaded animals and that apparently was intended to intimidate someone in the Khodadad Building. Although Ghulam denies any involvement, the suspicion remains, especially since it seems to be clear that he is behind the sinister nursery rhyme that Gustad finds in the same place on the third day, which states: “Stole the rice of Bilimoria, we’ll take a stick and then we’ll beat ya.” Reading the letter, all doubt in Gustad’s mind is dispelled: “There was no doubt now. No doubt at all about the meaning of the two decapitated carcasses. The message was clear” (140). Underneath this certainty, however, is the fact that Gustad, at this point, is genuinely confused about what to do with the money: should he do what Bilimoria asks of him, return the package to Ghulam, or even

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burn all of it? The Bilimoria plot introduces uncertainty into Gustad’s life, and the elusive character of Ghulam is the embodiment of this uncertainty. Disguises are part of Ghulam’s job: “Oh, that’s normal when working in RAW. Sometimes bookseller, sometimes butcher; even gardener. Whatever is necessary to get the job done” (322). After Bilimoria’s death, near the end of the novel, Ghulam is once again connected to the notion of the coincidental when Gustad discovers by chance a small note in the newspaper about the funeral of Bilimoria in the Tower of Silence. Ghulam has taken care of the funeral arrangements and the expenses (something that adds a sympathetic dimension to an otherwise unsympathetic, even dangerous, character). Much to his surprise, Gustad encounters Ghulam one last time after the ritual.26 As Ghulam explains, “I had to take a chance. When I gave you the train ticket, I promised it was the last time I would bother you” (322). Gustad knows instinctively that this is the last time they will meet, and after Ghulam disappears from the plot, accidents occur no longer in the novel. Accidents, coincidences, and the inexplicable are generally problematic in realistic narratives. Lukács argues that the realistic novel seeks to reduce the accidental and mystifying or bring it to a level of necessity.27 Such a Long Journey generally constructs a plausible narrative framework, except in relation to the Bilimoria plot. The latter constitutes an example of what Eleni Coundouriotis has labeled “the improbable” (236), a discursive interruption that brings us into a confrontation with the real. Following Coundouriotis, one could argue that the disruptive subplot of Such a Long Journey is not so much a deviation from the main plot’s realism but rather a constitutive part of it; stylistically and thematically, the subplot indicates that something in Gustad’s carefully protected private world is problematic and unresolved and that it was unresolved from the very beginning. What Mistry’s characters, particularly Gustad, tend to discover is that this desire for a carefully protected private realm was always going to be unsuccessful. The relationship with Bilimoria (via Ghulam) constitutes a disruptive element that brings the realist, everyday life of Gustad into a confrontational engagement with the public—a confrontation initially articulated through the unwanted, mysterious, and accidental, and underneath, the problematic, illegal, and disillusioning.

Conclusion As the novel proceeds, Gustad realizes that the public narrative that early in the novel is articulated through newspaper stories and rumors, a discourse at the same time juxtaposed with letters from Bilimoria and other personal sources, does not correlate with the private sphere. Such a Long Journey explores the way in which the abstract, impersonal public narrative is not transformed into a personal story but rather is shown to be radically different when seen through the perspective of the latter.

The Politics of Realism 181 Much of the texture in Such a Long Journey consists of small indistinguishable and largely non-narrativized scenes of everyday life. At the same time, we have a great number of characters attempting individually to establish some form of meaning among this constant stream of impressionistic moments, the world’s heterogeneity. However, superstition, medicine, rhetoric, small allegorical narratives, and the pavement artist’s religious motives provide no credible, alternative explanatory models. The novel remains finally skeptical of all of them; their explanatory power is at best ambiguous. The proliferation of private, non-political narratives indicates the presence of something troubling and haunting, something that suggests precisely the need for supplementary extraexplanations. In Mistry’s novel, narratives are essentially an attempt to explain, often pseudo-causally, something unresolved or mysterious. However, these narratives remain fundamentally futile, excessive, or random, often reverting to rhetorical escapades that explain very little. Narrative is needed in those ironic moments when there is no longer a ‘natural’ or ‘unproblematic’ correlation between private and public. It is when the relationship between the private realm and public discourse becomes problematic that narratives proliferate uncontrollably. Via the Bilimoria plot, Such a Long Journey correlates the two trajectories of public and private—a disjointed relationship, like two antithetical genres canceling each other out or chiastically inverting each other so that the realistic becomes unrealistic and the unrealistic becomes realistic. Mistry’s historical realism thus ultimately overcomes irony by reaching a higher sense of the real or reality, one that encompasses both the realities of the private and the public.

Notes 1 To Greer’s relief, Graham Swift won that year’s Booker Prize for the novel Last Orders. 2 On this issue, see particularly Moss’s article “Can Rohinton Mistry’s Realism Rescue the Novel?” 3 For a more elaborate discussion of Bharucha’s argument, see Herbert, “Dishonourably” 23–24. Similar to Bharucha, Kanaganayakam argues that Anglophone Indian realist literature often becomes simplistic and superficial in its portrayal of Indian society (see Counterrealism 17–19). 4 Moss’ article “Can Rohinton Mistry’s Realism Rescue the Novel?” is one of the few exceptions to this tendency. 5 In 2010, the vice-chancellor of Mumbai University, Dr. Rajan M. Welukar, decided officially to ban Such a Long Journey from the university’s syllabuses. Aditya Thackeray, the grandson of Bal Thackeray, had filed a complaint to the university’s administration, claiming that the book contained a series of offensive remarks about the right-wing party Shiv Sena. See pages 39, 73, 86, and 298 in Such a Long Journey for critical comments about the Shiv Sena party. For a discussion of Shiv Sena and Mistry’s novel, see Malieckal, “The Bangladeshi Genocide” 81–82. 6 See Lukács, Historical 39.

