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Resistance in Postcolonial African Fiction
 0300045530, 9780300045536

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Neil Lazarus


Yale University Press New Haven and London



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Published with assistance from the Kingsley Trust Association Publication Fund established by the Scroll and Key Society of Yale College. Parts of chapters 1 and 6 appeared in an earlier version as "Great Expectations and After: The Politics of Postcolonialism in African Fiction," in Social Text 13/14 (Winter-Spring 1986): 49-66. Chapter 3 appeared in an earlier version as "Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will: A Reading of Ayi Kwei Armah's The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born," in Research in African Literatures 18, no. 2 (Summer 1987): 137-75. Copyright © 1990 by Yale University. All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, including illustrations, in any form (beyond that copying permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of the U.S. Copyright Law and except by reviewers for the public press), without written permission from the publishers. Designed by April Leidig-Higgins. Set in Meridien type by Keystone Typesetting Inc., Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania. Printed in the United States of America by Vail-Ballou Press, Binghamton, New York. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Lazarus, Neil, 1953Resistance in postcolonial African fiction I Neil Lazarus. p. cm. ISBN 0- 300-04 5 5 3-0 (alk. paper) I. Armah, Ayi Kwei, 1939- -Criticism and interpretation. 2. African fiction-20th century-History and criticism. 3. Africa-Intellectual life-20th century. 4. Decolonization in literature. 5. Radicalism in literature. 6. Africa in literature. I. Title. PR9379.9.A7Z75 1990 823-dc20 89-38349 CIP The paper in this book meets the guidelines for permanence and durability of the Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity of the Council on Library Resources. 10









For my parents, Laurel and Norman, with love




Great Expectations and the Mourning After Decolonization and African Intellectuals 1 l


From Frantz Fanon to Ayi Kwei Armah Messianism and the Representation of Postcolonialism

The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will



Fragments Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional



Why Are We So Blest? Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism



After the Break Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 Notes







This is a book about the work of Ayi Kwei Armah, one of the most important and controversial of contemporary African writers. At the same time, it is a book about radical African intellectualism and the forms of African fiction in the postcolonial era. Armah is the author of five novels published between 1968 and 1978. Resistance in Postcolonial African Fiction focuses centrally upon the first three of these: The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (1968), Fragments ( 1970), and Why Are We So Blest? ( 1972). In writing about these novels, realist fictions set for the most part if not exclusively in independent African states, I have attempted to examine them not in any formalistic way, but in the light of their own ideological projects and horizons. I have wanted both to reconstruct these projects and horizons, andwith the benefit of twenty years' hindsight-to assess them theoretically and politically. My argument is initially a periodizing one. I begin, in chapter 1, by investigating the ways in which African writers active in the years immediately following decolonization-the 1960s and early l 970s-tended to view the postcolonial situation. The most significant African writers of this period saw themselves as progressive political activists, committed to the more or less comprehensive transformation of their societies in the postcolonial era. Reading these writers in the light of the work of Frantz Fanon, however, I suggest that in their thinking and writing they were, as a group, predisposed to a messianic and middle-class specific conception of decolonization as a revolutionary process, such that, for them, the transfer of power at independence seemed to constitute an event like the storming of the Winter Palace. In common with other progressive intellectuals in the immediate postcolonial era, radical African writers tended drastically to overvalue the emancipatory significance of independence. One consequence was that, as their hopes were punctured in the years following decolonization (as they invariably were), a rhetoric of disillusion began to replace the earlier utopian rhetoric in their work: it emerged as fatalism or despair or anger or in the accusation that postcolonial leaders had betrayed the "African revolution." Common to these representations, however, was a failure to question the presupposition upon which they all rested, namely that decolonization had indeed marked a moment of revolutionary uplift in African societies. In chapter 2, I attempt to bring this discussion of the ideological horizons of postcolonial African intellectualism to bear upon Ayi Kwei Armah,



whose work is exemplary of the passage from messianism to disillusion outlined above. I discuss the influence of Fanon upon Armah and also the terms of Armah's interrogation of Fanon's thought as, ten years after the posthumous publication of The Wretched of the Earth, he suggests that the conditions that had sustained Fanon's revolutionary optimism in the era of anticolonialism have been all but obliterated by postcolonial developments. This discussion paves the way for an examination, in chapters 3, 4, and 5, of Armah's three novels of postcolonialism. In writing about the first two of these novels, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born and Fragments, I trace the social origins of their concerns, and I argue for the cogency and resourcefulness of their resolutions, which manage to affirm an ethic of resistance in the face of the most adversarial social circumstances. With respect to Armah's third novel, Why Are We So Blest?, however, I argue that the work founders because its conceptual infrastructure is incapable of sustaining the allegorical burden that Armah imposes upon it. What interests me particularly here is not that but why this should be so. In my reading of Why Are We So Blest?, accordingly, I try to suggest that the failures of the novel need to be grasped in the context of the determinate collapse of the ideological formation within which it assumes meaning. The failures of the novel are in fact indicative of this larger-and essentially sociohistorical-collapse. Why Are We So Blest? remains a work of major importance because it exposes the limitations of a way of thinking about decolonization and independence that is not Armah's alone, but characteristic of a generation of radical African intellectuals. In chapter 6, I discuss the reasons for the collapse of this generational field of vision in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the significance ofthe crisis of intellectualism that ensued. I conclude by outlining the trajectory of developments both in Armah's two subsequent novels, Two Thousand Seasons ( 1973) and The Healers ( 1978), and in African fiction at large. I attempt to show that the directions taken in recent African fiction reflect divergent answers to the unforgoable questions that forced themselves to the surface in the early 1970s, obliging established writers comprehensively to rethink their positions and the fundamentals of their cultural practice, and providing points of departure for new writers with rather different interests and concerns.

I would like to thank Ellen Graham and Judith Calvert at Yale University Press and the following people, without whose help and encouragement this book would never have been completed: Fran Bartkowski, Paul Bellaby, Lalage Bown, Paul Buhle, Hazel Carby, Jim Catano, Frank Mkalawile Chipasula, Rey Chow, Stephen Clingman, Jeffrey Decker, Anani


Preface Dzidzienyo, Ronald Frankenberg, Carl Freedman, Josef Gugler, Barbara Harlow, Paget Henry, David Konstan, Eliel Mamousette, Michelle Masse, Peter Nazareth, Ellen Rooney, Tricia Rose, Robert Scholes, and Khachig TOlolyan. Finally, I would like to thank Viet Lazarus for the eviction notice that galvanized me to finish this book.




Great Expectations and the Mourning After Decolonization and African Intellectuals

On March 6, 1957, Ghana gained its independence from Britain, becoming the first sub-Saharan African colony to do so. Over 100,000 people crowded into the Polo Ground in Accra, the capital city, to watch the proceedings. The ceremony took place at midnight. There was tremendous excitement in the air as the Union Jack was lowered and the new Ghanaian flag-red, green, and gold-hoisted in its place. In the hushed silence that followed the flag-raising, Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of independent Ghana, began to speak: At long last the battle has ended! And thus Ghana, your beloved country, is free for ever. And here again, I want to take the opportunity to thank the chiefs and people of this country, the youth, the farmers, the women, who have so nobly fought and won this battle. Also I want to thank the valiant ex-servicemen who have so co-operated with me in this mighty task of freeing our country from foreign rule and imperialism! ... [F]rom now on we are no more a colonial but a free and independent people! ... We are not waiting; we shall no more go back to sleep. Today, from now on, there is a new African in the world and that new African is ready to fight his own battle and show that after all the black man is capable of managing his own affairs. We are going to demonstrate to the world, to the other nations, young as we are, that we are prepared to lay our own foundation. 1 This basic scene was to be played out repeatedly in Africa in the course of the next eight or ten years, as state after state attained its political independence from the European colonial powers. In Guinea in 1958, Nigeria in 1960, Uganda in 1962, and Kenya in 1963, ceremonies of independence took place that closely resembled the Ghanaian prototype. In each case there was a triumphant leadership and a national stadium in a capital city filled to overflowing with thousands of celebrants to witness the drama of a flag-raising. There were garlands, banners, and displays; music and dancing in the streets; banquets and festivities. 2 1

Great Expectations and the Mourning After Of course, the ceremony of independence was a legitimate occasion for joy. It heralded the end of colonialism and confirmed the great victory of the national movement for liberation. It transformed the harsh memories of struggle-memories of violence, degradation, and hardship-into images of heroism. Before independence, losses could only be experienced as losses; after independence, they could be viewed as sacrifices precisely because they had proved not to be in vain. The ceremony allowed the newly independent to reimagine their past in a meaningful way, to reconceive the defeats they had borne as positive events. The notion of defeat could give way to the notion of conflict; and conflict, in turn, was a notion that spoke of resistance. All the defeats visited upon the colonized by their colonizers began to seem linked in a chain, as moments of resistance, leading ineluctably to independence day. 3 The reconceptualization was a generous one. It excluded nobody: in his address, Nkrumah honored both the chiefs and the population at large, youth and women and farmers and ex-servicemen. Every colonial subject, it seemed, had endured the depredations and dispossessions of colonialism. Every colonial subject had struggled against colonialism. The victory therefore belonged to all the colonized. They were all their nation's liberators. Here is how Ngugi wa Thiong'o, the Kenyan writer, pictures the night of independence in his novel A Grain of Wheat ( 196 7). Note how similar to the Ghanaian ceremony the Kenyan ceremony is represented as being: Kenya regained her Uhuru from the British on 12 December 1963. A minute before midnight, lights were put out at the Nairobi stadium so that people from all over the country and the world who had gathered there for the midnight ceremony were swallowed by the darkness. In the dark, the Union Jack was quickly lowered. When next the lights came on the new Kenya flag was flying and fluttering, and waving, in the air. The police band played the new National Anthem and the crowd cheered continuously when they saw the flag was black, and red and green. The cheering sounded like one intense cracking of many trees, falling on the thick mud in the stadium. 4 Ngugi does not stop here. There is excitement and happiness in the air, but there is also something else. In the same passage the novelist speaks of another mood that is discernible among the crowd in the streets, a mood not yet identified: expectation. "Everybody waited for something to happen. This 'waiting' and the uncertainty that went with it ... was a taut cord beneath the screams and the shouts and the laughter."5 Independence did not signal just the end of colonialism; it signaled also the emergence onto the world's stage of what Nkrumah called "the African personality." With the passing of the world-historical era of colonialism a new world-historical era would dawn. In this new era, the slumbering giant


Decolonization and African Intellectuals of Africa would awaken and leave the imprint ofits decisive action upon the world. 6 I draw attention here to the ceremony of independence in Africa for two reasons. First, the ceremony itself was such a striking event. For politicians, for the masses who participated, and certainly for writers and intellectuals, each ceremony of independence was an event apart. It seemed to stand outside of time, like Walter Benjamin's "time of the now," resisting historicity by staring history down. Even in retrospect, there appears to be no danger of the ceremony of independence losing its special aura of timelessness. "A historical materialist," Benjamin wrote, "cannot do without the notion of a present which is not a transition, but in which time stands still and has come to a stop." 7 To many Africans, the moment of independence seems to have represented just such a present. A second and more important reason for beginning with the moment of independence is that unless we grasp the huge significance that the (re)attainment of nationhood carried for African intellectuals in these years of decolonization, it is almost impossible for us to understand the subsequent trajectory of African literature. We cannot make sense of the problematic of postcolonialism in this literature unless we read it as relating, very concretely and immediately, to the headiness of initial expectations of independence. "We were ready here for big and beautiful things," Ayi Kwei Armah, the central figure of this book, has Teacher, one of the principal characters of his first novel, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born ( 1968), say about the dawning of independence in Ghana. "The promise was so beautiful. Even those who were too young to understand it all knew that at last something good was being born. It was there. We were not deceived about that." 8 We cannot but be distressed when, with the benefit of hindsight, we look back thirty years at the great expectations that attended the process of decolonization in such countries as Ghana, Uganda, and Senegal. For the simple, brutal fact is that, in the vast majority of these cases, the expectations have not even come close to being fulfilled. In 1957 Nkrumah looked forward to an era of unity, strength, and humanity; today's observer would be hard pressed to find much evidence of any of these qualities. What he or she will find in relative abundance, rather, is the exact opposite: fragmentation, weakness, and social violence. Independence seems to have brought neither peace nor prosperity to Africa. Instead, it has paradoxically borne witness to stagnation, elitism, and class domination, and to the intensifying structural dependence-economic, political, cultural, and ideological-of Africa upon the imperial Western powers. Thus in an article on the African experience of independence, the historian J. F. Ade Ajayi has speculated that The most fundamental aspect of post-independence Africa has been the elusiveness of development ... [I]n many ways the quality of


Great Expectations and the Mourning After life ... is even worse than on the eve of independence. In particular, many African countries now find it difficult to provide for their populations sufficient food and energy resources for the basic necessities of life. Most of the new states have yet to evolve stable political structures . . . the uneven development between different regions of the same country and between cities and rural areas of the same region persists. [T] he inequities of income distribution that characterized colonial rule have tended to widen ... As a result, there have been civil unrest and civil war, and there is generally less security for life and property. 9 Clearly, independence has not managed to match its advance publicity. The dreams of contemporary intellectuals and politicians have failed to materialize.

The years leading up to independence were heroic as well as historic. Nowhere was independence won easily. In some colonies, it took armed struggle to bring it about; in others, it took strikes, demonstrations, and protest marches. The least colonial response was intransigence and foot-dragging, and the cynical attempt to co-opt the African leadership. In many cases, arrests, detentions, bannings, deportations, torture, and generalized physical repression were involved. The forging of, and participation in, progressive alliances against the colonial order called for courage, discipline, and sacrifice. Only through mass mobilization and organization could colonialism be challenged successfully. Accordingly, radical intellectuals of the time-writers among them-threw themselves into the campaign to promote the politicization and anticolonial militancy of their greater popu lations, the "comrades of incendiary centuries" as the celebrated Senegalese poet David Diop called them.10 Quite what these radical intellectuals understood by "politicization," however, remained unclear. On the subject of colonialism, writers like Diop produced work that was incisive and powerful. Although they characteristically emphasized the brutality of colonialism, the tone of their writing was seldom passive or defeatist, seldom reflective of mere outrage or frustration. More typically it was measured, fueled by a massive political anger and resolve: it promised struggle, and rock-bottom resistance. Mixed in with the clear-sightedness and urgency of such radical writing, though, was a disturbing blindness. Its spirit was heroic and resolute, but in attempting to mobilize unity against the colonial forces it displayed a naive and dangerous generosity. It welcomed to its cause any anticolonial sentiment, on the


Decolonization and African Intellectuals principle that the enemy of its enemy was its friend. This generalization was injudicious, and, indeed, some African activists would argue that they are still paying the price for the radical anticolonialists' lack of discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s. For those languishing in prison or in exile, these are not merely theoretical arguments. The general rhetoric of anticolonialism was reductive. It implied that there was only one struggle to be waged, and it was a negative one: a struggle against colonialism, not a struggle for anything specific. Indeed, by urging all anticolonial activists to unite under a single campaign banner"Self-Government in the shortest possible time," for example-it tended to deflect attention from critical questions concerning the precise substance of this "Self-Government." 11 The register of anticolonialism actively sought abstraction, desiring above all to remain free of ideological factionalism. To it, there was only today and tomorrow, bondage and freedom. It never paused long enough to give its ideal of "freedom" a content. Specificity, it implicitly rationalized, exposed the movement to the risk of division. Typically, therefore, the radical anticolonial writers tended to romanticize the resistance movement and to underestimate-even theoretically to suppress-the dissensions within it. Their heavy emphasis on fraternalism blinded them to the fact that within the movement there were groups and individuals working with quite different, and often incompatible, aspirations for the future.

The harmonizing rhetoric of anticolonialism could not survive in the universe of independence, for independence became the stage for the violent uncoupling of the diverse strands that had coexisted within the anticolonial movement. 1 2 (In retrospect, there was surely something ominous about Nkrumah's Independence Day evocation of "chiefs" and "people," "farmers" and "ex-servicemen," which was so embracingly inclusive that it tended to reconstruct even active collaboration with colonialism as a form of anticolonial resistance!) 1 3 Independence marked the attainment of nationhood, and it threw into sharp relief the differences that existed between nationalists and more radical anticolonialists. The nationalists tended to identify the goal of the anticolonial struggle as, precisely, the attainment of nationhood. By contrast, the radical anticolonialists (whom, following Anouar Abdel-Malek, we might label "nationalitarian" in outlook), tended to view the attainment of nationhood in the light of a seizure of colonial state power, a seizure to be followed, in their plan, by a wholesale reconstruction of society in the postcolonial era. 14 Within literature, the nationalist perspective was represented positively


Great Expectations and the Mourning After in William Conton's novel The African, first published in 1960. Conton, from Sierra Leone, set The African in a composite West African colony (and subsequently nation) called Songhai, against a sociological backdrop of decolonization. The novel tells the story of a young man's education, gradual entry into politics, and subsequent stellar career. The partisan nationalism of the authorial ideology structuring the work is strongly evident throughout. Through his central protagonist, Kisimi Kamara, Conton speaks of his own political ideal-"the ideal of helping to create in our time a country which would achieve both strength and freedom through unity and the subordination to that ideal of all tribal loyalties." 1 5 The nationalist "Party for Unity and Liberation," of which Kamara becomes the leader, takes as its credo the slogan "Unity Now; Self-Government in Five Years." Its emblem becomes a diamond, symbolizing the multifacetedness of the community, all united in their single cause: "freedom." Kamara's vision equates "freedom" with independence. It speaks of unity, of emancipation, of African control of African resources. Here, for example, is how a speechmaker for the Party for Unity and Liberation addresses a rally in The African. He bids his audience think of All those thousands of red pound notes [that] went into the pockets of white men, people who were not Songhaians, who were not even Africans. Thousands of pounds, which might have helped to build another fine college like the one you see over there, or a hospital, or bridges, or roads for our people. And why were others able to rob us like this? Because we are not united, and until we are we can never be free to manage our own affairs and control our own wealth. 16 Ifwe look beneath this sort ofrhetoric to the nature of the political programs espoused by the nationalist politicians in The African, however, we encounter a rather chilling discrepancy between promises and intentions. It is no coincidence that Kamara's party speechmaker has next to nothing to say on the subject of postcolonial social restructuring. Beyond a characteristically nationalist call for the burying of alleged "tribal animosities," there is only silence. Nothing is said, for example, about realignment of social classes, redistribution of wealth or land, more equitable utilization of resources, or implementation of more participatory forms of political organization. These silences are crucial. They are not silent at all, in fact, but eloquent. They reveal what Frantz Fanon, writing about African nationalism in general, has spoken of as the desire simply to "transfer into native hands ... those unfair advantages which are a legacy of the colonial period." 17 The fundamental hypocrisy of his own political standpoint is not lost on Kamara in The African. On the contrary, Conton has his central protagonist reflect directly upon the duplicity of his posture as a nationalist. What emerges, however, is an elitist justification of this duplicity. As his speech-


Decolonization and African Intellectuals maker "works" a crowd eager for social change with fine-sounding words and phrases, Kamara speculates that All of us on that platform knew, of course, that it was not quite as simple as all that; but for the time being it would do, it would serve its purpose. We had learned always to draw our audiences fully into the act with us, to wait for answers to our rhetorical questions, making sure that those questions were so framed that the majority present were bound to give the answer we desired. This was much safer· than attempting to be explicit as to the comparative advantages to the country of state ownership of the mines on the one hand, and private ownership on the other. Precision in politics seldom pays. is If, as Bertolt Brecht once observed, politics is the art of thinking inside other

people's heads, then Kamara is a consummate politician. Plainly, though, he is not an honest one. He knows that ideology is power and that language, dexterously used, is a compelling instrument of mobilization. Conton is perfectly cool about all this. He presents Kamara quite openly as a manipulator, evidently believing that under the circumstances, manipulation is not only defensible but also necessary. Kamara is therefore careful, in speaking about freedom, to leave the concept undefined. It remains an abstract signifier, whose abstraction is crucial to its hortatory power. The more precise he becomes, the more potential supporters he stands the risk of alienating. Thus it is, according to Ajayi, that African nationalists were usually much clearer about what they wanted to end than about what they wanted to put in its place. They wanted to throw off the imperialist yoke, and end discrimination and the exploitation of man by man; they wanted freedom, and respect for the dignity of the black man. Beyond that, however, they had little conception of the kind of society they were striving to build outside of vague concepts of Europeanization and modemization. I 9 Whether this imprecision on the part of nationalist leaders was symptomatic of political irresolution on their part, as Ajayi here suggests, is debatable. Certainly, in their public pronouncements they left many basic political questions unanswered. But, as Anthony Smith has argued, to acknowledge this is not necessarily to suggest that they did not themselves know what they intended to do: African nationalism from its inception had clear "positive" programmes and ideals, which went beyond a simple opposition to colonial European authority, or to imperialism or capitalist (or any other) exploitation. Their aim, then and always, has been the same as that of


Great Expectations and the Mourning After nationalists everywhere: to set up "nations", autonomous, unified and with a clear cultural identity, but on the pre-existing basis of the territorial "grid" of states imposed in Africa by the colonial powers.20 Smith argues that the nationalists who came to power in Africa in the decolonizing years were by no means always those favored to do so by the colonial authorities. He contends that, at least in its formative years, nationalism was far from being tractable to imperialism. The nationalists were reformers, even if their general outlook remained gradualist and statist. If we focus on this gradualism and statism of nationalist discourse, it becomes possible for us to fix its political dimensions a little more exactly. Smith notes that the nationalists' vision was framed not only by the felt necessity of operating within the territorial boundaries constructed by colonialism, but also by their desire to retain and, as it were, "inherit" the colonial state apparatus. He observes, thus, that African nationalism "aimed to take over the territorial-bureaucratic State which it inherited from the colonial powers" and that "its character was consequently largely shaped by etatiste presuppositions and State institutions." 21 The implications of this are not drawn by Smith, but they are considerable. To the extent that anticolonial nationalism directed its efforts solely at what Nkrumah called the "political kingdom" of the colonial state, its labor was oriented toward the appropriation of a capitalist apparatus. The speechmaker for the Party for Unity and Liberation in The African speaks, significantly, of the need "to manage our own affairs and control our own wealth." His indignation expresses itself not at the fact of colonial capitalist exploitation, but at the fact that no indigenous class is profiting from it: "All those thousands ofred pound notes [that] went into the pockets of white men, people who were not Songhaians, who were not even Africans." It is with this kind of statement in mind, presumably, that Worsley speaks of the nationalist ambition "to overthrow not capitalism, but foreign capitalism ... All that was needed, it seemed, was control of one's own political institutions. The support of the masses for that project was won by telling them that independence was the precondition for economic expansion which would benefit everyone." 22

The most trenchant critique of nationalist ideology remains that advanced by Frantz Fanon in his brilliant admonitory essay, "The Pitfalls of National Consciousness," published in The Wretched of the Earth ( 1961 ). The essay's register was urgent. In it, Fanon attempted to draw attention to the equivocal nature of nationalism, by way of repudiating its claims, in the years of decolonization, to represent "the all-embracing crystallization of the innermost hopes of the whole people" (WE 148 ). 23 Against such claims, 8

Decolonization and African Intellectuals Fanon argued that nationalism was above all the ideology of the African middle classes. These middle classes, which, he noted, were being groomed by the colonial powers to take over the reigns of power at independence, were in his view essentially "under-developed" (WE 149). This meant that they wielded no really autonomous power, economic or political, and that their ideological rationale was derivative rather than organic or self-determined: "[Their] innermost vocation seems to be to keep in the running and to be part of the racket. The psychology of the national bourgeoisie is that of the businessman, not that of a captain of industry" (WE 150). In Fanon's eyes, an African national bourgeoisie could only ever play the role of functionary. It could only ever be an intermediary class, serving principally to mediate between metrop9litan capitalism and the masses of the African population. It could, in fact, never really be a bourgeoisie at all, since by virtue of its dependency it would always necessarily lack the dynamism and energy that had characterized the European bourgeoisie in its ascendant phase. It would be doomed to go on taking its political lessons from the Western bourgeoisie of the late colonial era, that is, from a waning and unproductive class: It follows the Western bourgeoisie along its path of negation and decadence without ever having emulated it in its first stages of exploration and invention, stages which are an acquisition of that Western bourgeoisie whatever the circumstances. In its beginnings, the national bourgeoisie of the colonial countries identifies itself with the decadence of the bourgeoisie of the West. We need not think that it is jumping ahead; it is in fact beginning at the end. It is already senile before it has come to know the petulance, the fearlessness or the will to succeed of youth [WE 153]. In seeking to account for nationalism as an ideological configuration, Fanon turned to the colonially induced schism between the small African middle class and the overwhelming remainder of the African population. The relative power of the former, he argued, was indicative only of its subservience to colonial authority, and not at all of its ability to lead the nation into independence. Yet in the groundswell years of anticolonialism, it became necessary for the political aspirants among this middle class to pose as progressive and militant anticolonialists, by way of asserting their suitability to lead. The ideology that served their piatform was nationalism, a "neo-liberal universalist" discourse that equipped its users to make the claim that they were indeed speaking in the best interests of the nation as a whole even as it rendered them indifferent to the actual circumstances of the general population.24 On the basis of these reflections, Fanon warned that if leadership in the postcolonial African world were to come to rest in the hands of the African middle class, the whole momentum of the national liberation struggle

9 .

Great Expectations and the Mourning After would be derailed. The structure of the colonial economy would be consolidated instead of overturned, with the national bourgeoisie transforming itself into capitalism's broker, delivering the resources of the nation (including labor) to capital for exploitation and receiving in return its broker's fee. Under such circumstances, the national bourgeoisie would quickly cease to offer even the appearance of being a progressive force. Gradually at first, and then more and more rapidly, it would stand unmasked in its true historic guise, as profoundly dominative. Accordingly, Fanon argued that "genuine" national liberation could only be insured through the defeat of the national bourgeoisie and its ideology of nationalism: In under-developed countries, the bourgeoisie should not be allowed to find the conditions necessary for its existence and its growth. In other words, the combined effort of the masses led by a party of intellectuals who are highly conscious and armed with revolutionary principles ought to bar the way to this useless and harmful middleclass. [WE 174-75] Without "genuine" national liberation, evidently, independence would be a hoax, fraudulent if not necessarily inconsequential. As Fanon himself put it in his essay "Spontaneity: Its Strength and Weakness," "there [would be] . . . nothing but a fancy-dress parade and the blare of the trumpets . . . nothing save a minimum of readaptation, a few reforms at the top, a flagwaving: and down there at the bottom an undivided mass, still living in the Middle Ages, endlessly marking time" (WE 147).

Even a generation after it was written, Fanon's essay on "national consciousness" retains an extraordinary explanatory power. There is, first, the matter of its prescience. In colony after colony, often with the connivance of the very colonial regimes they had claimed to be campaigning against, African nationalist parties assumed government at independence, and, as Fanon had predicted, proceeded to consolidate their positions and enrich themselves at the expense of their communities at large. Consolidation entailed security, not development, and, in the name of national security, new rulers, from Malawi and Zaire to Kenya and the Ivory Coast, had no sooner been sworn into office than they began to move against the popular forces massed below them. Yet above and beyond its prescience, Fanon's essay remains decisive because it enables us to understand the inherently contradictory position of radical intellectuals in Africa during the early years of independence. And this, in turn, enables us to understand the nature and thrust of the literature produced by the writers among these intellectuals. Without national libera10

Decolonization and African Intellectuals tion, Fanon insisted, independence would be a sham, an elaborate simulation of sovereignty. However, when we think of the significance of independence from the perspective of the national bourgeoisie, we begin to see that for it, independence represented much more than this. Nationalist anticolonialism had been animated by frustration. It had aimed toward securing for the national middle class everything that, under the colonial system, had been off-limits. Under colonial rule, the national middle class had inevitably felt its freedom of movement and action restricted. Its boundless ambition had been capped. Independence, therefore, was experienced by this class as changing everything for the better. Everything that colonialism had barred to this class, independence seemed to unchain. Everything that colonialism had outlawed and kept out of reach, independence brought within the bounds of legality and placed within easy grasp. Independence made perfectly possible everything that colonialism had rendered impossible. In short, independence let loose the national bourgeoisie to behave as it would, like any bourgeoisie. Now, with the rare exception of a figure like Ousmane Sembene, African writers of the independence era belonged themselves to the African national bourgeoisies. Almost all of them were comparatively highly educated; many, indeed, were "been-to's," people who had traveled abroadusually to the West-for education or professional training. By virtue of their qualifications and experience, they, along with the rest of their class, stood poised at independence to inherit privileged and responsible positions in the postcolonial society. Accordingly, they too tended to experience independence as a time ofloosening, of opening up of options. To the extent that they identified with the aspirations of the peasant and working classes as articulated in the rhetoric of anticolonialism, they may theoretically have appreciated that the mere acquisition of political independence was not to be confused with national liberation. But in practice they also experienced their class's sensation of being set free. For them, it is true, this "freedom" did not mean what it meant to the majority of their class. To the class as a whole, independence signified the lifting of artificial and resented barriers to expansion and accumulation. To the radical intellectuals hostile to their class's general outlook, it signified the entry of the working (and, indeed, unemployed) masses, the "wretched of the earth" as Fanon had so famously dubbed them, into the social equation as a decisive force. The prospect of this entry exhilarated them. They became convinced that they, not the rest of their class, had history on their side. This imbued them with a new sense of purpose, since they saw themselves as representing the voice of the revolution. In casting themselves as revolutionaries, radical African intellectuals tended to follow Fanon's lead in criticizing the nationalists for conflating independence with They failed to notice, however, that they too were guilty of an unwarranted conflation, in their case of independence 11

Great Expectations and the Mourning After with revolution. In order to explain how this "radical" conflation came to be, we need to turn to an aspect of Fanon's work that we have not thus far considered: his messianism. My argument here will be that the conflation of independence with revolution is the product of a utopian conceptualization of the national liberation struggle; that in spite of the fact that the overall thrust of his work committed him to a more pragmatic emphasis, Fanon was often-and paradigmatically-drawn to phrase his ideas in messianic terms; and that what was present as a tension in his work was "resolved," in the thought of the radical intellectuals who followed him, in the direction of a squarely messianic conceptualization of national liberation, in terms of which decolonization was interpreted as a revolutionary process and the independence ceremony was taken to signal that the revolution had been won, rather than merely begun. In "The Pitfalls of National Consciousness:' as we have seen, Fanon maintained that nationalism and national liberation were incompatible agendas. His essay set out to argue that a triumphant nationalism would inevitably turn against the popular masses in whose name it had campaigned, betraying their cause in the interests of neocolonial class consolidation. The structural dynamism of Fanon's thought-not only in this essay, but in The Wretched of the Earth as a whole, as well as in Toward the African Revolution and A Dying Colonialism-was unwavering. 26 On the one hand he posited the dead weight of the colonial regime and its neocolonial allies in the national bourgeoisie; on the other, he posited the "upward thrust of the people" (WE 164), moving historically toward self-determination. If we consider that Fanon's role in the national liberation struggle in Algeria was a fiercely practical one, politico-intellectual rather than purely theoretical in nature, it is relatively easy for us to grasp that this antinomial positioning of nationalism (as the ideology of the national bourgeoisie) and nationalitarianism or national liberation (as the ideology of "the people") was tactically mandated. Fanon's theory situated itself at one and the same time as the conscience of the movement for national liberation and its reflection; it was both the engineer of the movement (with "the masses" constituting its motor) and its chronicler. The key-overdetermined-concept here is that of representation. Fanon phrased his writing as standing for the national liberation movement: it represented the movement, spoke on behalf of it, argued for it, defended it; it inscribed itself as the movement's voice, its discursive embodiment. Simultaneously, however, Fanon also made the claim to portray the national liberation movement as it was. In this sense his writing represented the movement not by taking its position, but by describing its actions and depicting it in struggle. It re-presented the practice of the movement in the language of theory. The problem with this conceptualization, however, was that by virtue of its overly neat dialectical form, it increasingly induced Fanon, writing before independence, to cast the national liberation movement as already revolu12

Decolonization and African Intellectuals tionary in character, in correspondence with the revolutionary theory-its theory-that claimed to represent it. 27 And it is here that the antinomy of nationalism and national liberation became decisive. In one sense, as I have argued above, the entire thrust of Fanon's thought tended to the conclusion not only that nationalism and national liberation were ideologically incompatible, but also that their timetables for realization were quite distinct, depending in the first instance (nationalism) upon decolonization and in the second (national liberation) upon revolution. In terms of the latter scenario, independence signaled a (more or less important) staging-post in the struggle for national liberation, but not its terminus. Yet increasingly the strategic necessity for posing nationalism and national liberation as antinomies tended to push Fanon toward a vastly different conclusion, in terms of which the decolonizing years were phrased as themselves revolutionary and the messianic light of national liberation was spoken of as radiating not from the revolution that independence would pave the way toward, but from independence itself. In his essay "On National Culture" in The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon referred to the revolutionary intellectual as "an awakener of the people" (WE 223). In "The Pitfalls of National Consciousness," similarly (and as we have already seen), he spoke of "a party of intellectuals who are highly conscious and armed with revolutionary principles" (WE 175), and whose historical task it was to forge the colonized masses into a disciplined revolutionary alliance. Tactically if not theoretically speaking, the register of Fanon's commentary in such passages as these was broadly Leninist. True, there was the controversial-and markedly un-Leninist, not to say unMarxist-Fanonian insistence that any genuine movement for national liberation in Africa would need to be powered by the peasantry and, for that matter, the lumpenproletariat, rather than by the urban working class, which Fanon disparaged as a "natural" ally of the national bourgeoisie. 28 At least to the extent that the mobilization of these classes and fractions was considered to be neither a fait accompli nor unnecessary, but on the contrary something that would have to be forged by a revolutionary party of intellectuals, and without which there could be no revolution, however, Fanon's theorization could still be addressed under the rubric of Leninism. It clearly respected Lenin's celebrated distinction, in What Is To Be Done? ( 1902 ), between "the consciousness of the working masses" and "true class consciousness" (Social-Democratic or socialist consciousness). 29 Basing his argument upon this distinction, Lenin had insisted that although "the consciousness of the working masses" emerged spontaneously from their historical experience, it could never be more than a reformist mode and would always need to be transformed into socialist consciousness as a precondition of any revolutionary activity on the part of the masses. Existing side by side with this "partyist" strain in Fanon's work, however, was another, altogether more voluntaristic strain. This was the strain I 13

Great Expectations and the Mourning After referred to above as "messianic." In his messianic idiom, Fanon tended to couch the political activity of the African "masses" in the era of decolonization as already revolutionary. It was as though, contrary to his "partyist" pronouncements, he imagined that the organization of "the masses" had already taken place, and that the peasantry was already mobilized and unified, poised at the palace gates and ready to take the one remaining step forward to liberation. Fanon has often been criticized on the grounds ofvoluntarism.3° Where, above, I spoke of his position as being broadly "partyist," most of his critics have argued that, on the contrary, it is narrowly "spontaneist." In terms of this critique, Fanon's "error" is seen to have consisted not in his misconception of the imminence and universally transformative dimension of revolution, but in his romanticization of the African peasantry, and, specifically, in his unwarranted attribution to this class of a "spontaneously" revolutionary consciousness. I do not wish to argue that such a critique is entirely without merit. On the contrary, it seems to me that it possesses considerable validity. Fanon's theory of the African revolution is without doubt voluntaristic in several of its emphases. However, to read it as unilaterally so is plainly to read it selectively. For its "partyist" impulses are not gestural but substantive; they are not cosmetic but bear concretely on questions of organization, strategy, and leadership. And, as Marie Perinbam has argued, although perhaps too emphatically, It is amazing how few of Fanon's critics have noticed the qualifications

attached to his ... references concerning spontaneity, and how he also had reservations about rural obscurantism and unrevolutionary behavior ... They have ignored the obvious fact that Fanon, like most revolutionaries from Marx to Mao, from Lenin to Lumumba, from Kautsky to Castro, recognised the need for peasant revolutionary potential to be harnessed to appropriate leaders, most of whom would have to come from nationalist groups.31 It is for this reason that I prefer to describe Fanon's theory as "messianic" rather than "voluntaristic," at least in so far as the latter term is conventionally understood. The ambiguities of Fanon's formulation make strict determinations impossible. In general, however, it seems to me that although he committed himself comparatively seldom to the voluntarist view that mass action on the part of the colonized is always-already (that is, spontaneously) revolutionary, he committed himself rather more often to the messianic perception that, at the time of his writing, such action had nevertheless become revolutionary in character. Yet from my perspective it is precisely this "nevertheless" that constitutes the problem. For if the kind of revolutionary consciousness to which Fanon


Decolonization and African Intellectuals alludes had actually existed in the era of decolonization, could it have been so rapidly or so easily unraveled in the first years of independence? Would not true revolutionary unity have been made of sterner stuff? A counterfactual explanation is suggested here: the historical fact that the "upward thrust of the people" was not maintained in the postcolonial era, points to the conclusion that it was never really present as a revolutionary force in the first place. Reverting to our earlier discussion of representation, we might venture the speculation that if Fanon's theory indeed represented the revolutionary conscience of the anticolonialism of "the people," it never represented this anticolonialism in its actuality. An intellectualist bias on Fanon's part is uncovered by this speculation, a hint that through the agency of his theoretical antinomy between nationalism and national liberation, he was led to ascribe revolutionary consciousness to "the people," where subsequent events have indicated emphatically that such consciousness could not have been and was not present at that time. In its messianism, thus conceived, Fanon's revolutionary theory is strongly reminiscent of that of Georg Lukacs in History and Class Consciousness ( 1923 ). Of particular relevance here is the second essay of the volume, entitled "The Marxism of Rosa Luxemburg," in which Lukacs attemps to define a median politico-intellectual position between the lines of Leninism and Luxemburgism. Although he remains critical of what, elsewhere in History and Class Consciousness, he terms Luxemburg's "overestimation of the spontaneous, elemental forces of the Revolution,"32 Lukacs specifically praises Luxemburg for having "grasped the spontaneous nature of revolutionary mass actions earlier and more clearly than many others" (HCC 41 ). It is important to note here that Lukacs is not praising Luxemburg for arguing that mass actions are spontaneously revolutionary. Rather, he suggests that she was among the first Marxist theorists to recognize that there is a spontaneous component to all revolutionary actions. Hence his insistence that Luxemburg's insight is only serviceable to the extent that it was complemented by another, into "the role of the party in the revolution" (HCC 41 )a role that Lukacs proceeds to elaborate upon in some depth. Although he phrases his commentary as an elucidation of Luxemburg's position, it is evident that he is putting forward his own ideas: [The Party] must immerse its own truth in the spontaneous mass movement and raise it from the depths of economic necessity, where it was conceived, on to the heights of free, conscious action. In so doing it will transform itself in the moment of the outbreak of revolution from a party that makes demands to one that imposes an effective reality. This change from demand to reality becomes the lever of the ... truly revolutionary organisation of the proletariat. Knowledge becomes action, theory becomes battle slogan, the masses act in accordance with


Great Expectations and the Mourning After the slogans and join the ranks of the organised vanguard more consciously, more steadfastly and in greater numbers ... The true strength of the party is moral: it is fed by the trust of the spontaneously revolutionary masses ... It is nourished by the feeling that the party is the objectification of their own will ... Only when the party has fought for this trust and earned it can it become the leader of the revolution. For only then will the masses spontaneously and instinctively press forward with all their energies towards the party and towards their own class consciousness. [HCC 41-42] I have quoted Lukacs at some length here because-in spite of some obvious differences between the two theorists-the position he elaborated in the context of proletarian struggle in Europe in the 191 Os and 1920s was analogous to that which Fanon would later come to formulate in the context of the national liberation struggle in Algeria.3 3 Theoretically and structurally, the situations of the two intellectuals were comparable. Both wrote as active participants in, and not solely as theorists of, the momentous events of their times and places. Both wrote in eras of great optimism, when it seemed that revolution was in the air and that the surge of its momentum could not be withstood. And although neither believed in the historical inevitability of revolution, both wrote under the spell of their times, as though the utopian hour of a world-transforming revolution was imminent, if indeed it was not already at hand. In the work of both, accordingly, an undercurrent of messianism can be detected. This undercurrent has become visible (and visible, moreover, as a liability) only to the extent that what it prophesied never came to pass. History has afforded us the hindsight that contrary to the fervent expectations voiced in History and Class Consciousness and The Wretched of the Earth, utopia did not come, either to Europe in the 1920s or to Africa in the 1960s. Now although it might be tempting to respond to these truths by arguing that history "betrayed" Lukacs and Fanon, such a temptation should be resisted, its logic eschewed in favor of the more plausible explanation hinted at above; namely, that both theorists overestimated the strength and unity of the progressive forces in the struggles to which they had committed themselves. Certainly Lukacs, who lived for fifty years beyond the date of publication of History and Class Consciousness, came to appreciate this. In his 1967 preface to a new edition of his work, he conceded that his theorization of the formation of revolutionary consciousness had been so abstract that "it would indeed [have been] a miracle if this ... consciousness could turn into revolutionary praxis" (HCC xix). And when he came to account for this abstraction, he referred directly to the ideological temper of the times: I was active in helping to work out a new "left-wing" political and theoretical line. It was based on the belief, very much alive at the time,


Decolonization and African Intellectuals that the great revolutionary wave that would soon sweep the whole world, or Europe at the very least, to socialism, had in no way been broken by [various] ... setbacks ... Events ... strengthened our belief in the imminence of world revolution and the total transformation of the civilised world [sic] . . . The sectarianism of the twenties had messianic, utopian aspirations and its methods were violently opposed to bureaucracy ... History and Class Consciousness [represented] ... the final synthesis of the period of my development that began with the last years of the [First World] War. [HCC xiii, xvi] By contrast with Lukacs and History and Class Consciousness, Fanon died even before The Wretched ofthe Earth had seen publication. We cannot know whether, had he lived, he would have moved to offer the kind of autocritique that Lukacs did. However, since the tensions and imbalances within his thought are structurally so similar to those of History and Class Consciousness, it is reasonable to speculate that had he done so, he would, like Lukacs, have directed his attention above all to the messianic emphases of his theory of the African revolution. Questions of Marxist rigor or orthodoxy aside, the overriding problem with Fanon's messianic formulation is that it makes the setbacks of the postcolonial era seem incomprehensible. No references to political betrayal on the part of postcolonial leaders, and no evocations of the deadly sinuosity of neocolonialism, are sufficient to explain the collapse of the revolutionary unity and purpose that the messianic formulation assumes was present at independence. "Assumptions that the Revolution lost its way presuppose a view of what it was about in the first place."34 Yet since it was precisely Fanon who-by arguing (in his "partyist" guise) that independence without national liberation would be meaningless, a symbolic exercise only-provided us with the means to understand these setbacks of the postcolonial era, it is possible to argue that the greater logic of his thought mandates a non-messianic stance. If, therefore, we follow Jiirgen Habermas's recent definition of "reconstruction" as signifying "taking a theory apart and putting it back together again in a new form in order to attain more fully the goal it has set for itself," we can suggest that a "reconstructive" reading ofFanon is called for. 35 In terms of such a reading, Fanon's messianic emphases would be excluded in the interests of the overall coherence and cogency of his thinking.