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7 Ibid. 33. 8 See Mistry, Journey 54–55. 9 The novel’s opening portrays a conflict between loyalty to the Parsi community or to the nation, which in a wider sense reflects the historically precarious postcolonial situation of the Parsis, who played an important intermediary role during British colonial rule that was subsequently lost in the post-independent era—hence, perhaps, the nostalgic, anxious tone throughout the novel. The novel takes place at a time (the 1960s to the early 1970s) during which the nation is engaged in major territorial wars, such as the war against Pakistan, which eventually, thanks to the Indian army led by Parsi field marshal Sam Maneckshaw, led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. Major Bilimoria, much to Gustad’s disappointment, prioritizes the nation’s affairs over his religious commitments but ends up disillusioned by corruption and eventually destroyed by the state. For more on this issue, see Batra, Rohinton Mistry 13–47; Luhrman, The Good Parsi; and Bharucha, Rohinton Mistry. 10 In her article, Anna Lidstone explores the private-public theme and the shifts between first- and third-person narratorial perspectives in the novel. I largely agree with this analysis, although I argue that the two spheres (the private and the public) become blurred as soon as this relationship is politicized. 11 On war and Such a Long Journey, see Shah, Novel 108–109; and Malieckal, “Genocide” 75–88. 12 See Hegel, Philosophy 33. 13 See Lukács, Historical 206. 14 See Walsh, “Fabula” 596. 15 See Mistry, Journey 3. 16 Ibid. 5. 17 Ibid. 16, 90, 216, 325. 18 Ibid. 328. 19 For a discussion of public space, communalism, and urban identity in Mistry’s novel, see Minerva. 20 As Bilimoria reveals late in the novel, he was misled by his own prime minister, Indira Gandhi, and accused of having imitated her voice in order to withdraw a very large sum of money. Bilimoria indicates further that Gandhi needed him as a cover-up, while she used the money for private purposes. 21 Within a historical perspective, Gustad’s disillusionment also reflects a wider national sentiment spreading through the 1960s. As Bharucha observes: “These were decades that witnessed the slow erosion of the idealism which had marked the beginning of the end of the Nehruvian dream of a secular India … The end of the Nehruvian Utopia also marked the beginning of sordid power-politicking, corruption at the highest levels, nepotism and cynical manoeuvring of the electorate” (“When” 62). 22 Although I focus narrowly on literary realism in connection with Mistry’s Such a Long Journey, partly because this aspect has been ignored in the critical reception of this novel and more generally within the field of postcolonial studies, it goes without saying that this does not mean that the novel contains no other literary styles than realism. On the contrary, I would argue that this binary modulation between, on the one hand, pure realism vs. antirealism builds on a mistaken assumption; even the most traditional realists—from Balzac to Dickens—frequently use anti-realist styles in their works. Often, however, one comes across arguments like Bharucha’s: “In common with other post-colonial writing, Mistry’s fiction is fashioned in the form of alternative narratives and employs anti-realist modes of narration.”

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23 24 25 26

27

To Bharucha, this alleged anti-realism “not only challenges elitist Master Narratives but privileges the marginal and provides resistance to Western Hegemony” (“When” 58). It would be more accurate, I believe, to make the argument that Mistry’s literary style seeks to create a collective perspective, which at times struggles alongside other narrative forms, each depicting sides and aspects of a society that can never find a final and absolute form of representation. For discussions of other narrative styles in Mistry’s oeuvre, see in particular Gabriel’s “Diasporic Hybridities,” Malak’s “The Shahrazadic Tradition,” and Morey’s Rohinton Mistry. See Mistry, Journey 339. On the Nagarwala case, see Morey, Mistry 71–74; Batra, Mistry 81–82. Later, at the hospital, Bilimoria tells Gustad that Ghulam’s accident was, in fact, an assassination attempt (see Journey 278). As a Muslim, Ghulam is not allowed to enter the Tower of Silence, and it is only when Gustad leaves the funeral site that they encounter each other. This aspect once again underlines the novel’s keen awareness of issues such as loyalties across communal boundaries, national as well as religious. See Lukács, Writer 112.

Works Cited Bahri, Deepika. Native Intelligence: Aesthetics, Politics, and Postcolonial Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003. Batra, Jagdish. Rohinton Mistry: Identity, Values, and Other Sociological Concerns. New Delhi: Prestige Books, 2008. Ben-Yishai, Ayelet. Common Precedents: The Presentness of the Past in Victorian Law and Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Bharucha, Nilufer. “‘When Old Tracks are Lost’: Rohinton Mistry’s Fiction as Diasporic Discourse.” Journal of Commonwealth Literature 30.2 (1995): 57–64. Bharucha, Nilufer. Rohinton Mistry: Ethnic Enclosures and Transcultural Spaces. Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 2003. Coundouriotis, Eleni. “Improbable Figures: Realist Fictions of Insecurity in Contemporary African Fiction.” Novel 49.2 (2016): 236–261. Gabriel, Sharmani Patricia. “Diasporic Hybridities and the ‘Patchwork Quilt’: Contesting Nationalist History and Other Fictions in Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance.” Commonwealth Essays and Studies 25 (2003): 83–94. Hegel, Georg W.F. The Philosophy of History [Lectures from 1822; published posthumously]. Trans. J. Sibree. New York: Prometheus Books, 1991. Herbert, Caroline. “‘Dishonourably Postnational?’ The Politics of Migrancy and Cosmopolitanism in Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance.” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 43.2 (2008): 11–28. Kanaganayakam, Chelva. Counterrealism and Indo-Anglian Fiction. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2002. Lidstone, Anna. “Scaling the Walls of Narrative Voice in Such a Long Journey.” Commonwealth 27:2 (2005): 59–69. Luhrmann, Tanya. The Good Parsi: The Fate of a Colonial Elite in a Postcolonial Society. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1996.