It is feasible to argue, as I have just done, that the central thrust of Fanon's thought mandates its contemporary "reconstruction," and that only through this means can the contradictions to which its messianic strain condemns it be resolved. However, no similar argument can be made with


Great Expectations and the Mourning After respect to the majority of radical African intellectuals active during the first years of independence, among whom Ayi Kwei Armah emerges as a paradigmatic example in the field of literature. I began this chapter by quoting the words of Kwame Nkrumah on Ghana's day of independence: "At long last the battle has ended,'' 36 and I mentioned that many of these intellectuals saw themselves as representing the voice of the revolution which, extrapolating from Fanon in his messianic aspect, they interpreted as having been waged and won with the acquisition of independence. Now, if we examine the literature of the immediate postcolonial era in Africa, we see that it did not take long, after independence, for radical writers to realize that something had gone terribly wrong. They had experienced decolonization as a time of massive transformation. Yet, looking around them in the aftermath, they quickly began to perceive that their "revolution" had been derailed. Working for the most part as urban professionals, they came to see that the "liberation" they had celebrated at independence was cruelly limited in its effects. It was a liberation to suit the nationalist interests they deplored: a liberation for bankers and lawyers and landowners and, they realized, intellectuals, not for the population at large. What they saw made them painfully conscious of the savage irony of their situation: they were writers in communities in which the overwhelming majority of their fellows were illiterate; and they were comfortable, even rich, in the midst of squalor and abject poverty. There could be no tranquility in the face of such recognitions. Some writers responded to these harsh truths of independent society with disillusionment and a weary, "post-political" cynicism. The literature of disillusionment grew out of a feeling, experienced by many radical intellectuals, that they were becoming more and more socially marginalized as the drama of postcolonialism unfolded. 37 They felt isolated and ineffectual, stranded between the masses of the population on their left and the "political class" on their right. 38 Eventually a position was reached from which politics itself came to be mistrusted and despised. It is from just such a position that the Ghanaian writer Kofi Awoonor evidently wrote his novel, This Earth, My Brother (1971). To Awoonor, it would seem, the African revolution had failed because it had to fail, because no revolution was ever successful. Politics always promised more than it could deliver. There would always be victims, and they would always outnumber the lucky few who succeeded. And between the fortunate few and the unfortunate many there would always be the sad intellectuals, sensitive and compassionate like Amamu in This Earth, My Brother, but eternally destined to fail in the face of the granite rock of contingency, or to go mad struggling against it. Humankind was not made for happiness on earth. 39 Other radical writers managed to steer clear of the maudlin self-righteousness of This Earth, My Brother but still felt themselves crippled by their


Decolonization and African Intellectuals isolation and lack of social utility. In Chinua Achebe's A Man of the People ( 1966 ), for instance, a very bleak vision of Nigeria as leaderless and, more than this, as unleadable was offered. The novel represented much more than a satirical indictment of the grotesque self-interest of the Nigerian political elite, for it was saturated by its author's confusion and frustration. Patently, Achebe could imagine no solution to the growing lawlessness of civil society in postcolonial Nigeria, because it was beyond his understanding. At the end of the novel, he was only able to sound a highly dubious call to moral decency. On pain of death, integrity could not enter the arena of the political. Consider the last sentences of the novel. A good man, an activist campaigning for political office, is murdered by his opponents. In the moments following his assassination, his lover draws a gun and shoots the man responsible for his death. Reflecting on the incident, the narrator muses that it is just as well that revenge could be taken in this direct manner, because had events been allowed to follow their legal course, justice would never have been done: Max was avenged not by the people's collective will but by one solitary woman who loved him. Had his spirit waited for the people to demand redress it would have been waiting still, in the rain and out in the sun. But he was lucky. And I don't mean it to shock or to sound clever. For I do honestly believe that in the fat-dripping, gummy, eat-and-let-eat regime just ended-a regime which inspired the common saying that a man could only be sure of what he had put away safely in his gut ... ; a regime in which you saw a fellow cursed in the morning for stealing a blind man's stick and later in the evening saw him again mounting the altar of the new shrine in the presence of all the people to whisper into the ear of the new chief celebrant-in such a regime, I say you died a good death if your life had inspired someone to come forward and shoot your murderer in the chest-without asking to be paid. 40 Still other radical African writers of the 1960s tended to reach more militant conclusions than Achebe or Awoonor. The more these writers thought about the implications of their situation, the more they began to feel that they had been betrayed. As disseminated by the African political elite, the ideology of independence trumpeted that with the passing of colonialism everything had been restored to its proper place. But some writers were drawn increasingly to a very different conclusion. To them, it began to seem as though, from the perspective of the society at large, independence had altered very little and represented therefore only what "the man," the central protagonist in Ayi Kwei Armah's The Beautyful Ones Are Not ~t Born, thought of as "a change of embezzlers." 41 The net effect of independence, Armah himself elsewhere followed Fanon in observing, had merely been to substitute a black top for a white one on the colonial


Great Expectations and the Mourning After bottle. 42 The shape and contents of the bottle itself had remained intact during the transition. In nearly all of the literature of the 1960s, therefore, radical writers as different in other respects as Armah, Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Okot p'Bitek, and Ngfigi wa Thiong'o tended, in seeking to account for the stagnation of postcolonial society, to focus on the parasitism of the African political elite. In work after work, we find the elite exposed in all its ruthlessness and vulgarity: there is its ethic of conspicuous consumption, its corruption, its greed and crass materialism, and above all there is its atrocious lack of vision. Here, for example, is the narrative description, in Armah's second novel, Fragments ( 1970), of an afternoon gathering of some members of Ghana's "political class": This was a rich crowd of guests, too, sitting at first like a picture already taken. Woolen suits, flashing shoes, important crossed legs, bright rings showing on intertwined fingers held in front of restful bellies, an authentic cold-climate overcoat from Europe or America held travelerfashion over an arm, five or six waistcoats, silken ties and silver clasps, and a magnificent sane man in a university gown reigning over four admiring women in white lace covershirts on new dumas cloth; long, twinkling earrings, gold necklaces, quick-shining wristwatches, a great rich splendor stifling all these people in the warmth of a beautiful day-but that was only an addition to the wonder: the sweat called forth new white handkerchiefs brought out with a happy flourish, spreading perfume underneath the mango trees. 4 3 In The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born and Fragments, the pull to disillusion and despair is resisted and eventually overcome. In graphic language and imagery, Armah shows us a demeaning, degraded world that seems positively to invite despair, and which he peoples with characters, like Teacher in The Beautyful Ones, whose embrace of disillusion is so readily understandable that we wonder not at them, but rather at the other characters, like the central protagonist of that novel, "the man," who somehow find it within themselves to withstand disillusion. Teacher's rationality is simple, and deadly. He has lived through the days of hope, when it seemed that Africa had only to hold fast to its dreams in order to realize them, and he has witnessed the sickening collapse of these visions. Now hope has been drained out of him and replaced by despair. "It is not a choice between life and death," he tells us, "but what kind of death we can bear, in the end. Have you not seen there is no salvation anywhere." 44 This dissipative philosophy hangs over Armah's novels ofpostcolonialism like a curtain. Teacher's words remind us of Peter Abrahams's preface to A Wreath for Udomo (1956), where a couple of lines by Walt Whitman introduce a novel in which the revolution is betrayed by the very man who had led it to victory: 20

Decolonization and African Intellectuals Did we think victory great? So it is-But now it seems to me, when it cannot be helped, that defeat is great, And that death and dismay are great. 45 It has been said that the negative aspects of the worlds of Armah's novels are too all-embracing for the affirmative aspects to emerge as even potentially salvational. (Chinua Achebe once rather wittily observed that The Beautyful Ones is a novel in which "the hero, pale and passive and nameless ... wanders through the story in an anguished half-sleep, neck-deep in despair and human excrement of which we see rather a lot in the book.")46 But this is not how I read Armah's novels of postcolonialism. To me, the concreteness of his register seems necessary in order to ground the sheer achievement of the various leading protagonists in devising strategies for holding off disillusion. Taken together, The Beautyful Ones, Fragments, and Armah's third novel, Why Are We So Blest? ( 1972) offer a scalding critique of the irresponsibility of postcolonial leadership in Africa. They are all directed against the philistinism and ideological bankruptcy of the postcolonial elite. All portray this elite as a murderously hypocritical social fraction, living not only beyond their own means but beyond the means of their societies as a whole. They show us the elite, thus, as a kleptocracy, whose continuing wealth and power imply the continuing poverty and powerlessness of the peasants, proletarians, and marginals toiling below them. But Armah is also concerned in these three novels to look beyond the elite at the wider social implications of its existence. In this sense the novels are reminiscent of those of other oppositional writers, like Ngugi wa Thiong'o, who also sought to reaffirm their social commitment even in the darkest moments of postcolonial retrenchment. To these writers, struggling against despair and depleting cynicism in the face of developments in Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroun, Morocco, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Zaire, and elsewhere, it began to seem that the "African revolution" had not at all failed because it had to, but rather for the very specific reason that it had been sabotaged by its leaders. The history of postcolonialism thus began to loom, for them, as a history of betrayal. As Achebe would put it nearly twenty years later, in 1984, "Nigerians are what they are only because their leaders are not what they should be." 47 The revolution, in other words, had been betrayed because its leaders had realized, once independence had been won, that wealth, power, and privilege meant more to them than social justice. Their realization, in fact, had been that a precondition of wealth, power, and privilege was social injustice. Hence they had moved to consolidate what independence had bestowed upon them. 48 It was thus, in African literature, that the category of neocolonialism came to be taken up. Independence was a fraud. It signified a refinement of


Great Expectations and the Mourning After the colonial system, not its abolition. Armah described independence as an "equilibrating political arrangement"; 49 Achebe called it a "great collusive swindle";5o Arna Ata Aidoo referred-through the medium of Sissie, the central character in her novel Our Sister Killjoy-to "a dance of the masquerades called Independence";5 1 and Ngugi spoke of "flag independence," which meant a situation where a client indigenous government is ruling and oppressing people on behalf of American, European and Japanese capital. Such a regime acts as a policeman of international capital and often mortgages a whole country for arms and crumbs from the master's table. It never changes the colonial economy of development and uneven development. 52

As dramatically different from each other as many of the writers thus far mentioned are, there is one respect in which they are all immediately recognizable as writers of the first decade of independence. They are all concerned in their work, to the point of obsession, with independence as failure, with what independence did not bring, with the unraveling of the social unity that they firmly believed had been in evidence at the various ceremonies of independence. These are very much the concerns of intellectuals whom events have contrived to leave out in the cold. Throughout the 1960s, as the marginalization of radical intellectuals advanced, so too did the intensity and the introspection of their work. Writers began to belabor themselves with questions: What had gone wrong? Why? How? How had "the revolution" been subverted? How had "the masses" been demobilized? How could activists have allowed themselves to be so easily coopted? When we look back at these questions today, we find ourselves moved still by their ethical resonance, but skeptical as to their appropriateness. The reasons for our skepticism are simple: in the years since the 1960s, Africanist scholarship has tended to support the view that the "setbacks and defeats" of the postcolonial era were unavoidable, since they derived largely from "inherited problems" that were structural in nature. 53 The historian Basil Davidson, for example, has urged us to remember, when we think of the passage of independence in Africa, that "what the new governments were obliged to take over ... was not a prosperous colonial business, but, in many ways, a profound colonial crisis."5 4 Elsewhere, Davidson has written further of the unavoidable, structural problems that African leaders had to contend with in assuming power. In a striking metaphor, he has drawn our


Decolonization and African Intellectuals attention to the fact that the "dish" that the new leaders were handed on the day of independence was old and cracked and little fit for any further use. Worse than that, it was not an empty dish. For it carried the junk and jumble of a century of colonial muddle and "make do," and this the new ... ministers had to accept along with the dish itself. What shone upon its supposedly golden surface was not the reflection of new ideas and ways of liberation, but the shadows of old ideas and ways of servitude. 55 If Davidson is right-and there now exists a veritable battery of evidence that could be adduced in support of his argument-then it follows that the expectations of independence that were current at the time of decolonization and that continued, negatively, to inform the problematic of postcolonialism for at least a decade, were unrealistic from the very beginning, even as they were first being articulated. It is impossible to overemphasize the significance of this point. In spite of the positive rhetoric of anticolonialism, and the bitter lamentations of dismayed intellectuals in the independence era, the decolonizing process was not a revolutionary one. As Ian Clegg has observed, with respect to Algeria, "The error of the avant-garde was ... to misconstrue the nature of the revolution .... they were led to simplify the class structures of Algerian society. They also failed to appreciate the true state of the consciousness of the working class .... Before it had really taken place, the revolution was institutionalized and reified into a series of symbolic forms.'' 56 I have already cited the agonized reminiscence, in Armah's The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, to the effect that, during the decolonizing years, "at last something good was being born. It was there. We were not deceived about that." The truth, however, would seem to be just the reverse, since these years did not in fact mark the birth of the revolutionary "good," but only an uncharacteristically resonant moment in the struggle to bring it about. Where Arthur Ravenscroft has characterized The Beautyful Ones and other novels of its time as definitive of the genre of "disillusionment" in African fiction, therefore, we are now obliged to protest the inappositeness of his terminology. For such works were not "disillusioned." On the contrary, they remained fundamentally "illusioned." Above all, they remained possessed of the illusion that the era of independence marked a revolutionary conjuncture in African societies. It was this illusion that motivated the intellectual obsession with loss and failure and betrayal in these works of the 1960s. As such the prevalent way of thinking about postcolonialism, as it was articulated during that decade, can be said to have been predicated upon a preliminary overestimation of the emancipatory potential of independence. For much of the decade following independence, writers and intellectuals could not see that their preoccupation with the subjects of


Great Expectations and the Mourning After betrayal, blindness, corruption, and decadence were rooted in expectations that right from the start had been drastically inflated. Expecting much too much in 1960, they became much too cynical in 1968; or much too despairridden, or too ready to cry betrayal. The German social philosopher Max Horkheimer once wrote that progressive intellectuals who were uncritical in their celebration of social victories only set themselves up to be disappointed later, by defeats. "When the optimism is shattered in periods of crushing defeat," he observed, "many intellectuals risk falling into a pessimism about society and a nihilism which are just as ungrounded as their exaggerated optimism had been." 57 Horkheimer had in mind the radical European intelligentsia of the 1920s and 1930s. It could be argued that his observation is relevant to the intellectuals of any "post-revolutionary" conjuncture: whether in Europe after 1848 or 1917 or 1968, Latin America after independence in the 1820s, Mexico after the revolution of 1910, or India after 1947. Certainly, his formulation seems apposite to radical African writers of the 1960s.

Toward the end of the 1960s, this mystique of independence began, for the first time, to be exploded. The attack was launched on several fronts. Within the domain of politics, as Emmanuel Ngara has recently argued, "a new ideological awareness was beginning to dawn on some of the statesmen and, in particular, on leaders of nationalist movements still fighting for independence."58 Central to this "new ideological awareness" was a widespread disenchantment with bourgeois progressivism. It began to seem to radical leaders and intellectuals that it was not-indeed, never had been-sufficient for them to place themselves on the side of the masses of their compatriots; rather, they needed to commit "class suicide," to unclass themselves, to identify wholly with "the masses" by way of rendering effective their revolutionary commitment to national liberation. Certainly, this was the position adopted by such leaders as Amilcar Cabral, Eduardo Mondlane, Agostinho Neto, Samora Machel, and Robert Mugabe as their struggles against obdurate colonial regimes in Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, and Zimbabwe intensified. It was also the position belatedly assumed by such figures as Nkrumah and Nyerere. In Nkrumah's case, we can argue that it took his own ouster as president of Ghana to disabuse him of the illusions of progressivism; in Nyerere's, we can see the famous Arusha Declaration of 196 7 as his own public statement of radical rebirth. In each case, however, it is clear that between the early champion of progressive nationalism and the later, more principled advocate of revolution or national liberation, there was a wide gulf. One would not have found the early Nkrumah writing, as did the later, that 24

Decolonization and African Intellectuals Intelligentsia and intellectuals, if they are to play a part in the African Revolution, must become conscious of the class struggle in Africa, and align themselves with the oppressed masses. This involves the difficult, but not impossible, task of cutting themselves free from bourgeois attitudes and ideologies imbibed as a result of colonialist education and propaganda. 59 Nor, by the same token, would one have found Nyerere in his early years as leader maintaining, as he did after the Arusha Declaration, that We have to be part of the society which we are changing; we have to work from within it, and not try to descend like ancient gods, do something, and disappear again. A country, or a village, or a community, cannot be developed: it can only develop itself. For real development means the development, the growth, of people. 6 0 Within literature, too, the old sureties were breaking down, and writers began to ask themselves new questions. Specifically, the articulations of cynicism and despair in the face of postcolonial developments began to seem increasingly inappropriate, a luxury that African writers simply could not afford. For one thing, it became clear that no matter how often or how obsessively the trajectory of independence was rehearsed as a "great collusive swindle," the effects of this "swindle" had to be lived with, and if possible struggled against. For another thing, it began belatedly to be appreciated that independence had all along been mythologized, above all by intellectuals, and credited with an emancipatory potential that it could not possibly have achieved. Thus we find wa Thiong' o, in a decisive turn, charging African writers in 196 7 with having neglected their historical responsibilities toward the population at large: When we, the black intellectuals, the black bourgeoisie, got the power, we never tried to bring about those policies which would be in harmony with the needs of the peasants and workers. I think it is time that the African writers also started to talk in the terms of these workers and peasants. 61 The epochal significance of this turn in's thinking has been well glossed by Emmanuel Ngara: By 1967 Ngugi felt that the African writer had failed. The failure referred to here was in fact not that of the African writer alone. It resulted from the failure of the African bourgeoisie to give meaningful freedom and independence to the broad masses of the people ... In less than a decade of their rule, many African leaders proved that they were incapable of shaking off the shackles of neo-colonialism . . . The essence of Ngugi's complaint, therefore, was that by failing to challenge this new state of affairs, the African writer was guilty of neglecting his 25

Great Expectations and the Mourning After duty to society in general and to the African masses in particular ... [I]t was now incumbent upon [the writer] to throw in his lot with the masses once more by confronting the ideology of the new ruling elite. A new rift had surfaced in independent Africa, not between Blacks and Whites, but between the haves and have-nots, what Ngugi has called a "horizontal rift dividing the elite from the mass of the people". 62 Following Ngiigi's lead, writers began to appreciate that they needed to change their tactics if they wanted to combat their growing social ineffectualness. It began to seem to them that whatever they were doing, it was not enough. Several leading writers began to ask fundamental questions about the nature and purpose of radical intellectualism in postcolonial societies. The questions they asked touched on every aspect of their practice as writers: For whom were they writing? Who was reading their work? Who was publishing and distributing it? Was it possible to broaden the base of their readership by establishing alternative channels of production and distribution? Did they possess the means to tap these channels, and what exactly would it take for them to do so? Would they need to write in different languages, in different ways, about different things? Should they experiment with new media, such as film and television? All of these questions had to do with the potential democratization of African culture. A literature written by the elite, about the elite, and for the consumption of the elite simply could not, in the end, bear the burden of social activism. Writers began to cast around for new forms and styles of writing that would enable them to escape the hidebound implications of their intellectualism. 63 I shall return to the subject of these wholesale reconceptualizations of the status and objectives of literature in Africa in the concluding chapter. My chief concern in this book, however, is with African literature in the years between independence and these reconceptualizations, that is, in the years of postcolonialism before it began to seem imperative to African writers that they rethink the fundamentals of their craft. And since the general argument that I wish to make is that the work of Ayi Kwei Armah is exemplary of this period in modern African literary history-a period that occupies no more than fifteen years, from the time of Ghana's independence in 1957 to the beginning of the l 970s-I turn now to a discussion of Armah and his ideas.



From Frantz Fanon to Ayi Kwei Armah Messianism and the Representation of Postcolonialism

Ayi Kwei Armah's first three novels-The Beautyful Ones Are Not

m Born ( 1968), Fragments ( 1970), and Why Are We So Blest? ( 1972)-are all set in postcolonial Africa. Any attempt to delineate the conceptual horizon of these three novels must take the work of Frantz Fanon as its point of departure. Armah's intellectual debt to Fanon is profound, and freely acknowledged. Unless Fanon is understood, Armah himself wrote in "Fanon: the Awakener," a 1969 essay, "we'll never get where we need to go. We may move without him, but only blindly, wasting energy." 1 Specifically, we must return to Fanon's theorization of the African revolution. In outlining the terms of this theorization in chapter 1, I drew attention to two rather contradictory strains in Fanon's writing. There was his "partyist" orientation, in terms of which the problems of articulating a revolutionary avant-garde with an oppressed and resistive but unorganized mass of the colonized population were considered in compellingly dialectical fashion. And there was his "messianism," in terms of which the moments of (revolutionary) consciousness and (spontaneous) resistance were telescoped together in a prophetic register that made it sound as though the hour of revolution in Africa had already announced itself and needed only to be recognized in order to sweep away all obstacles to its successful realization. I will now consider these "tendencies" in Fanon's work a little more closely, examining them through the lens of independence in Africa. In his "partyist" aspect, Fanon is quite unambiguous about African independence. Independence involves merely a placing of colonial social relations onto a new, and more mediated, basis, that of neocolonialism. Nothing essential changes at independence. Above all, "[t]he national economy of the period of independence is not set on a new footing. It is still concerned with the groundnut harvest, with the cocoa crop and the olive yield. In the same way there is no change in the marketing of basic products, and not a single industry is set up in the country. We go on sending out raw materials; we go on being Europe's small farmers, who specialize in unfinished prod-


From Frantz Fanon to Ayi Kwei Armah ucts." 2 The nationalist bourgeoisies, which, all over Africa, assume power in the ex-colonies that now thrust themselves into the international limelight as sovereign independent states, represent a wholly parasitic social fraction. From the perspective ofliberation, in fact, Fanon describes them as "literally ... good for nothing ... When [the nationalist bourgeoisie] has vanished, devoured by its own contradictions, it will be seen that ... everything must be started again from scratch .... since that caste has done nothing more than take over unchanged the legacy of the economy, the thought, and the institutions left by the colonialists" (WE 176). This seems perfectly clear, if distressingly bleak. The suggestion is that independence functions to perpetuate imperialist domination while throwing the national liberation forces off balance. Thus when, in his 1969 essay, Armah presents Fanon's thought to us, he reaches what would seem to be the appropriate conclusion: Africa under white European power was divided into a number of colonies for easier control. The entire economy of the continent was planned to serve not the African people but the European and American masters. Independence did not mean that this enslaving arrangement was destroyed. On the contrary, in place of white governors working to keep the African people down we have African heads of state and their parasitic elite maintaining the same old exploitative system in which the economy served European and American needs. The African ruling classes do not rule in the interests of African people. If they function at all, they function as agents of white power. 3 Unexplained to this point, of course, is the question of why imperialism should have been obliged to elaborate the "strategy" of independence in the first instance. Why, to use a recent metaphor of Armah's, was it necessary to shift "the colonial machine shredding Africa into neocolonial gear"? 4 Fanon's answer to this question is that, if it is appropriate to interpret independence as an exercise in imperial legitimation, functioning to throw the national liberation forces off balance, its ideological precondition must be seen to consist, paradoxically, in the weakening of colonialism as a mode of imperialist governance, consequent upon the anticolonial militancy of the decolonizing years. As a mode of governance, colonialism had become indefensible-not morally, for this was not a particular concern of the colonizing powers, but politically and economically. In the era of independence, however, "[c]olonialism, which had been shaken to its very foundations by the birth of African unity, recovers its balance and tries ... to break that will to unity by using all the movement's weaknesses" (WE 160). In other words, if independence is to be regarded as an imperialist "ploy," it


Messianism and the Representation of Postcolonialism must be viewed as a ploy mandated by the "upward thrust of the people" (WE 164), by "the people's" ultimately irresistible mobilization for liberation. In speaking of "the upward thrust of the people," of their "will to unity," Fanon provides us with a number of concrete examples, drawn from the years of the "liberation struggle" in Algeria. We are invited to observe the fruits of a purposive dialectical interaction between the revolutionary cadres of the FLN (Front de Liberation Nationale) and "the Algerian people." Fanon suggests, thus, that One of the greatest services that the Algerian revolution will have rendered to the intellectuals of Algeria will be to have placed them in contact with the people, to have allowed them to see the extreme, ineffable poverty of the people, at the same time allowing them to watch the awakening of the people's intelligence and the onward progress of their consciousness. The Algerian people, that mass of starving illiterates, those men and women plunged for centuries in the most appalling obscurity have held out against tanks and airplanes, against napalm and "psychological services," but above all against corruption and brainwashing, against traitors and against the "national" armies of General Bellounis. This people has held out in spite of hesitant or feeble individuals, and in spite of would-be dictators. This people has held out because for seven years its struggle has opened up for it vistas that it never dreamed existed. Today, arms factories are working in the midst of the mountains several yards underground; today, the people's tribunals are functioning at every level, and local planning commissions are organizing the division of large-scale holdings, and working out the Algeria of tomorrow. [WE 188) In spite of their ethical power, it is precisely in such passages as these in Fanon's work that the problem of messianism arises. Briefly, Fanon's evocations present us with a revolution in the making. The masses have been "awakened." Through struggle and through organization they have "come to know themselves. They have decided, in the name of the whole continent, to weigh in strongly against the colonial regime" (WE 164). Through struggle and through organization, they have become "an adult people, responsible and fully conscious of [their] ... responsibilities" (WE 193 ). Admittedly, the road to liberation is a long one, and the journey is not only not concluded at independence but is, rather, only latterly begun. But that it has begun, and that its momentum is growing and irreversible, seems to Fanon indisputable. It is not for nothing that he refers to a "coordinated effort on the part of two hundred and fifty million men to triumph over stupidity, hunger, and inhumanity at one and the same time" (WE 164). Attractive though they might seem, the insufficiency of these premises


From Frantz Fanon to Ayi Kwei Armah has been exposed brutally by history. Fanon's examples are drawn from the struggle in Algeria, he tells us, not at all with the intention of glorifying our own people, but simply to show the important part played by the war in leading them toward consciousness of themselves. It is clear that other peoples have come to the same conclusion in different ways. We know for sure today that in Algeria the test of force was inevitable; but other countries through political action and through the work of clarification undertaken by a party have held their people to the same results. In Algeria, we have realized that the masses are equal to the problems which confront them. [WE 193) The verdict of history mocks these brave words. Fanon died in 1961. In 1962, independence came to Algeria, after a war against the French colonial forces that had lasted for eight years and claimed a million Algerian lives. By the mid-l 960s, however, the "revolution" had, as Ian Clegg narrates, already run demonstrably aground: In just over five years the Algerian revolution ha[ d] been recuperated, institutionalized, and then emasculated by a new bourgeois elite firmly entrenched in the state and party. The comites de gestion had been suppressed or existed in name only. Autogestion, once so proudly proclaimed as Algeria's contribution to the construction of revolutionary societies in the Third World, had given way to a banal state capitalism. The original leaders, of whatever political complexion, had been replaced by previously unknown careerists and bureaucrats. 5 Far from proving "equal to the problems which confront[ed] them," the masses of the Algerian population were once again disenfranchised in independence. Far from continuing to build upon their achievements of the anticolonial war, to intensify their militancy, and to speak "in the name of the whole continent," they found themselves once again divided and unheeded. Far from demolishing the patriarchal domination of women in Algerian society by securing "the birth of a new woman," they failed quite categorically to fuse "the destruction of colonialism" with the question of women's emancipation. 6 Given Fanon's revolutionary optimism, how are these "setbacks and defeats" of the postcolonial era to be accounted for? 7 It is worth repeating that, for Fanon in his "partyist" aspect at least, the moment of independence is not to be confused with that of revolution. It would be wrong, therefore, to suggest that his theorization of the African revolution is rendered invalid by the failure of postcolonial regimes to effect a revolutionary transformation of Algerian society. But it would not be wrong to raise the question of consciousness, to ask whether the wholesale demobilization of "the masses"


Messianism and the Representation of Postcolonialism in the postcolonial era can possibly be reconciled with Fanon's portrait of a disciplined and progressively unified force that, during the struggle against the French, had stood proof against tanks and torture and terrorist raids. It is precisely this question, indeed, that Ian Clegg asks in advancing his critique of the "fallacies of Fanonism": Fanon ... is at pains to emphasize the effect that participation in revolt has on the development of consciousness ... In L'an V de la revolution algerienne he prophesies that the participation of Algerian women in the struggle against colonialism foreshadows their liberation from traditional male dominance. The fact that this liberation was not achieved after independence is symptomatic of the underlying fallacies of Fanonism. Neither the peasantry nor the subproletariat played any other than a purely negative role in the events after independence. Involvement in the revolt against the French did not transform their consciousness. Fanonism ... lacks a critical and dialectical analysis of the process of the formation of consciousness. 8 The explanation that Fanon offers in The Wretched of the Earth for this dissipation of mass militancy after independence turns on the role allegedly played by populist leadership. Writing before Algeria and most other African colonies had attained independence, but with the example of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana (whose postcolonial policies he had been able to examine first hand during numerous visits to Accra between 1957 and his death four years later) firmly if implicitly in mind, Fanon speaks of a dynamic leader, a "man of the people," who will have "behind him a lifetime of political action and devoted patriotism," but whose opjective historical role in the independence era it will become to "constitute a screen between the people and the rapacious bourgeoisie" (WE 167-68). This leader might play his role wittingly or unwittingly; but play it he must. During the anticolonial struggle it may have been possible for him to represent the interests of "the people" while working within the party structures of the national bourgeoisie. After independence, this practice will become impossible. Increasingly, his new class situation will render this leader's ideological pronouncements on behalf of "the people" actively hypocritical. 9 It will then become his preeminent task not to lead but to "pacif[y] the people": For years on end after independence has been won, we see [the leader] incapable of urging on the people to a concrete task, unable really to open the future to them or of flinging them into the path of national reconstruction, that is to say, of their own reconstruction; we see him reassessing the history of independence and recalling the sacred unity of the struggle for liberation.... During the struggle for liberation the leader awakened the people and promised them a forward march,


From Frantz Fanon to Ayi Kwei Armah heroic and unmitigated. Today, he uses every means to put them to sleep, and three or four times a year asks them to remember the colonial period and to look back on the long way they have come since then. [WE 168-69] This theorization of the duplicitous role of populist leadership in the era of postcolonialism is conceptually mandated, in Fanon's work, by the need to account for the fragmentation of the national liberation forces after independence. It is, as suth, only necessary to the extent that the national liberation forces-"the people"-are seen to have acted as a revolutionary class in the anticolonial struggle. And this, of course, is precisely where Fanon's messianism is implicated. Fanon calls upon us to interpret the mobilization of "the masses" during the struggle against the French colonial forces as a mature and responsible taking up, on their part, of the burden of revolution. Yet he also asks us to accept that, at independence, these newly mobilized "masses" will allow themselves to be "demobilized," that is, to be disarmed (even if only temporarily), by the empty promises of the new leadership. The contradiction between these two claims is merely softened, not dissolved, by the insertion of the populist "man of the people" between leaders and led in the postcolonial society. The most plausible explanation for the fragmentation of the national liberation forces after independence remains invisible to Fanon: namely that, far from "splintering" after independence, these forces had only seemed to be united before it. Fanon speaks adamantly of the "awakening" of "the· people," of their "intelligence and the onward progress of their consciousness." One is led increasingly to the conclusion that what is at issue here is either an intellectualist romanticization of "the people" as spontaneously revolutionary or, more likely, a messianic misreading of their political bearing during the anticolonial struggle. For if the numerous studies of the Algerian war against the French colonial forces have tended to any single conclusion, it is, as Clegg has observed, that" [t]he involvement of the population of the traditional rural areas in the independence struggle must be clearly separated from their passivity in face of its revolutionary aftermath. The peasants were fighting for what they regarded as their inheritance: a heritage firmly rooted in the Arab, Berber, and Islamic past. Their consciousness was rooted in the values and traditions of this past, and their aim was its re-creation." 1 0 In taking up arms against the French, in other words, the Algerian peasants were fighting a traditionalist fight to reestablish a way of life that colonialism had decimated. In spite of the proselytizing work of revolutionaries like Fanon, the peasants were not aiming their actions at the "Algeria of tomorrow," but seeking, rather, to restore that of yesterday. If this critique seems decisive, it is, nevertheless, worth emphasizing the


Messianism and the Representation of Postcolonialism integrity of Fanon's position. Having previously suggested (however erroneously) that in struggling against the French colonial forces, "the masses" were on their way to making a revolution, Fanon does not reverse himself in speculating that after independence they will allow themselves to be lulled into quiescence or conformism. On the contrary, he maintains that their belated "awakening" in the anticolonial era is irreversible. Having been "awakened," they will never again permit themselves to be "put back to sleep." The populist leader's attempts to pacify them by telling them that the battle has been fought and won, and that they have come such a long way in so short a time, will ultimately be made in vain: Now it must be said that the masses show themselves totally incapable of appreciating the long way they have come. The peasant who goes on scratching out a living from the soil, and the unemployed man who never finds employment do not manage, in spite of public holidays and flags, new and brightly colored though they may be, to convince themselves that anything has really changed in their lives. The bourgeoisie who are in power vainly increase the number of processions; the masses have no illusions. [WE 169] The disarming of "the masses" after independence by the screening maneuvers of populist leaders will prove only temporary. Sooner or later, they will "see through" the screen: "the masses begin to sulk" (WE 169); "slowly they awaken to the unutterable treason of their leaders"; "a decisive awakening on the part of the people, and a growing awareness that promises stormy days to come"; "[a]t one and the same time the poverty of the people, the immoderate money-making of the bourgeois caste, and its wides}:>read scorn for the rest of the nation will harden thought and action" (WE 167). To the extent that independence constitutes an imperialist "ploy," in other words, functioning to secure the continuation of colonial relations by other means, its immediate ideological effect will be to retard the forward movement of the revolution. But once set on track, the train of the revolution cannot permanently be derailed. "The awakening of the whole people will not come about all at once; the people's work in the building of the nation will not immediately take on its full dimensions (WE 193 ). But that "the whole people's" "awakening" will come about in due course, Fanon leaves us in no doubt. In this affirmative vision lies his power as a theorist of revolution.