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Lukács, Georg. Writer and Critic. Ed. & Trans. Arthur Kahn. London: Merlin, 1978. Lukács, Georg. The Historical Novel. Trans. Hannah and Stanley Mitchell. London: Merlin Press, 1989. Malak, Amin. “The Shahrazadic Tradition: Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey and the Art of Storytelling.” Journal of Commonwealth Literature 28.2 (1993): 108–118. Malieckal, Bindu. “The Bangladeshi Genocide in Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey.” Atenea 28.2 (2008): 75–91. Minerva, Kelly. “Communal Identities in Rohinton Mistry’s Bombay Novel.” University of Toronto Quarterly 84.4 (2015): 111–130. Mistry, Rohinton. Such a Long Journey [1991]. London: Faber and Faber, 1992. Mistry, Rohinton. A Fine Balance [1995]. London: Faber and Faber, 1997. Mistry, Rohinton. Family Matters [2002]. London: Faber and Faber, 2003. Morey, Peter. Fictions of India: Narrative and Power. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000. Morey, Peter. Rohinton Mistry. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004. Moss, Laura. “Can Rohinton Mistry’s Realism Rescue the Novel?” Postcolonizing the Commonwealth: Studies in Literature and Culture. Ed. Rowland Smith. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2000. 157–165. Ross, Robert. “Seeking and Maintaining Balance: Rohinton Mistry’s Fiction.” World Literature Today: A Literary Quarterly of the University of Oklahoma 73.2 (1999): 239–244. Shah, Nila. Novel as History. New Delhi: Creative Books, 2003. Stern, J.P. On Realism. London: Routledge, 1973. Walsh, Richard. “Fabula and Fictionality in Narrative Theory.” Style 35.4 (2001): 592–606. Williams, David. “Cyberwriting and the Borders of Identity: ‘What’s in a Name’ in Kroetsch’s The Puppeteer and Mistry’s Such a Long Journey?” Canadian Literature 149 (1996): 55–71.

Conclusion

Discussions of the death of the Western novel have accompanied the genre throughout at least the last hundred years.1 One could argue that these discussions constitute moments exposing an almost-forgotten sense of the political insignificance of the Western novel and perhaps the literary more generally, even if novels may be important at an individual level for all sorts of other reasons. The attempts to ascribe some kind of non-political significance to novels seem desperate at times (e.g., the frantic search for new ‘isms’), which perhaps explains why literary realism, such an inconspicuous style, never seemed quite so trenchant and convincing within the consolidated, imagined community as in contexts of political unrest and turmoil. “Nations with states—nation-states,” Benedict Anderson bluntly states, “have less and less need of the [traditional] novel” (Spectre 335). In the second half of the twentieth century, Anderson argues, we see how the older, rather unified world of the novel has been breaking down through a vast process of niche-marketing: the gothic novel, the crime novel, the spy novel, the pornographic novel, the science-fiction novel, the ‘airport’ novel, and the strictly historical novel, each with its own formal conventions and audiences, which are by no means necessarily the fellow nationals of the author. (Spectre 335) If by ‘Western novel’, one primarily means modernism, postmodernism, and poststructuralism (as Jameson clearly does), it follows as Pam Morris observes that “all three of these ‘isms’ … have tended to define themselves against their own versions of realism and in so doing have produced a many-faceted critique of realist forms of writing that has become the dominant critical orthodoxy” (13). Building on Linda Hutcheon’s idea of contemporary historical fiction as postmodernism,2 Perry Anderson, Benedict Anderson’s brother, has argued that “Today, the historical novel has become … more widespread than it was even at the height of its classical period in the early nineteenth century … The new forms signal the arrival of the postmodern” (“Progress” 26). To Perry Anderson, these

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contemporary novels are similar to the early nineteenth-century Lukácsian novels, although also profoundly different in the sense that they are metahistorical and hence postmodern.3 I think essentially Perry Anderson’s argument (along with Hutcheon’s) is somewhat misguided here, since there is really no meaningful link between the postmodernist genres of historiographic metafiction and the Lukácsian historical novel, apart from the fact that each genre addresses history, albeit in vastly different ways. In the latter, the novel embodies a vision of history as progressive and developing, whereas in the former, the novel largely articulates a vision of the end of history. The postmodern historical novel, I would argue, is thus less a revival of the older genre of the historical novel; rather, it signifies the emergence of a new literary genre capturing a depoliticized, ahistorical, global-cosmopolitan fin de siècle moment. More generally, as I have argued in this book, modernism, postmodernism, and poststructuralism have largely defined themselves in their different oppositions to realism against the specifically political. The anti-realist position here would argue that the realist style implicitly envisions a universalization of a set of Eurocentric values, and hence a genre consolidating the structures and dynamics developed through the long history of European colonial and imperial violence inflicted on nonWestern countries. This history certainly exists in many forms and at many different levels, although whether it was bolstered by realist style per se—more particularly than any other style—is a questionable argument. But even if this were the case, it would still be Eurocentric to ignore the formal dynamics of realism on the basis that the style was employed to support and promote certain immoral values at some point in European history, or simply because it appeared first in European literary history, suggesting that the reappearance of realism within postcolonial literary history somehow involves an act of imitation. The kind of realism I have discussed in this book is essentially an aesthetic genre. Like all aesthetic genres, realism is a rhetorical construction whose effects and formal ramifications are not strictly tied to one specific historical context or purpose. Above all, realism as an aesthetic genre is not content-specific; it does not embody a permanent set of inherent moral values. Rather, the realist style addresses and responds to a specifically political challenge. The content of the latter comes in many forms and shapes throughout history, but its formal characteristics essentially relate to the formation of the social body within the sovereign, territorial nation-state. This book has offered an attempt to rethink the political significance of literary realism, especially in a postcolonial context. Within the field of postcolonial studies, realism has generally been rendered unreadable, either ignored or criticized as being naïve, anachronistic, deceptive, or complicit with colonial discourse—in other words, incongruous with the postcolonial. There is something deeply troubling and unsettling about

Conclusion 187 this assumption, which I have attempted to address in this book. Part of my argument was that the field of postcolonial studies as an academic field emerged during the late twentieth century along the political horizon of what Fukuyama has described as the end of history. As such, postcolonial studies became the paradigmatic expression of a self-critical gaze within a Western world that no longer faced any external enemies and hence no longer the unsettling specter of the specifically political. Consequently, from very early on, the field became obsessed with the politics of cultural and moral issues, and to a considerably lesser extent, questions regarding the specifically political. It is in this connection that I situate the exclusion of literary realism as a symptom of a larger issue within the field: the problem of depoliticization. That the world is once again attuning itself to questions of the specifically political, as I noted in the Introduction, suggests an opportunity to rethink literary realism’s role within a postcolonial context, meaning more specifically the depoliticized foundation of postcolonial studies. For the political significance of realism, as I have argued, emerges in times of existential crises; it embodies an aesthetic impulse towards an unnatural or fictional idea of political consensus among different parties, a level at which one may communicate and share the same reality and values across divisions. It is when the outer frames are being questioned in a political sense, when the consensual-collective framework is no longer a natural given, that realism becomes politically important. As such, realism as a political genre offers a holistic vision of something that does not yet exist as a concrete, tangible reality; it exists in fiction only. The kind of realist style that emerges at the beginning of the nineteenth century in European contexts articulates an impulse oriented towards the idea of direct political representation not mediated by representatives, a transparent style that reinforces, performatively, the notion of a total reality (as opposed to a partial-individual or politically biased reality). Realist transparency is intimately connected to the idea of immediate-direct representativity in the modern, political sense. The realist omniscient narrator is precisely not an individualized entity, but rather a perspective aiming to capture a general, common, collective sentiment; nor is the omniscient narrator the objective-empirical embodiment of collective imagination as such, but rather a particularized imagination of what the collective imagination might potentially entail at any given moment. The emergence of realism indicates the need for a representational form that may articulate in unfiltered, unmediated form a new political consciousness. There is a performative dimension at stake within this aesthetic style of invisibility, in the sense that it provisionally lays claim to a notion of reality without there necessarily being anything empirical-factual to support this claim. Hence, through its transparency or invisibility, realist style asserts (often insecurely, anxiously, probingly, implicitly) that this is the reality, for everyone, while in fact creating that reality in the same gesture.

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This is the driving impulse of realism as a politically significant genre as it played out in European contexts, but also, much later, in many nonEuropean contexts. In times of peace when the historico-political discourse has been monopolized by the nation-state, and consequently, when the idea of a common reality feels natural or self-evident, realism as a political form, in turn, becomes less relevant. Within a European context, Anderson’s concept of the ‘imagined community’ generally transitions into tangible, concrete existence in the latter half of the nineteenth century, during that moment when nationalism as a form of identity becomes consolidated. In the historical novels and later Balzacian realism, we find the notion ‘we are the people’, which in many ways constitutes the rallying cry of Foucault’s historico-political discourse and which the realist novel, through its fictional discourse, envisions as the totality of reality itself. This vision suffered defeat in 1848, a date whose significance within the Lukácsian historical trajectory should be understood less as some empirically factual date as much as a figurative benchmark signaling the moment when this discursive struggle comes to an end. This is the moment when ‘we are the people’ (an assertive statement that is as much an indication of uncertainty to the extent that it needs to be pronounced, as it is a declaration of absolute rights) eventually transitions into a very different rallying cry, namely ‘we are also part of the people’. The latter only becomes possible within the consolidated nation-state when there is no longer any political doubt as to whom is normatively being addressed in ‘we are the people’. In a further sense, the 1848 moment is one that relates to a process of forgetfulness; it is the moment when ‘we, the people’ forgets that its version of history is essentially discursive, of impure, contentious, and fictitious origins, and thus the moment when this version ceases to be fictional-imaginative only—and in a deeper sense political—and instead becomes synonymous with what is experienced as reality itself. What Lukács then identifies as ‘1848’ becomes a metaphor for the historical point at which the historico-political discourse, and in a further sense, the concept of reality, is monopolized by the nation-state. At this point, a new, more consolidated version of nationalism emerges, nationness, one that feels real, self-evident, axiomatic if only because it limits the imagination to that which lies within the solid frames of national existence, the peaceful, secure life of citizens, and which furthermore means that the nation-state’s members are limited to imagine the rest of the world objectively or normatively through this particular-subjective, and hence untranscendable, national imaginary. Above all, the national imaginary limits the imagination of the specifically political: it regulates and vitalizes the sense of a sacred-universal kinship (and simultaneously represses the fact that this kinship is largely fictitious, historical, and certainly not sacred); that peace within the nation-state will last forever (while the phenomenon of war increasingly becomes unthinkable