Fanon's thoughts about national liberation and independence are construed, sharpened, stretched, and ultimately turned against them-


From Frantz Fanon to Ayi Kwei Armah selves in the thought of Ayi Kwei Armah. Armah was born in SekondiTakoradi in Ghana (then the colony of the Gold Coast) in 1939. This brief statement already implies a disposition: for Sekondi-Takoradi was a major port city, with a large, relatively proletarianized, and politically active population; Ghana was the "Black Star" of Africa, the first colony in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve political independence from the colonial powers; and the year of Armah's birth, as Robert Fraser has noted, "place[d] him within a generation whose experience of the political development of West Africa [was] unique." 11 The resonance of these skeletal biographical details was to be amplified in the course of Armah's education. His secondary and sixth-form schooling were completed at Achimota College, just outside Accra. 12 Achimota had been established by the colonial government shortly after World War I with the express mandate to educate future leaders of the colony. It was to be to the Gold Coast what Eton and Harrow were to England. Among its early recruits had been Kwame Nkrumah, who had graduated from Achimota in 1930. n By the time Armah entered the school, in the early 1950s, its reputation as "one of the finest secondary schools in all Africa" was solidly grounded. 14 At the same time-and unavoidably, since a disproportionate number of the leading nationalist politicians in the colony were its graduates-it had become also a highly politicizing institution in a sense not anticipated by its colonial founders. Students attending Achimota found themselves thrown into a passionately charged ideological atmosphere, where questions of "Self-Government" and nationalism were debated on a daily basis. Achimota's students rode the crest of the wave of anticolonialism during the 1950s. Those who had committed themselves to Nkrumah's cause advanced from one triumph to another as his Convention People's Party swept all before it in the years leading up to independence. Armah was unambiguously to be numbered among this party's members. In 1957, at the time of Ghana's independence, he was seventeen years old. In 1959, after a brief apprenticeship at Radio Ghana, Armah left Africa for the United States. He spent a year at Groton, a prepratory school in Massachusetts, before entering Harvard in the fall of 1960. He never completed his degree at Harvard. Armah had enteFed the university proposing to major in literature. Before the end of his first year, he had switched his concentration to the social sciences; his "centre of interest," as he himself has recently explained, had "shifted from the contemplation of arrangements of symbols, images and words, to a scrutiny of the arrangements of the social realities buried under those words, images and symbols." 15 This shift bespeaks a further radicalization of Armah's intellect, a radicalization that would have been prompted more by developments outside the university than within it. He observes, for instance, that his decision to switch the focus of his study was deeply motivated by the need he felt to comprehend the


Messianism and the Representation of Postcolonialism implications of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the Congolese anticolonialist leader who (rather like Nkrumah in Ghana) "had worked to create a unified national movement in a fragmented land, had come to power through democratic elections, and, to judge by all he said, aspired to move together with all Africans from a servile to an independent, selfreliant status."16 Nor could Armah have remained uninfluenced by events on the domestic American front. It must be remembered that the early 1960s saw a burgeoning of political activism throughout the United States. Robert Fraser provides a succinct assessment of the radicalizing effect of this activism on Armah's thought. Armah's years in the United States, he writes, correspond almost exactly to the most turbulent period in recent black American politics. It was then that the Kennedy and Johnson administrations felt the full brunt of the Civil Rights Movement which did so much to induce self-respect and political solidarity among people of African descent. The experience of confrontation of a more stridently racial variety combined with the candid rhetoric ofrevolt can be seen to have affected Armah's thinking positively. To summarize, this is observable in two ways. First there is his deep ingrained suspicion of the selfdefensive antics by means of which a white elite attempts to bolster up its supremacy ... Secondly, there is the strongly embedded belief that black people must carve out their own destiny independent of the corrosive influences of white contact. Historically, this insight derives from the writings of the Jamaican thinker Marcus Garvey (18871940), a man whose philosophy also influenced Nkrumah. There was, however, a marked revival of such thinking in the 1960s, finding its ultimate expression in the Black Muslim Movement.17 In these terms it is perhaps not surprising that by the beginning of his final year at Harvard, in 1963, Armah had reached the decision not to complete his undergraduate studies. He writes that "such matters as academic kudos, social status and professional careers had already come to seem profoundly irrelevant to me." 18 This decision ought not, however, to be interpreted in the light of a spurious protest against the formalities of academia. Armah did not "drop out." Rather, 'Td been trying to decide what my lifework was to be .... I had decided, if possible, to work with the liberation movements in southern Africa, all involved, from my perspective, in the same fundamental process. I left Harvard on receipt of what, after preliminary contacts, seemed to me a clear signal that those I sought to work with were ready to welcome me."19 If we "freeze" Armah's intellectual outlook at the point of this decision to leave Harvard and America for the southern African liberation front, we are presented with a specific and clearly demarcated constellation. The young


From Frantz Fanon to Ayi Kwei Armah supporter of Nkrumah has become a (pan)African revolutionary. He identifies himself "not simply as an Akan, an Ewe, a Ghanaian and a West African, but most strongly and significantly as an African." 20 Ethnic, linguistic, national, and regional ties are not denied, but are considered secondary to an overarching political consciousness of self as an African, an identity neither strictly continental nor strictly racial, but strongly implicated in both taxonomies. It is, moreover, in these terms that Armah calls for revolution: the task as he sees it is to overthrow not simply colonialism, but imperialism, to create the conditions of possibility of what he has often called "creative" African leadership. These twin instances of "Africanity" and revolutionism, already present in 1963 as the pillars upon which the young Armah had elaborated his political philosophy, have continued to undergird his thinking ever since. The African revolution is still held to be an indispensable necessity, the sine qua non of liberation. Yet this formulation will not in itself enable us to understand the conceptual universe of Armah's fiction. For between the outlook with which the young student had set out in 1963 and the outlook of his first three novels, published between 1968 and 1972, there is an immense difference of perspective. The student's outlook had been an affirmative vision, modeled on the writings of Fanon. Armah had decided that his "lifework" would be revolution. Revolution, Fanon's African revolution, had seemed to him not only necessary, but also a practical possibility. Indeed, it had seemed not merely possible, it had seemed actually to be taking place while Armah himself was spending his time-under the circumstances, dallying-in America. Fraser has described this cast of mind extremely well: For Armah, as for many at this period, the African revolution was a matter of strict necessity. So much was axiomatic and time has done little to mitigate its force. However, in the heady atmosphere of that time, it must have seemed not only necessary, but also imminent. Schooled as Armah was on Nkrumah's peremptory and effective demands for "Self-Government Now" together with the teachings of men like Malcolm X that the bastion of white supremacy was fatally breached and about to fall, it must have appeared that the hour of reckoning was nigh. To adapt the title of his first novel, the "beautyful ones" seemed not only to be born but actually storming the battlements. 21 In his third novel, Why Are We So Blest?, Armah describes what he calls the "initiation" of a young African man, Solo, who returns to Africa after studying abroad for a few years, eager to enlist in the forces fighting for the liberation of his homeland from Portuguese colonialism. Traveling to the front Solo discovers to his unimaginable horror that the "revolution" is


Messianism and the Representation of Postcolonialism being corrupted by its leaders even as it is being waged. "What if you find inequalities within the struggle to end inequality?" he asks, and to him the question seems unanswerable. Recoiling from what he has seen, he suffers a breakdown: The initiation was a quick death of the hopeful spirit. For days my body shook with the realization. Refusing to renew itself, rejecting sustenance, it threw out life already stored in it. All my apertures ran with fluid, living and dead, escaping a body unwilling to hold them: blood, urine, vomit, tears, diarrhea, pus. This particular place I had come to was no place of sharing. No sharing, but the same struggle for privilege, going on in this terrain of my dreams with a biting intensity inside the attempt itself to overturn privilege. More. Here privilege meant life, immediate survival; at the other end, men filled with hope came to fight for life, and unprotected, found a stupid death. 22 Armah's itinerary seems to have been similar to Solo's. Armed only with what proved to be illusions about the new world that the "coordinated effort" ofFanon's 250 million wretched of the earth were supposed to be in the revolutionary process of bringing into existence, he traveled 7 ,000 miles over four continents in less than a year in a desperate and unavailing exercise to find "the terrain of [his] dreams":23 Nine months after I'd left Harvard, I found myself with only one exit. It led back to the world I'd sought not simply to abandon but to work actively against. Less importantly, my health, till then always excellent, had been destroyed by months of malnourishment, poor accommodation and sheer uncertainty. For the first time in my life I was ill enough to be hospitalised, first in Algiers, then in Boston. It's an understatement to say I had a nervous breakdown: it was my entire being, body and soul, that had broken down.2 4 Armah's experiences in Africa, Asia, and Central America, truncated though they had been, had convinced him that the "really creative work" of "changing [the imperialized world's] social realities for the better" was nowhere being conducted. 25 Everywhere, as in Algeria, so-called revolutions were being recuperated and institutionalized, and new regimes were moving smartly to enthrone themselves in the very positions of power and privilege only lately vacated by departing colonial administrations. Worse, even the progressive forces that had supposedly been responsible for the retreat of colonialism seemed to have been dissolved or destabilized by the smokescreen of independence. Armah, at least, could discern no resistive agencies to which his .revolutionary commitment might meaningfully be given. If revolution, thus, remained indispensable, it also came to him to seem impossible.


From Frantz Fanon to Ayi Kwei Armah This insight brings us up against the horizon within which Armah's three novels ofpostcolonialism take shape. The African revolution is essential but impossible; it must take place but it cannot. The enigma is raised as a unanswerable question in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, his first novel: "The future goodness may come eventually, but before then where were the things in the present which would prepare for it?" 26 The novels set themselves the task of accounting for this agonizing historical contradiction, by way of combating it. They are predicated on failure, against which they struggle. Ideally, it seems, Armah would prefer not to be a writer. Indeed, in an article published in 1984, he distinguishes categorically between intellectualism and revolutionism, observing that "[a] revolutionary is a participant, in actual praxis, in a movement that overturns an oppressive social system, replacing the oppressive rulers with the oppressed. By this definition Lenin, Mao, Giap, Ho, Fanon and Cabral were revolutionaries."2 7 But by his reckoning the universe of postcolonialism looms as profoundly unpropitious for revolutionary practice. And in such times and under such circumstances, he speculates, creative writing might be defended as a mode of activity, even if only negatively so. Thus it is that Armah presents us, in "One Writer's Education" ( 1985), with the following autobiographical apology for the vocation to which, in the days and months following his breakdown in 1963, he reluctantly committed himself: The physical damage alone took months in hospital to repair. After that a worse problem remained: how to work up some semblance of motivation for living in a world dying for change, but which I couldn't help to change. I knew I could write, but the question that immobilised me then remains to this day: of what creative use are skillfully arranged words when the really creative work-changing Africa's social realities for the better-remains inaccessible ... In the end, I waited till I felt marginally strong enough, then made the inescapable decision: I would revert to writing, not indeed as the most creative option, but as the least parasitic option open to me. When I returned to Ghana in 1964, there was nothing at home so unexpected as to shock me. Rather, I was in the position of a spore which, having finally accepted its destiny as a fungus, still wonders if it might produce penicillin.2s

This final image of the self-conscious spore hoping against hope that its existence will not prove wholly parasitic, is densely suggestive. And yet, if we pause to examine the presuppositions upon which it is based, we encounter fundamental difficulties. In general, these difficulties can be said


Messianism and the Representation of Postcolonialism to derive from Armah's initial construal, and subsequent attempted revision, of Fanon's theory of the African revolution. The young (pan)African revolutionary of 1963, calling for the overthrow of imperialist social relations, believing this to be a task already taken up and discernible in the "wind of change" sweeping through Africa in the decolonizing years, was patently guilty of that dramatic conflation of independence and revolution that, with respect to Fanon, we have characterized as messianic. Of course, this was before Armah's "initiation," before his disillusioning travels in search of revolution, and before the nervous breakdown that followed these travels. To the extent that his misadventures in 1963 exposed Armah only to the prospect of the euphoria of independence faltering into the hardship and sterility of neocolonialism, one might suppose that they served to "cure" him of his messianism, to imbue him with weary cynicism and despair. They did not, however. Although it becomes the burden of Armah's writing to account for the setbacks ofpostcolonialism, he never quite abandons his initial messianic conception of decolonization as a time of revolutionary uplift. The conflation of independence and revolution is never finally overcome in his work. Thus when, in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, for instance, Teacher thinks back to the days of Nkrumah's anticolonial campaign, and characterizes them as "days when men were not ashamed to talk of souls and of suffering and of hope," there is not the slightest trace of selfconscious doubt on his part-or, behind him, on that of Armah's authorial intelligence-as to the validity of this assessment. 2 9 By the same token, Armah never moves to question the sufficiency of Fanon's messianic perception of the situation in Algeria in the decolonizing years. On the contrary: as late as 1969 he is still able to state that to read Fanon's A Dying Colonialism is to witness "the new Algerian nation in motion." It is to "find a whole society, once hopelessly fragmented, corning together, reshaping itself. In that process we see slaves achieving their own humanity through their own planned, thought-out action: beaten things becoming men, beaten things becoming women." 30 The fact that Armah had himself visited Algeria six years before writing these words and had, even then, found not a shred of evidence of the revolutionary unity celebrated by Fanon, is suppressed altogether here. Fanon's representations are evidently to be affirmed even where subsequent developments have savagely undermined their plausibility. Yet Armah does inevitably move to take some distance from Fanon's formulations. Ultimately, given the ubiquity and the enormity of the setbacks of postcolonialism, it would have been impossible for him not to do so. We know that Fanon had argued that in the period immediately following independence, the "upward thrust of the people" would be temporarily retarded by the emergence of a populist leader whose objective role it would


From Frantz Fanon to Ayi Kwei Armah be to "pacify" those fighting for "genuine" national liberation. In attempting to follow Fanon here, Armah finds himself increasingly incapable of sustaining Fanon's revolutionary optimism. For as the 1960s unfold, and the memory of independence recedes, it becomes more and more difficult to construe the retardation of the "upward thrust of the people" as merely temporary. This retardation, in fact, begins to look suspiciously like permanent arrest. Casting around for an explanation for this state of affairs, Armah is too much a Fanonist to revise his messianic presuppositions, to consider whether decolonization had in fact marked the occasion of an "upward thrust of the people." Instead, he moves to harden the terms of Fanon's analysis of decolonization. First, he radicalizes the Fanonian reading of independence as nothing more than a disguise under which imperialism continues to conduct business as usual. The consequences of this radicalization are, unfortunately, the reverse of enabling: for where Fanon had been concerned to decipher ideological meanings on the basis of the effects of specific political developments, Armah tends from the outset to view politics in psychological terms. Thus where Fanon, reading independence as a disguise, had spoken of its objective functioning as such, Armah tends to the imputation of conspiracy. Independence for Armah emerges gradually as a trump card in the hand of imperialism, deliberately mobilized to produce strategic effects. The passage from a more or less "orthodox" Fanonian to a conspiracy theory can be traced in the transition from The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born ( 1968) to Why Are We So Blest? ( 1972). Yet the tendency to think conspiratorially is always embryonically present in Armah's writing, merely becoming more explicit as the 1960s lengthen into the 1970s and Africa's neocolonial dependence upon the West seems to advance exponentially rather than recede. Having recast independence in rather reductive terms as a weapon in the arsenal of empire, Armah proceeds also to restate the Fanonian critique of bourgeois nationalism: "In the colonial situation, the Europeans occupied the apices, the seats of power. The primary aim of post-World War II nationalist agitation was not to overturn or to break down this structure, but to push the white occupiers out of their commanding positions and to install Africans in their place. It may be argued that this was a necessary step towards the restructuring of the ex-colony, but the point here is that the first objective was the removal of the white top from the colonial bottle.'' 31 This reading is very close to Fanon's own. But when it comes to theorizing the ideological contours of populism, Armah tends increasingly to flatten the difference that Fanon had maintained between it and bourgeois nationalism. Fanon had spoken of a populist leadership, composed of men who "came from the backwoods, and ... proclaimed, to the scandal of the dominating power and the shame of the nationals of the capital, that they


Messianism and the Representation of Postcolonialism came from the backwoods and that they spoke in the name of the Negroes" (WE 168). These anticolonial leaders, "men of the people," would, after independence, be placed in alliance with the national bourgeoisie and would come, ineluctably, to represent the interests of their new class position: These men, who have sung the praises of their race, who have taken upon themselves the whole burden of the past . . . find themselves [after independence] ... alas, at the head of a team of administrators ... which proclaims that the vocation of the people is to obey, to go on obeying, and to be obedient till the end of time. [WE 168] It is precisely from this Fanonian perspective that The Beautyful Ones Are Not ~t Born is written. The novel is obsessed by the slippage between Nkrumah's stance in the decolonizing years and the position he comes to assume as president of independent Ghana. Its ethical resonance derives from the fact that Nkrumah's anticolonial radicalism is not interpreted as mere rhetoric, but is taken as it presented itself and as it was experienced. The novel turns, in fact, on its insistence that Nkrumah betrayed his radicalism in the postcolonial era. Thus it evokes his fiery campaign against colonialism and allows itself the bitter lament, "If he could have remained that way! But now he is up there, above the world, a savior with his own worshipers, not a man with equals in life."32 If The Beautyful Ones is Armah's most Fanonian novel, this is because its messianism-its intellectualist, class-determined overestimation of the emancipatory potential of independence-derives directly from the Fanonian universe. Armah's bitterness, resonating in the novel's question, "How long will Africa be cursed with its leaders?" never diminishes. 33 Increasingly, however, the novelist moves to argue that the ideas of men like Nkrumah, populists or "African socialists," were not only always latently compatible with those of the bourgeois nationalists, but were in fact directly representative of bourgeois nationalism. "African socialism," he thus asserts baldly in his 1967 essay on the subject, is "the best articulated expression of post-World War II African nationalism on the level of political and philosophical theory." 34 "African socialism," in short, comes to be viewed as the postwar avatar of bourgeois nationalist anticolonialism, its leading edge, and not remotely differentiable from it. This reductive reading emerges as an intensifying tendency in Armah's three novels of postcolonialism. Thus by the time he comes to write Why Are We So Blest? the self-proclaimed radical anticolonialism of such individuals as Ignace Sendoulwa, "Premier Militant" of the People's Union of Congheria, is presented as a pack of lies from the outset, designed only to sustain the credibility of the uPc in the international community as the official voice of the Congherian "revolution."


From Frantz Fanon to Ayi Kwei Armah A contradiction presents itself in Armah's thinking at this juncture. "African socialists" like Nkrumah are subjected to scathing criticism on the grounds of hypocrisy. In their public pronouncements, Armah charges, these postcolonial leaders "take a manifestly evolutionary situation and ... pretend that it is revolutionary."3 5 They represent independence, which signifies merely a staging-post in the struggle for national liberation, as national liberation itself. Yet Armah also follows Fanon in accusing these leaders of treason, where what is indicated by this term is that revolution has been undermined from within, turned back, betrayed. In other words, such leaders are castigated for misrepresenting an evolutionary situation as revolutionary at the same time that they are vilified for stopping a revolution in its tracks, betraying it in process. The "African revolution" is thus simultaneously construed and denied. This contradiction is never definitively resolved in Armah's work. For every passage lamenting the postcolonial leadership's betrayal of the revolution, and insisting that the decolonizing years were marked by the "beauty" of "the waking of the powerless,"36 it is possible to find a passage, like the following from "African Socialism: Utopian or Scientific?" in which "the powerless" are cast as being only now on the verge of awakening, which is to say sleeping still: What is so far lacking is a wide-spread consciousness of connections between socio-economic inequalities and the structures of the social order. This consciousness cannot be taught ... It has to grow out of the visible, audible and sensible facts oflife in each society, especially when these societies have hordes of poor people and yet enjoy politicoeconomic systems that encourage the growth of a propertied, prosperous minority. When this happens, the naturally growing consciousness of the people may be compared to a fuse. And it is only then that it makes sense for the revolutionary agitator to talk of striking a spark. 37 Yet we should not overstate the equivalence of these "Fanonian" and "postFanonian" impulses in Armah's work. For it seems that increasingly in his three novels of postcolonialism, and thus more intensively in Fragments ( 1970) and Why Are We So Blest? ( 1972) than in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born ( 1968), it is the force of the latter kind of passage-the bleaker, less affirmative-that preponderates. In the universe of these novels, Fanon's revolutionism is upheld, but his optimism is disavowed. Armah hints at the terms of this disavowal in "African Socialism: Utopian or Scientific?" when he suggests that "the truth about Fanon's work is that for all its scholarship and its sense of immediacy, it is not an empirical study of the here and now. Its value is quite plainly that of prophecy.'' 38 To speak of revolution in the era ofpostcolonialism, it seems, is to speak out of turn. The conditions of its possibility, the conditions of possibility for "genuine" national liberation, no


Messianism and the Representation of Postcolonialism longer exist. There is a yearning for revolution among "the masses" and the radical intelligentsia, but this yearning is abstract only, and unrealizable. Fanon's prescriptions are prophetic, and his revolutionism indispensable, but his immediate utility consists not in anything affirmative but rather in his evocation of the totality of oppression. Thus Armah, tracing in reverse the course of Fanon's own intellectual development, finds himself identifying less and less with the revolutionary positivity of The Wretched of the Earth ( 1961 ), and turning more and more intensively to the 1952 text, Black Skin, White Masks, with its subjectivistic depiction of existential unfreedom: We are not free. We're not even able to achieve our humanity, says Fanon. We're damned souls, aborted creatures suffering in hells created by white people to sustain their crass heaven. The central fact of our lives, the central statement in all of Fanon's work is simply this: we're slaves. 39

We're slaves; revolution is necessary but impossible; "the masses" lack awareness of the causes of their oppression; independence is a fraud knowingly conceived and executed by imperialism; African leaders are the puppets of empire. As even this brief enumeration must make clear, Armah's "regression" through Fanonism in his first three novels does not find a terminus at Black Skin, White Masks. On the contrary, the novelist moves quite categorically to disavow the appeal to a universalistic "new humanism"-on the "other side" of colonial racism-with which Fanon had concluded that work. I shall argue below that the perspective that informs Why Are We So Blest?-and, to a lesser extent, Armah's fourth novel, Two Thousand Seasons ( 1973 )-and that can be seen to be unfolding immanently in The Beautyful Ones and Fragments is a functionalist and savagely disenabled (not to say disenabling) one. At this point, however, it is necessary only to observe that its full emergence marks the point of Armah's definitive break with Fanon's revolutionary ethic, whatever allegiance to Fanonism he might continue to claim. It is no accident, therefore, that Why Are We So Blest? should be set partially in Algeria. The novel is conclusively "post-Fanonian" in its assumptions. The enigma that persecutes Armahthat revolution is at one and the same time an imperative necessity and a practical impossibility-is not one that would have been recognizable to Fanon. From Armah's perspective, moreover, his distance from Fanon is to be regarded as reflecting not a difference of intellectual temperament but a change in the social conditions that inform theory. What was never less than possible for Fanon has become, for Armah, writing a few short years later,


From Frantz Fanon to Ayi Kwei Armah categorically if agonizingly unattainable. Why Are We So Blest? is ultimately founded, thus, less on Fanon's social vision than upon its perceived ruins.

In chapter 1, I contrasted Fanon's thought with that of Georg Lukacs, by way of exploring the implications of his messianism. Perhaps this analogy can be extended here: in thinking about the relationship between Fanon and the "post-Fanonian" Armah, it might be useful to refer it to the relationship between Lukacs and a "post-Lukacsian" Western Marxist theorist like Theodor W. Adorno. Certainly, the categorical differences between Armah and Adorno would need to be specified: Adorno's thought is relentlessly Eurocentric, and his mandarin defense of European high culture is uncompromisingly committed to precisely those ideological forms that Armah ranges himself equally uncompromisingly against. These categorical differences are also overdetermined in the present instance by Armah's truculent critique of Marxism as a plank in the oppressive platform of what he has called "Western hegemonism." 40 Moreover, I have no desire here to open myself to the charge of "Larsony," a Eurocentric mode of criticism one of whose racist propensities, as Armah has outlined them, is to "discover" behind every African creation the European creation that supposedly predates or otherwise informs it. 41 Ultimately, however, the similarities between the politico-ideological positions assumed by Adorno and Armah remain striking. (To speak of politico-ideological positions is already to overcome "Larsony," since what is being compared are less ideas viewed as the "property" of those who first articulate them than ideas viewed as appropriate to, and the effects of, specific social circumstances of which it would be meaningless to say that their manifestation in one part of the world rather than another at any time signified social "advancement" or "retardation.") Like Armah, Adorno proceeds from the perception that it is necessary to revolutionize society, but that the recent "attempt to change the world [has] miscarried." 42 Where Armah is obliged to reckon with the failure of the "African revolution," thus, Adorno struggles to come to terms with the ossification of the Bolshevik revolution in the Soviet Union and the turning back of proletarian militancy in Europe during the 1920s. Where Armah moves to distance himself from the most articulate champion of this "African revolution"Fanon-Adorno moves similarly to distance himself from Lukacs, the most articulate Western Marxist theorist of his generation. Both Adorno and Armah, moreover, raise the question of the "pacification" of "the masses" in the "post-revolutionary" era; both regard intellectual labor as irremediably "guilty"-defensible, at best, in negative terms as the least parasitic option


Messianism and the Representation of Postcolonialism available in the degraded world of the present; and both emphasize the need, as Helmut Dubiel has written of Adorno and other members of the "Frankfurt School," for dissenting intellectuals to remain on the "outside [of] all institutionalized forms of social influence" and to "conduct a radical struggle against the dominant understanding of social conditions. They consider their own theoretical orientation to be both the critical truth about the social structure from which they distance themselves and a utopian anticipation of a future mass consciousness."4 3 On the basis of such similarities as these, it seems to me helpful to bring the universe of Adornian intellectualism to bear on Armah's work. In the chapters that follow, accordingly, I have not hesitated to do so on occasions where such interpolations seemed appropriate and illuminating with respect to Armah's ideas. Few radical intellectuals this century have been able to suggest the difficulties and implications of writing in extremity in as subtle and profound a way as Adorno. As a theorist of resistance and marginality, recuperation and radical intellectualism, hope in seemingly hopeless times, his work seems to me of direct relevance to that of Armah, for all its ultimate incompatibility with it.



The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will

There is no longer beauty or consolation except in the gaze falling on horror, withstanding it, and in unalleviated consciousness of negativity holding fast to the possibility of what is better.-Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia

At the beginning of The Beautyful Ones Are Not ret Born, the central protagonist (who is referred to throughout the novel only as "the man") is encountered at dawn sleeping aboard a bus on his way to work. 1 At the end of the novel he is seen walking "very slowly, going home" ( 18 3). In the space or, more correctly, the distance between these two points, the reader witnesses what Georg Lukacs, speaking of the novel form at large, has styled "the adventure of interiority": "the content of the novel is the story of the soul that goes to find itself, that seeks adventures in order to be proved and tested by them and, by proving itself, to find its own essence." 2 The Beautyful Ones, which is couched as a voyage of discovery, is preeminently a dialectical work. Its reciprocity is first heralded in the resonant "not yet" of its title and is most clearly demonstrated in the complex relationship between the affirmative vision, which is implicit in "the man's" search for authentic values, and the blasted landscape within which the novel's action is staged. Critics of the novel have not found it easy to describe this relationship between affirmative vision and degraded reality. At the center of their difficulties, it seems, has been an inability to reconcile the two dimensions. Contemplating the bleakness of the material universe that the novel postulates, many commentators have struggled in vain to retain their grasp on the work's vision of regeneration. They have been led to argue either that the novel's pessimism is absolute, or that its affirmatory aspect is abstract and utopian. Some critics have even expressed the view that the novel is ultimately unbalanced. 46

Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will There is, however, at least one interpretation of the novel that, avoiding these tendencies, seems to me to have succeeded handsomely on its own terms. This is the interpretation advanced by Wole Soyinka. In a remarkable essay on the social vision in African literature, Soyinka has had this to say of the refusal, on the part of a select few African writers, to compromise their art's "secular vision" with apocalyptic resolutions: The secular vision in African creative writing is particularly aggressive wherever it combines the re-creation of a pre-colonial African worldview with eliciting its transposable elements into a modem potential. The process may be explicit ... or ... may rely on the reader's capacity for projection. The shared knowledge of what now exists and the prior assumption of a readership subjectively attuned to the significations of posed comparisons is part of the armoury of the novel which, depending on the moralities of the conflicts and events, does away with the need for utopian presentations. 3 Particularly important here for our purposes, I would argue, is the emphasis upon the projective capacity that this type of fiction both assumes in and demands of its readers. For while the narrative focus of The Beautyful Ones falls unremittingly upon the existing social order, the inner gaze of the text seems to me to be directed beneath and beyond the surface. 4 And, applying Soyinka's argument, my feeling is that Armah's readers are called upon to be alert to the spectral reality of this inner gaze, which haunts and even subverts the bleak surface of everyday life in The Beautyful Ones. This preliminary consideration already takes us quite far into The Beautyful Ones. At the outset, it introduces us to the nature of the dialectic that lies at the core of the novel. In terms of this dialectic, the cardinal categories of concrete and abstract, latent and manifest, presence and absence, are transformed from logical into ontological opposites. Such a transformation, as Fredric Jameson has observed in a different context, allows for the evolution of a comparative, or indeed dialectical, mode of thinking such that every perception of a given experience ... is at the same time an awareness of what that experience ... is not. It is clear that the feeling of concreteness, of filled density of being, or that of abstractness and impoverishment of experience, are essentially derived from just such implicit comparisons between one experience and another, one work and another, one moment of history and another. 5 The Beautyful Ones depends for its effect upon the reciprocity of its ordering categories. The brave new world of the "beautyful ones" is implicit in the degradation of the real world in which "the man" lives. This is so, even though it is precisely the harsh reality of the world as it is that stands in the way of the emergence of the world of the "beautyful ones." As readers, we


The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

are meant, I believe, to appreciate the potency of the titular "not yet" of the novel; for in The Beautyful Ones what could be exists as a fundamental threat to what is. 6 The social environment of "the man" is profoundly unrevolutionary, but the specter of revolution figures in its margins nevertheless. In fact, it is present there as nothing less than a promise. In this sense The Beautyful Ones might be compared with Brecht's epic theater in its scope and intention-not at all, as Henry Chakava has supposed, because in it the novelist "is wondering why the world cannot be changed," but, just the reverse, because in it Armah tries to describe the preconditions of and prevailing constraints to change. 7 The novel is formulated upon the premise that it is only by knowing one's world, by seeing it for what it is, that one can ever genuinely aspire to bring about its revolutionary transformation. The narrative, circumstantial dimension of The Beautyful Ones has a double resonance. Every detail in the novel is important both for what it is-a detail, a sociological fact-and for what, in terms of the novel's own immanent rationality, it comes to symbolize. "The deliberate sensuosity of [Armah's] style," Kolawole Ogungbesan has written, "has no aesthetic value in itself; its values lie in the subtle means by which sensuous details become symbols, and in the way the symbols provide a network which is the story, and which simultaneously provides the writer and the reader with a refined moral insight by means of which to evaluate it.'' 8 The cumulative effect of this "network" of details and symbols in The Beautyful Ones is to present the reader with a harrowing and relentless vision of Ghana as a neocolony. The novel's "Ghana" is a society that seems bent on self-destruction. Crippled, both materially and psychologically by its recent and not-so-recent history, it is perversely engaged in the process of entrenching the divisions and systematic brutalities wrought by this history. As though primed by some monstrous and self-maintaining logic, it continues to maim itself in a futile effort to satisfy an insatiable, alien master. It is sick to the very core, rotten with the congealed decay of centuries of domination, capitulation, and betrayal. The society limps into tomorrow, riven, bereft, dependent, its citizens engaged in a ceaseless, debased, and dehumanizing struggle simply to eke out their lives from day to day, from Passion Week to Passion Week. There is nothing gratuitous about Armah's presentation in all this. His portrait needs to be as graphic, as comprehensive as it is, in order to disclose roots and causes; in order, ultimately, to be productive of the type of knowledge that must accompany decisive social action. 9 From the first sentences of The Beautyful Ones, a composite picture of Ghana as a postcolonial African state begins to be sketched. Though painted evocatively and with great aesthetic sophistication, this picture sacrifices little by way of penetration for its artistry. In the world of the novel the aspect of postcolonialism is disturbingly


Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will reminiscent of that of colonialism proper. The new seems to have taken after the old so thoroughly, and in such indecent haste, that it is as though the old had never gone away at all. This motif is introduced at a very early point in the novel, as Armah describes his principal character's walk from the bus terminal to his place of work: He passed by the u.T.c., the G.N.T.c., the u.A.c., and the French c.F.A.o. The shops had been there all the time, as far back as he could remember. The G.N.T.c., of course, was regarded as a new thing, but only the name had really changed with Independence. The shop had always been there, and in the old days it had belonged to a rich Greek and was known by his name, A. G. LEVENTIS. So in a way the thing was new. Yet the stories that were sometimes heard about it were not stories of something young and vigorous, but the same old stories of money changing hands and throats getting moistened and palms getting greased. Only this time if the old stories aroused any anger, there was nowhere for it to go. The sons of the nation were now in charge, after all. How completely the new thing took after the old. [9-10] Later these "sons of the nation" are themselves presented. The portrait is of men with the stench of centuries of betrayal and compromise upon them. The elite that such individuals make up is described as contributing directly to the squalor and deprivation of the community at large. It is not only that the bankruptcy and exocentrism of the society's economy have resulted in a situation in which, as a taxi-driver in the novel puts it, "it seems everybody is making things now except us. We Africans only buy expensive things" (140). It is rather that the "men of substance" (to adopt Basil Davidson's felicitous phrase) are living on the backs of their fellow countrymen. 10 Their wealth is built upon their countrymen's poverty; their power is the corollary of the powerlessness of their countrymen; their ease is the product and the enduring cause of the degradation that surrounds but does not touch them. Armah returns again and again to this point. He insists that for every bottle of White Horse, Black and White, Seagrams or Gilbeys that is imported to cater to the elite's ethic of conspicuous consumption, ten, or twenty, or a hundred individuals like "the man" are deprived of the wherewithal to purchase even the most basic of foodstuffs. This point is nicely glossed by the British journalist Michael Wolfers, who, writing in the early 1970s, notes that If one looks at the main shopping centres of almost any African capital,

one sees that it attempts on a reduced scale to replicate the shopping centres of European towns. The central shops are primarily supplying European goods to European customers, or to an African bourgeoisie which has been strongly Europeanised. Prices are inflated, to cover the


The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born cost of an absurd exercise in transplanting provincial Britain and France, and the goods are imported with the use of the country's scarce foreign exchange. Money that could go towards building internal selfsufficiency is expended on trivial items of wasteful consumption, to the partial or total exclusion of more relevant kinds of expenditure. I I Overt or implicit, the contrasts in this vein in The Beautyful Ones are telling. The "men of substance" emerge as merely the new wielders of old, corrupt power. Independence has given Africa not its freedom, but only "a change of embezzlers" ( 162). The new leaders are the direct heirs of the chiefs of the past, concerned always with privilege and the consolidation of their power rather than with progressive leadership and public accountability.1 2 The moral intensity of The Beautyful Ones, however, is fueled not simply by this insistence that Ghana's postcolonial rulers are as corrupt and selfserving as previous rulers had been. Rather, the novel gains its distinctive moral flavor from Armah's additional insistence that in the decolonizing years there had existed the real potential for radically transforming Ghanaian society. Speaking in this instance for Armah, "the man's" friend and mentor, Teacher, observes of these years both that "we were ready here for big and beautiful things," and that "the promise was so beautiful. Even those who were too young to understand it all knew that at last something good was being born. It was there. We were not deceived about that" (81, 85 ). The embodiment of this promise, and of these general aspirations, had been Kwame Nkrumah, the man who had risen to power on the basis of massive popular support in the decolonizing years and who had led Ghana to independence in 1957. In Teacher's esteem, Nkrumah had been quite unique. Far from being a "typical" leader, born into wealth and power and regarding social division as nothing less than the sine qua non of his own elite status, Nkrumah had been a popular hero, a "man of the people." In The Beautyful Ones the authenticity of Nkrumah's public stance in the decolonizing years is repeatedly emphasized: his campaign speeches are described as reflecting his private passions, and their felicity is seen to have rested in the fact that they tapped exactly the mood of the masses. But it is for this very reason that when Teacher comes to contemplate the dissolution of Nkrumah's promise in the era of independence, he presents it as something sickening, something more truly obscene than any "conventional" political betrayal, of the type that one might have expected from a more "typical" leader at a less resonant time. For in Teacher's eyes, Nkrumah and his party have taken Ghana through a full circle: from hardship and disaffiliation, through the promise and even the beginnings of real change, to hardship and disaffiliation once more. In recounting the promise of Nkrumah, Teacher goes to great lengths to differentiate between him and the "nationalist agitators" of the years pre-


Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will ceding independence. He gives us an unambiguous picture of the nationalists, describing them as members of a political elite that owed its exalted position to its cooperation with, and deference to, the colonial administration. The portrait is of "Black Englishmen," of a small group of "yes-men:' "trying at all points to be the dark ghost of a European" (81 ). Teacher's characterization recalls Basil Davidson's: "Such men desired Ghana's independence, but only if it could be independence 'in the British way', shaped on British models, enjoying British approval. and therefore, by the logic of this attitude, fulfilling Britain's interests." 13 The nationalists, Teacher explains to "the man:' were motivated above all by power greed. Opportunism was their pre-eminent political characteristic. Ignorant of and indifferent-not to say hostile-to the aspirations of the general population, they nevertheless sought to assume governance over them. Armah's historical analysis in The Beautyful Ones really commences here, for, speaking through the character of Teacher, he suggests that increasingly, as the struggle for independence gathered momentum in the years following World War II, the nationalist elite found themselves confronted in the population at large not by the admiration and sense of loyalty they had hoped-even expected-to command, but by disgust and outrage. This development they were incapable of comprehending, let alone reversing. Nothing in their training had prepared them for it. They were not able in the end to understand the people's unbelief. How could they understand that even those who have not been anywhere know that the black man who has spent his life fleeing from himself into whiteness has no power if the white master gives him none? How were these leaders to know that while they were climbing up to shit in their people's faces, their people had seen their arseholes and drawn away in disgusted laughter? We knew then, and we know now, that the only real power a black man can have will come from black people. We knew also that we were the people to whom these oily men were looking for their support. Only they did not know this. In their minds it was some great favor they were doing us, coming to speak to us in words designed not to tell us anything about ourselves, but to press into our minds the weight of things coming from above. [81-82] This messianic suggestion that "the masses" rejected the nationalist leadership in the decolonizing years is absolutely central to the mood of The Beautyful Ones. Quite clearly, it implies the existence of a rare and precious level of political awareness on the part of "the masses." These were times, the novel avers, in which "the masses" were beginning to find and test their strength. They were beginning to entertain thoughts about shaping their own future. Indeed, they were beginning to put these thoughts into practice, secure in their unity and in the felt justice of their cause.


The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born Still more than this is entailed in "the masses' " supposed repudiation of the nationalist elite, however. In The Beautyfu/ Ones Teacher recalls that this repudiation paved the way for Nkrumah's decisive intervention onto the political stage, since it created a breach, a "crisis of leadership," into which Nkrumah was able-and ready-to step. Nkrumah is thus presented as a leader who captured the people's hearts and minds by speaking directly to them, without patronization, about their responsibility to free themselves, about strength, solidarity, and action. As Teacher reflects: "It is so simple. He was good when he had to speak to us, and liked to be with us" (88). 14 It is Teacher's charge that this spirit which Nkrumah seemed to embody during the decolonizing years was subsequently betrayed by Nkrumah himself, once independence had been won. Teacher thus accuses Nkrumah of having failed his people in their hour of greatest need. For in his vision it was Nkrumah who had roused the mass of the population, organized them, taught them to feel the power in their numbers, molded them into an unstoppable political force ... and then betrayed them abruptly by turning the central thrust and logic of the revolutionary movement in upon itself. The trajectory sketched out here is identical with that outlined by Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth:

Before independence, the leader generally embodies the aspirations of the people for independence, political liberty and national dignity. But as soon as independence is declared, far from embodying in concrete form the needs of the people in what touches bread, land and the restoration of the country to the sacred hands of the people, the leader will reveal his inner purpose: to become the general president of that company of profiteers impatient for their returns which constitutes the national bourgeoisie. 1 s In The Beautyful Ones the passage of Nkrumah's political career is traced through the moral filter of Teacher's consciousness; and it is apparent that it is the thought of the disparity between what might have been and what is that obsesses Teacher and those like him in the novel who try to comprehend the significance of Nkrumah's "Judas kiss" of Africa. Nkrumah's failure to lead the people of Ghana out of the wilderness of foreign domination (indeed, his increasing complicity with the agents of this domination) is thus not simply documented as fact. Rather, it is invested by Teacher with ethical significance and cast as an act of world-historical enormity: Here we have a kind of movement that should make even good stomachs go sick. What is painful to the thinking mind is not the movement itself, but the dizzying speed of it .... How horribly rapid everything has been, from the days when men were not ashamed to talk of souls and of suffering and of hope, to these low days of smiles that will never


Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will again be sly enough to hide the knowledge of betrayal and deceit. There is something of an irresistible horror in such quick decay. [62] It might have been appropriate for Teacher to say here, as others have said, that Nkrumah was a political schizophrenic, a ruler who "talked left" but "lived right," who embodied the incompatible personae of "Verandah Boy" and "Show Boy": "The revolutionary Nkrumah was known as the 'Verandah Boy'; the decadent exhibitionist was the 'Show Boy'. The Verandah Boy was the homeless, propertyless, and jobless Ghanaian commoner desperate for change. The Show Boy was the Ghanaian who had arrived." 16 In these terms, Teacher might have argued that Nkrumah's career involved nothing more than the progressive "degeneration of the dedicated Verandah Boy to the ostentatious Show Boy and finally to the haughty Old Man dispensing patronage to an increasingly narrow circle of personal friends and sycophants." 17 Yet in The Beautyful Ones Armah's objective appears to be as much to chart the moral consequences of Nkrumah's "bad faith" for his followers as to place the disintegration of Nkrumahism within the broad context of African history. It is for this reason, arguably, that all of his reflections on Nkrumah and his fellow politicians, whether sited within Teacher's consciousness or emerging as authorial commentary, are couched in terms and images that explicitly incorporate ethical evaluation. Within the space of a few short years, the party men are seen to have first started to forge a revolution and then subsequently to have sabotaged it absolutely. As Teacher observes:

True, I used to see a lot of hope. I saw men tear down the veils behind which the truth had been hidden. But then the same men, when they have power in their hands at last, began to find the veils useful. They made many more. Life has not changed. Only some people have been growing, becoming different, that is all. After a youth spent fighting the white man, why should not the president discover as he grows older that his real desire has been like the white governor himself, to live above all blackness in the big old slave castle? And the men around him, why not? What stops them sending their loved children to kindergartens in Europe? And if the little men around the big men can send their children to new international schools, why not? [92] Teacher's feeling is that the Nkrumahist Party men, such as "the man's" acquaintance, Koomson, who once seemed to be fired with revolutionary zeal, have latterly become indistinguishable from the pre-independence elite, who never bore about them the stamp of sincerity in the first place. Koomson, the representative of the "new" Ghana, has assumed a life-style identical to the life-styles of generations and generations of powerful men: "He lives in a way that is far more painful to see than the way the white men


The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born have always lived here ... There is no difference then. No difference at all between the white men and their apes, the lawyers and the merchants, and now the apes of the apes, our Party men" (89). The transition from colonialism to neocolonialism, thus perceived, has served to punctuate Africa's degradation only to underscore it. The unfree "masses" are first afforded a vision of freedom, and are exhorted to move toward it; then, once they have wrestled themselves to within touching distance of it, it is snatched from their grasp, and unfreedom is cynically reimposed in its stead. Finally, adding insult to injury, this humiliation is compounded by the official rhetoric, which celebratingly proclaims Africa's independence. In independence, according to The Beautyful Ones, the "masses" are still unfree. Yet now they are expected to bear their destitution and suffering not with bitterness, as their parents had done, but with exaltation, as though it were a great reward that they had won for their exertions. 18 The novel suggests that the only real gainers from independence are those who have contrived-wittingly or unwittingly-to service the interests of the departing colonial power. This is so much the case, indeed, that the path to power is represented as the path toward a white, dependent, Westernoriented cast of mind, a cast that recalls the model colonial subject as analyzed by Frantz Fanon. 19 Like the pre-independence nationalist elite who spent their whole lives "fleeing from [themselves] into whiteness" (82), the new leaders have also finally settled for living "above all blackness" (92). Koomson, for example, names his daughter "Princess," the name embodying the twin dimensions of Anglophilia and governance, both important. It comes as no surprise to discover that the little girl has about her "the fearless, direct look of a white child," and that she refers to her father as "Daddy" ( 144). In the officially preserved serenity of what used to be known as the "white men's hills," far from the squalor of his own neighborhood, "the man" encounters further evidence of black men falling over themselves in their frantic desire to escape the burden of being black. In these hills are the opulent "Estates," still looking exactly as they had done in colonial times-and yet: Not everything was entirely the same ... Here and there the names had changed. True, there were very few black names of black men, but the plates by the roadside had enough names of black men with white souls and names trying mightily to be white. In the forest of white men's names, there were signs that said almost aloud: here lives a black imitator. MILLS-HAYFORD ••. PLANGE-BANNERMAN . . . ATTOH-WHITE •.• KUNTU-BLANKSON. Others that must have been keeping their white neighbors laughing even harder in their homes. ACROMOND • . . what Ghanaian name could that have been in the beginning, before its Civil


Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will Servant owner rushed to civilize it, giving it something like the sound of a mastername? [126] The authorial voice in The Beautyfu/ Ones unifies this plethora of heterogeneous details by filtering them through the web of its moral intelligence. The commentary thus provided structures the political vision of the work as a whole. Perhaps because they do not appreciate this, some critics have interpreted Armah's expose and repudiation of the Eurocentrism of Ghana's elite as the expression of a misanthrope's disapproval of people in general. S. A. Gakwandi, for instance, seems to have misunderstood the basic thrust of Armah's anger. Where the novelist condemns the elite's active participation in the neocolonial complex, Gakwandi sees only arrogance and selfrighteousness. He charges Armah with exhibiting a profound "disgust [toward] ... humanity, especially the African part of it and in particular, Ghana. So wicked, so dirty and so corrupt is humanity that there is no point in the individual's trying to change it."20 This is very far from being accurate. A close reading of The Beautyful Ones reveals that the author's contempt is reserved exclusively for the Koomsons or would-be-Koomsons of his novel's world: the wealthy, the powerful, those engaged in corrupt practices, and those who look at the world through Western-tinted eyeshades. Critics of The Beautyful Ones seem in general to have been much too eager to dismiss Armah's hatred of crass materialism, conspicuous consumption, and neocolonial thinking as a loathing of mankind in general. They have tended to ignore the mass of evidence that suggests very clearly that characters like Koomson and his wife Estella are condemned for what they represent as Eurocentric Africans in a neocolony, rather than for what they represent as members of the abstract universal class of human beings. The Beautyful Ones is transparently a moral work, whose prevailing tenor is subjectivistic. This sense of moral earnestness ought not, however, to be interpreted as idealistic. For it stems not from any abstract consideration as to how the "good" or the "just" life might be led, but rather from an appraisal of what was actually possible in Ghana after decolonization-of what seemed, indeed, to be prefigured in the style of the decolonizing movement itself. Armah's vision may be subjectivistic, even (in terms of what I have argued in chapters I and 2) messianic, but it derives from a historical assessment and not from a contemplation of ideal, transhistorical forms. In this respect it is reminiscent of much of Fanon's work. Above all, it seems to me, The Beautyful Ones needs to be read in light of Fanon's classic essay on "The Pitfalls of National Consciousness." In his essay, Fanon had mounted a stinging critique of bourgeois nationalist ideology in Africa, describing it as parasitic, unimaginative, and wholly lacking in energy or initiative:


The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born The national bourgeoisie of under-developed countries is not engaged in production, nor in invention, nor building, nor labour; it is completely canalized into activities of the intermediary type. Its innnermost vocation seems to be to keep in the running and to be part of the racket. The psychology of the national bourgeoisie is that of the businessman, not that of a captain of industry ... [The historic mission of the national bourgeoisie] has nothing to do with transforming the nation; it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission line between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged, which today puts on the mask of neo-colonialism. The national bourgeoisie will be quite content with the role of the Western bourgeoisie's business agent, and it will play its part without any complexes in a most dignified manner. But this same lucrative role, this cheap-Jack's function, this meanness of outlook and this absence of all ambition symbolize the incapability of the national middle class to fulfil its historic role of bourgeoisie. Here, the dynamic pioneer aspect, the characteristics of the inventor and the discoverer of new worlds which are found in all national bourgeoisies are lamentably absent ... Because it is bereft of ideas, because it lives to itself and cuts itself off from the people, undermined by its hereditary incapacity to think in terms of all the problems of the nation as seen from the point of view of the whole of the nation, the national middle class will have nothing better to do than to take on the role of manager for Western enterprise, and it will in practice set up its country as the brothel of Europe. 21 Fanon's essay was written at the time of independence, and was intended to serve as an admonition. The end of colonialism was in sight, but Fanon wanted to show that if the places of the departing colonial officers were filled by members of the national bourgeoisies, national liberation would not have been won. Armah's presentation in The Beautyful Ones proceeds directly from this analysis. There is, however, one crucial difference: The Beautyful Ones was first published in 1968, ten years after Ghana's acquisition of political independence. What Fanon had posed as a potential threat is taken by Armah unambiguously to have come true. And even more than this is involved for Armah: for what Fanon had spoken of as "national consciousness," the ideology of a small, if powerful elite within the wider society, seems to Armah in the years since independence to have imprinted itself hegemonically upon society at large.

In The Beautyful Ones, Armah offers us a picture of this hegemonic ideology at work. His chief device in this presentation is the meta-


Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will phorical construct of "the gleam." The reader is introduced to the gleam near the beginning of the novel. As "the man" walks to work in the early morning, the dark shape ofYensua Hill is beginning to be visible against the background of the dawn sky: On top of the hill, commanding it just as it commanded the scene below, its sheer, flat, multistoried side an insulting white in the concentrated gleam of the hotel's spotlights, towered the useless structure of the Atlantic-Caprice. Sometimes it seemed as if the huge building had been put there for a purpose, like that of attracting to itself all the massive anger of a people in pain. But then, if there were any angry ones at all these days, they were most certainly feeling the loneliness of mourners at a festival of crazy joy. Perhaps then the purpose of this white thing was to draw onto itself the love of a people hungry for just something such as this. The gleam, in moments of honesty, had a power to produce a disturbing ambiguity within. It would be good to say that the gleam never did attract. It would be good, but it would be far from the truth. And something terrible was happening as time went on. It was getting harder and harder to tell whether the gleam repelled more than it attracted, attracted more than it repelled, or just did both at once in one disgustedly confused feeling all the time these heavy days. [10] The Atlantic-Caprice is a tourist hotel and the venue of elaborate social functions attended by all of the local "big men." To those aspiring toward the status of these "big men," "all roads lead to the Atlantic-Caprice."22 The hotel's gleaming spotlights speak of success, and thoughts of success consume the waking minds and haunt the sleeping thoughts of almost everybody in The Beautyful Ones. People are attracted to the gleam because of its brilliance. Its sparkle seems to promise splendor, power, prestige, and luxury. Within the massively deprived universe of the novel, such a promise is not lightly to be ignored. The fact that certain individuals have managed to "arrive" at the gleam serves to strengthen the belief of the thousands aspiring toward it, that their desires are capable of fulfillment. The power of the gleam is such that every human action is judged less in terms of its social utility or even its legality than in terms of its efficiency. The sole criterion of judgment is whether the action in question has propelled its instigator closer to riches or ease. The society has become fetishistic in its obsession with ostentation and gratuitous consumption, in its eschewal of all principles except those related to materialism and accumulation.23 What is at issue here is not simply "false" consciousness. Armah's account is sharpened by his stress upon the scarcity of commodities. In the universe of the novel, the passion with which commodities such as television sets or long-grained rice are sought is inversely proportional to their


The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born availability. The entire society has internalized the imperatives of the gleam, and yet a life of luxury is well out of reach of all but an infinitesimal fraction of the whole population. It follows from the social obsession with the gleam and the near impossibility of its ever being reached that "alternative" methods of approaching it are everywhere attempted. One discovers very early in the novel that corruption is so rampant as to be positively conventional; it is not only resignedly accepted as a "fact of life" but actively endorsed as a way to "get ahead." The all-consuming but invariably fruitless and self-torturing quest after luxuries that only the gleam can bring is such as to transform the end of reaching it into a matter of far greater significance within the public consciousness than the mere means of doing so. The gleam is regarded as a stage or condition to be sought and gained at any cost. Qualitative distinctions between means and ends are first blurred, then eroded, and come finally to be envisaged only as hindrances to success, rationalizations of failure, the trademarks of cowards and fools. This is precisely how "the man's" wife, Oyo, reasons, for example, when she heaps scorn upon him for having been so abstractly righteous as to refuse a bribe. She accuses him of having acted like an "Onward Christian Soldier," and when he demurs she asks: "What were you afraid of then?" "But why should I take it?" "And why not? When you shook Estella Koomson's hand, was not the perfume that stayed on yours a pleasing thing? Maybe you like this crawling that we do, but I am tired of it. I would like to have someone drive me where I want to go." "Like Estella Koomson?" "Yes, like Estella. And why not? Is she more than I?" "We don't know how she got what she has," the man said. "And we don't care." The woman's voice had lost its excitement and reverted to its flatness ... "We don't care. Why pretend? Everybody is swimming toward what he wants. Who wants to remain on the beach asking the wind, 'How ... How ... How?'" [44] "The man" appreciates that the repulsion he feels toward the expensive commodities that constitute the external manifestations of the gleam derives from his prior recognition that in an underdeveloped society it is only ever the dishonest or those prepared to manipulate others who can hope to acquire them. In themselves diamond earrings and imported bone-china tea sets are things of great beauty, and innocent. But it is not so much their beauty as their value, their glitter, that drives despairing people to fraud as a means of obtaining them. Contemplating the sumptuousness of the furnishings and appointments in Koomson's home, "the man" tries to put his thoughts about having and getting into some sort of perspective:


Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will There were things here for a human being to spend a lifetime desiring. There were things here to attract the beholding eye and make it accept the power of their owner.... How could a man be right in the midst of all this, wanting these things against which the mind sought to struggle? It was not the things themselves, but the way to arrive at them which brought so much confusion to the soul. And everybody knew the chances of finding a way that was not rotten from the beginning were always ridiculously small. [144-45] In such a context the ambitious intellect cannot afford scruples over the means of reaching the gleam. Rather it needs to acquire the sort of hardness, resilience, and insensitivity that will enable it to negotiate the corrupt passages to happiness. It can acknowledge no pangs of conscience. Diligence counts for nothing: Hard work. As if any amount of hard work could ever at this rate bring the self and the loved ones closer to the gleam. How much hard work before a month's pay would last till the end of the month? ... And food. How long would it take, and how hard is the work before there would be enough food for five, and something left over for chasing the gleam? Only one way. There would always be only one way for the young to reach the gleam. Cutting comers, eating the fruits of fraud ... That has always been the way the gleam is approached: in one bold, corrupt leap that gives the leaper the power to laugh with contempt at those of us who still plod on the daily round, stupid, dull, poor, despised, afraid. We shall never arrive. Unless of course, we too take the jump. [95-96] The pursuit of the gleam has become the sole preoccupation of the general society in The Beautyful Ones: outside of this cut-throat and selfdepleting pursuit there is, as "the man" surmises, nothing left "worth pursuing, nothing at all worth spending life's minutes on" (47). Respect, admiration, and trust seem to have been voided out of the society, and replaced by sycophancy, covetousness, and callous manipulation. It is "only the heroes of the gleam who [do] not feel that they [are] strangers" even in their own homes (35). These changes are reflective of the ordering rationality of the gleam, which seeks to impose an ethos of instrumentality upon the ground where a system of humane values ought to stand. Kolawole Ogungbesan has demonstrated that if light is one obvious attribute of the gleam, speed is another. Those who have arrived at the gleam are invariably presented in the process of fast movement. Metaphorically and literally they are "jet setters": "Usually we see them in their cars. Their speed is so great that the words 'leap' and 'soar' are used to describe it."24 Just as ostentation or high visibility becomes both means to the end of reaching the gleam and end in itself, so too does speed or "fast


The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

living." For those like "the man's" wife, Oyo, who have become "slaves" to the ideology of the gleam, living well appears to revolve around the twin principles of "learning to drive" and "driving fast." As "the man" explains to his friend Teacher: Teacher, my wife explained to me, step by step, that life was like a lot of roads: long roads, short roads, wide and narrow, steep and level, all sorts of roads. Next, she let me know that human beings were like so many people driving their cars on all these roads. This was the point at which she told me that those who wanted to get far had to learn to drive fast . . . Accidents would happen, she told me, but the fear of accidents would never keep men from driving. [58-59] Ogungbesan fails to point out, however, that it is only within the circle of the gleam's sway that Oyo's rationalization seems definitive. In Oyo's eyes it is speed and speed alone that has the capacity to render life enjoyable. She has a vision of salvation firmly within her sights. Her vision is of "the blinding gleam of beautiful new houses and the shine of powerful new Mercedes cars ... the scent of expensive perfumes and the mass of a new wig" (5 6). As Oyo understands the matter the gleam is arrived at only after a journey. Those who arrive there first will be those who have driven the fastest. This schema lacks the fundamentally qualitative consideration of direction; Oyo reckons only with the quantitative aspects of speed and distance. For her there is only one place to go, and that is: far. For "the man," by contrast, the mere search after speed or distance is an occupation futile at best and, at worst, dehumanizing. This is why he refuses to be drawn into "the national game" (55), the free-for-all for material possessions. Oyo's vision is fetishistic, but it would be misleading to describe it as "false." The gleam is neither the negation nor the antithesis of the reality it purports to represent. Nor, for that matter, is it but a reflection of this reality. Rather, it corresponds to a simulation of reality. And in these terms its terrible power consists in its ability to convince its subjects not only that it is itself real, but that it represents "all there is." It thus contrives at one and the same moment to misappropriate reality and to convince its subjects that it has not done so. To an "outsider," a consciousness outside the influence of the gleam, this misappropriation looks like what it is, a misappropriation. But to an "insider," a "slave" to the gleam, it seems as though no misappropriation has taken place at all. Indeed, to an "insider" the gleam is envisioned not even as an "adequate" representation of reality but, on the contrary, as reality itself The overlapping processes of representation and misrepresentation are equally invisible to the "insider."25 This state of affairs is metaphorically enacted as the man walks pensively through the desolate streets to Teacher's house:


Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will Outside, the night was a dark tunnel so long that out in front and above there never could be any end to it, and to the man walking down it it was plain that the lights here and there illuminated nothing so strongly as they did the endless power of the night, easily, softly calling every sleeping thing into itself.... Around a street lamp high over the coal tar, insects of the night whirled in a crazy dance, drawn not directly by the night from which they had come, but by the fire of the lamps in it. Their own way of meeting the night, and it was all the same in the end. [47] "The man" finds himself alone in not capitulating to "the call of the night," just as he is one of the isolated few in The Beautyful Ones with conviction enough to resist the lure of the gleam. Because his inner mind is fixed upon a creative vision of social integrity, he regards his community's frenzied pursuit of the gleam as a hopeless quest after a delusory prize-and such is also the nature of the night insects' "crazy dance" around the street lamps. There can, however, be no doubting the "sincerity" of the insects being drawn to the light that emanates from the lamps. The flickerings of the lamp may in actual fact be nothing more than degraded representations of sunlight (the "true" light), but to the insects this does not seem to be the case. To them there is evidently nothing artificial about these lights that attract them, and they do not even begin to notice that in their weakness the lamplights serve more to confirm the effortless dark of the night than to challenge it. Similarly, to Oyo the life that Estella Koomson is living seems clean even though, as "the man" observes, "some of that kind of cleanness has more rottennesss in it than the slime at the bottom of a garbage dump" (44). Although the representation ofreality that issues from the gleam is bound to reality itself, it possesses the power to displace reality in the minds of its subjects. Resembling reality closely enough to pass casual muster, it scarcely needs to concern itself with the reservations of individuals like "the man" who feel uneasy about the brash artificiality ofits glare. For "the man" is in a tiny minority. His feelings of unease stem from precisely the type of moral intelligence that the gleam works hardest to erode-and the overall success of this eroding operation can be gauged from the fact that "the man" is so isolated. Once within the orbit of the gleam's influence, escape is rare. This is because all manner of experiences become grist to the gleam's recuperative mill, even those that one might suppose would undermine its credibility. In Teacher's rendition of Plato's cave allegory, the wanderer who finds truth outside the cave and who then comes back inside "with the eagerness of the firstbringer" in order to share his discovery with his fellows, finds himself being mocked by them. They see in his revelations not the deluded nature of their own understandings hitherto, but the incoherencies of a lunatic:


The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born to those inside the eternal cave he came as someone driven ill with the breaking of eternal boundaries, and the truth he sought to tell was nothing but the proof of his long delusion, and the words he had to give were pitiful cries of a madman lost in the mazes of a mind pushed too far out and away from the everlasting way of darkness and reassuring chains. [80] So it is with regard to the gleam. Those solitary wanderers who resist its advance to hegemony and even beyond, to total instrumental control, are rewarded for their pains with ostracism and social obloquy rather than respect and acclaim. The gleam's rationality is purposive. If it were not, indeed, the gleam would be incapable of achieving dominance as an ideological configuration. One might suppose from the fact that it has presided over a grotesque ethical inversion, in terms of which humane values have been cast as weak or obsolete, and displaced, that its modality is anarchic or unstructured. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The gleam operates in a highly organized and meaningful fashion. Consider for example the way in which it contrives to perpetuate the historical pattern of African subordination: individuals under its influence actively resist efforts to cut them loose from the chains of foreign dependence binding them. It is not, obviously, that they relish the constraints to their own freedom provided by these chains. Rather, Armah suggests that they continue in bondage because the gleam now prevents them from seeing their manacled condition for what it is. Because their understanding has become mediated through the gleam, they are open to its persuasion; ultimately they will accept as true even the fabrication that they are not slaves at all, but free agents. The gleam also promotes the growth of a sort of sublimated social aggression, "victim anger" (69), in terms of which its subjects-aware of their suffering but not its underlying cause-tum against their fellows by way of releasing their pent-up frustration and rage. It is never the material causes of misery that are addressed by victim anger, but only surrogate agencies at most tangentially involved in contributing to the climate of impotence and fear. Teacher recollects that in the years after World War II, the market women in Ghana became victims, butts of the aggression of desperate people searching to give their inner rage an outlet. Similarly, when Oyo's mother finally accepts that no advantage is going to accrue to her as a result of her participation in a fraudulent venture, initiated by Koomson, to acquire a boat, she cannot draw the logical conclusions from her belated realization. The old woman finds it impossible to direct her grievances against Koomson, their instigator and cause. Instead-and such is victim anger-she chooses to blame "the man," as though he were somehow responsible for insuring that the enterprise would prove profitless to herself.


Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will The gleam has imposed itself upon the world as reality. Its social symptoms of corruption and illicit, garish success now appear so incontrovertibly "natural" in the public eye that to seek to resist them is conceived as a deviant aim: Was there not some proverb that said the green fruit was healthy, but healthy only for its brief self? That the only new life there ever is comes from seeds feeding on their own rotten fruit? What then, was the fruit that refused to lose its acid and its greenness? What monstrous fruit was it that could find the end of its life in the struggle against sweetness and corruption? [145] The gleam's ultimate tendency is to impose its own imperatives upon the world absolutely. It operates, accordingly, to reduce the social centrality of its antagonists, to isolate them from one another and to try to tempt, entreat, trick or, finally, coerce them into submission. At the very least it gears itself to so cripple its opponents with self-doubt and irresolution as to keep them perpetually on the defensive, incapable of working constructively toward its overthrow. Its success in this operation can be measured through the fact that of the two "enemies of the gleam" that we get to know well in the novel, one, Teacher, is plunged into an obsessive and fathomless introspection, while the second, "the man," is racked by uncertainty and sadly lacking in self-confidence. As far as Teacher is concerned, he discovers that the gleam plays a disproportionately large role in his life even though he has managed to desensitize himself to the desires and longings whose satisfactions could only be found within its orbit. For he has chosen a life style or, as he puts it, a "half-life ofloneliness" (56), whose massive inauthenticity, disclosed in its every phrase, reflects the informing negative presence of the gleam. Though not a recluse as Teacher is, "the man" too is consumed by the gleam. He finds that it lacerates his intellect with anxiety and assaults his moral sensibility. Above all, it causes him to feel like a criminal for having done no wrong in a society in which the failure to avail oneself of dishonesty where all are busy committing brazen crimes in broad daylight is perversely considered the height of immorality. He puts it to Teacher that at the end of all his arguments with Oyo, it is he who feels guilty: "I feel like a criminal. Often these days I find myself thinking of something sudden I could do to redeem myself in their eyes. Then I sit down and ask myself what I have done wrong, and there is really nothing" ( 54 ). In the deepest recesses of his mind, "the man" realizes that his opposition to the gleam is fundamentally justified. He has it on the fringes of his consciousness "that it should not really be possible for the guiltless to feel so beaten down with the accusation of those so near" (49). But these feelings are inarticulate, and they do not assist "the man" in his day-to-day struggles


The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born against the gleam. Specifically, they do not assist him in d~fending his own honesty against the demands and expectations of his family: indeed, what defense could there possibly be against those who perceive honesty as foolishness, perversity or cowardice? 26 "The man's" sensation of criminality is compounded by the fact that, unlike Teacher, he is often strongly drawn by the lure of the gleam. He is very far from being resolute. 27 The invitation to corruption rings enticingly again and again in his mind, saturating him with doubt and crippling him with the expenditure of nervous tension that it occasions. It is not incidental that in the rare moments when life affords "the man" the opportunity to answer the call of the gleam and to meet the expectations and demands of his family without betraying his principles, he finds himself feeling peculiarly light-headed: Going into the shops with his new money in his pocket, he had ... the uncontrollable feeling of happiness and power, even while knowing somewhere in the back of his mind that the expensive things he was buying would deepen the agony of his next Passion Week ... yet he could not help the smile that came to his lips and spread this feeling of well-being over all his body ... It was not only because of the admiring glances of the people in the shops, for whom a man's value could only be as high as the cost of the things he could buy ... There was also, inside the man himself, a very strong happiness whenever he found himself able, no matter for how brief a spell, to do the heroic things that were expected all the time, even ifin the end it was only himself he was killing. [ 114-15] There is no way of avoiding the gleam. Those who struggle to withstand its siren call find themselves harrassed by it all the long days of their lives. Teacher is very conscious of the fact that he spends so much time and energy fleeing from the gleam that he has neither the time nor the energy left to devote himself to more creative pursuits. "The man" is incapable of ridding his mind of the torturing presence of the gleam even for a moment. Thoughts of it accompany him even to the bathroom. The gleam plagues his waking hours and returns to torment his dreams at night. In one such dream, "the man" imagines that he is walking with an unidentified companion toward "a group of shining white towers" reminiscent of the Atlantic-Caprice hotel: "They are going there, the two of them, the man and his companion, happy in the present and happy in the image of the future in the present" ( 100). In his dream "the man" is transported back to a time of hope, when it seemed that Ghana and Africa had only to hold fast to their aspirations in order to realize them. It is the time of decolonization: the whiteness of the building before them is sharp but not harsh, sheer but not forbidding, and "the man" and his companion evidently regard the tall


Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will structure-hotel, government offices, university towers?-as a logical and harmonious embodiment of their future. But then, suddenly, the dazzling brightness of the gleam intrudes upon the scene and all is changed in an instant: But brutal lights shine and cut into the night with their sudden power, rushing with their harsh rhythm toward the happy pair, now so confused. The lights move forward, smooth and powerful. The man, blinded by a cutting beam, covers his downcast eyes with his hands, and in the movement lets go of his companion's waist. But she is not blinded. Through the insufficient protection of his fingers he can see her, her eyes shining with the potent brightness of huge car lights, returning the power of the oncoming lights. They come, the lights, with the noise of the cars bringing them. Sound, hardly audible, of a new door opening. Floating upward in the air, the man's companion lands inside the car in the lead. The other cars, a procession of gleaming cars reminding the watcher of long lines of oAu men in American vehicles, swing up behind the first, and all of them go off in the direction of the towers, leaving the man behind. The white towers gleam with a supernatural radiance as the cars get closer to them, then everything penetrates slowly, smoothly into darkness as they enter. Every shining thing goes out when only the man is left, and the darkness turns keenly cold. Looking for warmth, he lies down, but the ground is also cold and very hard. The man tries to find his way back into the old warmth of the hovels he has left behind, but looking back, he finds he can never again know the way back there. All he can feel now is the cold, and a loneliness that corrodes his heart with its despair, with the knowledge that he has lost his happy companion forever, and he cannot ever live alone. [ 100-01] In this dream the gleam is not engendered by the tall buildings emblematic of Africa's future.2s But no sooner has it established its potency and voided the vision of an authentic future from the minds of its victims than it co-opts all of the symbols and icons of the "new," or "emerging" Africa. The result is that the whiteness and austerity of the modem buildings begin to seem to reflect its glare. Although in his dream "the man" sees the gleam in the process of converging with the clean new building, in his waking life the convergence is rooted in the relatively distant past: for, thinking back, "the man" recalls that even during his school days the "white beauty" of the university had already stamped itself upon his consciousness with an ambiguous, clinging sort of ache and longing ( 117). "The man's" companion in the dream responds to the gleam so readily, reflecting its brilliance in her answering eyes, that it is impossible to determine in retrospect whether its harsh brightness was what she had had in mind from the outset, or whether,


The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born starting out with quite different intentions, her will had simply been destroyed by the brutal, penetrating rays of the gleam. The same is true of many of those w.hom the gleam has colonized. Individuals like "the man," possessed of a vision of social integrity, can only look on in confusion as the radiance of the gleam captures the attention of their fellows. "The man" is left in his dream with the impression that his loss is irrevocable. He has lost his companion, the cohesion of the past seems beyond retrieval, the historical meaningfulness of the present seems to have been fractured, and even the future appears to promise only further capitulations to the ruthless, alien glitter of the gleam.

Inasmuch as the gleam is the prevailing form of reality in The Beautyful Ones-and the mentality that it instills is borne as nothing less than "common sense" by the huge majority of the novel's characters-it follows that its power and persuasiveness must be overturned as a precondition, not as a consequence, of resistance to neocolonialism. The gleam is, of course (as The Beautyful Ones clearly recognizes), underpinned by a vast political, military, and economic ensemble whose cohesion is strengthened by the relative disorganization of the anti-imperialist elements and movements throughout the postcolonial world. It is, however, a measure of Armah's unquenchable commitment to the cause of African liberation that, contemplating the potency of the neocolonial apparatus, he still chooses to direct his attention in The Beautyful Ones to the matter of resistance. In the novel, a variety of strategies for opposing and combating the gleam are debated. If, ultimately, Armah rejects all but one of these strategies as unviable, and refrains from making extravagant claims even for this one, this is presumably because he feels that it would be both too late and too early to speak to his readers of revolution. Revolutions are forged by mass action, mass involvement, and leadership which is perceptive of, and receptive to, the needs and aspirations of its movement's rank and file. Thus conceived, revolution cannot be imposed on a people from above. Indeed, The Beautyful Ones suggests that Nkrumah's administration succeeded only in alienating "the masses" whose activism had brought it to power. The general populace is presented in the novel as being thoroughly disillusioned with the political process. Even when, toward the end of the work, Nkrumah is toppled in a coup, the response of the workers in the city is portrayed as one of uninvolvement: The streets were very quiet. Only here and there, a small group of men would be talking, and it did not seem necessarily true that they were


Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will talking of the things that had taken place this day. At the bus stop people were talking, but in truth nobody knew anything except that there had been a change, and the words merely repeated the talkers' first astonishment, then endless questions about who the new men were, what they were going to do, what they had been doing all along ... Near Effia Nkwanta the bus backfired, and a woman passenger with a child in her arms threw herself forward, rushing toward the entrance and screaming that they were going to kill her and her little one. Otherwise there was nothing really unusual. [ 159)29 To start advocating revolution in these circumstances, in the total absence of a revolutionary situation, would, the novel seems to imply, be both naive and irresponsible. The men who succeed Nkrumah at the end of The Beautyfu/ Ones are no social saviors, no heroes of the people. On the contrary, they come from exactly the stratum of society that has most to lose from an overturning of the status quo-and as the narrative voice in the novel scathingly observes: Someday in the long future a new life would maybe flower in the country, but when it came, it would not choose as its instruments the same people who had made a habit of killing new flowers. The future goodness may come eventually, but before then where were the things in the present which would prepare the way for it? [ 159-60] It is by way of answering this question, and not by way of promoting false

hope, that The Beautyful Ones takes up the matter ofliving, as it were, against the gleam. Armah's aim in the novel is to discover a means of keeping open the possibility offuture transformation, ofretaining an affirmative vision for the future in the degraded reality of the present. 30 Strictly speaking, there are only two ways of living against the gleam. The first of these is to concede the central province of reality to it and to retreat into marginality. In the novel, this is the strategy which Teacher, Maanan, and Rama Krishna all adopt, each in his or her own particular way. The second way of living against the gleam is to refuse to accept its dominion over social reality, to campaign against it on its own purloined ground, to set oneself to defeat it by living positively in the face of its negative imperatives. This is the strategy that is adopted by "the man," and that is ultimately endorsed in The Beautyfu/ Ones. The idea of fleeing from the degraded world is demonstrated, in the novel, to be both futile and self-destructive. This is the case irrespective of where the soul in flight is attempting to flee toward: whether it be toward asociality (as with Teacher), madness (Maanan), or spirituality (Rama Krishna). It is through the last mentioned of these characters that the reader is first introduced to the motif offlight. Walking through the streets one night, "the


The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born man" recalls Rama Krishna, a Ghanaian friend of his who "had taken that far-off name in the reincarnation of his soul after long and tortured flight from everything close and everything known, since all around him showed him the horrible threat of decay" (48 ). Obsessed by the gleam's tentacular purchase upon the material world, Rama Krishna had progressively sought refuge in immateriality, eschewing first what he took to be the tangible, then the intangible, social agencies of corruption. Eventually, this procedure led him to abstain from all sexual conduct: "He would not corrupt himself by touching any woman, but saved his semen to rejuvenate his brain by standing on his head a certain number of minutes every night and every dawn. Everywhere he wore a symbolic evergreen and a faraway look on his face, thinking of the escape from corruption and of immortality" (48). The terrible futility of this posture is then driven home through the irony of Rama Krishna's sudden death: It was of consumption that he died, so very young, but already his body inside had undergone far more decay than any living body, however old or near death, can expect to see. It was whispered-how indeed are such things ever known?-that the disease had completely eaten up the frail matter of his lungs, and that where his heart ought to have been there was only a living lot of worms gathered together tightly in the shape of a heart. And so what did the dead rot inside the friend not have to do with his fear of what was decaying outside of himself? And what would such an unnatural flight be worth at all, in the end? [4849]

Maanan is another who feels compelled to seek flight from the material world, because she finds herself being dehumanized from the outset by the rationality of the gleam. As a woman in a patriarchal and fetishistic society, she is treated as an object very similar to one of the commodities in Koomson's house: an object to be pursued, bought, and consumed. The narrative voice refers to the "women, so horribly young, fucked and changed like pants, asking only for blouses and perfume from diplomatic bags" (89 ), who become the disposable objects of desire and possession of men who can afford to buy them. Maanan struggles to resist this aspect of the gleam, which would deny her her creativity and ability to contribute to the social well-being of her community. But her struggle is a hopeless one. Progressively she abandons the arena of social action for more derealized and derealizing pursuits: she smokes wee, finds "refuge in lengthening bottles," and accepts the "money and sometimes even love" of foreign sailors (66 ). Like her friend Teacher, Maanan had perhaps staked too much of herself on Nkrumah's integrity and promise. The first to hear Nkrumah, it had been she who recommended him to Teacher and she who prevailed upon her friends to go and listen to him talk. Having thrown herself wholeheartedly into Nkrumah's cause, she is left without resources as a result of his unfore68

Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will seen and, from her perspective, unimaginable capitulation to the gleam. She succumbs to the accumulated agony of the suffering and humiliation, personal and political, she has been forced to endure. She is last seen wandering purposelessly along the shoreline, mad perhaps beyond retrieval, and muttering frenziedly to herself: "They have mixed it all together! Everything! They have mixed everything. And how can I find it when they have mixed it all with so many other things?" ( 180). Her search, as Ogungbesan has observed, is "for the impossible; for the past, the present, and the future are inextricably mixed together. The loss of our illusions is the only loss from which we never recover."31 The most important advocate of flight from the gleam in the novel is unquestionably Teacher. Accordingly, it is in the implicit comparison between his existential strategy and "the man's" that the novel's debate about different ways of opposing the gleam is most rigorously posed. At first sight it might appear that of the two blueprints, Teacher's is by far the more satisfactory and effective. After all, he is possessed of a degree of intellectual certainty about the validity of his own position and stance, where "the man" is constantly racked by doubt and insecurity about the morality of his. Furthermore, however inauthentic his freedom might be, Teacher is free where "the man," wage slave and family member, is not. And third, although both he and "the man" suffer the depredations of acute loneliness, Teacher has at least chosen his life-style of aloofness and asociality-"the man" is more acted upon than actor in this regard, being ostracized by a society at large that regards his integrity as antisocial and even, possibly, threatening.32 Some commentators have, indeed, suggested that Teacher serves as a foil for Armah's own opinions in the novel. Kofi Yankson, for instance, has argued that the novel's central inference is that escape, not combat, is the only practical means of living against the gleam. 33 But a careful examination of The Beautyful Ones is enough to dispel this impression that it is Teacher's policy of self-imposed internal exile rather than "the man's" strategy of resolute struggle with the here and now that is ultimately vindicated in the novel. For not only, as Robert Fraser has pointed out, does the novel consistently endorse "the man's" "stubborn refusal to compromise on basic principles" and "his decision to put into practice the official [Nkrumahist] Party ideals of 'hard work and honesty and integrity,'" it also comes very close to an explicit repudiation of the fundamental futility of Teacher's life. 34 Such a repudiation is metaphorically presaged early in the novel, as "the man" goes to sharpen his pencils in the sharpener in his office: When he stuck a pencil into the sharpener and turned the handle, the handle sped round and round with the futile freedom of a thing connected to nothing else. The man stopped trying and went back to his 69

The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born seat. Searching deep inside the drawer, he found an old blade. He began to sharpen the pencils at the same time reading over the night clerk's log, just checking. [ 17] Teacher is like the pencil sharpener in that his "freedom" has been won at the cost of his life's meaning and purpose. He is free, but his liberty is unconnected and has no substance. In the past, Teacher has been "the man's" friend and mentor, helping to sustain his awareness and satisfy his thirst for knowledge. But now, when "the man" goes to visit Teacher, he finds his friend's spirit "so full offear for itself, and full of a killing anguish at what this fear makes impossible," that it is "almost destroyed" (78). Teacher is unable to help "the man" any more. Just as, sharpening his pencil, "the man" needs to use an old blade, so too in his life is he obliged to make do with the limited means he has at his disposal, patiently, resolutely, with no great hope of ever succeeding fully, but with even less intention of ever ceasing to try. Teacher's flight from the world is the indirect consequence of his commitment to Nkrumahism. The extent of his present anomie is inversely proportional to the intensity of his past allegiance. As with Maanan, too much of Teacher had been caught up in Nkrumahism to enable him to recover from the disillusion that attended its collapse. Nkrumah's "betrayal" of the African revolution became in Teacher's eyes much more than a contingent failure or act of treachery. With the progressive disappearance of the Nkrumahist persona of "Verandah Boy" (and its progressive supersession by the ostentatious persona of "Show Boy"), disappeared also Teacher's faith and inspiration. The bitterness of the experience now makes it impossible for him to see in Nkrumah's career anything less than an eternal African sequence of hope, betrayal, and despair. Teacher's alienation is comprehensive. All meaning and purpose have been drained from his existence, and the universe seems to him bound by the irresistible natural cycles of birth and decay, life and decomposition. Even the social process is now cast in his eyes as entropic. Hope gives way inevitably to disillusion, and disillusion is made all the harder to bear by the lingering memory of the hope in whose ashes it has arisen. For Teacher there is no lasting hope to be found anywhere. He adopts this conviction as though it were an incontrovertible metaphysical principle: "It is not a choice between life and death, but what kind of death we can bear, in the end. Have you not seen there is no salvation anywhere?" (56). Applying this dissipative philosophy to social reality, Teacher concludes that although situations inspiring hope might arise in the world, the hope thus aroused would best not be trusted, being transient in its very nature and containing its endings and the threat of its decay in its beginnings and its first, embryonic promises of things to come:


Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will The man remembered times when Teacher had talked with eagerness about hopeful things, but then always there was the ending, when he would deliberately ask whether the rot and weakness were not after all the eternal curse of Africa itself, against which people could do nothing that would last. Sometimes this death of hope would spread all over the world. When Teacher had talked of people standing up and deciding then and there to do what ages and millions had called impossible, had talked of the Chinese Mao and the Cuban Castro struggling in the face of all reasonable hope, even then Teacher's mind would look beyond the clear awakening and see after the dawn the bright morning and the noonday, the afternoon, dusk, and then another night of darkness and fatigue. Once he had asked whether it was true that we were merely asleep, and not just dead, never to aspire anymore. So even after the big movements he hopes for, the question always remains with Teacher: is it all worthwhile, then? [91] In Teacher's eyes, there is nothing in social reality upon which to ground a public morality. Time passes, whisperings swell into movements, into mass activity, and then subside, decay, and dissolve: "So much time has gone by, and still there is no sweetness here" (6 7). Such changes as do occur appear to be synchronized by an inexorable logic forever beyond the control of human action, a logic which stamps its processes of life and death upon natural and social realms alike. Teacher is often moved to talk of the cycle of life and death, youth and age, newness and decay, of the good food we eat and the smelly shit it turns into with time ... this was the way with all of life ... there was nothing anywhere that could keep the promise and the fragrance of its youth forever ... everything grows old. [85] Teacher's metaphysical outlook on events is not to be confused with cowardice, as Ogungbesan seems to have imagined. 3 5 Nor is his inactivity to be regarded as the outcome of an over-intellectualization of the problems of commitment. His is a post- and not a pre-commitment mentality. His inactivity derives from his conviction (which in turn derives from his own personal experience) that political action is futile and that all hope is doomed to betrayal. Dialectically speaking, as he well appreciates, despair entails hope, and hope constantly speaks of renewal. But he is resolved never again to heed the inspirational voice of hope: "I will not be entranced by the voice, even ifit should swell as it did in the days of hope. I will not be entranced, since I have seen the destruction of the promises it made. But I shall not resist it either. I will be like a cork" (63 ). Teacher understands that this resolution condemns him endlessly to a life of emptiness. Perpetually on the run from the gleam, he is incapable of