Conclusion 189 or unreal), and finally that our peaceful, stable, natural, and normative reality could never have been any different, and thereby that ‘we’ were always meant to be the way we are. The ‘we’ of the body politic may gradually include others as time goes by, but there is never any fundamental questioning of who ‘we, the people’ are (thus repressing the fact that the body politic within any given territorial nation-state is in a constant and ongoing process of flux). This is the negative imagination of Anderson’s imagined community. At this point, we are precisely allowed, even encouraged, to indulge in subjectivism, private-individual reveries, fantasies, the inner life. As Adorno would argue, modernist aesthetics is different from realism in the sense that it seems to incorporate the instability of common reality within its very form; a form implicitly assuming that common reality is a (non-existent) fiction, a fraught and incoherent ensemble of different and incompatible realities. The problem here is that this formal gesture reduces or suspends the specifically political; the political response to a divided, fractured world is articulated in an idiosyncratically individualized and indirect symptomatic way, rather than being addressed as a collective problem. Modernism is a genre that takes common reality, the outer frames, for granted as something stable and unquestionable in a consensual-collective sense, and which not only precedes our lives and actions but also allows and encourages us to look elsewhere, away from the specifically political. This premise is precisely what enables the fragmented modernist syntax to explore—in ever more idiosyncratic, unique, original, and mystifying ways—various individual-psychological problems like alienation, melancholy, or madness. This is, to come back to my opening remarks, also around the time when discussions of the death of the Western novel find their historical origins. Once the novel is no longer part of a general discussion about what constitutes collective reality, its political significance declines. The novel may of course continue to have infinite relevance to individuals or smaller groups of individuals or local communities, but not the imagined community at large. By no means should this be understood as an argument delineating the decline of the Western novel as such and the concomitant revitalization of non-Western literature. On the contrary, I believe that transcending and moving beyond realism is ultimately a sign of progress, improvement, healthiness, in a strictly political sense. As I have discussed in this book, realism is a fictional vision of the collective, of a collectively representative ‘we, the people’, but at the same time an indication that such a vision is not naturally manifest. Thus, realism is also a symptom of something unresolved at a collective level, a pathology of the social body, something that involves existential risks, forces that may lead us back to the reality of war or the destruction of society. In recent years we have witnessed a renewed interest in literary realism. This interest perhaps reflects a wider awareness that the

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peaceful, stable sphere of the West is yet again orienting itself towards the return of the specifically political: questions about the legitimacy, rights, demarcations and definitions of the social body, and the collective ‘we’, as well as the conflicts, struggles, and numerous challenges involved in representing or resolving these issues. As I have attempted to demonstrate in this book, these were always central issues in postcolonial realism.

Notes 1 For example, see Katy Shaw’s article “Will Self: Why His Report on the Death of the Novel is (Still) Premature.” 2 See Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism 105–123. 3 For a discussion of this issue, see also de Groot, Historical 109–138.

Works Cited Anderson, Benedict. The Spectre of Comparison: Nationalism, Southeast Asia and the World. London: Verso, 1998. Anderson, Perry. “From Progress to Catastrophe.” London Review of Books 33.15 (2011): 24–28. de Groot, Jerome. The Historical Novel. London: Routledge, 2010. Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics of Postmodernism. London: Routledge, 1988. Morris, Pam. Realism. London: Routledge, 2003. Shaw, Katy. “Will Self: Why His Report on the Death of the Novel is (Still) Premature.” The Independent 20 Apr. 2018. Web Oct. 2020. https://www. independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/will-self-report-death-novel-is-stillpremature-literature-a8289716.html.

Index

1848 revolutions 47, 71, 78–9, 81, 109, 110, 113, 117, 152, 188 A Fine Balance (Mistry) 164–5, 174 A Man of the People (Achebe) 68 Abani, Chris 108 absolutism 69 Achebe, Chinua 32, 68, 77, 108, 146–7 Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi 108, 137 Adorno, Theodor 101 Algeria 67 Ali, Monica 9 allegories 34, 152–5 anachronism 77–83 Anderson, Benedict 16, 33, 34–6, 37, 38–41, 41–8, 46, 57, 59–60, 71, 80, 82, 105, 108, 117, 146, 151, 185, 188 Anderson, Perry 185–6 Andrade, Susan 144 Anghie, Antony 60, 133–4 Anjaria, Ulka 13, 33 Anthills of the Savannah (Achebe) 146–7 anti-realism 7–8, 82 Appiah, A. 144 Armah, Ayi Kwei 68, 104 Arrow of God (Achebe) 77 Ashcroft, B. 12 Auerbach, Erich 103 Austen, Jane 43, 81 authority: external 16; in imagined community 35; of kings 96; legitimate 16; and literary realism 106; novelistic 98–9 autonomy 134 Bahri, Deepika 166