The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born raising his hand to assist those combating it and dreaming of the construction of a new order, however far in the future this might be. He knows that in one sense he is as dead as the loved ones trying to welcome him into a different type of death. He has chosen one type of death, they another. In a limbo world, he expends all of his energy fleeing the touch of other dead beings. He has no beliefs and if he is still left with desires, they are useless since he will not allow them conscious expression. He has his freedom but it is a freedom whose exercise is indistinguishable from its non-exercise: It makes no difference. Ifwe can't consume ourselves for something we

believe in, freedom makes no difference at all. You see, I am free to do what I want, but there is nothing happening now that I want to join ... I don't feel any hope in me any more ... No. I also am one of the dead people, the walking dead. A ghost. I died long ago, so long ago that not even the old libations of living blood will make me live again. [61] By contrast with Teacher, "the man" is unfree. But, also by contrast with Teacher, he chooses life rather than a form of living death as his personal stance. The quality of this "life," as one might have expected from Armah's description of the debased environment within which it is conducted, is impoverished in the extreme. As Fraser has observed, "the man" is caught in the trap of a mundane and unremunerative occupation, he is subject to all those petty, debilitating pressures from which a more dignified status might have exempted him. His work is dull and unrewarding. His family, frustrated by poverty and deferred expectations, are pinched and resentful ... he drags himself through each working day with little to anticipate in the evening but the accusing eyes of his wife and children, their nagging envy of those whose financial situation is happier.36 "The man's" domestic and material circumstances are squalid and miserable. Futhermore, they appear highly unlikely to improve significantly during his own lifetime. Yet within the context of these demeaning circumstances, "the man" manages to invest his struggle for bare existence with great dignity, and to wrench from this struggle a note of hope for the future. As Richard Priebe has noted, "the man actually carries a tragic potential, for we are made to feel the dignity of his struggle with forces that overwhelmingly contrive against human dignity. He is not a man or everyman, but the man, the only human being, the only person in the context of the novel who is struggling to maintain his humanity."37 Besides his moral perspicacity and social integrity, "the man's" cardinal virtue consists in his self-discipline. His is not an easy existence. It is one that, ifit is to be borne long and in sanity, requires a level-headed abandonment of false optimism. The world must be taken and grappled with as it is


Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will found. It will not help to pretend that its transformation is imminent if it is not, for such a pretense can only lead to subsequent disillusion. Individuals are obliged to live their lives from day to day, not from revolutionary conjuncture to revolutionary conjuncture. "The man" realizes this. He moves toward the realization, too, that with social revolution seemingly not a viable proposition for the time being, progress has to be assessed negatively, in terms of resistance to the hegemonic order, rather than positively, in terms of the construction of a new one. It is only at the end of the novel that he learns to rest content with his existential stance in the face of the appalling near-certainty that his generation will not live to celebrate the birth of the "beautyful ones." 38 Up until this point in the novel, "the man" can find no means of defending his own convictions against the charge that it is ultimately absurd or, worse, perverse, to uphold a principle or set of principles whose immediate social relevance is nil and whose direct usefulness to posterity is at best massively problematical. "The man" has to learn to accept that none of the victories that he might be capable of forging from everyday life can possibly be world-historical ones. Many of these victories, indeed, will not even seem to be victories at all. To the mind anxious for results and for clear indications that its judgments have been sound, this knowledge, that all that can be expected from the present is that it will not foreclose every single one of the future's progressive options, is difficult to bear. For in such a context success is unheralded and carries with it no banners of glory. "The man" struggles toward an awareness that his strategy for living is justified even though it might never be hailed as such. The understanding that he might well die without ever seeing so much as a single brick laid toward the concretization of his dreams calls upon "the man" to exercise tremendous self-control in sustaining himself upon his course of action. His resistance of corruption exhausts him. The utmost vigilance is needed merely to keep the gleam at bay, and so much strength is sapped in each encounter with it that nothing remains with which to begin the task of of reconstruction. All of"the man's" victories, hence, are small (imperceptible, in fact, from any macrosociological viewpoint) and desperately hard in the earning. They are nevertheless indisputably victories-and in a novel in which every other strategy for resistance is shown to result in a form of living death, "the man's" small triumphs against the forces of degradation stacked against him are sufficient to occasion the reader's great admiration. In his unquenchable determination to make his life yield a positive meaning and purpose, "the man" approaches heroic stature. His denial of the gleam is creative, for it leaves the way open for the "beautyful ones" of the novel's title. Theirs will be the future-and theirs also must be the task of revolution, for the present generation is constrained by the limits of social and personal possibility. "The man's" life may well continue to be harsh and excruciatingly painful,


The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born but it will possess none of the inauthenticity that characterizes Teacher's. As such, it would seem to be vindicated where Teacher's is not. For while Teacher's strategy of escape leaves him feeling forever marginalized, "the man" discovers that his policy of dogged refusal offers him moments-no matter how qualified-of satisfaction. A prototype of these moments of happiness is presented early in the novel, as "the man" wanders from his office in the general direction of the harbor one lunchtime. Although he is extremely hungry, he cannot afford to buy himself anything to eat. He walks to keep himself occupied. At first, he finds that his thoughts keep returning to the apparent futility of his life, but later his sustained and self-disciplined defiance of hunger issues in a sensation of profound and rewarding lucidity: Thinking of the endless round that shrinks a man to something less than the size and the meaning of little short-lived flying ants on rainy nights, the man followed the line of the hard steel tracks where they curved out and away from inside the loco yard and straightened out ahead for the melancholy piercing push into the interior of the land. On the gravel bed beneath the metal the mixture of fallen ashes and stray lumps of engine coal and steamed grease raised somewhere in the region of his throat the overwarm stench of despair and the defeat of a domestic kitchen well used, its whole atmosphere made up of malingering tongues of the humiliating smoke of all those yesterdays. Out ahead, however, the tracks drove straight in clean shiny lines and the air above the steel shook with the power of the sun until the afternoon things seen through the air seemed fluid and not solid anymore. The sourness that had been gathering in his mouth went imperceptibly away until quite suddenly all he was aware of was the exceedingly sharp clarity of vision and the clean taste that comes with the successful defiance of hunger. It was not painful watching the little scratched-out farms of Northern migrant workers slide slowly past. Only a little effort, scarcely noticeable, was required to keep the footsteps landing on the warm crossties. In the ditch running along the left track, the unconquerable filth was beginning to cake together in places, though underneath it all some water still managed to flow along. Nothing oppressed him as he walked along now, and even the slight giddiness accompanying the clarity of his starved vision was buried way beneath the unaccustomed happy lightness. [22-23] "The man's" small triumphs invariably result from his perseverance in the face of adversity. Sometimes, as in the passage just cited, he is granted an instant's awareness of the validity of his stance, just as he approaches the edge of despair. In this event, the moment serves, for all its fleetingness, to strengthen his flagging resolve. At other times he is able to find a sort of


Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will heightened sensitivity in the loneliness to which his uncompromising social bearing condemns him. This allows him to project himself in his imagination beyond his own straitened circumstances toward a vision of harmony. He is helped in this in possessing the inclination (unlike Teacher) to contemplate the natural and social worlds as distinct. Where Teacher tends to place a naturalistic rationality upon society, and to conflate the instances of decay (natural) and corruption (social), "the man" seems to recognize a reciprocal tension between the two realms: the natural universe is entropic and its patterns are ceaseless and repetitive, but it has about it on occasion a simple, unfraught and uncluttered beauty that impresses itself deeply upon "the man"; the social world, on the other hand, is massively oppressive in its present (and historical) form, but it bears within itself the only viable means of transcending the circularity of nature's processes. "The man's" strategy of absolute resistance to the gleam eventually regains him the respect of his wife. Oyo's conversion to "the man's" cause ranks as his most tangible triumph in the novel. This is not only because Oyo has hitherto been among "the man's" harshest and most articulate critics, but also because as his wife, she is the foremost representative of the "loved ones," from whom he has often felt a particular need to flee. Throughout The Beautyful Ones, there are indications that Oyo's capitulation to the gleam has been a source of special unhappiness to "the man," who discovers himself somewhat lost without her qualities of strength, intelligence, and loyalty. Accordingly, the reconciliation between husband and wife serves to give the novel an immediate and potent edge of optimism that it could not otherwise have realized. The reader cannot help being encouraged by the thought that, however difficult their lives will continue to be in a material sense, Oyo and "the man" will be considerably happier in their shared future than they have been in their divided past.3 9 Although it presents "the man" as a heroic and Oyo as a fallen character, The Beautyful Ones scrupulously resists casting the wife as unworthy of her husband. It is true that "the man" had once entertained hopes of going to university (a move which would in all probability have secured his future financially) and had been disappointed when Oyo's unwanted pregnancy had forced the abandonment of this pleasing dream. But he implicitly acknowledges now that he was not as distressed about the course of events leading to his marriage as he had pretended to be at the time: Another path was open before him. He would have liked to think that he had not chosen that path, that the daily life of a struggling railway man was merely something that had been forced on his unwilling soul. But in truth he could never believe this of himself. Oyo's pregnancy had not pleased him, but he could remember clearly now that the anguish he had expressed when her parents had come with their long story of


The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born their daughter ruined had not been entirely genuine. And the marriage ceremonies had actually left him feeling quite happy, with the sense that something important had happened to him. [ 117] Robert Fraser has argued that "the man's" marriage to Oyo is the sorry outcome of an "amorous misadventure" which, "continually tortured by thoughts of the future he might have had," he has not yet stopped ruing.4o It seems to me, however, that Fraser has drastically underestimated the extent to which "the man" looks to Oyo for love and approval and feels himself bereft when he can no longer reach her. Throughout the novel there are intimations that the relationship between Oyo and "the man" has been a close one in the past and carries the potential to be so again. The real measure of "the man's" success in restoring his relationship with Oyo to its erstwhile situation of mutual love and respect can be gleaned through a simple juxtaposition of descriptions from the middle and the end of the novel. In the middle, husband and wife seem to have drifted irretrievably far apart. At the end, the distance between them appears to have been bridged: there was nothing the man could say to his wife, and the woman herself did not look as if she thought there could be anything said to her about what she knew was so true. But inside the man the confusion and the impotence had swollen into something asking for a way out of confinement, and in his restlessness he rose and went out very quietly through the door, and his wife sat there not even staring after him, not even asking where he was going or when he would come back in the night, or even whether he wanted to return at all to this home. [47] And: [Oyo] was standing just outside the hall door, and when he could see her face properly the man judged that she was confused. She was looking as if something tremendous were disturbing her, but at the same time the man could see in her eyes something he could only think of as a deep kind of love, a great respect. He continued his forward movement until he had pushed his wife back very gently against the wall to the side of the door. Though the movement and the sudden tenderness in himself surprised him, he knew it was true, and he put all his fingers deep into her hair and held her head, pressing against her and letting her feel his desire for her. She raised her eyes in a motion of soft unbelief, and she looked like a young girl afraid she may be doing something wrong. [ 160] In personal terms, "the man's" perseverance not only wins him back his wife's respect, it also prompts the re-emergence of his own self-esteem: "In


Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will Oyo's eyes there was now real gratitude. Perhaps for the first time in their married life the man could believe that she was glad to have him the way he was" (165). Ultimately, however, The Beautyful Ones is less concerned with what "the man" achieves for himself through his strategy of confrontation with the gleam than with what his strategy appears to retrieve (or, at least, to be capable of retrieving) for the future in social terms. In this regard "the man's" primary victory lies in his managing to transform Oyo's charge, that he resembles the chichidodo bird, from an insult into a statement of positive value. The chichidodo is a bird that loves maggots but despises excrement. Oyo levels her accusation in the course of reproaching her husband for being too fastidious in his rejection of crooked means to arrive at the gleam; she argues that he appreciates the "good things" of life but scorns all of the effective means of acquiring them. Certainly, there is considerable substance to this charge. For most of the novel. "the man's" resistance to the gleam, laudable though it is in general terms, is marked by a certain moralism and aloofness. His repudiation of corruption is disdainfully articulated, as though he despised corruption not merely on political but equally on aesthetic grounds, because it was "dirty."4 1 In this context, the circumstances of his "purification" at the end of the novel emerge as decisive. In helping Koomson to escape arrest in the aftermath of a coup, "the man" is forced to lead the compromised politician through the latrine hole beneath his house. He is forced, in the words of the colloquial expression, to "get down and dirty," and to overcome his aestheticist finickiness in the process.42 Only once he has done so, and once he has been subsequently cleansed by a plunge into the ocean, is his resistance to the gleam able to lose its ethically superior tone and become, finally, politically principled and resolute. The distance that "the man" travels in The Beautyful Ones can be measured by comparing the first and last scenes of the novel. As the work opens, "the man" is discovered asleep aboard a bus on his way to work. To the extent that the bus in its wheezing decrepitude serves as a microcosmic representation of Ghanaian society, "the man" himself is both a representative and an exceptional figure. 43 He is representative inasmuch as he is asleep in a Ghana of whose sovereign citizens Kwame Nkrumah had declared at independence-in a speech that I have already discussed-that they would "no more go back to sleep." If decolonization was marked by "the waking of the powerless," it is clear that in the short years since independence there has been a reversion to the status quo ante. But "the man" is simultaneously different from his compatriots: although he is asleep, his eyes are open. Since he is asleep, he does not in fact see what is going on around him: but because his eyes are open, he is seen by others as seeing. When, at the beginning of the novel. the conductor of the bus looks up from his counting of the day's takings-a task that he has been performing somewhat fetishis-


The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born tically, luxuriating in the smell of the money-he is met by the staring eyes of "the man" asleep, and feels himself judged by their implicit address: "the conductor felt excruciatingly tortured as [the eyes] drilled the message of his guilt into his consciousness" (4). Throughout the novel, as, more characteristically, "the man" finds it impossible to shut his eyes to the goings-on around him, others experience him as an uncomfortable, judging presence, and it is difficult not to feel that they are at least partially right. For in his moralism "the man" emerges not only as a righteous judge of the corruption of others, but also as himself judgmental, dismissive, and disrespectful of others' motives and actions. In these terms, his "purification" at the end of the novel is notable inasmuch as it frees him of his lingering ethical arrogance. Walking along the shore after his cleansing swim in the ocean, he witnesses a policeman extorting a bribe from a bus driver. The regime of Nkrumah and Koomson may have been overthrown, but the business of corruption continues as usual. What is crucial about this episode is that although "the man" is once again presented-as he has been throughout the novel-as "the silent watcher," observing corruption from a distance, he now neither moves to judge, nor is perceived as sitting in judgment of, the bus-driver. In the novel's opening scene, "the man's" stare had fixed the bus-conductor's actions as morally reprehensible. Here, however, at the novel's end, the busdriver sees the watching "man" not as a stern figure of conscience, calling him to account, nor-of course-as a partner in crime, but as one who understands: "The driver must have seen the silent watcher by the roadside, for, as the bus started up the road and out of the town, he smiled and waved to the man" ( 183 ). It is not so much that "the man" recognizes the humanity of the bus-driver. It is rather that he recognizes the driver's fellowhumanity, which is to say, his own as well as that of the driver-indeed, his own through that of the driver. The upshot of the exchange is a sense of renewal on the part of "the man," who no longer feels quite as isolated as previously. The hand-lettered inscription on the side of the bus-THE BEAUTYFUL ONES ARE NOT YET BORN-speaks directly to this sense of renewal. By virtue of his late "purification," therefore, "the man's" dogged refusal to abandon either his principles or his dream of a better society is able to emerge as a potent source of value in the novel. As Henry Chakava has written, "the man's" "determination to continue to live in this society and endure public disgrace, family abuse and mental conflict, without being defeated, is the greatest sign of hope in the whole book." 44 "The man" learns that it is only by continuing his struggle, by resolutely opposing the pull of the degraded reality all around him, and by holding fast to a vision of future social transformation, that he is able to invest his life with a constructive purpose. It is his discovery that one has to live within one's society and not beyond it. Reality has to be borne. The definitive insight offered by


Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will The Beautyful Ones, in these terms, consists in the prospect of "the man's" unyielding and heroically brave resistance to the dominative aspects of an unpalatable reality. At the end of the novel, "the man" goes home knowing that his own material circumstances are unlikely ever to be changed, and that he is unlikely ever to see his socialist dream for Ghana realized:

but then suddenly all his mind was consumed with thoughts of everything he was going back to-Oya, the eyes of the children after six o'clock, the office and every day, and above all the never-ending knowledge that this aching emptiness would be all that the remainder of his own life could offer him. [ 18 3] Yet he goes home. He chooses to re-enter the world that will never offer him any substantial rewards. And he does so, finally, for two reasons: because it is the only world there is; and because he has come to understand that the value of a life can only be judged in terms of its social morality. Taking his individual stance in the present against the gleam, "the man" elects to live for the "beautyful ones" of the future. That way, and that sway alone, lies freedom.



Fragments Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional

The almost insoluble task is to let neither the power of others, nor our own powerlessness, stupefy us.-Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia

When The Beautyful Ones was first published in 1968, it received mixed reviews. Few critics were unimpressed by the novel, and few failed to acclaim Ayi Kwei Armah's voice as an important addition to the African literary scene. Yet the enthusiasm of the most influential readers-among them Chinua Achebe, Emmanuel Obiechina, and Abiola Irele-was less than wholehearted. While conceding that the novel's technical merits were considerable, these readers tended to argue that its presentation of Ghanaian society and politics was flat and one-sided. Achebe spoke of the book as being evidently the product of an alienated mind. "There is an enormous distance between Armah and Ghana," he charged in a celebrated article entitled "Africa and Her Writers." 1 Building upon such comments, other critics went so far as to attack The Beautyful Ones as perverse and even "unAfrican."2 We cannot be sure what the impact of these contemporary criticisms of his first book was upon Armah himself. He has not commented publicly on the matter and little secondary evidence is available. 3 On the basis of his second novel, Fragments, published in 1970, however, it is possible for us to speculate that he had anticipated at least some of the criticism directed against The Beautyful Ones. 4 For the registers of the two novels are quite different. Sociologically speaking, Fragments is a more precisely focused novel than The Beautyful Ones. Its characterization is more sharply defined and its political thrust more unambiguous. The relative diffuseness of The Beautyful Ones, which, in the eyes of some readers, had made it difficult to locate the ideological source of "the man's" social conscience, gives way to a clear representationalism in Fragments. The plot of Fragments centers on the return home, after several years spent studying in the United States, of a young Ghanaian named Baako Onipa. 80

Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional The time is the late 1960s, about a decade after Ghana had gained its political independence from Britain. Baako returns to Ghana eager to put his acquired skills as a writer to work for the benefit of the community at large. He very quickly finds out, however, that the existing structure of Ghanaian society makes this kind of civic-minded service extremely difficult to render. The Ghana that Baako encounters is readily familiar to any reader of The Beautyful Ones: it is the same underdeveloped and deprived environment that "the man" had had to steel himself to withstand in that earlier novel. In The Beautyful Ones, the metaphors of the "gleam" and of "fast driving" had functioned to order the text as a whole; in Fragments, however, there are no such ordering metaphors. Instead, a sustained image of Ghana as a neocolony is presented just once, but to telling effect, in the form of a heavily symbolic screenplay, The Brand, that Baako writes for Ghanavision, the state-run and -financed television corporation for which he starts to work shortly after his return home. The screenplay employs shapes and colors to sketch in its picture of postcolonial Ghana: "SINGLE DARK CIRCLE FILLING SCREEN, REPRESENTING THE WEAK PERIPHERY, LARGE ENVIRONMENT, HABITAT OF THE OPPRESSED. ON WHICH A SQUARE IS SUPERIMPOSED, WHITE, THE TOUGH CONCRETIZED FOR-

(210). Here "the oppressed" are disenfranchised and powerless. In spite of the fact that numerically they far outnumber their oppressors, their subjugation is complete; and, as Armah has noted elsewhere, the dominated group in such a situation is paradoxically "subject to social and psychological realities similar to those of a real minority." 5 The culture of "the oppressed" has been rendered marginal by the dominant culture of the oppressors who inhabit the white square. A ladder, "MADE UP oF THE SHOULDERS OF INHABITANTS OF THE LOWER LEVEL, THE OPPRESSED," leads "FROM WEAK CIRCLE TO STRONG SQUARE" (211 ). The single-minded desire to mount this ladder and climb to the square, the sole source of power and wealth, consumes the minds of many of "the oppressed." An aspirant climber is introduced as the "hero":





Fragments Baako emphasizes the social consequences of the act of climbing. In his screenplay, all successful climbers internalize the ways of the square. Reaching their goal, they only ever perpetuate the inequalities between the life it offers and the life of "the oppressed" below. It is as though no climber who was not prepared to forsake his commitment to those below could ever hope to reach the square. One is marked out for the greatness that the square bestows, it would seem, by one's malleability in absorbing its values. Thus we read of the SQUARE PEOPLE IN WHITE-WHITE LIKE PERENNIAL COLONIAL SCHOOLBOYS, HARD WITH AN EXTERIOR SHINE, EXHIBITIONISTIC, SELF-GRATULATING. SOME OF THESE ROAM THE CIRCLE IN COMPACT CORPS, SELECTING AT INTERVALS PROSPECTIVE CLIMBERS, ISOLATING THEM WITH A REPEATED RITUAL OF CONGRATULATION AND SUSTAINED PRAISE. [213)6 Within the orbit of the circle, all eyes are trained on the square. Most of the circle's inhabitants, however, conscious of the square's practical inaccessibility to them, have sunk into a well of"QUIET, DENSE DEFEAT" (213). When we attempt to unpack the symbolism of Baako's screenplay by turning from The Brand to the world of Fragments itself, we see immediately that the square represents the privileged society inhabited by the local "men of substance," the "elite" as Baako calls them (210). Below them are the aspirants toward the square, those clambering toward it on the ladder made up of other climbers. They are represented in the novel principally by Efua and Araba, Baako's mother and sister respectively, but also by various minor characters. These individuals belong to the Ghanaian petit bourgeoisie. They are staunch advocates of the ideology of the square, from which they are excluded at present but to which they constantly aspire. Beneath them, in tum, are the urban and rural masses, the largely defeated inhabitants of the dark world of the circle. For the overwhelming majority of them, there is only hardship and toil and the bleak experience of life as "A long stretch of danger with both ends unknown, the only certain things being the constant threat and the presence of loss on a way lined with infrequent, brief, unlikely hopes and once in a long while ... unexpected miracle escapes from the edge of the unknown" (33-34). The "men of substance" preside over the neocolony of Ghana. They are, as Joe Lurie has commented, the "new Europeans" ofpostcolonial society. 7 Yet their situation is itself paradoxical. For they are simultaneously the executives and the victims of neocolonialism. As rulers of a neocolony they implement policy decisions that are in effect taken for them by the West. The implications of this are double edged. On the one hand, these "men of substance" have genuinely taken over where their former masters, the European colonialists, had left off. Their wealth and power-"the most visible manifestation[s] of the new colonialism" 8 -are real enough, as also


Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional is their determination to maintain them. But on the other hand, these "men of substance" are only neocolonialism's front men, local puppets dancing to the tune of international capital. Their "partnership" with overseas business concerns, though profitable to themselves, is sanctioned by the foreign principals because it serves "to legitimize the foreign companies and to entrench them in their commanding position in the [local] economy." 9 Armah depicts the "men of substance" in both their ministerial and their ministering contexts in Fragments, in order to show, as Lurie puts it, that "Ghana's development is [still] being sacrificed to a larger cause. It is a sacrifice which is directly connected to the continued impoverishment and suffering of Ghanaians ... Africa is being ravaged to nourish the West." 10 To this end, Armah seldom allows us to confuse the appearance of things with their actual social meaning. He provides us, for example, with abundant evidence of industrial growth, symptomatic of the fact that capital is being generated on Ghanaian soil; but everywhere this growth seems actively to be contributing to Ghana's underdevelopment. Thus there is a Texaco petrol dump, but it is near the unfinished building of a secondary school whose foundations were laid several years ago (20). There is a new Barclay's Bank and a "newer, bigger" Standard Bank (22), but the mass of the population is destitute. There are Shell tankers (30) that rumble past shut-down distilleries ( 31 ), and neon lights that beam out their message that only a certain brand of imported cigarettes can transport the Ghanaian smoker into the smooth world of stylish living (82). There are glittering new glass and concrete buildings, constructed to signify Ghana's surge into "modernity," but proving, upon closer inspection, to signify nothing of the sort. A new wing at a hospital turns out to be reserved for VIPS, senior officers and, presumably, European or American expatriates. Its construction has obviously absorbed most of the money put aside for the entire hospital in recent years, because the old wards, "for broke people" ( 107), are dilapidated, understaffed, and ill-equipped. 11 Similarly, although the Ghana Bank building is very beautiful and intricate in its design, its gleaming extravagance serves chiefly to throw into bold relief the sordidness of the daily grind of life on the streets outside: To his right [Baako] saw a small, shaded space overflowing with toughlooking children carrying crates of colored Biro pens and fighting over the few buyers there, and women in a crooked row selling identical lots of fruit and cakes and bread, then beggars sprawled haphazardly in what spaces they could find in the press. The Bank was to the left, on the other side of a large car park. Sunlight shot sharply back off rows of parked cars that seemed all new and freshly polished, and beyond them it bathed the gold-leaf grille of the building's facade in a surfeit of brightness. [95])


Fragments There is growth in the Ghana portrayed in Fragments, but it is indicative of encroaching underdevelopment, not of development. This might sound paradoxical but, as Basil Davidson has explained, there is a world of difference between social growth and social development: Applied all over colonial and ex-colonial Africa with much the same results, the idea behind ... [the] policy of growth was a simple one: "more" must be "better". But "more" for whom? In Ghana's case, far from unique, a lion's share of the "more" was going regularly abroad in one kind of capital transfer or another, direct or indirect. Making this economic system grow therefore meant making it still more dependent on foreign partners who already had the upper hand. This in turn meant an ever-growing dependence not only on foreign markets, but also on imports from foreign countries. And that brought an ever-rising volume of indebtedness to foreign countries. Short-term gains could derive from this policy of growth: but they would have to be paid for by long term losses.12 The "men of substance," Ghana's leaders in independence, have inherited from the colonial era and have moved to consolidate an administrative and political system designed to impose government upon a subject people from above. It is clear that for Armah, the rule of this postcolonial elite is not simply indifferent but positively hostile to the real needs of most of the nation's population. From the perspective of this elite, Armah suggests, the maintenance of a neocolonial form of government in Ghana seems the best means of safeguarding their own privileged position. Hence the novelist's insistence that postcolonial government needs to be seen first and foremost as an extension of colonial government. In Fragments, however, Armah focuses not only on the politics but also on what we might call the psychology of neocolonialism. He is concerned, that is to say, not only with the social implications and effects of corrupt and despotic government, but also with the "sickness" that seems to be disclosed in the postcolonial elite's psychological and ideological dependence on Europe and the West. From the very beginning of the novel, accordingly, we discover the postcolonial elite being presented to us as a parasitic and exocentric social fraction, incapable of independent activity. The suggestion is that members of the elite have internalized not only the colonizers' understanding of the Western world as the source of civilization, but also their vilification of Africa as barbarous and backward. In Fragments, the members of the elite are portrayed as being so imbued with a blind faith in the superiority of things Western that they pursue Western habits to the point that their lives become unconscious parodies of the already decadent lives of the European expatriates glimpsed on the fringes of the novel. The expatriates are shown keeping to a narrow circuit, avoiding any gratuitous


Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional contact with the indigenous population. They course "from bungalow to work to ingrown parties to nights at the Star after evenings spent chatting with visitors in embassies or at the Ambassador Hotel, to weekends on beaches or in the sun beside the new pool at Akosombo" (35). Such sterility is mistaken for haute couture by the local elite. The lives of characters like Brempong in the novel are wholly consumed with the ambition to become black white people, to root out and destroy all traces of their own African heritage, and to ape the behavior of the expatriates. As might be expected, therefore, the most successful among them prove to be those most accomplished in the mad art of self-mutilation. Yet it is not only the powerful who play at being Westerners: for nearly every character casually described in Fragments seems to be obsessed with at least one of the twin desirables of being white and being Western. An American slang has become the prevailing dialect of the streets (8 7, 90); the wearing of wigs and of garish make-up are prerequisites for being seen as fashionable (56, 94, 96); advertisements for skin-lightening cream are prominently displayed in magazines and on calendar covers ( 124-2 5); and even traditional children's songs have been rendered unacceptable, voided from public memory and pointedly replaced by" Jack and Jill," notwithstanding the fact that the young singers themselves evidently find it difficult to get their mouths around the unfamiliar English words: Jaaack and Jill Went aaap the hill To fetch a pail ofwaaatah. [100] The scramble after westernization carries its own rewards, of course, for those who contrive to reach the square or even to establish a foothold on the topmost rungs of the human ladder leading to it. But it is not so much the mere possession of wealth and power, as what one does with one's wealth and power, that really matters. In caricatured mimicry of the expatriates, affluence must be borne altogether without dignity. It must be extravagantly and witlessly displayed in parades that combine ostentation for its own sake with a maximum of deference toward the West. The use-value of commodities purchased and consumed has been obliterated, to be replaced not so much by the form of exchange-value analyzed by Marx as by a sliding semiotic scale of "Westernity." Consider for instance the appearance and· behavior of the guests invited by Baako's mother and sister to the outdooring ceremony of Baako's newborn nephew: 13 This was a rich crowd of guests, too, sitting at first like a picture already taken. Woolen suits, flashing shoes, important crossed legs, bright rings showing on intertwined fingers held in front of restful bellies, an authentic cold-climate overcoat from Europe or America held traveler-


Fragments fashion over an arm, five or six waistcoats, silken ties and silver clasps, and a magnificent sane man in a university gown reigning over four admiring women in white lace covershirts on new dumas cloth; long, twinkling earrings, gold necklaces, quick-shining wristwatches, a rich splendor stifling all these people in the warmth of a beautiful day-but that was only an addition to the wonder: the sweat called forth new white handkerchiefs brought out with a happy flourish, spreading perfume underneath the mango trees. [259] 14 At issue here is a slavish and dependence-inducing mimicry of Western patterns of consumption on the part of the Ghanaian middle class. Armah is particularly interested, in Fragments, in exploring the substance and implications of this mimicry. His chief vehicle to this end is the character Brempong. Although Brempong is not in attendance at the outdooring ceremony just alluded to, he would have been very much in his element there, for he too is a man whose every mannerism and article of clothing is publicly motivated. The cult of conspicuous consumption obviously entails the aspect of being seen, and Brempong is portrayed as a formidable devotee of the cult. He is, as Joe Lurie has written, "a walking caricature of a European."15 More than this, though, he is a highly visible symbol of privilege, of the condition of "substantiality." The reader is introduced to Brempong as a fellow traveler of Baako's on a flight from Paris to Accra. Baako is returning to Ghana via Paris after five years at college in the United States, but for Brempong the flight is merely the return leg of a routine business trip abroad. He is wearing an expensivelooking dark woolen suit. Once the plane has taken off he busies himself making several trips to the rear of the plane and back to his seat, his movements as well as the smile on his face exuding an irrepressible happiness, as if in the atmosphere of the plane he had found an element that suited him completely, and he needed to let everyone and everything around him know this. [61-62] Brempong is stylized to the point of parody. His entire existence is organized around the axes of Eurocentrism and ostentation. Even his name, Henry Robert Hudson Brempong, an admixture of excess and pomposity, bespeaks an ingrained Western-orientation; and yet, as the reader learns from a pregnant exchange underpinned by Baako's intensity and Brempong's tactlessness, Brempong regards his name as a significant personal achievement in itself. He looks favorably upon its full-blown capitulation to imperial ideology, and he is distinctly surprised that Baako, as a "been-to," should still allow himself to bear such an unambiguously African name: The man moved closer, turning his seat as he did so, and held out his hand. 86

Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional "Brempong is my name," he said. "Henry Robert Hudson Brempong." "Baako." "Is that your Christian or your surname?" Brempong asked. "No Christian name," said Baako. 'Tm not a Christian." "You know," said Brempong, "you know, your other names." He chuckled, a bit uncertainly, at the end. "Onipa." "It's an unusual name," Brempong said. "My family name," said Baako. "I think of it as a very common name myself." [63) From any ethical standpoint, Brempong is a hypocrite. But, as Baako learns at the airport when the plane lands in Accra and Brempong is met by an ecstatic group of his relatives "waiting for him with a ceremony in their heart" (88), this is a bizarre form of duplicity. For the "dizzy game" (88) that Brempong plays is amazingly and minutely reflected in the aspirations of his relatives and the larger society. A frightening power resides in Brempong's inauthenticity, "an easy potency he had not had to struggle for, to create" (88). Seamlessly in tune with the prevailing mode of thought of his society, Brempong has enacted its social philosophy-lived its dream-as if by natural reason, and the power that has fallen to him in consequence is demonstrably real even if profoundly perverted: It was not a mere game. Not to the welcomers he [Baako] had seen this night. More insistently, Baako saw the ceremony working itself out: the straining crowd, the clothes, the jewels, the cascading drink, the worship of this new chief, the car, the words in the night. Did it matter whether there was real power or real joy as long as the human beings involved thought there was? So what if these words and ceremonies were the mere outward show of power and joy hiding impotence? Who was going to stand outside it all and say maybe the show was designed to hide impotence, but all it did was steep this powerlessness in a worsening stupidity? And who would stop laughing and praisesinging long enough to hear such words? [89) In The Beautyful Ones, Ghana was conceived as a society living against itself. This conception receives amplification in Fragments. To go out into the local environment is, as Juana (a Puerto Rican psychiatrist living in Accra, later Baako's lover) reflects, to see "life lived not with it but of necessity against it" (34). Like the traffic policeman whom Juana sees, "with his unchanging, incredible, happiness and skill directing the traffic just then to a complete stop" (22), the Ghanaian state apparatus appears to excel only in stifling the creativity and productivity of its citizens. Another symptom of Ghana's continuing external domination is implied in this. For, as Basil Davidson has written, " [a] truly independent country, unlike a colony or a 87

Fragments 'neo-colony', must be able to ensure its social and cultural progress from its own reserves oftalent." 16 This is precisely the last thing that the Ghanaian state as depicted in Fragments would appear to be capable of doing. Nepotism and corruption are rampant. Qualifications and competence seem to be more frowned upon than favored by corporation bosses and others in positions to implement positive policies of Africanization and constructive modernization. To make one's mark in such a society, it is not what one knows but whom one knows that is important. As Brempong puts it: "these things are necessary. You have to know people. Big people, not useless people. Top officials who can go anywhere and say 'Do this, do that, for my boy!'" (68). When, shortly after his return home from the United States, Baako goes to apply for a post at Ghanavision, he finds that his expertise, years of training, and superior skill count for nothing. It is just as Brempong had warned: "You don't understand. Look, you don't know those who decide. I know them. If you were an expatriate, a white man, it wouldn't matter. You'd have things easy, even without real qualifications ... But when you present yourself with your black face like their own, there's no respect. You'll see" (68). Not really having grasped the relevance of Brempong's advice, Baako is greatly discouraged by his experience at the personnel department of the Civil Service Commission. A petty bureaucrat simply sits on his papers in the hope that Baako, a "been-to," will eventually resort to bribery in order to gain satisfaction. When, anxious and much perplexed, Baako at length goes to seek the counsel of his ex-teacher, Kofi Ocran, he is told that this type of treatment is in fact the rule, rather than the exception, in Ghana: Nothing works in this country.... It isn't even that things are slow. Nothing works. There are dozens of organizations, supposed to take care of this and that. But if you want anything done you have to go running all round these stupid organizations themselves. . . . The organizations might just as well not exist. You keep getting pushed into using personal contacts. [ 116] That Ocran's bitterness is warranted is demonstrated during a visit that he and Baako subsequently pay to the principal secretary in the Ministry of Information. Ocran explains to the minister that Baako is both capable and qualified, adding that since "he seems to have done everything therewas to do," there has been no reason for "giving him the runaround" ( 117). The principal secretary displays no more than "casual interest" in Baako or his story ( 117). Like others of his rank and status, he is smugly complacent in the face of maladministration. Though he does belatedly arrange for Baako to start work at Ghanavision, he remains totally impervious to the argument that Baako ought not to have needed to refer his case to higher authority in the first instance. Indeed, he has a rationalization for this close at hand: 88

Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional We don't have modem systems here. This country doesn't work that way. If you come back thinking you can make things work in any smooth, efficient way, you'll just get a complete waste of your time. It's not worth bothering about ... Unfortunately ... the young man will also be finding out that making a go of life means forgetting all the beautiful stuff they teach in the classroom. It's very different, the way things really work. [118)

Armah's characterization of Brempong and the principal secretary is clearly inspired by Fanon's perception of the African middle class as parasitic and decadent. 1 7 Brempong is a businessman and the principal secretary is a government official. Both of them, however, display a residual slave mentality, manifesting itself in a fawning, sycophantic deference toward the West, on the one hand, and a ruthless determination to preserve and profit by the colonial legacies of stratification and social inequality, on the other. Nor is this mentality confined, in Armah's view, to the entrepreneurial and political fractions of the African middle class. On the contrary, it is shown, in Fragments, to pervade the class as a whole. Any hopes that the reader may have entertained as to the relative sensitivity or compassion of intellectuals, as a subset of the larger middle class, are firmly repudiated. Typical of the style of the Ghanaian intelligentsia in the novel is a character named Asante-Smith, head of Ghanavision, and a man whose hypocrisy and cowardice are apparent even to Brempong. Significantly, Brempong knows Asante-Smith well. He describes him to Baako, half-admiringly, as a man with a genius for flattery and wheedling: Of course ... a person like Asante-Smith, he knows people. Besides, he is clever. One of his own drinking friends says he has the sweetest tongue in all of Ghana for singing his master's praises. It's the truth. And it doesn't matter to him even when the masters change. He can sing sweetly for anybody who dey for top. [67-68) When we finally encounter Asante-Smith directly, it is in the context of an argument with Baako as to the sort of material that Ghanavision ought to be commissioning, producing, and screening. At a meeting of the corporation's production staff, Baako reads out a synopsis of a script about slavery he has drafted. Asante-Smith interrupts Baako's presentation to argue that his script is too abstract and, besides, irrelevant to Ghana's needs as a "developing" society: "Look, we're a free, independent people. We're engaged in a gigantic task of nation-building. We have inherited a glorious culture, and that's what we're here to deal with" (209). Baako's instant rejoinder, that "slavery is a central part of that culture, isn't it?" is ignored. It 89

Fragments becomes clear that for Asante-Smith a successful television service is one that keeps him, its boss, in the good books of the nation's current leaders. What is at issue in Asante-Smith's attitude is, for Armah, nothing less than the abdication of his responsibility as an intellectua1. 1 s Having been educated at the expense of the community at large, Asante-Smith and the majority of the other intellectuals portrayed in Fragments now expect to be rewarded simply for what they represent, as "been-to's," rather than for what they do as skilled members of society. Quite to the point, here, is Armah's comment in a political essay to the effect that "nobody expects the elite to do anything more demanding than to be been-to's, etc., and to consume an intricate heap of privileges, least of all its members." 19 The intellectuals perversely come to view their own education, which effectively constitutes their passport to privilege, as a contribution to instead of a gift from their community. It is as though they see themselves as having raised the tone of their environment, just by being educated. Baako's provocative script, The Brand, is directed toward precisely this problem of intellectual arrogance. Its title, he explains, is taken from the early Ghanaian nationalist Kwegyir Aggrey's statement about his own education: "I am a brand plucked from the burning" (209).20 Baako says that he is interested in exploring the assumptions upon which such an idea of education rests. For, as he puts it to the hostile and unresponsive production committee at Ghanavision: "This Aggrey kind of attitude is important. The educated really thinking of the people here as some kind of devils in a burning hell, and themselves the happy plucked ones, saved" (210). Like the entrepreneurial and political elite, the Ghanaian literati show themselves perfectly willing to disguise the sterility of their ideas under the rhetorical cover of" development." This is especially so where self-advancement is at stake, as Armah shows in a sustainedly satirical description of a soiree given by one Akosua Russell, self-styled patroness and first lady of Ghana's Arts. Baako attends the convention with Juana, whom he has just met. It represents his first real opportunity since returning from America to meet other local intellectuals and to assess the promise of their work. He discovers at the soiree, however, that what he had already begun to suspect is true: the orientation of indigenous cultural production is quite as Eurocentric as that of any other social instance. In this context, the portrait of Akosua Russell herself is most revealing. In spite of her high standing in the Ghanaian cultural establishment, her talent is minimal and her artistic integrity dubious to say the least. Like Asante-Smith, she appears to excel only in her ability to cater to the tastes of the powerful. The dismal poem that she recites to the convention "speaks of the greatness of a white man who, with his Europeanized African wife, brought the marvels of Western civilization to a backward village." 21 Yet this is precisely its purpose: the poem is read mainly to appeal to the Westerners in attendance. As Ocran,


Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional who also attends the function, observes: "that woman arranges these socalled soirees for only one thing: to get American money for her own use" (159). Judged in these terms, Russell is extremely successful. She is very pleased to be able to tell the audience that her poem, appallingly entitled "The Coming of the Brilliant Light of the New Age to Amosema Village Junction," is "the most frequently anthologized Western African poem," having appeared in Two editions of the British Council Treasury of Inspirational Colonial Poems; three editions of the British Council Treasury of Inspiring Commonwealth Poetry; the New Horizon Bards' Collection; McConnery's Epic Poems for Youthful Lands, Schools Edition, and also Mrs. Gwendolyn Satterthwaite's Longer Poems for Children. But this is only one aspect of the story. Some of you remember that I have turned the poem into an epic play first performed in this very theater on the Second National Arts and Crafts Day. I'm seriously considering developing it into a novel to be published abroad. Finally, Ghanavision plans to turn the poem first into a feature-length film, and then to adapt it for our TV. [ 162-63] The secret of Russell's success rests in her ability to flatter her metropolitan backers. Over drinks at the soiree she is seen working at this. She floats through the crowd, "embracing people, kissing cheeks, whispering words in ears, then shifting off" ( 15 7). She apparently possesses a special talent for persuading promising young writers to throw in their lot with her. Ocran explains the dynamics of her modus operandi to Baako thus: Go ahead. Bring all your work and read it here. She'll tell the visiting Americans it was she who taught you to write. Or if that's too much she'll say she encouraged you, inspired you, anything, and she'll get more money to continue the good work. She's some sweet poison, that woman. [159] Ocran sees Russell in an uncomplicated light, as an opportunist, and he gives her a very wide berth. He sees her as functioning as an African guardian of Western interests in the arts. In this capacity, she patrols all routes to public acclaim. No local work of a remotely oppositional stamp, he feels, is likely to receive an airing where she is concerned. Several younger intellectuals, however, evidently regard Ocran's attitude as representing a luxury they cannot afford. One such intellectual is Lawrence Boateng, a talented but thwarted novelist whom Baako meets at the soiree. Boateng introduces himself to Baako bitterly, as the token African editor of a local literary magazine: "Everybody thinks I'm the editor of Jungle magazine. Secretly speaking, though, I'm only some kind of sub-editor. The fools in


Fragments London do what they like with my stuff before they print it. Ah, this life" (152). It transpires that Boateng has written a powerful first novel, but has been unable to find a publisher for it. It is this that draws him to Akosua Russell, for he cherishes the hope, already half-admitted to be delusory, that she might be prevailed upon to use her influence on his behalf. Boateng tries to play Russell's game without thereby having to sacrifice his pretensions to artistic integrity. But this balancing act proves too demanding on his creative energies. It is already six years since he first completed his novel, yet he has not been able to write anything else in the interim. At the soiree, his frustrations well up inside him and burst into the open, and he insults Russell publicly. Even here, however, the anger to which he gives voice is not in the nature of a purging rage. For he does not vent himself against the stranglehold that Russell and her sort exercise upon artistic production in Ghana, but chooses rather to accuse Russell, trivially, of expropriation of foundation funds. After the event, he insists sullenly that he has cleared his conscience. He "had to speak," he maintains, because Russell is "a bloodsucker" ( 166 ). But in attempting to justify himself thus he is stopped in his tracks by Ocran, who argues again that Russell is only as damaging a presence as individuals like Boateng allow her to be: Why do you have to worry about her and how she gets her money? If you have something you want to do, don't waste your time with her. Do it ... Look, Boateng, she's doing all the things you hate her for. But you could do better. You have a novel. O.K. You've had it done for six years, and you're waiting. A serious writer would have three, four more novels done by now, instead of waiting. And you'd have a totally different picture. Now all you're doing is adding sand to the desert ... If you want to compete with her and be a pimp, go ahead. But if you want to be serious, decide what your art is, and just go ahead with it. We aren't so full of energy, are we, so why waste so much of it fighting her? It's no waste to her; she does nothing anyhow. [166-67]

The debate about what it is to be a "serious" artist in postcolonial Ghana is central to Fragments. The problem is not only that one cannot simultaneously be both serious and successful. It is also that one requires a particularly tenacious intellect to cling to one's artistic integrity in a cultural climate in which the canons of officialdom and general convention have been set in favor of decadence and exocentrism. Consider the implications of Baako's experiences at Ghanavision. It does not take him long, once he starts to work for the corporation, to discover


Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional that everything Ocran has said to him about the impossibility of doing anything worthwhile in an official capacity is true. Inside the corporation, Baako encounters only incompetence and sterility. All is spiritless and recidivistic. The personnel involved-technical staff, engineers, cameramen, writers, editors, actors, and producers-seem locked into a desultory pattern of wasting and covering up, from which, strangely, they are not anxious to escape: They could not help but see the things he'd seen and more. But they accepted it, went through the myriad motions anyone could see were empty, and were going about with this amazing happy kind of intent to build up whole structures filled with thousands doing nothing but finding the most puffed-up pompous ways, strutting around a land of paupers offering extravagance as the universal guide .... At work the engineers wore white-white or suits and sat balancing phones behind new furniture and grew utterly perplexed if some machine broke down and had to be fixed. The producers seldom worked at night but the names and titles they had put on their doors and desks were done in paint that glowed against the dark. [187-88] There is no room in a situation like this for what Segun Osoba has called "creative intellectualism." 22 From executive producer to stagehand, everybody in the corporation appears to be motivated by the principles of expediency and pragmatism. The producers spend much of their time abroad, never forgetting to bring back "fond footage of themselves visiting foreign studios, seeing strange sights and eating extraordinary foods in famous places" ( 188). The artistic poverty of the type of material being screened is painfully apparent. Nothing adventurous or searching is commissioned. No forward-looking policy for production exists: most of the material that is aired has been culled from foreign embassies or overseas television services, and the remainder is wholly lacking in imagination and verve. Moreover, an overweening bureaucracy festers within the corporation. This insures that newsworthy material is never screened before its topicality has lapsed. It also promotes a situation in which any vaguely "sensitive" material is likely to be intercepted and pulled. As with Ghanavision, so too with the national culture as a whole. An atmosphere of stupefaction, rather than of energy, prevails. Talented artists like Ocran and Baako are obliged to devise strategies for withstanding this atmosphere if they hope to be able to exercise their creativity. Yet oppositional strategies are not easy to come by: although much depends on them, there is very little room to maneuver. The subject of intellectual strategies is first raised in Fragments when Baako goes to visit Ocran shortly after his return home from the United States. He confides to his former art master that he is acutely self-conscious


Fragments about the decision he has taken to be a writer. His anxiety, he says, stems from the fact that he is resolved to make his work socially meaningful in a direct, more or less immediate sense. When Ocran asks him if he intends to work by himself, he replies that he doesn't think he could justify such a policy to himself, and that he wouldn't want to abide by it even if he could. His feeling is that since the most valuable talent he possesses as an artist lies in his communicative skill, failure to exploit this talent to its fullest would be culpable. Ocran's response, "I see you have the ghost of a missionary inside you, bullying the artist" ( 114), is made partly in jest. Yet it indicates his real concern, both with what he takes to be the excessive zeal of Baako's commitment and with the probable outcome, measured in personal terms, of the clash that he is able to predict between Baako's aspirations and the stunting, inertial machinery of the national culture. Baako insists that the functions of the "missionary" and the "artist" within himself are inseparable: he wants to write for television for private as well as public reasons. Ocran accepts this argument, but still tries to warn Baako of the danger of investing too much of himself in "missionary" work: "I understand," Ocran said ... "I understand, and what you say is true. But there is something I'd like to tell you. I know you'll think I'm crazy or worse. Anyway, it doesn't matter. If you want to do any real work here, you have to decide quite soon that you'll work alone." "That's impossible with film." "I have no idea," Ocran said. "I'm antiquated, maybe. But I know definitely that you can't do anything serious here if you need other people's help, because nobody is interested in being serious." [115] Baako's hope is to democratize the means and relations of cultural production in accordance with the protocols of "traditional" artistic practice in Africa. He wishes to use the relative accessibility of images-as distinct from words-for purposes of mass communication. Television seems to offer him a suitable medium: its democratizing potential is impressive, as also is the fact that it requires a pooling together of multivalent talents and resources in production. An essentially collaborative medium, its power to communicate is not dependent upon literacy, which, because it can be socially controlled, can very readily be manipulated to entrench social divisions. According to Ocran, however, Baako has failed to take into account the exigencies of the Ghanaian situation. Ocran's view is that the prevailing system cannot be combated head-on. On the side of distribution and reception, the centralization and state-ownership of the mass-communications media in Ghana seem to him to pose insuperable problems for the dissenting intellectual working within the system. Ocran can envisage no way for such an intellectual to bend the national cultural apparatus to progressive


Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional ends. Moreover, since the vast majority of the nation's intellectuals appear to have been voided, or have voided themselves, of their social consciences, Ocran feels that even the elementary matter of finding kindred spirits with whom to work on a collaborative basis is fraught with difficulty and, perhaps, danger. For these reasons, Ocran advocates that the creative intellectual accept a position of social marginality and withdraw to a private domain within which he is still free to express himself. To retain one's artistic integrity under existing conditions, he argues, it is necessary to work alone, even if this entails the collapse of one's grandest ambitions concerning mass communication. His argument is very similar to that advanced by Theodor Adorno, who, attempting to define the conditions o..f possibility of oppositional intellectual practice in face of the hegemony of fascism in Germany and elsewhere in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, maintained that, paradoxical though it might seem, "[f]or the intellectual, inviolable isolation is now the only way of showing some measure of solidarity." 23 Baako objects strongly to this line of reasoning, countering that once an intellectual chooses the option of withdrawal, he not only condemns himself to insignificance, but also runs the risk of severing himself from his community, whose hopes and fears and dreams he ought to be articulating. Thus, while Ocran, like Adorno, is concerned above all with the intellectual's need to retain his integrity and truthfulness, Baako's central preoccupation is with the democratization and social utility of culture. On the surface of things, Ocran's position on creative intellectualism seems to have more to commend it than Baako's. Partly, this is a consequence of Ocran's greater experience and maturity. He knows what it is to work in Ghana, having already been practicing what he preaches for several years. Baako, by contrast, has never worked in Ghana, and seems to be taken by surprise at the severity of the constraints under which Ghanaian intellectuals are obliged to labor. His ideas on intellectual activism, his ambitions of politicizing and re-educating "the masses," are naively idealistic and abstract. His activist designs start to backfire almost as soon as he attempts to put them into play. He is told, for instance, that there is no film or tape available for drama at Ghanavision-especially not for the type of drama he has in mind. Similarly, he discovers that, contrary to official pledges, new television sets are not being distributed to rural villages in the Ghanaian interior, but instead are being given to public functionaries according to a hierarchy of status. The lesson is a painful one. With the best will in the world, Baako cannot hope to communicate with "the masses" through the medium of television if his intended audience is going to be deprived of access to screens or if he himself is going to be prevented from producing his scripts. Yet we should not conclude from this, as some critics have done, that the


Fragments positions of Baako and Ocran are representative, respectively, of youthful idealism and worldly wisdom. It is true that Baako dramatically underestimates the obstacles that stand in the way of his aspirations. It is also true that he displays considerable inexperience-not to say presumptuousness-in supposing that he will be able to negotiate the bureaucracy at Ghanavision where others before him have failed. But this is not to suggest that his intellectual vision-his "strategy"-is repudiated in Fragments, or, conversely that Ocran's is endorsed. In fact, even as Baako's ideas are shown to be limited in certain respects, their substantial validity is emphasized. And by the same token, Ocran's ideas, though compelling, are themselves shown to harbor enormous perils. Chief among these perils is that of marginality. It becomes clear that Ocran's strategy of withdrawal concedes too much. It is too ready in its acceptance of the colonially induced alienation of artist from community. The implications of this, in Ocran's case, seem particularly regrettable; for he is an artist with something to say. When Baako goes to visit Ocran, he takes the opportunity to look around his ex-teacher's studio: there were no desks now, and the easels were fewer; but the walls were lined with rows of black heads in dozens of different attitudes from sweet repose to extreme agony. They had been arranged in some kind of rough order, so that the tension captured in the heads seemed progressively to grow less and less bearable, till near the end of the whole series, when 13aako had almost arrived back at the beginning, the inward torture actually broke the outer form of the human face, and the result, when Baako looked closer, was not any new work of his master but the old, anonymous sculpture of Africa. [ 111] Ocran's work is clearly "committed," in the sense in which that term is conventionally understood. But Baako's charge is that a committed art that is inaccessible-for whatever reason-to the people it is meant to serve, is impotent. It might as well not have been produced. In these terms, Ocran's practical philosophy of disengagement stands condemned in Fragments, much as Teacher's had done in The Beautyful Ones Are Not ~t Born. Ocran disapproves of literature because he feels that it is uniquely susceptible to ideological manipulation: "Words ... Words ... Too many words are just lies. You can't fool anyone with things that have texture. You really have to create. Too many words are just used for telling lies" ( 112-13 ). This suggests that he is sensitive to the social functionality of elite culture. But nowhere does Ocran seem to be sufficiently responsive to the latent contradiction between his work's political motivation and his own acceptance of cultural marginality. In spite of his sharp political insight, he appears resigned to his exclusion from the active cultural life of the nation. It is true that to resist this marginalization would be draining, but the feeling persists that more is required of any intellectual in Ocran's 96

Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional situation than that he should merely accommodate himself to the rigors of living and working in isolation. It is here that Baako's position against Ocran seems unassailable: for in Baako's eyes an intellectual's integrity derives finally from his social utility, and not his utility from his integrity. And, indeed, at the very end of the novel, Ocran seems to concede this point to Baako, as, once again, he raises in discussion the subject of commitment. This time, however, he acknowledges that Baako's guiding principle of social utility is ultimately decisive. His only qualification, now, is to stipulate that, under prevailing conditions, the principle cannot be grafted onto an oppositional cultural project in unmediated fashion. He tells Baako: "What you said the last time confused me ... I wondered how you came to think that. But I thought of it, and I think I know. I wasn't honest, I didn't look far enough back at myself ... I went the same way, too. You know, when you know what you want to do, there's no sense in setting other people up in your mind to pass judgement on you." "They're there, though," Baako said. "Move them out. You can't do anything else without first clearing them out of yourself. You can't even see clearly the thing you yourself need to do." "It seemed to me there was nothing to be done outside of them, the others." "In the end it's true," Ocran said. "But if you make it immediately ... if you do that you end up accusing yourself." [273] It is worth pausing at this juncture to emphasize that the debate between Baako and Ocran in Fragments takes place within the context of a discussion about cultural relevance and creative intellectualism in the postcolonial world. A number of commentators have abstracted from this context, and have been led, in consequence, to misconstrue the terms of the debate. Robert Fraser, for instance, argues that in the discussions between the two African intellectuals, Ocran holds to a "Western" view of the role of the artist in society, while Baako holds to an "African" view. Thus, Fraser writes,

we can observe a contest between two competing notions of the role of the artist. Ocran, the art master, is heir to the whole post-Romantic European tradition of the artist as a man alone wrestling with a unique destiny. Baako counters this with a vision of the artist very much nearer the traditional African one of a man who serves the spiritual needs of his community.24 Such an interpretation tends, I would argue, to strip the debate between Baako and Ocran from its concrete moorings in Armah's novel. In fact, both Baako and Ocran derive their inspiration unambiguously from the "African" side of Fraser's dichotomy. There is a fundamental agreement between 97

Fragments the two as to the general desirability of a "committed" art. Both men hold to a vision of the intellectual's responsibility as that, in Richard Priebe's words, of "providing society with a sense of direction." 25 Neither Baako nor Ocran would wish to be excused from this responsibility. Nor, by the same token, can Fraser's distinction between "traditional African" and "post-Romantic European" modalities be upheld. For all its autonomy of production, the sculpture in Ocran's studio is quite as "traditional" as anything that Baako produces. Not for nothing does his most individualistically conceived work merge imperceptibly with "the old anonymous sculpture of Africa." The debate between Baako and Ocran in Fragments is thus a debate about means, not about first principles or "competing notions of the role of the artist." What is at issue is not how, abstractly considered, Baako or Ocran would like to conduct themselves as intellectuals, but rather how they intend to preserve their creativity in the face of the bludgeoning instrumentalism of postcolonial society. The debate thus centers on defensive strategies, not positive actualizations. Both characters recognize that these are not propitious times. Their views diverge mainly insofar as they are inclined to lay stress on different aspects of the situation of the artist as fundamental to his or her social-therapeutic role. Ocran argues that an artist cannot work unless he or she is given the freedom to be "serious"; Baako counters that an artist cannot be "serious" unless he or she is actively working toward freedom.

Only once in the novel are we presented with an ideal scenario of creative intellectualism in practice, of artistry unrestrained by its postcolonial burden of being embattled and essentially defensive. Precisely because of its singularity, however, the presentation of this ideal scenario in Fragments is invested with special resonance. It deserves, therefore, to be considered in detail. One afternoon, as Baako and Juana are strolling along the beach, they come upon a crowd of people watching a group of fishermen pull in their nets. At first, the scene is one of chaos. Juana notices that Baako is uncomfortable among the milling throng of watchers: He looked lost in what he was seeing, like a man on the point of finding something he has grasped and lost and fears he will lose again at any moment. He looked with no love at all, at first. Juana saw emotion in his face, but it was fear, something close to hate, an awed suspicion, and she wondered if it was possible he was seeing all this for the first time in his life. She knew it would be useless to ask him anything now, so she too watched. [182]


Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional The fishermen are unsmiling and aggressive at first, and it seems that Baako's uneasiness is fueled by their massive and corrosive physicality. The "casual hostility" (183) of the fishermen distresses him. They move in heavy and sullen disorganization, and Baako finds their strength frightening to behold because it seems so poorly channeled and pent-up inside themselves. The movements of the fishermen give the impression of being scarred by brutality and dispossession, hardness and hardship. A small boy from the crowd tries to go to the assistance of the fishermen, but he is roughly knocked aside. Picking himself up, however, he goes to sit in the shade of a coconut tree. There he finds a double gong and begins to sound it. The effect that this has upon the laboring fishermen is dramatic: The boy had found a double gong. He struck it again and this time the sound was hoarse and deep. Making tentative noises, he struck alternate deep and high notes; in a while what sounded at first like his playful sounds had taken on a definite rhythm, and he kept it up. The men came with their rope, sweating, and each time took little notice of the boy. But they were now quieter, and some seemed a bit tired already, so that they were taking more time going down to the sea and back, moving into a clearer pace. Then in a gap of quiet when neither the breeze nor the men's voices were high, the small boy added his voice to the beating of his gong. It was a clear voice, high as a woman's, and the song it was carrying could have been anything about the sea, like a woman's long lament for one more drowned fisherman. One irritated strong man kicked sand at the boy and shouted at him, perhaps to shut him up; he stopped his singing only briefly, recovered and continued. On the next return another big-bodied man, this one with a slow, pensive step ... took up the song, his voice deeper but his rhythm the same. Where the two singers paused the only refrain was the sound of the sea, till one after the other the remaining men and a few of the waiting women began also to hum endings to the song. Now the pulling took a rhythm from the general song. The men dug their feet deep into the sand and pulled from fixed positions on the rope. [18384]

Baako is uplifted by this sequence of events. He sees in the role played by the small boy a metaphorical representation of the role that he believes artists and intellectuals ought to be playing in the broader society. In trying to assist the fishermen physically, the boy is cruelly rebuffed. But when he resorts to entertaining himself with the gong, he finds, much to his own surprise, that his playing possesses a "public" aspect that enables him to realize his objective indirectly. As Baako interprets the scenario, the boy's playing helps to order and integrate the initially frenetic labors of the fishermen. Hence it contributes substantially to their achievement in bringing in the nets. 99

Fragments Baako's hope is to be able to contribute in analogous fashion to the general labor of reanimating Ghanaian society in the postcolonial era. His mind moves excitedly from its assessment of the role played by the small boy to a contemplation of his own practice as a television writer. Just as the small boy's playing, for all its apparent tangentiality to the fishermen's labors, proves its own usefulness, so too Baako speculates that his own work possesses a public aspect. He will be able to contribute significantly to Ghana's well-being once he finds the appropriate artistic register. His expectation is that, once he has done so, he will be able, like the small boy, to fulfill both his social and his individual ambitions creatively; but that until he has done so, he will be able to fulfill neither. Baako's interpretation of the fishing episode is an inspirational one. He finds in the episode a vision to sustain him in his attempt to forge a coherent oppositional cultural practice. Yet his reading of the events is dangerously one-sided. The problems that attach to it can be mapped out on a variety of levels. On a symbolic level, it is clear that in identifying himself with the small boy and in seeing the boy's activities as a metaphor for his [Baako's] own artistic practice, Baako is overlooking some important qualifications. He overlooks completely, for instance, the fact that the small boy chances upon the gong quite by accident. (This does not augur well for the success of his own painstaking deliberations about appropriate artistic media.) Similarly, he overlooks the specific circumstances that lead to this accident-the beating that the boy suffers. (Here, presumably, Baako might have reflected that what the fishermen are able to do to the small boy with impunity, the society at large could do just as carelessly to its artists; for artists' reliance upon their society, coupled with the indirect means of their productivity, render them extremely susceptible to becoming scapegoats.) Perhaps most importantly, Baako overlooks the fact that, even after his singing has helped to animate the fishermen, the boy is left lonely and unheralded at the end of the day's labors. The fishermen take their rhythm from the boy's playing while they are pulling in the ropes, but as soon as the net itself is drawn onto the beach, the situation alters completely: There was no one heeding songs now. The men's muscles suddenly regained their swollen, knotted shapes from before and rushed disordered at the net. Behind them the boy still sang, softly, not in any public way, but to himself, though occasionally a sharp cry, resembling an uncontrollable complaint, broke the near-silent softness of whatever he had left to sing. Women went forward with their trays for fish, and their money. The men left their beached canoe and piled thick ropes on their strong backs to walk where the larger crowd had come from. The boy went last, looking in the sand for still useful bits of unsold fish, perhaps, but he found none. [184-85)


Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional This is a conclusion to support Ocran's standpoint, not Baako's. The boy's contribution to the fishermen's labors gains him nothing personally. (Presumably we are to regard his transient involvement as its own reward.) More importantly, however, it does not succeed in influencing the community in any deep way. Once their toil is over, the fishermen reassume their masculinist and muscle-bound demeanor, leaving the impression that they have learned nothing from their afternoon and that tomorrow another boy in another place is going to have to court a beating in order to discover his artistry and its unacknowledged utility. Nor is this the only sense in which Baako has failed to think through the implications of the events on the beach. For it is evident that there is an important practical difference between the types of "artistic" enterprise upon which he and the small boy embark. The small boy contributes to the productive labor upon which the fishermen are already engaged. Baako, by contrast, sees his task also as a critical one. The question of judgment, which does not arise for the boy, is vitally important to Baako. Because he believes that the hegemonic ideologies of his society are sterile and dominative, he sees his function not only as that of drummer to society's dance but also as that of educator and therapist. Richard Priebe has written that, in Fragments, Baako progresses gradually toward the realization that "the marriage of artist and society is a marriage of opposites, inharmonious yet ultimately beneficial to everyone because of the tensions inherent in the relationship." 26 In terms of what we have just seen, however, it is hard for us to accept this statement as accurate. On the contrary, in Fragments Baako is ultimately driven to mental breakdown by the sheer impenetrability and rigidity of his society's aggressive "masculinism." And the society itself, far from "benefiting" from Baako's efforts, moves from regarding them as inexplicable to regarding them as positively perverse and even dangerous. The problem that Baako never manages to resolve in the novel is that of how to live with the consequences of his radicalism: how, that is, to sustain his activism in the concrete here-andnow while appreciating that it is not in the present but only in the "not yet," in the as-yet unforseeable and uncertain future, that this activism will be seen to have been constructive. To this problem, Ocran's practical realism is no solution either: for in holding on to its clear-headedness, it sacrifices hope, and hope alone can motivate radical creativity.

Yet perhaps in the posed contrast between Baako's inspirational vision and Ocran's realism, Armah is hinting at the possibility of some sort of strategic synthesis. In what follows, I would like to suggest that it is just


Fragments such a synthesis that we find represented in the position taken up by Juana in Fragments. Juana consistently mediates between Baako and Ocran. It is she who cautions Baako to be more pragmatic ("Baako, you expect too much" [186]) and yet is regarded by Ocran as being wildly idealistic ("Juana is the craziest optimist I've ever met" [158]). It is she who appreciates that in order to sustain himself in his radicalism, Baako (and any social activist) needs to be able to fashion a semblance of mental independence for himself in the face of the surrounding suffering. It is also Juana who understands that although in Ocran's intellectual strategy of "the high flight of the individual alone, escaping the touch of life around him," there is "only annihilation," there are also "terrible dangers" in the oppositional strategy that Baako embraces-dangers that are so great as to seem simply to represent "other kinds of annihilation" (271-72). In this context, it is significant that Juana's interpretation of the central fishing episode is sharply at variance with Baako's. Throughout Fragments, Juana's perceptions are offered as "stable" or definitive. In the present instance, they serve to throw into relief the selectivity of the conclusions that Baako draws from the events by the shore. Where Baako's interpretation of these events is, as we have seen, inspirational, Juana's is more measured and sober. She may lack the heightened awareness that characterizes Baako's visionary imagination, but she also lacks Baako's specific blindness. Baako cannot see past the small boy's "creative" role in the unfolding of events. Juana, by contrast, cannot forget the boy's beating, at the beginning of the episode, and his neglect, at the end. She tries to warn Baako that his view of the events is one-sided, but her admonition falls on deaf ears: "You had eyes only for that little boy," she said. "I thought you saw it too." "Saw what?" "That boy, he was giving those men something they didn't have." "They pushed him around pretty badly, I'd say." ... He was quiet a long time, ... Then turning to look at her, he smiled with some inner pleasure and told her, "The electric grid should be finished next month." "They'll be waiting centuries, more likely, I'm afraid," she said. "Baako, you expect too much." "What do you want me to do?".... "I was just hoping, among things" ... she was doing her best not to sound apologetic, "that you won't tie your happiness too closely to what happens, what other people do or say." [185-86]


Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional Commentators have consistently underestimated the importance of Juana's character in Fragments. It is difficult to establish why, although the suspicion persists that at least some critics have failed to take Juana' a character seriously because it is hard for them to credit that a female character could possess so sophisticated a political awareness. Certainly there has been a tendency to speak of Juana first and foremost as Baako's lover, in spite of the fact that we see her in her professional capacity and gain access to her inner thoughts long before she ever sets eyes on Baako. 27 Several critics have also tended to emphasize the spirituality of Juana's concerns at the expense of their materiality, and to focus upon her "religiosity" as though this were the cardinal dimension of her consciousness. Robert Fraser has rightly observed that, as a Puerto Rican exile, Juana "exhibits a remarkable empathy with the spiritual tribulations of the country in which she has chosen to work." 28 This fact, however, should not be taken to imply that Juana's receptivity to the material tribulations of the Ghanaian populace is somehow less acute. By the same token, the fact that (again in Fraser's words) Juana has left Puerto Rico in order to escape "the holocaust of a shattered marriage" 29 should not be allowed to obscure the equally pertinent fact that Juana moves not to the United States but, very deliberately, to Ghana. The move has to be seen, not just as a flight, but in addition as a statement of political commitment and ideological solidarity. Fraser's commentary tends in general to trivialize the role played by Juana in Fragments. In his view, Juana (whom he describes as Baako's "psychiatrist girlfriend") serves two principal functions in the novel.30 The first of these is to help broaden the implications of the debate about the role of the artist in society, to expand this debate into a consideration of "contrasting conceptions of a person's spiritual destiny."31 The second is to act as a type of independent "sounding board" for Baako's views. According to Fraser, Juana serves this function on professional and personal levels. In her professional capacity (as Baako's psychiatrist), she elicits information from him about his hopes and fears. Relating to him personally, she is sensitive to the flow of his thoughts and helps to bring them to expression. Juana does indeed fulfill both functions ascribed to her. Yet her contribution to the text is surely more incisive than Fraser allows. It is Juana's intelligence, after all, that initially attracts Baako's confidence, and her perspicacity that enables her to assess his attitudes and arguments. Furthermore, she does not simply "expand" the debate about the role of the artist in society, but transforms it: from being a debate about intellectual options, it becomes, through her interventions, a debate about politico-existential strategies. Nor is this, as Fraser implies, because Juana's "spirituality" serves as a foil to Baako's "politicality," but because her own political activism, the thrust of her own social radicalism, is so cogently relevant to the matter at hand.


Fragments Juana's ideas, in fact, gradually assume an authoritative status within the novel as a whole. Our first and structuring imprnssions of Ghana as a neocolony, and of the human implications of its underdevelopment are gained through her consciousness. Later, we are brought to a full awareness of the central dilemma confronting radical intellectuals in Fragments-that revolution is at one and the same time imperative and impossible-through Juana's contemplation of "salvation." Finally, it is through her that we learn of a third strategy beyond Ocran's advocation of "the shrinking flight inward" ( 177) and Baako's concern with social accountability. This third strategy involves the shouldering of one's historic burden and the resolution-made in the name of a hope beyond faith and abstract longing, beyond betrayal and despair, beyond even reason, if need be-to proceed with one's life without sacrificing either one's insight or one's aspirations to social functionality. Juana is based in Accra. She had come to Ghana, we learn, as a restless fugitive from her own past and its pain. Her hope, it seems, had been to discover in Ghana's independence a basis for resisting the feelings of disillusion and futility that had plagued her whenever her thoughts turned to the wreckage of her own life and the complementary wreckage of her native Puerto Rico, ransomed, as she saw it, to U.S. imperialism. Her ambition in corning to Ghana had been to contribute to the development of a project she considered worthwhile and, contributing, to experience the sensation of her imagination catching fire again as it reflected the energy and radiant optimism of a "new" nation engaged upon what she had imagined, from a distance, would be its postrevolutionary task of reconstruction. She has, however, been bitterly disappointed by what she has found. The Ghana she has encountered is not involved in reconstruction at all. Instead, its new leaders have turned with a haste that is as indecent as it is familiar to her upon the very people who endured most to project them to power. Familiarity here breeds in Juana not contempt but a troubled sense of hopelessness: The first months here had been terrible for a mind that had come prepared to find its own part in a struggle assumed to be going on. But watching and listening, moving and learning what life was about in this place, she had understood that what she had thought she would find was not here at all. None of the struggle, none of the fire of defiance; just the living defeat of whole peoples-the familiar fabric of her life. After such an understanding, peace should perhaps have come, but that was also impossible, with so many reminders around of the impotence of victims and of the blindness of those who had risen to guide them. [4 5-46] As a psychiatrist, Juana is concerned with the oppressiveness of present existence. But she has seen enough in her own life and in the lives of those 104

Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional around her to understand that the present is in so many wearying respects barely more than an extension of the past. Living in Accra, in the midst of its squalor and suffering, she comes to realize that for her personally, the prospects for contentment are slim indeed, and possibly even illusory: With these reminders everywhere there was little hope of any peace to be found in constant movement. There would only be a restlessness whose pain never ended but got dissolved in the knowledge that the fugitive could never leave the causes of her pain behind. The causes would burrow inward, travel along everywhere with the carrying mind, and mix their old traces with the sights and sounds of every new place the traveler came to. [42] What is true for Juana personally also proves to be true of Ghana as a nation. Everywhere the nightmare of the past haunts the present life of the community. The archetypal symbol of this pattern is to be found in the form of the old slave castle which the new rulers have lately decided to adopt for their own governmental purposes (44). History is not even recognized, let alone learned from: "The real crime now was the ignorance of past crime, and that, it seemed, would be a permanent sort of ignorance in places like this and places like home" (44). Yet it is not only the nightmare of the past that conspires to blight present existence. For the present is haunted also by a sense of dissipation, ofloss and wasted energy. This is because between the past as nightmare and the present as its simulation there has been the false awakening of independence, in which an opportunity to break with the bad past was afforded but never seized. The present generation has to live with the memory of this "awakening" and of what it seemed to promise, just as it has to live also with the knowledge that all the passion and commitment that it had had to dip deep into its own reserves to find and give to trusted leaders seems to have been used only to elevate new tyrants to positions of social dominance. Juana very soon discovers that psychiatry is not a viable proposition in Ghana, except in the very mechanical sense that it is possible to equip people to bear a reality that is to all intents and purposes unbearable. The entire society has been brutalized. This renders psychiatry out of the question, since no "cures" are conceivable. Juana reflects that It would be good to walk without fear among a people she had wished

to live with as her own, but these days were full of so much violence used in the hope of stealing so little, that she too had come to accept as permanent a violence directed only against the weak, and to seek refuge in distrust and flight. [4 7] These thoughts about the place of psychiatry in the neocolonial context are strikingly reminiscent of Frantz Fanon's comments about psychiatry's role in colonial Algeria. Consider the following passage, for example, from the 105

Fragments famous letter of resignation to the governor general's office in Algiers, in which Fanon announced that he would be relinquishing his position as medical director of the French-administered Psychiatric Hospital of BlidaJoinville in Algeria: Madness is one of the means man has of losing his freedom. And I can say, on the basis of what I have been able to observe from this point of vantage, that the degree of alienation of the inhabitants of this country appears to me frightening. If psychiatry is the medical technique that aims to enable man no longer to be a stranger to his environment, I owe it to myself to affirm that the Arab, permanently an alien in his own country, lives in a state of absolute depersonalization. What is the status of Algeria? A systematized de-humanization. It was an absurd gamble to undertake, at whatever cost, to bring into existence a certain number of values, when the lawlessness, the inequality, the multi-daily murder of man were raised to the status of legislative principles. The social structure existing in Algeria was hostile to any attempt to put the individual back where he belonged.32 So marked are the cultural, ideological, and professional parallels between Juana and Fanon that we cannot but view her in his light. Like Fanon in the colonial context, Juana in the postcolonial comes to appreciate that the causes of the diverse madnesses from which she is expected to "save" people nearly all derive from reality's objective unendurability rather than from a contingent incapacity on the part of certain sad individuals to adjust to it. Reality is simply unendurable. It is as though Accra had been designed expressly to induce madness among its inhabitants, to fail to support them in their lives. But then, as Juana realizes with a jolt, even this is not the whole story: for, as if by a hideous joke, the people in the countryside are so much worse off than their compatriots in the city that even the sordid circumstances of life in Accra seem like luxuries to them: She got angry driving through the town, even with her knowledge of the uselessness of her anger. She got angry whenever she tried to find what use there was in saving people who had found the mess she needed so often to flee from insupportable and had somehow flipped out of it after too much pain too long endured, only to give them the outer toughening they would need so they could be flipped back to get messed up some more in this town that could break any spirit. And then she would catch herself with the knowledge that it was not just the town, that in fact the town was not the worst place. She had been into the countryside and there seen a kind of destruction that made


Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional people look to the grinding town as if some salvation could be found there. In the countryside things were worse. So the root of the trouble was deeper. [21-22] The destitution of the peasant as well as the urban populations is thus explicitly invoked in Fragments. From Juana's point of view, it seems that the Ghanaian people at large are "completely seized with danger and so many different kinds of loss" (34). And, indeed, the conviction that there is no ground for hope appears to have taken hold of the collective consciousness of the Ghanaian people as portrayed in the novel. The message conveyed through popular channels of music and public sloganeering is that life is arduous and unrewarding. An often seen banner on the sides of trucks and buses laments that "Life is War," while another very visible slogan features the acronym "s.M.O.G.," with the letters standing for "Save me Oh God": "'Is funny, no?' The explainer was the driver of one such bus bearing the sign. 'Poor man never get bank account. But he look far in de sky and he tink in him head he get some last chance. In heaven'" (35-36). Everywhere that Juana goes she is made aware not only of the fact of oppression, but also of the way in which people's pain and poverty are being experienced and understood, and of the discrepancy that exists between these people's consciousness and that of the nation's rulers. It is as though the state had declared war upon its citizenry. For example, when two men wear T-shirts depicting life as a struggle between sweating wrestlers, they are arrested as provocateurs. The following day an editorial in the official newspaper, The National Times, rationalizes the arrests, describing the message of the T-shirts as "Too bold": "What purpose, demanded the editor, could such images and words have, save to trouble the peaceful minds of hardworking citizens with a view to subverting the nation as a whole? (3435).

The fact that everyday life is the site of a grim and debilitating struggle against reality obviously bears grave implications for Juana in her professional capacity. "It was too widely spread, the damage," she observes, conceding that "[t] he thing that made such small saving attempts as she was capable of unreal was the magnitude of the need, and the far greater magnitude of other, more immediate needs" (34 ). The idea of life as unendurable necessarily. throws the usefulness of psychiatry into question. For psychiatry is a practice whose institutional raison d'etre centers around the hypothetical separability of "adaptive" and "maladaptive" behaviors. Juana is all too conscious of the fact that nobody can hope to withstand the destructive force of a society internally at variance with itself, and she cannot honestly bring herself to believe that her clients have done more than choose a different kind of unreality from herself in their flight from it. They are lost, admittedly, but those who have not entered the labyrinth of


Fragments psychosis seem only to be consumed by other types of loss and retreat, deriving from the fracturing ground of social existence itself. What is at issue, thus, is only a choice between two varieties of psychosis, the first more socially sanctioned but not really "healthier" than the second: As for the people here themselves, they knew. Once during a break Juana had come out to find the nurse Patience arguing with an Assistant from the new Psychiatric Laboratory. His name was Bukari, and it seemed he had said something about the patients being like fish out of water. "It's their own fault," Patience was saying. "The things they do. They're too adventurous." The word was surprising. "How, adventurous?" "You have seen them. Drinkers, wee smokers, occultists, all the strange things they do." "They first try to find a way out themselves, out of a bad life," Bukari said. "Well," said Patience, "they succeed in falling out. You are right, then. They're fish out of water." "Yes. Fish out of water, all these cases. Fish out of water." Bukari was nodding quietly, as if this truth had completely defeated him. Juana was getting back into the consultation room, about to close the door behind her when she heard the last faint words on which Bukari ended his head-shaking acceptance: " ... out of water, yes. Boiling water." [36-37] Bukari's reasoning here is altogether relentless. If the choice is to be between asphyxiation on land and boiling water, plainly there is no real choice to be exercised. The perception that social life as constituted is unendurable is not permitted, here, to lead to an inverse romanticization of madness. On the contrary, Bukari's vision puts one in mind of an equally bleak statement to the same effect on the part of Theodor Adorno: "And how comfortless is the thought that the sickness of the normal does not necessarily imply as its opposite the health of the sick, but that the latter usually only present, in a different way, the same disastrous pattern." 33 It is within this context of a fundamentally diseased society, sick with an ailment whose revolutionary remedy, though glimpsed, is not available to the present, that Juana succeeds, where Baako fails, in stitching together an affirmative strategy of resistance. The early conversations between the two are important here; for they enable us to see that the differences between Baako and Juana are both temperamental and situational in nature. And it is in terms of this confluence of temperamental and situational differences, I believe, that it becomes possible for us to locate the source of Juana's success and Baako's failure.


Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional The two meet each other for the first time when Baako makes an appointment to see Juana professionally for what he describes defensively as a "routine check-up" ( 144). The immediate symptoms that prompt him to schedule the appointment are anything but "routine," however. It seems that Baako is "generating [his] own expansion toxins" ( 145) and is spontaneously hallucinating. As much as the fact of hallucinating itself, it is the shocking visual content of his hallucinations that drives Baako to seek professional help. The images that impose themselves upon him are of unremitting savagery and violence, as in the following example: "Images of men with guns hunting frightened birds flying above savanna trees and the killing embrace of enemy insects crushing each other's exoskeletons and squeezing out the pulp of life within the unending destructiveness of life" ( 128). In their sessions, Juana succeeds in breaking down Baako's initial defensiveness. Under her questioning, he begins to speak of his isolation and of "the many ways in which [society] made him feel his aloneness" (145). The fact that he is a "been-to" serves to alienate him from the broad mass of Ghanaians. Conversely, his radicalism and political earnestness mark him out from the subclass of the educated elite, who regard him first as a curiosity but more and more, as time passes and his "novelty" wears off, as an irritant. Juana asks Baako about his family, thinking of some possible shelter, but when he spoke of it, his family became only a closer, intenser, more intimate reflection of the society itself, a concave mirror, as he called it, and before long she was left in no doubt at all that in many ways he saw more possibilities of hope in the larger society than in the family around him. [145-46] The introduction of Baako's family into the discussion here is significant. Baako tells Juana that, however he might feel about it, "the family is always there, with a solid presence and real demands'' (146). It might be remembered that in The Beautyfu/ Ones, "the man" had had to endure the accusing stares of his loved ones as constant reminders of his failure to fulfill their hopes and expectations. To a certain extent the same situation applies in Fragments, for Baako also feels himself addressed by his family's expectations of him. He is tom between the desire to conform to their wishes, for their sakes, and the feeling that it would be immoral, not to say impossible, for him to do so. The longer he stays at home the more intense becomes the familial pressure and the more debilitating, hence, the turmoil that this creates in his mind. Outside the family the pressure is only compounded. His refusal to compromise his artistic or political principles results in his being widely resented and ostracized at work and in the general community. The difference between Fragments and The Beautyfu/ Ones in this respect lies in the fact that where Oyo in the earlier novel had merely dreamed of


Fragments owning a sleek new car and of buying a house in a select area of town, Efua, Baako's mother, actually expects to do so. She is utterly confident that Baako will return from America with a new car, and so sure is she that in coming back he will build her a new house that she goes so far as to find a plot of land and commission the construction herself while he is still abroad. As she later confides sadly to him, she had been positive "that you would come back to me, take joy in the thing I had begun but will never end, and finish it" (256). What is at issue here is the alarming degree to which Baako finds himself trapped by his family's expectations of him. It is, of course, because he is a "been-to" that so much is expected of him. His family members view his achievements abroad as their own tickets to wealth and power. Even before he returns, his mother and sister have begun to bask in the reflective glow of his celebrity. In trying to understand the extraordinary significance with which his family invests his return, Baako is reminded of the millenarian ideologies of cargo cults. The more he contemplates his family's attitude to his return, the more he begins to feel that their wild expectations of him are underpinned by a coherent mythology rooted in the social structure itself. In terms of this mythology, he speculates, the "been-to" is seen as a sort of god, a hero whose departure overseas is viewed in the light of a sacrificial death. Leaving Ghana he goes, just like the true dead, to the other world. But, unlike the true dead, he is supposed to return, bearing cargo. Quite literally, he is supposed to "deliver the goods." In a session with Juana, Baako tries to put his thoughts into focus. Juana asks him whether the responsibility of working for his family-carrying their hopes for prosperity upon his shoulders-is one that he feels happy about bearing. Baako answers as follows: "It's necessary," he said. "I can understand that. But it's changed into something else, something very deeply set now, I think. The member of the family who goes out and comes back home is a sort of charmed man, a miracle worker. He goes, he comes back, and with his return some astounding and sudden change is expected." "Is this a new thing, do you think?" she asks him, "or something with old roots?" "Now it's taken this modem form. The voyage abroad, everything that follows; it's very much a colonial thing. But the hero idea itself is something very old. It's the myth of the extraordinary man who brings about a complete turnabout in terrible circumstances. We have old heroes who turned defeat into victory for the whole community. But these days the community has disappeared from the story. Instead, there is the family, and the hero comes and turns its poverty into sudden wealth. And the external enemy isn't the one at


Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional whose expense the hero gets his victory; he's supposed to get rich, mainly at the expense of the community." [146-47] Baako experiences the pressure exerted upon him by his family as inevitable and, more than this, as appropriate. He is as anxious to undertake responsibility for their well-being as they are to be taken care of. But the "cargo" with which he has returned from the United States is not the "cargo" that his family has been anticipating. He is obliged to face the fact that he cannot provide what they want and that they will not accept what he has to offer. The latter thought, particularly, disturbs him. On one of his travels through the Ghanaian hinterland, he witnesses the accidental death of a truck driver named Skido. Skido had been transporting a shipment of plaintain and cassava to the north. For three days, however, while his shipment had ripened and then begun to rot, he had been delayed, prevented by the indifference of administrators from boarding a barge ferrying vehicles across a river. Finally, in a desperate and miscarried attempt to ram his truck onto the barge, he had fallen into the river and crushed his head against the barge. Internalizing the incident, Baako becomes obsessed both with the thought of a cargo rotting through nonuse and with the demise of Skido, who, as he puts it, "wasn't like me. He was bringing all the cargo and he shouldn't have died, not like that" (269). Baako's rootedness within the circle of his family's expectations dramatically hampers his ability to act independently. Just where Juana is free, in this respect, Baako finds himself burdened and mired down. One is reminded of Chinua Achebe's criticism of The Beautyful Ones on the grounds that its "suggestion ... of the hero's personal justification without faith nor works is grossly inadequate in a society where even a lunatic walking stark naked through the highways of Accra has an extended family somewhere suffering vicarious shame."34 In Fragments Armah decisively answers this criticism by suggesting that, under certain circumstances, it is precisely the pressures of such familial belonging that tum a "lunatic" into a "lunatic" in the first place. For Baako, at least, the personal costs of belonging are far too heavy. In Fragments the confrontation between Baako and his family is charted not purely along attitudinal but also, more specifically, along generational axes. Three distinct generational "horizons," each with its own particular determinants, are shown to co-exist within Baako's family. The first such horizon is exemplified in the thinking of Baako's mother, Efua, his sister, Araba, and his uncle, Foli. These three relatives are unrepentant devotees of the "new God" of material greed. Desiring above all to elevate their social status, to transform the material conditions of their existence through wealth or power, they fix on Baako, in his capacity as "been-to," as the means of making their dreams come true. Strictly contemporary in its form, the cargo cultism of Baako's mother,


Fragments sister, and uncle is petit-bourgeois to the core. Yet it is not quite mindlessly so. Although they worship at the shrine of conspicuous consumption, Efua, Araba, and Foli go to some trouble to be seen to be acting, still, in accordance with tradition. They do not simply turn their backs on the old ways and customs in adopting the new. Yet, because traditional practices have been voided of their larger, integrative function, the deferrals to tradition are gestural only. In making them, Baako's relatives are only going through the motions of respecting the old ways. We see an example of this early in the novel when Foli leads the observance of a ceremony of departure in Baako's honor. By pouring as little of the offertory schnapps as possible in sacrifice, thereby saving as much of the bottle as he can for his own personal consumption, Foli contravenes the spirit of the ceremony while remaining within its letter. The rationale behind this behavior, as Robert Fraser has noted, appears to be: "sacrifice a little, the smallest amount possible, of what you already have, and you will reap an impossibly rich reward." 35 The clearest illustration in Fragments of the extent to which Baako's relatives disfigure tradition even as they continue to observe its outward forms is to be found in the outdooring ceremony that Efua and Araba arrange in celebration of the birth of Araba's child, her first after many miscarriages. Traditionally, the outdooring ceremony ought not to be held before the eighth day of a child's life. Araba and Efua, however, decide to schedule the function on the fifth day. Their reasoning: "An outdooring ceremony held more than a few days after payday is useless" (125). The ceremony thus "becomes a money-making marathon" during which the infant, the ostensible cause celebre, ironically dies through neglect. 3 6 Araba and Efua are too busy socializing to notice that the baby has been placed directly in front of an electric fan blowing cold air onto the celebrants. A second, and quite different structure of belief in Baako's family can be seen in his grandmother, Naana, whose voice of reminiscence frames the novel at the beginning and end. Naana's is a despairing consciousness, altogether at a loss as to how to withstand the instrumental propensities of the new order. Her desolation derives from the fact that, as a self-conscious representative of and spokesperson for the "old values," she feels herself to be completely alone and ineffectual in trying to cling to her vision of social integrity in the face of her children's cargo cultist materialism. In a powerful refutation of their way of thinking, she likens it to the greed of those among her ancestors who, without weighing the consequences, welcomed the European slave trade as a form of commerce through which they themselves could profit. The "new God" her children are serving, Naana speculates, is Much like the one that began the same long destruction of our people when the elders first-may their souls never find forgiveness on this head-split their own seed and raised half against half, part selling part 112

Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional to hardeyed buyers from beyond the horizon, breaking, buying, selling, gaining, spending till the last of our men sells the last woman to any passing white buyer and himself waits to be destroyed by his great haste to consume things we have taken no care nor trouble to produce. [284]

Baako and Naana share a profound dislike of the dominant order borne by Araba, Efua, and Foli. Both are victims of this new order's rationalizations. Yet we should not make too much of this commonality, for Baako's general outlook is fundamentally different from Naana's. As Lurie has noted, The unspoken bond between Naana and Baako exists because they experience a similar isolation, a similar suffering. But the parallel ends there. There is an emotional tie, but there is no real communication between them because Baako does not know the traditions which are so meaningful to Naana. He has visited his ancestral home just once and only vaguely understands the rituals of the outdooring ceremony. 37 This is a succinct judgment, though perhaps unfair to Baako. For it is not only his unfamiliarity with "the traditions which are so meaningful" to his grandmother that separates him from her, but also his conviction that the way of life reflected in her ideas has been hollowed out, degraded, and falsified by the new dominant ideology. Representing the old ways against the new, Naana does not see that "[t]he world has changed" ( 140). The fact of her blindness must be construed seriously, even if it is clear that we are to regard her discourse as prophetic. Walter Benjamin once observed of Franz Kafka that he "live[d] in a complementary world ... he perceived what was to come without perceiving what exists in the present ... But his experience was based solely on the tradition to which Kafka surrendered; there was no far-sightedness or "prophetic vision." Kafka listened to tradition, and he who listens does not see."38 It seems to me that Benjamin's words are true, too, of Naana in Fragments. The substance of her traditionalism is generous, accommodating, and fundamentally reciprocal. But from Baako's point of view precisely these qualities have rendered it not only powerless to defend itself against co-optation, but also naively open to invasion. 39 Certainly, Baako is of the opinion that there is a need to look forward rather than back in countering the new order. New tactics need to be forged, not old tactics dusted off and pressed into service. As he understands it, indeed, it is essential, in proceeding, to overcome not only the sterile superficiality of Araba's and Efua's guiding philosophy, but also what he takes to be the generous but careless innocence of Naana's traditionalism. Fenced in as he is by his family's expectations, and handicapped by his 113

Fragments inexperience, impatience and psychological fragility, Baako is able to do no more than conceptualize the need for these new tactics. By contrast, Juana, possessing both the requisite maturity and commitment, and the paradoxical freedom to maneuver of a cultural marginal, is able to achieve precisely what Baako cannot: the implementation of a positive strategy of resistance. Like "the man" in The Beautyful Ones before her, she refuses (to adopt Adorno's magnificent aphorism, which I have chosen to use as an epigram to this chapter) to allow the power of others, or her own powerlessness, to stupefy her. 40 She refuses to capitulate. There is nothing mysterious about her defiance of convention, just as there had been nothing mysterious, only something rather wonderful, about "the man's" defiance of the gleam. Both Juana and "the man" struggle to retain their ethical balance in the face of social pressure because they sense that the implications of surrender would be hideous. The existential strategies they forge are built on the foundations of honesty, hope, passion, and resilience. These strategies are, hence, essentially human strategies. They reflect the concrete and sensuous manner in which their architects grapple with reality. Juana's vision of social regeneration is a materialist one. She feels strongly that in order to "heal" itself, Ghanaian society needs to be transformed through revolution. This is not exclusively an intellectual conviction for her. On the contrary, by phrasing Juana's vision of social regeneration in terms of salvation, Armah shows us the extent to which her ideas are ethically formed: She had ... to admit she was concerned with salvation still, though she permitted herself the veil of other names. Too much of her lay outside of herself, that was the trouble. Like some forest woman whose gods were in all the trees and hills and people around her, the meaning of her life remained in her defeated attempts to purify her environment, right down to the final, futile decision to try to salvage discrete individuals in the general carnage. Sometimes she could almost understand the salutary cynicism of Protestants, their ability to kill all empathy, to pull in all the wandering bits of self into the one self, trying for an isolated heaven in the shrinking flight inward. She could almost understand it, but even ifthere were some ultimate peace in it, it would never reach her to change her from within. [ 177] Here Juana explicitly rejects the idea of a personal salvation to which she alone might have recourse. There can be no rest for her own mind outside of the comprehensive restructuring of her world, for she is not capable of enjoying a life of contentment in a surrounding climate of misery and want. Her own peace of mind depends on the relative humanity of her social ambience. There is no ease to be found among the symptoms of exploitation that ring her around in Ghana. In this respect Baako's labeling of her as an "animist" is apt, for Juana recognizes no boundaries between private and 114

Enduring the Conditional, Thinking the Unconditional public space, or between the realms of society and nature. In her view, the idea of health cannot be divorced from the idea of totality. There can be no cure for the private self. no healing for the individual soul or the discrete community or social fraction cut off from other communities or fractions. There can be no well-being, indeed, outside of an integrative and humanitarian social order. Joe Lurie has suggested that Juana's dream of social regeneration differs from that of "the man" in The Beautyful Ones in being "relevant not to the generations of the future ... but to Juana's own lifetime. If life is to have a sustaining meaning, there must be complete political and social change within the forseeable future, and there must be something more to life than personal relations." 41 I see this formulation as useful but problematical. Obviously, it is true that Juana sees little to sustain her in Ghanaian society as it is constituted at present. Peace will come to her only with full-scale social change. But as to her desire to see change "within the forseeable future," it seems to me that Juana is no more inclined than was "the man" to project revolution as a practical possibility. Indeed, as I read her character she seems to understand only too clearly that to long for the objectively impossible is to court despair. She appreciates full well that the revolution will come when it will come. This is not at all a fatalistic point of view. Rather, it is eminently pragmatic and courageous. Juana sees Ghana's pain. More than this: as Baako discovers when he and Juana tour the country together, she "not only saw the pain, but felt in herself and was holding down something straining to scream out from within her own body" ( 191 ). Yet she refuses either to succumb to despair or to the temptation to seek "survival by shedding [her] ... painful ability to see so clearly" ( 14 3). Instead, she contrives to rise above these conditions to embrace a calm hope, almost a certitude, beyond them. Her hope is strictly redemptive in quality, for it is fed by little more than radical longing. And yet it is precisely this that renders Juana's hope not only sustaining but also creative and even responsible. From his own embattled situation in 1940s Europe, Adorno wrote that "[t]he only philosophy which can be responsibly practised in face of despair is the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption." 42 The formulation exactly captures Juana's intellectual modality, a modality that Armah represents metaphorically toward the end of the novel: Juana has gone to visit Baako who is recuperating after his mental breakdown; as they sit talking in the grounds of the hospital, a choir's singing rings out from a nearby cathedral: Over the wall the murmur from the cathedral swelled into a sung phrase that sounded at a distance like one inexorably rising cry, first of pure, impossible longing, then the fearful pain of impending disappointment understood, open sounds of hope still continuing in the face 115

Fragments of every despair, and a long note of calm at the end. The words were in her own memory

Ex respecto resurrectionem mortuorum et vitam venturi saeculi Aaaaaaaaaamen. [275-76] For Juana, clearly, the "long note of calm at the end" is not the calm of resignation or quiescence. It is the calm of determination, of responsibility soberly assumed. Not for nothing do we see her, in our last image of her in the work, starting to prepare her spare room for the day of Baako's release from hospital. Although she is distraught at Baako's illness, and, more generally, feels herself dispirited at the thought of the seeming futility of her individual endeavors in Ghana, she will not allow herself to sink into the apathy of despair: "Walking round the house, she saw only lifeless things, till the idea came to her that she should begin preparing the unused room" (277). A luta continua-the struggle continues. Since only the future can redeem the present's violence and degradation, it becomes a matter of principle to Juana, a matter of social life and death, that she live not merely with the future in mind, but as though it were already here. Nothing in the novel's universe is more purposive than this modest and unassuming posture.



Why Are We So Blest? Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism

Today the thwarted possibility of something other has shrunk to that of averting catastrophe in spite of everything.-Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialectics He who integrates is lost. -Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia

Why Are We So Blest? is a brutal, harrowing, and extreme novel. 1 In it, Armah takes several of the pressing and unresolved questions that had animated The Beautyful Ones Are Not ~t Born and Fragments-questions concerning creative intellectualism in the context of neocolonialism, the alienation of radical intellectuals from their larger communities, the dispossession and consequent depoliticization of urban and rural masses in the postcolonial era, the exocentric and fawning posture of indigenous elitesand attempts to force them to definitive formulation. In this search for closure and resolution, he resorts to the concentration of metaphorical language. At the heart of Why Are We So Blest? he installs a psycho-sexualpolitical allegory designed to represent not only the violent mechanics of the imperial subjugation and exploitation of Africa, but also the sadomasochistic and ultimately suicidal complicity of African intellectuals in this despoiliation. The principal bearers of this allegory in the novel are Modin Dofu, a young Ghanaian man whom we first encounter as a student at Harvard, and Aimee Reitsch, a young white American woman, also a student, at Radcliffe. The date is the late 1960s. The two students are lovers. In exploring the trajectory of their destructive relationship, Armah presumably hoped to say something illuminating both about the overdetermination of"personal" by "political" life in racist societies, and about the place and substance of eroticism in the drama of imperial "othering." In the event, however, he achieves neither of these ends. For his allegorical conceit proves to be so crude, and so manichean in its execution, that it tells us very little about any


Why Are We So Blest?

nexus between imperial violence and sexual obsession, revealing, instead, only its own latent authoritarianism. The inadequacies of Armah's allegorical conceptualization in Why Are We So Blest? are stark and irremediable. The novel cannot be retrieved from them, since they destroy rather than merely compromise its integrity, in both senses of that term. Why Are We So Blest? is both a racist and a poisonously misogynistic work, and it needs to be addressed directly as such. Through its sequence of loaded and programmatically if unsubtly pointed episodes and exchanges, it discloses its central and essentialist motivation, which, as Derek Wright has crisply observed, is to portray "revolutionary energy, black and male" as being "sapped by the powers of reaction, white and female."2 Wright characterizes Why Are We So Blest? as "a racist fiction about racist fictions."3 The assessment is fundamentally sound, though it can be faulted, perhaps, for leaving too little room for an acknowledgment of the formidable intelligence of Armah's novel. Certainly, the work's urgent critique is mandated by its misogyny and racist stereotyping. But it is my opinion that unless we follow Robert Fraser in acknowledging that, for all its flaws, Why Are We So Blest? "is a work of stark insights and brilliantly deployed multiple perspectives," we will be incapable of accounting plausibly for its failure as a work offiction. 4 Wright draws our attention to what he calls a "remarkable change of moral focus" between Why Are We So Blest? and Armah's earlier work; 5 but in discussing this change, he tends to neglect the extent to which, in its explorations of the condition of exile and of the dynamics of co-optation, Why Are We So Blest? contrives not to break with, but, on the contrary, to take up, build upon, clarify, and deepen the insights that were forged in The Beautyful Ones and Fragments. He does not allow, in fact, that the weaknesses of Why Are We So Blest? might be related closely to its strengths, and to Armah's strengths as a novelist overall. And yet, from my perspective, it is precisely this latter truth, and its implications, that make Why Are We So Blest? a significant work, and one repaying close analysis.

Why Are We So Blest? opens in Laccryville, a North African city, clearly Algiers in all but name. The first words are spoken by Solo Nkonam. Alarmingly detached and obsessed with their own futility, they are instantly reminiscent of Teacher's attitude and plight in The Beautyful Ones:

Even before my death I have become a ghost, wandering about the face of the earth, moving with a freedom I have not chosen, something whose unsettling abundance I am impotent to use. There is no contact


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism possible. Life goes on around me, and with a clarity that has grown sharply painful, I see it flow like a stream in slow motion .... Only there is no portion of the stream, no part of all this flowing life, into which I can fling myself and say: "Here I belong. This is my home. Here I shall do the work of my life." I am not able to see my way back into the stream, and now I do not even know if there is left in me any desire to go back in. I do not know where I am. Perhaps I am the spume, a little speck of fugitive water sent up into the air by huge waves in their crashing against hard obstacles. Perhaps I am the spray, a minute globule struggling to survive the shock of wave against returning wave, split from the parent water and flung upward into the sky, to disintegrate and to evaporate. [11] We are confronted, here, with a rendition of the plight of the alienated intellectual as a metaphysical condition. The overriding motif of the passage is of isolation. Solo is lost. Whatever connections he must once have had to originary family and community are irretrievably severed, and severed, he insists, by a force outside and greater than his own volition. Like the "little speck of fugitive water sent up into the air by huge waves" he too is a casualty of a momentous collision, in his case the historical clash of Africa with Europe. There is no longer any return possible to "the parent water," not only because Solo cannot return "home" (a concept that to him has become meaningless) but, more strictly, because everything that he has become-everything that, as an African intellectual, a "been-to," he now is-renders the prospect of his reimmersion into the "flowing life" of community cripplingly ambiguous for him. He has become an intellectual, with an evolue's self-consciousness. The elementalism of primary belonging, phrased here as "natural," has been abolished in his consciousness. Where other Africans-those who have escaped intellectualization-might toil and struggle "spontaneously," expressing themselves through this means in their actions, Solo cannot see beyond the questions of abstract significance: What is the purpose of struggle? Is struggle ever successful? What does it mean to ask this question? Does the question itself contribute to the struggle? If not, what does it mean to ask this question instead of acting? In all Solo's meditations, longing and desire war inconclusively with doubt and irresolution, and the only clear outcome is paralysis, which, itself reflected upon, gives way to punitive self-contempt. Solo is a refugee from the violence of his place and time. A native of a Portuguese African colony called Congheria, yet to win its political independence from Lisbon, he is a "been-to" and one-time member of the guerrilla movement fighting for the liberation of his homeland. He now lives in loveless exile in Francophone Laccryville, where he works desultorily as a


Why Are We So Blest?

translator for a magazine, Jeune Nation, at whose mindless editorializing about renascent Africa he feels no rage, only the nausea of impotence. As he presents himself to the reader, his despair and self-hatred seem all-embracing, although we are left to gather that the road to disappointment has been a long one, involving sequential and cumulative defeats and failures. Like Teacher in The Beautyful Ones, Solo can think back just a few years to a time when the success of the national liberation struggle seemed assured, when it seemed certain that Africans throughout the continent were at last going to win back for themselves the rights of self-determination. But also like Teacher, he has borne witness to the obscenely rapid dissolution of these dreams. In the heady days of decolonization, we discover, Solo had gone as a student to Lisbon where, in spite of recognizing the colonialist and supremacist content of much of what he was expected to imbibe as knowledge, he had nevertheless been able to nurture his utopian longingprecisely reminiscent of Juana's in Fragments-for personal fulfillment in the context of larger social reconstruction. Like Teacher, though, and unlike Juana, he has not survived the loss of this utopia intact. Where in the days of hope he had been energetic, imaginative, expansive, working at becoming a writer, falling idealistically in love with a young white Portuguese woman, and throwing himself unconditionally into the cause of the African revolution, in Laccryville he has only the memory of the collapse of these ventures to occupy his thoughts. Plainly, his has been a comprehensive defeat, which has pushed him from belief into uncertainty and from uncertainty into a bleak embrace of hopelessness and futility. So conclusively have his onetime aspirations been rebuffed that he has long since ceased to resist the despair that he is convinced life has reserved for him. Unable, because of his brief stint with the Congherian guerrillas, to return to the land of his birth-and lacking the desire to do so, besides-Solo "chooses" what is necessary, and lives on in Laccryville, which, as its etymological resonance suggests, is a veritable city of tears. He has no friends and courts none. He refuses to go to the cafes where collections of intellectuals, artists, and journalists from near and far, self-professed "friends of the revolution," sit "caressing drinks" (55) and demonstrating, in their prolonged and passionate discussions, nothing so much as their own privileged distance from the reality that most Algerians are condemned to endure. He cannot bring himself to write any more, since he believes that in order to create anything one requires hope (even illusory hope) and he has had that dashed out of his system forever. In fact he regards all purposive pursuits as being definitively beyond his present capabilities, feeling that he has been reduced to a state in which only a predatory watchfulness has been left open to him. Solo considers his own life to be a monument to mediocrity, incapable of


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism being redeemed through any affirmatory act of faith or daring. He has, he reflects, lost not only the hopes that could make life rewarding, but even, from a more cynical perspective, the illusions that could make it endurable: To live out the necessary truth? I have said it repeatedly: I am empty of the courage needed for that. Life has lost the sustaining swing; it is a long time since it became one long downward slide. Along the way everything turned ashen, barren, white. There are stops, not to get refreshed-nothing recreative of life survives along this road-but to let the enveloping sterility cover the desperate mind more completely. In my mind there is no space left for flight. This filth is no mere station. It is my terminus. The journeys that should have had meaning are behind me. Here is physical space to wander in, space not for life's movement, space in which to tum in circles, again, again, again. [84] One is reminded, here, of Clov's description of his world as "corpsed" in Samuel Beckett's play Endgame. 6 Even more, one is reminded of Adomo's evocation, in an article on Endgame, of a cataclysm so severe that "even the survivors cannot really survive." Seeking to contextualize Beckett's universe, Adorno wrote: "In Endgame, a historical moment is revealed ... After the Second War, everything is destroyed, even resurrected culture, without knowing it; humanity vegetates along, crawling, after events which even the survivors cannot really survive, on a pile of ruins which even renders futile self-reflection of one's own battered state." 7 To grasp the substance of Solo's entropic perception, it is only necessary to substitute "colonialism" for the "Second [World] War" in Adomo's account. And, indeed, from Solo's perspective it does seem as though not even the survivors have survived Europe's pillage of Africa. Certainly he does not see himself as having survived. Even in life, as he tells us in his first words, he has "become a ghost, wandering about the face of the earth." In his obsessive intellectualism, he has lost the ability to act in the absence of an understanding of the ultimate purpose of his activity. In his capacity as a writer, thus, he is so crippled by doubts about the morality of writing as a social practice that he is incapable of putting pen to paper. He has come to believe that under the prevailing circumstances of intellectual betrayal and neocolonial consolidation, no attempt to deal as a writer with the large and essentially transindividual questions of revolution and social transformation can be anything other than an exercise in delusion or dishonesty. However, his own attempts to articulate a more private sensibility, one that in spite of its modesty would still gesture toward the ideal of social redemption, have all met with failure. For it is evident to him that even "private" writing requires of its producers some trust that "what [they] write is of some value and is not merely the dishonest exercise of a mind which for some reason does not occupy itself with necessary things" ( 12 ).


Why Are We So Blest?

And this trust, as Solo starkly comments, he no longer has. So it is that whenever, now, he sits down intending to write, he is assailed by a shower of self-generated accusations, in which the fact that he is planning to write in this way rather than that is deplored, and also the fact that he is planning to write about private emotions rather than about revolution, and even the fact that he is planning to write at all: Often when I have sat down and tried to write I have felt behind me presences disapproving of my unborn thoughts, harsh voices raised in contradiction of my unwritten words, and my young friends asking their lost comrade why he chooses to spend his time making such a mysterious thing of love when all around us there is so much to be done, when the revolution in its making demands so much time, so much energy, so much of everything that can be given. I cannot give any answer. The words I still have can say nothing of the holes into which I have sunk, or of the fearful knowledge that at the end of each effort there is only futility. If I found the words and opened my mouth to speak, even then I would not be understood. The possessors of the voices and the eyes are sure they are alive in a world I do not live in. They are certain they are in a struggle that gives an answer to the ultimate way of life, making tomorrow's revolution ... Borrowing their voices and their frowns, I accuse myself, so that before I can put down one word a thousand objections rise up in my mind and before my eyes, and all that is left for me to do is to sigh with my understanding and then drop my pen. [12-13) Solo's pre-emptive vulnerability to these "thousand objections" stems, as he himself realizes, from a kind of "negative capability," manifesting itself in an inability to immure himself from the hideous truths of the world around him. This is a condition that he shares with Baako in Fragments, although here there is no Juana to diagnose it for the liability it is, or to point the way toward its successful negotiation. Thus Solo finds it impossible to walk the streets of Laccryville and not feel himself accused by, and implicated in, the abject misery he encounters there. He despises the rationalization of this misery on the part of the self-proclaimed "revolutionary" intellectuals living in the city, remarking caustically that they are obviously possessed of "a kind of revolutionary conscience so clever it has space for the beggar and the newly rich, for cannon fodder and the briefcase carrying traveler" ( 115 ). He permits himself no recourse to such self-deceptions. But, unable to justify the relative material comfort of his own life in the face of the appalling degradation of the lives of the beggars and cripples and orphaned children who wait by the sides of roads in Laccryville-no longer a colonial city but now the capital of an independent state-he discovers that his lack of duplicity rebounds upon him as intellectual paralysis.


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism At a minimum, Solo speculates, the role of the radical artist ought to be to put his or her own imaginative talents to work upon the world in order to wring from it a socially therapeutic message. But this is precisely what Solo has come to believe cannot be achieved within the context of imperialism. For, confronted by the colossal destruction of indigenous societies wrought by imperial capitalism, what socially therapeutic message could it possibly be within the competence of a writer to articulate? Ultimately, the "confusion" that makes it impossible for Solo to write derives from his ruinous inability to justify intellectual labor. Every time he asks himself about the social implications of his own practice as a writer, he stumbles into a debilitating and anti-intellectual self-contempt: How could any exercise so useless, so clearly of no help to any destroyed being, be called creation? It is a useless rearrangement. Even the one trace of virtue in it is negative-its harmlessness. To be an African now, and a mere artist: to choose to be a parasite feeding on spilt entrails. It does not matter that I eat into myself, too-a part of the rot, feeding on the rot. [231-32] Solo's conviction, here, is that the African artist in the era of imperialism cannot escape irrelevance or, worse, a vulturine dependence on the suffering of others. It is no wonder, then, that he has "elected" not to write. As he himself puts it, "I have not written yet, and most probably I never will write. Everything, like my sorrow, will be forced inward. There it will become a poison eating into me, and the only thing it will sour will be the rest of my own days" ( 13 ). This passage from idealism to defeat with respect to Solo's dream of becoming a writer has been paralleled in the emotional realm by the trajectory of his relationship with Sylvia, a young white Portuguese woman, with whom he had fallen in love while a student in Lisbon. In Solo's narrative reconstruction of this trajectory, we again witness an unbridled optimismso naive, perhaps, as to seem culpable in retrospect-giving way to cynicism and bottomless despair. Had Solo believed less fervently, at the outset, in the power of his love to overturn the barriers of racial hatred, he would presumably not have found the process of his own disillusioning so painful. But in spite of his precocious awareness of the ubiquity and virulence of racism in colonial Portugal, it seems that he had been reluctant to recognize his powerlessness to "rise above" existing conditions, at least as far as his own interactions with individual Portuguese people were concerned. Instead, like the character of Carin in Armah's 1965 short story "Contact" who had maintained that while it would be "naive to expect anything but hypocrisy and corruption [in the public domain] ... we have our private lives. We can make something beautiful out of that. I mean we can choose our friends and know that they aren't bigots"B-Solo had clung to an


Why Are We So Blest?

essentially liberal belief in the separability of "political" and "personal" realms of being, even under the most manichean of social relations. He had thought of Sylvia as a Portuguese woman unlike other Portuguese women, a person with whom a "spontaneous" relationship, uncluttered by social conventions and structures of feeling, was possible. Nor, it seems, had he been entirely wrong in this conviction. For as Sylvia is remembered, at least initially, by Solo in Why Are We So Blest? she had indeed been different from her compatriots. She had returned Solo's love openly and without guile. The problem, however, had been that in a racist society like Portugal. there could be no escape from the terroristic logic of racial categorization; and the force of this truth had been such as to render Sylvia's "difference from the others" irrelevant, to submerge it beneath the implacable "obviousness" of racial identity. The illusion under which Solo-and possibly Sylvia toohad labored was that racism was a "mindset." a mentality; instead, it had revealed itself as a material force, embedded in structures and institutions that could not be circumvented. The fact of Solo's blackness had never been allowed to dissolve into insignificance, for in colonial Portugal it had been an overdetermined valence: blackness had not merely been blackness, it had been blackness in juxtaposition to (dominant) whiteness. "[N]ot only must the black man be black ... ," Frantz Fanon has written, "he must be black in relation to the white man." 9 Within imperial discourse, this opposition is an ideologically resonant one, in the face of which Sylvia, young, unpolitical. and unsure of herself, had been unable to affirm her love for Solo. So deeply rooted within her society had racialized awareness become, that she had inevitably if unwittingly accepted the premise of Solo's otherness. His blackness had been irreducible: in the face of it, it had been necessary for her to convince herself that she loved him in spite of his being black. Ultimately, as this conclusion already intimated, she had proved incapable of withstanding the disapprobation of her friends and the larger society, and she had broken off her relationship with Solo. Solo recalls that after Sylvia had gone, he had begun to feel that the love they had shared had all along been illusory. He had loved Sylvia, he now surmises, for what her world would never have allowed her to remain: I had had an illusion-a thing that gave me some warmth-that the two of us wanted to be nearer to each other than to any other thing outside. Now someone from a world to which Sylvia belonged, not I, had come and pulled her away with so much strength that the illusion had been killed. [65] In speaking, here, of the killing of his illusion, Solo is referring not merely to the fate of his involvement with Sylvia, but. more generally, to the unraveling of his naively liberal views about interracial relationships in the context of imperialism. Against the grain of all available evidence, he had upheld an


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism idealist faith in the ability of individuals to make of their own private lives what they would, regardless of social conventions and proscriptions. It was of this idealist faith that Sylvia's departure had disabused him. Dis-illusion had been forced upon Solo, in circumstances that had rendered it neither welcome nor emancipatory. So invested had he been in the liberal illusions that the harsh reality of colonial racism had conspired to shatter that the process of disillusionment had left him defeated and enervated, unable to absorb and "make good" the painful truth to which he had belatedly been exposed. Yet another "initiation," more chastening still, had awaited him on his return to Africa from Portugal. Even during his involvement with Sylvia he had known that he would never be like many other Africans in his situation, "who had found in Portugal and in Europe a final home for their spirits" (68). In the aftermath of the relationship, Solo had been able to find no reason for remaining in Portugal, where he was daily being made to recognize that he was an unwanted guest, and where his education seemed to be encouraging him chiefly to tum his back on African concerns and aspire toward assimilation into white metropolitan culture. To return to Africa in disarray, however, seemed to him to be so paltry an action and so redolent of surrender as to be unacceptable. Returning seemed rather to demand a sense of purpose, of enthusiasm, of responsibility solemnly undertaken. This enigma had created a grave problem for Solo. For although in theoretical terms he had been able to find the requisite sense of purpose readily to hand in the concept of his country's anticolonial struggle-"the beautiful revolution" (48) as he imagined it to be-he had realized that his training in Portugal had scarcely been of the kind to equip him to contribute to a revolution. Lacking practical skills-which, as Modin Dofu is to say later in the novel, "are acquired, not inborn" (223 )-he had been uncertain as to how best to deploy his creative energies, how best to range his labor and expertise as an intellectual on the side of the anticolonial forces. Solo had eventually decided to travel to Laccryville, where the movement fighting for the liberation of his homeland from Portuguese colonialism was based. His plan had been to allow the movement to deploy him as its cadres saw fit. He had returned to Africa "dream[ing] of a destination for the spirit. The best that is absent from this heavy, mediocre world would be its mark: community. In place of isolate bodies, greedy to consume more privileges to set us above, apart from others, there would be community: sustenance, suffering, endurance, relief, danger-all shared" ( 114). His very first thoughts on entering the Bureau of the People's Union of Congheria in Laccryville-the official arm of the "revolution"-had been hopeful: "I thought I had found the thing I was looking for" (48). These hopeful thoughts, however, had been contradicted almost immediately by the semiotics of the photographic display in the bureau's front office:


Why Are We So Blest?

The first thing you see as you enter the Bureau from the street is a large display panel. Under the bold, neat heading LE PEUPLE CONGHERIEN EN LUTTE

are arranged twenty-one large, glossy pictures of the forces of the UPC in action. The pictures are intended to show the movement as a serious, disciplined and well-organized force. In this they are successful. The first shots are historical. In them everything seems exaggeratedly rudimentary. The soldiers of the rebellion appear to be a confused crowd, wearing assorted clothes. There is then a rapid progression through stages in which only a few are in uniform, then most, until in the last pictures everyone is in uniform. Not only that. Now there are different types of uniform for different ranks, the colors getting lighter with increasing rank ... Dominating all the pictures is a huge portrait of the leader of the UPC, looking sternly down upon his followers through his spectacles. Under this picture is the caption: IGNACE SENDOULWA PREMIER MILITANT.