Bakhtin, Mikhail 42, 44, 98 Balakrishnan, Gopal 47 Balibar, Étienne 64, 69 Balzac, Honoré de 78, 101, 103 Barre, Mohammed Siad 137 Barthes, Roland 7, 100 Batra, Jagdish 168 The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born or Fragments (Armah) 68 Beginnings (Said) 98 Benjamin, Walter 1, 41, 151 Ben-Yishai, Ayelet 110, 167 Bertani, Mauro 71 Beti, Mongo 68 Bhabha, Homi 7, 10–1, 12–5, 13, 20, 34–8, 57 Bharucha, Nilufer 166 Biafra 108 Blood in the Sun (Farah) 68 Boehmer, Elleke 6, 9–10, 13, 32, 34, 138, 140 Bonaparte, Napoleon 133 Booker Prize 11, 165 Borneman, John 81 Boulainvilliers, Henri, Comte de 65–6 bourgeoisie 99 Brennan, Timothy 10, 42, 44, 135, 139–40, 143 Brick Lane (Ali) 9 Britton, Celia 83 Brontë, Charles 118 Brooks, Peter 100, 103 Brown, Nicholas 77 Cameroon 67 capitalism 32, 147; global 2, 14; print 39, 40, 97; and realism 19 carnival 98

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Index

Cateau-Cambresis treaty 132 Chakrabarty, Dipesh 143–4, 148 Cheah, P. 134 Clausewitz, Carl von 61 Cleary, Joe 138 Coetzee, J.M. 19 Cohn, Dorrit 100 Coke, Edward 61, 65 Colley, Linda 47 Colonial and Postcolonial Literatures (Boehmer) 6, 9 colonialism: effects of 147, 149; and imagined community 146; and nation-states 133 Colonialism/Postcolonialism (Loomba) 132 Common Precedents (Ben-Yishai) 110 commonality 140–2 The Concept of the Political (Schmitt) 58, 82 conquest 65 constitutionalism 58 Cooppan, Vilashini 36–7 Cormack, Alistair 8–9 cosmopolitanism 33, 37, 38 Coundouriotis, Eleni 108, 109, 189 Crossbones (Farah) 137 Culler, Jonathan 43, 44, 45–7, 57, 105, 115 culture 41; capitalist 153; and decolonization 135, 138; Indian 168; and literary realism 100; modern 107; national 35; and nationalism 133; and postcolonial studies 33; and psychology 138; third-world 154; in tribal dictatorship 146 Dalley, H. 5 Davidson, Basil 146–7 decolonization 10, 33, 37, 83, 104–5, 108, 134, 134–5, 135, 136, 137, 138, 144–5, 146 definitional right 134 depoliticization 19, 82, 150, 152, 187 The Destruction of Reason (Lukács) 71 Dickens, Charles 118 Diggers 62 Dilthey, Wilhelm 77 DissemiNation 34–8 Divided We Stand (Ekwensi) 108 domestic social body 70, 71–2

Don Quixote (Cervantes) 102 double-fiction 96 Dreiser, Theodore 152 Duncan, Ian 110 Ekwensi, Cyprian 108 El Filibusterismo (Rizal) 45–6 Elden, Stuart 68 Eliot, T.S. 166 emancipation 134 The Empire Writes Back (Ashcroft/ Griffith/Tiffin) 12 end of history 1, 1–4, 15, 82, 132, 186, 187 Enlightenment 101, 102 Ermarth, Elizabeth Deeds 106–7, 110, 115 Esty, Jed 19 European states: formation of 16; and society 60; sovereignty 60, 133–4 expressionism 82 Eysteinsson, Astradur 149 Families in Jeopardy (Reid) 45 Family Matters (Mistry) 164–6, 168 Fanon, Frantz 12, 104, 143, 145–6 Farah, Nuruddin 68 fascism 4, 39, 81–2 fiction 106, 113; double-fiction 96; theoretical-critical 15–8 fictive ethnicity 64 Flaubert, Gustave 79, 112 Fontana, Alessandro 71 formalism 135 Forna, Aminatta 137, 138 Forrest, Joshua B. 142–3 Foucault, Michel 47, 59–61, 63, 64–5, 68–9, 70, 95, 98, 101–2, 104, 112–13, 115, 117, 139 Fragments (Armah) 104–5 French Revolution 68–71, 72, 110 Fukuyama, Francis 1, 1–2, 132, 187 Furst, Lilian 100 Gallagher, Catherine 106, 110 Gandhi, Indira 114, 167, 172; Bilimoria plot in 177–80 Gaskell, Elizabeth 118 Gellner, Ernest 33 gender studies 1 general consciousness 41, 97, 115–16, 144, 146, 156 Genette, Gérard 105

Index 193 Germany 133 Ghana 67 Gikandi, Simon 8, 33–4, 38, 143 Gluck, Mary 81 God’s Bits of Wood (Sembène) 68, 116 Gombrich, Ernst 104 A Grain of Wheat (Ngugi) 141–2 Gramling, David 80 Greer, Germaine 165, 166 Greiner, Rae 107–8, 110 Griffith, G. 12 Half of a Yellow Sun (Adichie) 137 Hallward, P. 138 Hamburger, Kate 100 Hardy, Thomas 118 Harrison, Nicholas 122n49 Head, Dominic 8–9 Heath, Stephen 97 Hegel, Georg W.F. 150, 170 Heroes (Iyayi) 108 historical novel 71–9, 95, 103, 109, 133, 144, 165, 185–6, 188 The Historical Novel (Lukács) 71, 143 historico-political discourse 57–83, 60, 61–4; Boulainvilliers’ concept of nation 65–8; concept of political 57–9; fictionality 113; force-truth connection 63; historical novel 71–3; legitimacy of king’s authority 96; Leviathan 64–5; Lukács’s concept of 71–7; nation-states’ monopolization of 47, 61, 67, 73, 76, 79, 81, 95, 96, 112–13, 134, 139, 149, 154, 156; necessary anachronism 77–83; populist nature of 114; postcolonial realism 139; realism as 111–14; society 59–61; subversive force of 95; truth-weapon 63 Hobbes, Thomas 57–8, 60, 61, 64–5, 95, 97, 112, 139 Hobsbawm, Eric 81 Hutcheon, Linda 185 Imagined Communities (Anderson) 33, 117 imagined community 16, 21, 46, 47, 48, 59–60, 80–1, 95, 185, 188; and anticolonialism 146; Bhabha’s critique of 35; and depoliticization 82, 150; versus DissemiNation

34–8; historico-political discourse 71, 78, 144, 145; and literary realism 108, 110, 112, 113, 136, 140; and modernism 152; nation as 38–41; nation-state as 79; naturally existing 139; and omniscient realism 115–16; and Schmittian notion of political 57 impressionism 82 Indo-Pakistani war 169 irony 98 Ivanhoe (Scott) 76 Iyayi, Festus 108–9 Jakobson, Roman 114 James, Henry 112 Jameson, Fredric 8, 14, 34, 151, 152–5 Journal of Narrative Theory 19 Jus Publicum Europaeum 132–4 Kafka, Franz 100, 150 Kenya 67, 141 Kikuyu people 141 Kincaid, Jamaica 32 kinship 39 Kohn, M. 134, 141 Lazarus, Neil 7, 12, 13–5, 136–7 Le Printemps n’en sera que plus beau (Mimouni) 68 Levellers 62 Leviathan (Hobbes) 57, 64, 95, 139 Levin, Harry 97 liberalism 39, 58 Lilburne, John 61, 65 Lines of Amity 132 Links (Farah) 137 The Literary in Theory (Culler) 43, 115 literary realism 8, 18–21, 80, 95–118; aesthetic function of 113; definition of 100; early incarnations of 103; horizontal style 98; and modernity 97; and monopolization of reality 117; novels 98–9; performative 105–11; political importance of 135; political significance of 186–7; rise of 97–8; traditional European 103; transitional style 107; and transparency 99–102; vacancy in 101 The Location of Culture (Bhabha) 12

194

Index

Lodge, David 100 Loomba, Ania 132, 133 Lu Xun 154–5 Lukács, Georg: concept of necessary anachronism 77–83; historicopolitical discourse 71–7; importance of 1848 47, 71, 78–9, 81, 109, 110, 113, 117, 152, 188; on modernism 149–52, 170–1; on naturalism 109–10; on realism 100, 101, 104; theory of the historical novel 95, 98, 143 magical realism 138, 155, 166 Mann, Michael 149 Marxism 1, 13, 14, 135, 136, 149 Mau Mau uprising 141 McBride, Keally 134, 141 McLeod, J. 32 Meinecke, Friedrich 71 The Memory of Love (Forna) 137, 139 metarealism 166 Midnight’s Children (Rushdie) 36–7 Miller, J. Hillis 100, 102, 115 Mimouni, Rachid 68 Mistry, Rohinton 32, 164–81 Modern Language Quarterly 19 modernism 14, 37, 82, 97, 138, 149–52 modernist/realist binary system 150 The Modes of Modern Writing (Lodge) 100 molestation 98, 99, 101 monolingualism 80 Moretti, Franco 43, 44 Morey, Peter 166, 167, 178 Morris, Pam 101, 110, 118 Morrison, Toni 19 Mouffe, Chantal 112, 136 Mukherjee, Bharati 32 Müller, Jan-Werner 3, 13 Nagarwala, Sohrab Rustom 167, 177–8 Napoleonic Wars 72 Narrating Reality (Shaw) 110 nation: Anderson’s theory of 38–41; birth of 68–71; Boulainvilliers’ concept of 65–8; and fictional experience of simultaneity 41–8; as an ideology 39; as imagined community 34–8, 38–41; and novel 41–6

national allegories 152–5; postcolonial realism 145 nationalism 80, 133; critique of 32–4; official 151; and postcolonial realism 142–9; singular versus plural 113; specter of 138; Third World 33, 137 nationness 81, 96, 149 Nations and Nationalism (Gellner) 33 nation-states 69, 77, 114, 185, 188–9; anachronism 137; and colonialism 133; consolidated 117; and decline of realism 81, 139; decolonized 146; fictive ethnicity 64; and imagined community 108, 110; monopolization of historicopolitical discourse 47, 61, 67, 73, 76, 79, 81, 95, 96, 112–13, 134, 139, 149, 154, 156; national identity 143; postcolonial 147, 148; power transitions in 43; and print capitalism 40; representation 34, 38; territorial 155, 186 naturalism 81, 101, 109 Neal, A. 80 necessary anachronism 77–83 Nehru, Jawaharlal 167 neocolonialism 136, 139, 149 Never Again (Nwapa) 109 newspapers 39, 40, 41–2, 44, 169–70, 171, 172–4, 177, 180 Ngugi wa Thiong’o 68, 141 Nietzsche, Friedrich W. 64 Nigeria 67, 108, 137 No Longer at Ease (Achebe) 77 nobility 69 Nobody’s Story (Gallagher) 106, 110 Noli me Tángere (Rizal) 45–6, 60 Nomos of the Earth (Schmitt) 132–3 non-Western literature 154, 155, 189 Novel: A Forum on Fiction 19 novels 41–6; as form of secondariness 98–9; historical 71–9, 95, 103, 109, 133, 144, 165, 185–6, 188; realist 100; self-proclaimed authority 99; Western 185 Nwapa, Flora 108, 109 objective reality 113 official nationalism 151 Okpewho, Isidore 108 Okri, Ben 32, 108 The Order of Things (Foucault) 68

Index 195 Orientalism (Said) 1, 12 Parry, Benita 10–1 Past Imperfect trilogy (Farah) 137 Pavel, Thomas 102 peace 62 Peace of Westphalia of 1648 133 performative realism 105–11 Perpétue (Beti) 68 Petals of Blood (Ngugi) 68 Petrey, Sandra 110 Philippines 45–6 poetic license 102 political, concept of 57–9 poly-cultural writing 9–12 populism 2, 82, 114, 124n67, 139 postcolonial events 67 postcolonial metarealism 166 postcolonial realism 20, 132–57; commonality 140–2; historicopolitical discourse 139, 145; and Jus Publicum Europaeum 132–4; and nationalism 142–9; singularity 140–2 postcolonial studies 1–2; criticisms 15–8; history 4–9; literary realism 18–21; literature 4–9; and neocolonialism 136; paradox 33; and poly-cultural writing 9–12; representation 12–5; and specter of nationalism 138; and state violence 136–7 Postcolonial Studies (Parry) 10–1 Postcolonial Studies: The Key Concepts (Ashcroft) 5 postcolonial theory 6, 12, 32, 33, 38 The Postcolonial Unconscious (Lazarus) 13–4 postcolonialism: and modernism 149–52; national allegory 152–5 Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (Young) 6 postmodernism 7, 37, 97, 118, 139, 149, 156, 185–6 poststructuralism 15, 18, 20, 34, 118, 185, 186 Prendergast 103 print-capitalism 39, 40, 97 Provincializing Europe (Chakrabarty) 143–4 psychological realism 82 Puritans 62

Quayson, Ato 5–6, 11, 13, 18 queer studies 1 race 19, 63, 66, 97 race war 64, 71, 114, 145 racism 4, 64, 71, 114 realism 7; aesthetic form 112; aesthetic genre 186; Balzacian 188; common reality in 104; early incarnations of 103; fictionality 106; as historicopolitical discourse 111–14; literary 18–21; lure of 102–5; as nonfictional writing 100; omniscience 114–17; performative 105–11; politics of 164–81; postcolonial 20, 132; rise of 97–8; traditional European 103; and transparency 99–102 Realism and Consensus in the English Novel (Ermarth) 106, 110 Realism and Revolution (Petrey) 110 reality, monopolization of 116 reality effect 100–1, 105 Redfield, Marc 38 Reid, Roddey 45 representation 12–5, 17, 18, 34, 38, 41, 43, 46, 77, 82, 99, 100, 101, 104, 113, 114, 117, 136, 142, 148, 153, 166, 187 Resistance in Postcolonial Africa (Lazarus) 7 Riffaterre, Michael 105 Rizal, José 45–6, 60, 135 Rushdie, Salman 19, 32, 37, 166 Said, Edward 1, 12, 98–9, 106 Salammbô (Flaubert) 79 Saro-Wiwa, Ken 108 Sartre, Jean Paul 135 Schmitt, Carl 45, 47, 57–9, 60, 82, 132–3 Scott, Walter 73–6, 103 Scott’s Shadow (Duncan) 110 Season of the Anomy (Soyinka) 147–8 self-determination 134 Sembène, Ousmane 68, 116, 136 Shaw, Harry 110 Sierra Leone 137 Sieyes, Abbè 69 singularity 140–2 slavery 19 society 59–61

196

Index

‘Society Must be Defended’ (Foucault) 60, 69, 70, 71 Somalia 67, 137–8 sovereign 39, 43, 47, 48, 58–9, 60–1, 64, 65, 67, 95, 112, 116, 132–4, 148, 149, 186 sovereignty 133; European 133–4; juridico-political model 60 Soyinka, Wole 108, 147 Spencer, P. 40 Spivak, Gayatri 12 state: Hobbes’ political theory of 58; and security of the collective 58 state of nature 57–8, 65, 97; as problem of plurality 112 state violence 136–7 Stendhal 103 Stern, J.P. 104 Stoler, Ann Laura 5 Such a Long Journey (Mistry) 164–81, 166, 168; allegorical analysis of country’s situation in 175; historical backdrop 169; historical figures and events in 167, 177–8; improbable connections in 178–80; IndoPakistani war in 169, 171–4; ironic distance in 171–4; main character 167–71; narratives in 174–7; nonpolitical existence 170; opening scene 167–8; Parsi identity 167, 168; pavement artist 176–7; as a political thriller 178–80; private sphere versus public discourse 167–71; rhetorics in 174–7; superstitious characters in 175 surrealism 82, 178 symbolism 82 Sympathetic Realism (Greiner) 110

Szeman, Imre 32–3, 33, 37, 135, 138, 146 Tagalog War 46 Tales from Firozsha Baag (Mistry) 164 Thackeray, William Makepeace 118 Theory of the Novel (Lukács) 75 Things Fall Apart (Achebe) 32, 77 Third World nationalism 33, 137 Tiffin, H. 12 transcendental homelessness 103 transparency 99–102, 117 tribal dictatorship 146 Tristram Shandy (Sterne) 102 Troeltsch, Ernst 77 truth-weapon 63 Tucker, Irene 42 Unknown Soldier’s Tomb 59 urban realism 20 Ur-scene 15, 17 vacancy 101 Verdery, Katherine 81 war 61, 62, 65, 66–7, 70 Western literature 134, 152–3 Western novels 185 Williams, David 166, 167 Wollman, H. 40 Yishi, Ben 104 Young, Robert 1, 6, 16, 34, 133 Zeitgeist 132 Zhdanov doctrine 152 Zola, Émile 109, 112