The man is shown wearing an immaculate white suit. [49] Solo recalls that, even on his first reading of this display panel, he had been "saddened" by what it appeared to suggest about the UPC. He had hoped to find a resolutely Afrocentric, anti-imperialist and nonhierarchical enterprise. Instead, the display seemed to speak of a force that regarded its increasing hierarchization as a source of sophistication and positive achievement, and that had given so little thought to its own history and ostensibly revolutionary project that it could without self-consciousness or embarrassment design uniforms that coded lightness with status and whiteness with supremacy. At the time, thrilled to have "finally achieved contact with the movement" (49), Solo had not given voice to these misgivings, but had consciously suppressed all emergent doubts about the revolutionary integrity of the movement. In the field, however, these doubts had been unambiguously confirmed. Solo tells us very little about his experience as a guerrilla, other than that it had been brief, disastrous, and crushingly disillusioning: "The initiation," he observes, "was a quick death of the hopeful spirit" ( 114 ). In the UPC offices in Laccryville, he had glimpsed, but had been reluctant to accept, that the "revolution" was in fact profoundly unrevolutionary, committed to the establishment of an alternative hegemony rather than to genuinely counterhegemonic practice. 10 In the field, he had discovered that the "revolution" was being betrayed even as it was being waged. Every day, scores of militants, dedicated but untrained and ill-equipped, were losing their lives in the war against the Portuguese colonizers; and while this was taking place, the UPC leadership, based in Laccryville and elsewhere, was using the existence of the struggle to pursue private glory and prestige. 126

Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism In the aftermath of his experience in the field, Solo had drawn back, horrified. Fleeing to Laccryville, his withdrawal officially accounted for as a failure of nerve, he had returned fitfully to the uPc bureau in Laccryville. There he had been struck by how much, in his previous idealism, he had overlooked: so ubiquitous had the signs of the corruption of the "revolution" been, that he had realized with some dismay that it ought not to have been necessary for him to have ventured to the war front at all in order to have discovered the truth. Even in its interior design, for instance, the twostory bureau reflected the political economy of neocolonialism, disguising the realities of hierarchy and class division beneath a hypocritical patina of militant restraint: The lower office gives at least a vague impression of austere dedication. There is little there that is blatantly incongruous with the claim that it is the working place of people caught in a life-and-death struggle. This impression the upper office destroys immediately. The floor there is covered completely with a thick blue carpet. There is no desk-only a set of deep armchairs around a polished circular table. On the wall across from the entrance is a painting. It is a Parisian scene, a bridge in the twilight. The left wall has a bar, beneath which is a refrigerator. [50) Such an office, of course, requires manning by ideologically appropriate

officers. And, indeed, in the Laccryville bureau, Solo encounters two uPc representatives, each ideally suited to his respective task. Occupying the upper office is Jorge Manuel, head of the bureau and the upc's Foreign Minister in Exile; occupying the lower office is Manuel's assistant, Esteban Ngulo. It is immediately clear that, far from being dedicated to the overthrow of colonialism, Manuel is unambiguously happy with the esteemed position he occupies as member of a government-in-exile. The Congherian "revolution" has not only not yet been won; it has, as Solo's "initiation" has recently taught him, "yet to be seriously fought for" (51 ). This fact, however, does not remotely deter Manuel from cultivating the style of one who bears power: well in advance of Congherian liberation, he has acquired "the gift of carrying himself with the self-conscious dignity of an African leader" (51). In keeping with such a station, his activities are exclusively executive in nature. His labors on behalf of the UPC seem chiefly to involve wining and dining with foreign journalists and consorting with top officials from sympathetic African nations. Over these festivities, Manuel presides with prodigal good humor, merely pausing once in a while to spice his ease with the rhetoric of the slogans that have earned it for him. Beneath the sound and fury of these slogans, the only true commitment revealed by Manuel is to the consolidation of class privilege. I I He boasts of his Western education, cavorts under the bright lights of Laccryville's poshest nightspots, and plainly delights in his life as it is. Change alone is to be feared. Since it is the "revolution" that has made Manuel rich and famous, 127

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and that continues to do so, the "revolution" ought ideally never to be won or lost, but always to remain in process. The truth that appalls Solo-that in order to remain thus "in process," the "revolution" needs lives to be given and lost-evidently fails to move Manuel. Indeed, so dexterous and remorseless is Manuel's ability to rationalize this loss oflife in the name of the glorious "revolution," that Solo is left confused, incapable of distinguishing with confidence between "authentic" revolutionary theory and the duplicitous rhetoric articulated by Manuel. We see this ambivalence also in Solo's attitude toward Esteban Ngulo, whom Solo introduces to us as Manuel's "shadow." Where Manuel, as his name suggests, is half Portuguese, Ngulo is wholly African. Possessed of a stunning ability to devote himself to the most menial of tasks singlemindedly and with unquestioning obedience, Ngulo is the perfect petty bureaucrat-his current position as cadre of an ostensibly revolutionary movement notwithstanding. Solo finds it impossible not to admire Ngulo's unstinting and and self-effacing dedication to his work. At the same time, however, he finds it impossible not to feel uneasy at the uncritical nature of Ngulo's service to the uPc. Ngulo merely labors; he labors incessantly. He asks no questions, and, ifhe has any private reservations about policy or the course of the "revolution," he takes care to suppress them. To Solo there is, accordingly, something sad in the relationship of Jorge Manuel and Esteban Ngulo, the mulatto and the dark, silent African. Perhaps at first I had not wanted to think of it directly, choosing instead to see them as brothers co-operating in the long fight for our country's freedom. But how long would it have been possible not to see that the lighter brother drank spirits upstairs with suave travelers, while down below the black one licked the tasteless backs of stamps? So the awareness would not bury itself, that here, too, was a division that would exist even when the last of the Portuguese had left Congheria, the ambiguous freedom of Esteban Ngulo to serve while Jorge Manuel consumed the credit and the sweetness. Man and his shadow, I began to call them in my mind. At times I just sat and thought of them, and all the slogans and the dreams of equality and justice dissolved in my imagination into an endless procession of masters and servants, men who would remain managers and workers even in moments when they were engaged in fighting some third oppressor. [ 51-5 2] Particularly disturbing to Solo, here, is the fact of Ngulo's complacency. Like many of the other militants Solo encounters in Laccryville, Ngulo displays a penchant for reducing all of the complexities of his own existence to a sequence of simple answers to unproblematical questions-"hatreds unmixed with love" (231 ), and bads unmixed with good. For him, ostensi-


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism bly, the "revolution" poses no problems other than those of logistics and organization. Tactics alone concern him, never ethics. When questioned by Solo, he refuses to concede that the issue of commitment might legitimately be raised as a moral problem, for his own commitment is "untouched by doubts concerning purpose and personal justification" (61 ). To all of Solo's tortured inquiries about resolve and private motivation, Ngulo offers only the impassivity of the "official" rhetoric, as though he himself enjoyed no existence beneath or beyond that of uPc functionary. Consider the following exchange, for instance (following his "initiation," Solo finds it increasingly difficult to obtain any peace of mind; undergoing breakdown, he eventually commits himself to a hospital, where he is obliged to remain for several months; upon his discharge, he returns once again to the uPc bureau): "We haven't seen you for some time," [Ngulo] said. "I have been sick," I said . . . . "Personal problems" ... "We all have personal problems," he said. "But it is egoism ..." "That is not what I meant," I interrupted him. "Not egoism. Moral problems. Justice, for instance." "You interest yourself in abstractions," he said. "There are concrete problems. How to carry on." I sensed we had parted company. If I continued I would only antagonize him, trying to make him think of things that could give him nothing but pain. In self-defense he was falling back upon the slogans and formulae he had come to trust. Perhaps for him they were true. At any rate I was the one with mental troubles, not he. [53-54] For Ngulo, it seems, the mere fact of the existence of the "revolution" is enough. It exists; he works for it; nothing beyond this matters; all else is extraneous, idle speculation, an impermissible luxury. For Solo, by contrast, speculations about what the revolution will bring, and about how it is being conducted, are indispensable. Far from constituting "abstractions," they are decisively concrete. In Solo's understanding, the "revolution" creates ethical problems because its motor force is fundamentally an ethical and not an instrumental one: to right wrongs, to fight injustice, to end poverty; to overthrow colonialism. To him it therefore seems criminally wrong to maintain that the questions of means, ends, directions, and effects are indulgent or superfluous, symptomatic only of the egoistic individualism of opportunists. He finds it impossible to consent to the stipulation that simply because the "revolution" is the "revolution," it has a right to be exempt from critical examination. This is especially so in the instance of the Congherian "revolution," where his "initiation" has demonstrated to him that the lives of militants in the field are being squandered for no purpose other


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than to extend the injustices already prevailing, to render these "acceptable" through logomachic sleight of hand.

In Solo's intellectual and ethically fastidious responses to Manuel's duplicity and Ngulo's anti-theoreticism, there are initially traces of a resistive ethic, such as those already explored in the character of "the man" in The Beautyful Ones Are Not li't Born and in the characters ofBaako, Juana, and Ocran in Fragments. What distinguishes Solo from these characters, and draws him closer to Teacher than to "the man" in The Beautyful Ones, is that, by the time we encounter him as narrator in Why Are We So Blest? he has been defeated comprehensively, wholly drained of the energy that resistance would require. Like Teacher, he is crushed, left to linger on the edges of the social scene with only his moral intelligence intact, ruing his isolation but unable to remedy it, insisting on his clarity of vision but being so disheartened by what he has seen that he can no longer bring himself even to look for meaning or value in the world around him. Solo is undermined not merely by what, in the course of his "initiation," he discovers to be the truth about the Congherian "revolution." To be sure, his experience at the front is disillusioning enough to lead him to conclude that nothing valuable can possibly emerge from within the upc's horizon of action. But Congheria is not the only colony in Africa, and the UPC is not the only national liberation movement. Other anticolonial struggles are taking place, and there is presumably no need to suppose that the corruption of the uPc leadership, and the consequent betrayal of the Congherian "revolution," will be replicated in them. Indeed, in returning from the Congherian front to Laccryville, Solo returns to a city in an African state which has only recently, and after a particularly savage war of liberation, won its independence from French colonialism. Surely in Laccryville, therefore, he will be able to see "the African revolution" to best advantage? In the event, however, he is unable to discover any evidence, in Laccryville, in Algeria, or elsewhere in independent Africa-Francophone, Lusophone, or Anglophone-that the anticolonial "revolutions" have succeeded in bringing about the structural transformations of society to which they have officially committed themselves. The grandiloquent rhetoric of "revolution" promises reconstruction and the establishment of a new and better order. But in independent Algeria, as Solo experiences it, the only people for whom these revolutionary slogans seem to have any meaning are those few-French-speaking equivalents of the Lusophonic Jorge Manuel-who are able to use the sacrifices and the courage and especially the commitment of the wretched many to propel them to power. For the rest,


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism the maimed, the orphaned, or simply the dispossessed, poverty and exploitation evidently have much the same grinding feel about them in the postcolonial present as they used to have in the colonial past. Hence Solo writes that "[h]ere in Laccryville ... [t]he deep things have ended. The revolt is over. The survivors have been pacified with their masters' hypocritical honors, and a peace indistinguishable from triviality has descended on the place" ( 15 ). It is this apparent truth, more than anything else, that undoes Solo: that ultimately the anticolonial "revolution" changes nothing and can be seen retrospectively never to have intended to change anything. What Solo has discovered about the Congherian "revolution" he now comes to believe to be true not only of it, but of all national liberation struggles in Africa. The drama of anticolonial "revolution" is everywhere a hoax, an elaborate simulation in which, at the cost of thousands of lives, nothing changes for the better. Beneath the barrage of revolutionary rhetoric, indeed, it seems that asymmetrical social relations are being quietly driven ever more firmly and implacably into place. The pain-racked question "Who gained? Who gained? Who gained'?'' therefore reverberates throughout Solo's narrative in Why Are We So Blest? The question is initially posed by a one-legged man whom Solo encounters, pouring over an elementary school textbook about the French Revolution, in the library of the hospital in Laccryville. After ascertaining that the man had lost his leg during the "war of liberation," Solo asks him whether the book he is reading does not strike him, after all he has been through, as simplistic: "No, no," he said, "not at all. The simpler the better. Perhaps you don't know what it is I am looking for." "True, I don't know." 'Tm not looking to find out who was in the revolution. I want to know one thing." But he did not continue. "What?" I asked him. "Who gained? That is all I want to know. Who won?" [24] To the despair-ridden Solo this question has an answer, but it is not one that he finds it easy to give to his fellow invalid. The man knows from his own bitter experience that whoever has gained from the "revolution," it has not been him. But he finds it difficult to absorb the monstrous thought that the very people who had made the "revolution" should, afterwards, have been the first to be discarded by it. The lesson that Solo draws from the exchange, and that he subsequently tries to share with the one-legged man, is entirely without comfort. He draws a picture of a truck moving up a steep slope from one plateau to another, and, showing it to his companion, he speculates on the ambiguity of the French word essence:


Why Are We So Blest?

"The militants are the essence. But you know, that also means they are the fuel for the revolution. And the nature of fuel ... you know, something pure, light, even spiritual, which consumes itself to push forward something heavier, far more gross than itself ... The truck represents society. Any society. Heavy. With the corrupt ones, the opportunists, the drugged, the old, the young, everybody, in it. And then there are the militants, pushing the whole massive thing from the lower to the higher level. But they themselves are destroyed in the process." "That is what you believe?" he asked. "That is what seems to happen," I answered. "You yourself were saying it." He looked at the drawing. Underneath its calm surface, his face was the face of a man who wanted to fight against a horrible truth but could not find any way to do it. Finally, he asked a question to which I knew he expected no answer. "Mais c'est juste? C'est juste'?'' "No," I said. "It is not just. Not at all." [27]

I have chosen to anchor my reading of Why Are We So Blest? in Solo's biography because it seems to me that Solo's consciousness is, both structurally and substantively, decisive to the novel's overall meaning. By this I mean not only that the "story" of the novel is of Solo's telling, but more significantly that it is in terms of his consciousness that the novel is integrated in its narrative and conceptual dimensions. At first glance, the internal structure of the novel might seem to contradict this assertion, for the fragments of the work in which we encounter Solo's ruminations are, throughout, interpolated with other fragments, in which selections from the private notebooks of Modin and Aimee are reproduced. (Modin's writings are copiously reproduced; Aimee is represented only by a few episodic jottings.) Yet, even though it is clear that these notebook entries have been composed quite independently of Solo, we do not, in reading them, gain the unmediated access to the subjectivities of their authors, Modin and Aimee, that we do in the case of the fragments credited to Solo. There is, in other words, no existential parity between the literary presences of Solo, on the one hand, and Modin and Aimee, on the other. Modin and Aimee exist on a different "level" from Solo: his discourse is elaborated upon theirs, as a metadiscourse, and it constitutes the ideational matrix within which the novel's overall content is located. To understand why this should be so, we need only pause to consider the internal "conditions of possibility" of the


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism novel, as these are figured within the work itself. Within the fictional universe of Why Are We So Blest? the following explanation is given of how and why what we are reading has come to be set down, and by whom: Modin and Aimee, lovers who have abandoned their studies in the United States to travel to Algeria in an attempt to enlist in the Congherian anticolonial militia, meet Solo in the uPc bureau in Laccryville. Unable to impress Jorge Manuel or Esteban Ngulo with their credentials, they decide to make their own way to the southern front, where they hope to make direct contact with the militia. In the desert, they are accosted by four white thugs who castrate Modin and rape Aimee. Modin is left to die in the desert, but Aimee is able to make her way back to Laccryville, where she informs Solo of Modin's death and entrusts Modin's private notebook and her own to him for safekeeping. When she returns to collect the notebooks the next day, Solo refuses to give them up, appalled by Modin's death and by what he takes to be Aimee's uncaring dismissal of it, and she is obliged to return to the United States without them. After her departure, Solo begins to study the journals, and finds himself powerfully addressed by Modin's writing. The more he reads, and the more deeply, the more portentous does Modin's personal history and his relationship with Aimee seem to Solo to become. His reading becomes the occasion of a troubled and obsessive communion with the idealities of Modin and Aimee as these are revealed in their notebooks. As Solo himself puts it, "These notebooks have broken my paralysis. I search them, filling in holes, answering questions I have asked myself and found no answers to, speculating, arranging and rearranging these notes to catch all possible meaning" (231). The text of Why Are We So Blest? is thus to be understood as the record of Solo's intensive interrogation of the notebooks. If, therefore, the novel as a whole takes on the tone of Solo's disillusionment, it is because his "weary view of things" has preformed it in every respect. 12 The internal organization of the text, what it includes and what it leaves out, are all determined by Solo. Because of this, the contexts within which Modin's and Aimee's thoughts, as presented, are to be assessed, are provided not by the substance of their own disclosures alone, but also, and overdeterminingly, by Solo's reflections-which frame them-on revolution, the politics of assimilation, the impossibility of meaningful relationships between black and white, the futility of radical intellectual practice in the postcolonial world, and so on. Solo's autobiographical reminiscences, in which, fragmentarily, but to cumulative effect, he narrates the story of his own disillusionment, constitute in my view the only successfully realized aspect of Why Are We So Blest? In his poignant narrative of the circumstances through which a romantic young radical becomes a self-despising and torturingly self-conscious intellectual, incapable of action, we observe a dissipative rite of


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passage, from hope-filled innocence to the experience of despair, familiar to any reader of The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born or Fragments. But in the case of Why Are We So Blest? this rite of passage is understood already to have taken place before the novel's action, such as it is, commences. The real "action" of the novel centers not on the process of Solo's disillusionment, but on the process of his driven and obsessive interrogation of the notebooks of Modin and Aimee, in the course of which, just like his one-legged companion in the hospital. he too is brought face to face with a "horrible truth." And it is precisely here, in moving from the history of Solo's disillusionment to the process of his interrogation, that the credibility and internal coherence of Why Are We So Blest? seems to me to collapse. The problem derives in the first instance from the fact that Solo is transformed by his reading of the notebooks of Aimee and Modin. During the course of the novel. as he pores over these notebooks, ponders their implications, and reflects upon the circumstances of his own life, he is drawn farther and farther away from the bleakly dispassionate rationalism of his initial position toward a more extreme and dogmatic standpoint. as bleak as its predecessor, but increasingly rigid and homogenizing, until, ultimately, he arrives at the manichean terminus of racism. From this essentialist terminus, white, Western culture is viewed as a monolithic and undifferentiated force, relentlessly predatory and dominative; and black, African culture is viewed, mutatis mutandis, as its Negritudinous Other. 13 Thus we find Solo referring to Aimee, who comes to represent "Westernity" to him, as an agent of pure destruction, "a devouring spirit, more than egoistic: her needs blast a path through everything around her. The world she inhabits is bent around her self" ( 116); and Modin is referred to in correspondingly allegorical fashion as "the African," in whose journal entries "an uncanny complementarity" to the rapacious Aimee is discernible: He had no such strong self. He had many selves, giving an externality to much of what he wrote: the observing self often treating the self observed as something already surpassed. There were constant adjustments of his person to needs impinging on him from outside. His gentleness should not have gone to feed her hardness. [ 116] In terms of the internal rationality of Why Are We So Blest? this resort to manicheism on Solo's part is phrased as a defensive strategy, whose adoption is not only warranted but, more urgently, necessary-literally a matter of life or death. The novel sets out to show us that the essentialist way of thinking that Solo comes to embrace constitutes the only socially appropriate response to the "truths" revealed (about the dynamics of imperialist domination and subordination) in the notebooks of Modin and Aimee. In this, however, it fails comprehensively: for, far from providing us with much insight into the workings of empire, the notebooks of Modin and Aimee are


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism such as to strain the credibility of even the most sympathetic of readers. Consequently, far from seeming motivated-still less justified-Solo's resort to essentialism on the strength of these notebooks can ultimately only be read as a collapse of reason, a slide toward a position of radical reaction.

As Robert Fraser has observed, Modin's journal, composed over a period of about two years-starting soon after his arrival in the United States from Ghana as a scholarship student and ending only with his death at the hands of French soldiers in the Algerian desert-can be read in toto as an extended commentary upon assimilation. 14 It comprises a varied assortment of documentations, reflections, recollections, working notes, and scattered thoughts in search of articulation and formalization. Like Solo's narrative, it sketches out a trajectory from innocence to experience, where the pole of innocence is marked by naive liberalism and that of experience by manicheism and racial essentialism. Modin's initial experiences in the United States bring him face to face with a concentrated racism for which nothing in his upbringing or education in Africa has prepared him. A series of exemplary episodes are recorded in his journal: in one, he writes of a meeting with members of the African Education Committee, the American foundation sponsoring his study at Harvard. The meeting takes place soon after his arrival: he discovers to his surprise that the committee members seem bent on impressing on him how exceptional he is. Indeed, a Mr. Richmond Oppenhardt, Chairman of the Committee, addresses him with the words, "[a]ll your confidential reports say you are a most unusually intelligent African-the most intelligent, as a matter of fact" ( 120). Modin tries to protest but is told not to be so modest about his obvious talent. He seeks to explain that it is not modesty that prompts him to disagree, but he is summarily overruled. It gradually impresses itself upon him that the committee members cannot tolerate the contemplation of his intelligence as unexceptional. In terms of their understanding, evidently, his gravitation from Africa to the West is a natural consequence of his having somehow outgrown the "primitivism" of his own culture. Thus when, during his first spring vacation, Modin is invited to spend some time with the Oppenhardts, he finds himself at first misunderstood and then, when he persists, commanded to silence whenever he attempts to make his views dear. As he writes in his journal: I have felt exactly as if we were repeating our first conversations. Mr. Oppenhardt is harder to discuss anything with, more impatient when he talks to me. We had an extremely long conversation last night. At


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one point he said: "You talk as if all Africans were as intelligent as you." That made the horrible loneliness I felt the first time return. "They are intelligent. You don't know them," I said. Mr. Oppenhardt's face became completely red. "I know them, Mr. Dofu," he said. I had not expected him to shout at me. "And you should grow up and learn to stop lying to yourself." [127]

The secret truth of Oppenhardt's "official" posture of liberalism is here revealed to be dictatorial and supremacist. The smiling face of the benefactor is belied by his resort to authority, and exposed quite literally as a front. This Modin begins to sense, even though he lacks as yet the understanding to systematize his impressions. He begins to appreciate, however, that Oppenhardt does not regard him as a potential colleague. From him Oppenhardt expects only obedience, deference, and gratitude; to anything else he responds with displeasure. Pondering the significance of his exchanges with the committee members, Modin decides to terminate his scholarship. His thinking, still politically unformed, is that to accept money from the foundation under the prevailing circumstances would be ethically indefensible. He rationalizes his decision thus: I had not thought receiving money from Mr. Oppenhardt was bad. He said he liked me, and hoped we could be friends. I said I hoped so too. It was natural for me to receive money from him for my education if he wanted to give it to me. Nobody I know could have helped me. It was like a scholarship, only a little better, because I was getting the money from a friend, not from another examination. But now there can be no feeling of friendship. Mr. Oppenhardt does not feel toward me the way a friend feels. He is not a friend. He is an angry white man. [128] Two points about this rationalization are worth making. First, if we examine its rhetoric, we notice that the idea that Oppenhardt's incivility might be indicative of a racial ethic, rather than of any purely personal disposition, has already begun to germinate in Modin's mind. It is this idea that motivates the opposition between "friend" and "angry white man" in his reasoning. Here, however, the idea is still only embryonic in form. In breaking with Oppenhardt and the foundation, Modin acts not out of political but out of ethical conviction. Later, he will come to deplore his "blindness" in this respect, maintaining that it is not just Oppenhardt the man he ought to have walked away from, but what he stood for: "I rejected him, but he was not the whole of what I should have rejected" ( 160). A second feature of Modin's rationalization is more disturbing, since it concerns not political immaturity but self-deception. Stated simply, it is


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism hard to credit that Modin could ever have been so naive as to suppose that his receipt of money from Oppenhardt was to be thought of as a gift from a friend. The rationalization that "[i]t was natural for me to receive money from him if he wanted to give it" is wholly unconvincing, and sounds like what it is, an excuse masquerading as a reason. Besides its lamentable configuration of Modin as the inert and passive object of the foundation's actions, its assertion of "naturalness" is a fraudulent one, unmotivated and frankly implausible. We begin to encounter Modin in this formulation not simply as uninformed: in his intensity, humorlessness, and literal-mindedness, we glimpse, rather, the outline of a dogmatist, possessed of a fundamentalist's self-righteousness. Not for nothing does Fraser compare Modin with the autobiographical persona of J. P. Clark's America, Their America: both display the same "pinched emotional tone, [and] a sullen bragging at victories won at the expense of white hosts." 15 After cutting the ties between himself and the foundation, Modin returns to Harvard for the commencement of a new semester, relying on odd jobs to support himself. But he now discovers that his new acquaintances treat him in much the same objectifying way as Oppenhardt and the committee men had done. His "common humanity" is uniformly denied. 16 Ifhe is liked at all, he is liked in spite ofbeing black. The students who admire him do so on the assumption that his qualities are extremely unusual in an African. When Modin seeks to correct their misconceptions they respond to him first with disbelief and then, ifhe persists beyond the point of "good taste," with cold contempt. Their interest in him is exclusively tokenistic. It is slowly brought home to Modin that it is impossible to conduct an open relationship with any of the white students he meets at Harvard. In every case, what Frantz Fanon called "the fact of blackness" gets in the way, an irreducible obstacle, signifying difference behind every appearance ofidentity. 17 Visited upon Modin from without, the schismatic divide between white and black has evidently become so sedimented into the tissue of interpersonal relations in America as to constitute an a priori condition, as immutable as it is implacable. Trying to take stock of this situation, to grasp the ubiquity and systematicity of racism in America, Modin stumbles upon the insight that his objectification at the hands of white American students is not only not contradicted, but, on the contrary, is actively provided for, by the tenor of his education at Harvard. So relentlessly Western-oriented is the Harvard curriculum that no possibility of contesting its prevailing pedagogical and ideological assumptions seems to Modin to be left open. But then, he reasons, his political awareness sharpening moment by moment, this is perhaps just the point! For from one perspective the whole purpose of a Harvard education is induction into dominant culture. It is at Harvard, therefore, an apex of the imperial system, that the rationality of assimilation might be expected to


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reveal itself most fully. It now dawns on Modin that in the sequence of events in his young life that have culminated in his placement at Harvard, there has been nothing accidental or "innocent." On the contrary, he now comes belatedly to recognize just how systematically predetermined his "development" has been. Thinking back to his Ghanaian childhood, he realizes that the logic of what he is only now beginning to understand as "assimilation" had governed even his earliest years, revealing itself first in the requirement that he should leave home for school (32), and then subsequently, on a grander scale, in the requirement that he should leave Ghana for a "higher" education in the West (75). The longer he remains at Harvard, and the more radical and comprehensive his thinking becomes, the more drastic and extreme become the ideological conclusions that Modin draws with respect to this pattern of increasing displacements. He infers, thus, that the central consequence of assimilation is to render the African student's "search for knowledge ... synonymous with increasing alienation and loneliness" (82), to instill in him or her an attitude of reverence toward the West as the fount of all knowledge and a corresponding attitude of contempt for his or her own society, languishing-as though deservedly-on the world's periphery. The "successful" integrant, in these terms, will be that individual who comes to internalize the West's understanding of itself as the Olympus of the world and of the non-West as the "plains of mediocrity," barren land of the great "unwashed" (100-01). The implications of this conceptualization for Modin himself are obviously considerable. It now occurs to him that his schooling has constituted "a series of jumps through increasingly narrower gates" (223 ). He is haunted by the thought that the farther he has progressed as a student, the more remote from his community he has found himself; and the more remote from his community-the more assimilated to dominant American culture he has become-the more elitist has become the tenor of his education. Only when his alienation is complete, he surmises, that is, when he has capitulated unconditionally to the assimilationist ideal, will his education be considered likewise complete. He will then be expected to return to Africa to assume his "rightful" place among its rulers: Elementary School. First gate, the millions already eliminated, leaving thousands. No justification. Just the way things are. The way things have been made. Secondary School. Second gate. The thousands dropped, leaving hundreds. The justification: the exams. A lucky few get in because their relatives push them through in spite of everything. Sixth Form. The hundreds forgotten. A dozen here, twenty there. Small groups getting absorbed deeper into European ways. The justification: a higher quality. 138

Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism University. Single survivors in the last reaches of alienation. The justification: "You are the only one"; "You are not like the others"; "You are the first ..." But it is these, the farthest removed from the living realities of the hundreds, the thousands, the millions, who are given power in the imperial system to regulate the lives of the millions, thousands, hundreds. [224] The social logic of this educational hierarchy is deceitful. It represents assimilation into mainstream American society as a desirable goal, selfevidently so since America is viewed as the center of the universe; at the same time, the would-be integrant is made to see, through white Americans' racist patronization of him, that in spite of the pervasiveness of a rhetoric of integration, nobody who is not white can realistically hope to be accepted into the charmed circle of the dominant culture, except on sufferance, as a token. This paradox can be stated in another way: the road to assimilation distances the would-be integrant irretrievably from his community of origin, yet it never leads him to the destination to which, nevertheless, all of its signposts continue to allude. In Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon had spoken of the shattering impact of colonialism's imposition of an alien metaphysics upon the colonized population: "Overnight the Negro has been given two frames of reference within which he has had to place himself. His metaphysics, or, less pretentiously, his customs and the sources on which they were based, were wiped out because they were in conflict with a civilization that he did not know and that imposed itself on him." 18 Fanon had phrased this deracination of the colonized intellectual as a necessary consequence of the systematic violence of the colonial enterprise. In his view, colonial violence-which simultaneously made possible and preserved colonial hegemony-was enacted by Westerners functioning in the first instance as no more than the "supports" of the colonial system. Fanon had scrupulously resisted imputing conspiracy to these agents of colonialism. This scrupulousness Modin now stridently forgoes in a reductionistic revision of Fanon's analysis. Because the educational system at Harvard is as it is, he insists, every black student there is bound to experience his or her educational experience not merely as humiliating but more properly as dehumanizing: I should have stopped going to lectures long ago. They all form part of a ritual celebrating a tradition called great because it is European, Western, white. The triumphant assumption of a superior community underlies them all, an assumption designed to reduce us to invisibility while magnifying whiteness. My participation in this kind of ritual made me not just lonely, not just one person unsupported by a larger whole, but less than one person: a person split, fractured because of my 139

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participation in alien communal rituals designed to break me and my kind. [31-32) The distance between Fanon and Modin can be measured in the fact that twice in this passage, Modin speaks of assimilation as a process designed to undermine African self-sufficiency. From this moment, the specter progressively unveiled in his notebooks is of an immense, perduring, and radically evil Western plot to destroy African culture and African resources, a plot in which every Westerner consciously and willingly participates. The more Modin reflects on the logic of imperialism, the more adamant he becomes that if things are as they are, it is because they have "been planned that way" (32). Increasingly under the sway of this conspiracy theory of African history, he predictably finds support for it wherever he looks. So widely does he cast his theoretical net that there is nothing that it leaves unappropriated. In a veritable avalanche of generalizations, Modin runs together the categories ofWesternity and whiteness and domination in such relentlessly dehistoricizing, essentializing, and homogenizing fashion as to allow of no exceptions, no heterogeneities, no moments of rupture or difference. The "West" emerges, for him, as a monolithic entity, undifferentiated, remorseless, inhuman. So unself-consciously does Modin come to construe this manichean conceptualization as truth that he does not recognize its simple, reactionary inversion of imperial reason. In a move that he takes to be radical, but that is in fact sweepingly idealist and reductionistic, he posits "Westernity" as uniformly and unremittingly predatory: it destroys and consumes everything in its path and seeks at all times to expand its dominion over nonWestern territories and peoples. "Africanity" is then cast as "Westernity's" dialectical opposite: gentle, creative, and life-giving, the more or less passive victim of"Westernity's" savage depredations. To the extent that this conceptualization smacks of Negritude, it is vulnerable to Wole Soyinka's unanswerable critique: Negritude proceeded along the route of over-simplification. Its reentrenchment of black values was not preceded by any profound effort to enter into this African system of values. It extolled the apparent. Its reference points took far too much colouring from European ideas even while its Messiahs pronounced themselves fanatically African. In attempting to refute the evaluation to which black reality had been subjected, Negritude adopted the Manichean tradition of European thought and inflicted it on a culture which is most radically antiManichean. It not only accepted the dialectical structure of European ideological confrontations but borrowed from the very components of its racist syllogism.19


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism Without doubt, Modin's reasoning is guilty of the Negritudinous error of essentialism. But where Negritude, in affirming a humanistic vision ofracial complementarity, at least practiced what it preached, Modin's essentialism is programmatically racist. In this respect, far from disclosing the radical intelligence it affirms of itself, it shows its thoroughgoing affinity with the discourse of empire. In Modin's own estimation, however, the only problem that remains, once he has conceptualized "Africanity" and "Westernity" as polar opposites, is to account for Africa's historic and continuing inability to throw off the yoke of empire. The problem is, to him, a thorny one, since he has romanticized "Africanity" as a revolutionary projection, inherently resistant to domination. How, under these circumstances, has the "Western conspiracy" to annihilate African populations by way of gaining unhindered access to African resources so consistently managed to be successful? Inferring that, to insure their success, the Western conspirators have always needed to "buy off" Africans in positions of power or influence, and to use these coopted souls as a bulwark into the continent, Modin directs himself to the task of theorizing a relationship between Western domination and African betrayal. This becomes the subject of his senior thesis at Harvard. The thesis takes as its starting point the failure of African populations to break free from Euro-American hegemony, either during the era of colonialism or subsequently; and it hypothesizes that African leaders have typically played a decisive role in determining these failures: "The main political characteristic of African leadership since the European invasion is its inability and unwillingness to connect organically with the African people because it always wants first of all to connect with Europe and Europeans" (221 ). Historically, Modin argues, the leaders of anti-imperialist movements in Africa have time and again been induced to betray the revolutionary aspirations of their people. Simply assuming that the aspirations of "the African people" are indeed revolutionary-and have, presumably, always been soModin proceeds to the polemical identification of a causal nexus between the acquisition of power, on the one hand, and the falling out of sympathy with "popular opinion," on the other. He contends that since the time of the first Western contacts with Africa, those Africans who, by virtue of their status, influence, or education, have been best placed to organize, mount, and lead movements against the alien invader, have tended, with rare exceptions, to be just those least inclined to do so. The existence of such a causal nexus strikes Modin as significant. There is, he concludes, nothing accidental about it. For it is precisely here, he reasons, in the relative empowering of African leaders within the imperial chain of command, that the rationality of the assimilation process becomes discernible: "those with access to practical knowledge of the means are conditioned inevitably to lose sight of the aim" (221, emphasis added).


Why Are We So Blest? As an African studying in the United States, Modin speculates that he himself has already been led too far down the road of assimilation to be able to entertain thoughts of his own return to an innocent status quo ante. He cannot undo the weave of his assimilation. Looking around him, he surmises that very few options remain open to him. The other solitary Africans he meets who share his circumstances do not, it is obvious, share his desperate desire to resist elevation into positions of privilege within the prevailing system. To Modin, this marks the extent of their co-optation: they have, he concludes, been "persuaded" not simply to accept what is "ordained" for them, but to strain fervently toward their own ordination: "Happy to get the degrees, then go home and relax on the shoulders of our sold people. The end of a Western education is not work but self-indulgence. An education for worms and slugs" ( 161 ). In Modin's eyes the integrants who return to Africa after their studies abroad and take up their allotted positions as agents of empire within the indigenous society are best understood as modem factors. This conceit plays a central role in his understanding of the mechanics of assimilation. As a schoolboy in Ghana, he had once been taken on an excursion to Christiansborg Castle. He notes in his journal that he can remember having been particularly disturbed at the sight of one small room in the old part of the fortress. It had had walls of a distended thickness, with the narrowest of viewing slits carved into one of them. A guide had explained that in the days of slavery the room had been used by the factor-he was a very important person, the one whose job it was to get the slaves from inland, and keep them in a place near here till there were enough. When the Europeans were ready to buy, the slaves were brought into the castle. This room is where the factor, the slave dealer, stayed while bargaining with the Europeans about the price of the slaves. You have seen the thickness of the walls. You have seen how narrow the sighthole is. The factor could see the slaves and bargain with the Europeans for the price he wanted for them, but the slaves could not see him. That protected the factor in case some slaves escaped or there was a rebellion here. [78] As Modin comes to see the matter, the advanced stages of the process of assimilation in the postcolonial era are designed to transform Westernized Africans into latter-day factors, ready and willing to perpetuate the ignoble tradition of slave dealing. The function of the modem factor is identical to that of his slave-trading predecessor: it is to render up his people for Western exploitation. It is only the mode of the factor's functioning that has changed: "Our history continues the same. Horrible thought. I am here because I am a factor. A factor in our destruction. Ah, there are no visible chains, but the carnage continues all the same" ( 160).


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism The modem factor is no longer obliged to stand behind thick walls in order to be safe from reprisals, for the ceremony of education has been made to operate so effectively as an instrument of mystification that he need fear nothing from being seen. What was once immediately recognizable as an act of treachery is now officially presented-and widely accepted-as conducive to Africa's "development." The African who is drafted into factorship is now praised for his rare intelligence: What a farce, scholarships! That blood money never went to any of us for our intelligence. It was always payment for obedience ... Factors then, scholarship holders, B.A.s, M.A.s, Ph.D.s now, the privileged servants of white empire, factors then, factors now. The physical walls stand unused now. The curious can go and look at them, as if slavery belonged to a past history. The destruction has reached higher, that is all. The factor's pay is now given in advance, and sold men are not mentioned, not seen in any mind. Their price is given the factor for some mythical quality of his dead spirit. His murdered intelligence is praised. The easier for the givers of these scholarships, this factors' pay, to structure the recipients' lives into modem factorship. [ 160-61] The question of consciousness is raised implicitly here. Modin's language seems to suggest that through the agency of assimilation imperialism now possesses the means to foist the condition of factorship upon a passive recipient without his consent or even knowledge. It is perfectly conceivable that the integrant who returns to Africa and takes up a position consonant with the social ethics that his education has instilled in him, himself little suspects the true significance of his "contribution" to society. For it is no longer the identity of the factor that has to be kept secret if he is to continue to ply his trade, but the nature of his business. The truth about modem factorship is hidden, not by walls, but by mystification; and the institution of modem factorship is therefore secured, not by force alone, but also by the "planned ignorance" of those at its mercy. Because of this, Modin reasons, force alone will never suffice to root it out. By the time we encounter him in Why Are We So Blest? Modin has already come to view assimilation in these terms. He is thus quite certain about the political "functionality" of his Western education. He is much less certain, however, about how he ought to go about resisting the "destiny" that appears to have been mapped out for him. Within the terms of the assimilationist subsystem, as his conservative white colleague, Mike, points out, he is "headed straight for Phi Bet and graduate school" (98). The more Modin thinks about such a scenario, the more convinced he becomes that further education in the West would serve only to tighten the chains that bind him into the role of latter-day factor. Accordingly, he sets his sail virulently


Why Are We So Blest? against the protocols of academia. There are no valid reasons for remaining at Harvard: The thought keeps getting stronger: writing the thesis is bullshit. Every conclusion my work leads me to invalidates the exercise of continuing the work itself. It is not work. Busy work. Not necessary, but just a game to keep me occupied doing nothing real. Knowledge should be lived. So why continue? [221] Within the terms of the novel's own ideology, these words articulate Modin's radical repudiation of the substance of his American education and explain his decision to leave college and the United States, and travel to the border of war-tom Congheria in order to act upon his "revolutionary commitment to Africa" (31 ). Initially, and like Solo in the context of Portugal, he had come to the United States possessed of the naively liberal faith that his education in the West would equip him to serve his community in Africa more ably. His desire, as he makes clear on a number of occasions, had been for useful knowledge, that is, narrowly, for the kind of information capable of being placed concretely at the service of the "African revolution." The implicit reference, once again, is to Fanon. In The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon had called upon the African middle class to "betray" its neocolonial fate and "to put at the people's disposal the intellectual and technical capital that it has snatched when going through the colonial universities." 2 0 The suggestion had been that the radical African intellectual's task was to extract the politically neutral informational kernel of his Western education from its imperialist husk. But the thrust of Modin's manicheism cuts against this reasoning, since it tends to a conceptualization of Western thought, in its entirety, kernel and husk, as imperialist. In terms of the manichean outlook, there is no Western science, only a discourse of domination, and there is therefore no "intellectual and technical capital" to be "snatched" from metropolitan universities. In Why Are We So Blest? Modin's movement from naive liberalism to radical manicheism is phrased as a critique of ideology. If we look carefully at the way Modin thinks about his Honors thesis, however, we discover a rather different implication: far from comprising a principled repudiation of the antisocial elitism of Western education, his thoughts reveal a latent antiintellectualism, a repudiation not of academic elitism but of all intellectual labor as useless. The facile insistence that "[k]nowledge should be lived," serving to evoke the "ideologically correct" fusion of "theory" and "practice," in fact disavows the specificity of each. For Modin, it seems, theory is not only not practice, it is also not labor. This assumption he makes clear in a conversation he holds with a militant of the UPC in New York, with whom he has scheduled an appointment in the hopes of being enlisted into the Congherian maquis:


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism "You are writing a paper about our organization, not so?" "No, I'm thinking of doing something useful." "Papers are also useful. Sometimes very useful, even." "Is it possible to work for your organization?" "Yes. It is possible, but there are dangers, of course. We don't ask anyone to participate on the level of the fighting, no." "Why not? It's a war you're fighting." "Yes. But not everything in the war is fighting. There is, for example, the intellectual work." "That can be done by the old people, or sick people." [225] The fundamental posture here, revealed most obviously in Modin's final assertion that "intellectual" work ought to detain only those unfit for "real" work, is not the radical one of theoretical practice, but the reactionary one of anti-intellectualism. It is a disdainful posture, smacking of compensatory guilt, and it contributes to the general impression that, far from representing any revolutionary sensibility, Modin's discourse in Why Are We So Blest? arches only between the hollow poles of liberalism and illiberalism. Modin leaves America, of course, desperate to escape the fate of the integrant and convinced that it is only by joining the "revolution" as a fighter on the front line that he can redeem himself. Anything short of this drastic action, he believes, will leave him ensnared in the web of assimilation. The metaphor that he reaches for in thinking of the enormity of assimilation is that of drug addiction: the integrant's progress reflects the pattern of habitual drug use. The farther along the path of assimilation he travels, the more deracinated he becomes; the more deracinated, the more driven he feels to travel farther along the path in a futile attempt to "re-root" himself in the white, Western world. This pattern Modin discerns in a black teacher of his at Harvard, a man named Earl Lynch, whom he comes to regard as an instance of "humanity at its most destroyed" ( 163 ). In Lynch's life, Modin sees only a fatal twinning of unendurable loneliness and a frenzied effort to assimilate by way of overcoming this loneliness. Modin takes the example of Lynch's life as a warning to himself-he imagines that it is a warning consciously given by Lynch-"to fly away while time still remains" ( 163 ). For it is not so much that Lynch has been obsessed with the need to escape from himself that appalls Modin, but that, in escaping, he has seemingly found "nowhere to go beyond the escape" itself ( 163 ). His "escape" has taken the form of a deeper and deeper immersion into what Modin calls "whiteness"; the lesson that has never been learned, evidently, is that it is the poison of "whiteness" itself that has catalyzed Lynch's frenzy, and that his condition of alienation is only exacerbated by increased exposure to the drug: "He knows his disease; the only cure he knows is the disease itself intensified. It is the ultimate addiction, and that lonely man


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knows it" ( 163 ). Hopelessly struggling against the isolation consequent upon his envelopment in "whiteness," Lynch hastens forward along the path of assimilation, hoping to find sanctuary at last. He does not realize that since his struggle continues to be waged wholly on the terrain of "whiteness," it can never be successful. In terms of Modin's manichean conceptualization, "whiteness" is here counterposed to "blackness" as an all-determining racial essence. To "be black" (and the most obvious index of Modin's essentialism is to be found in his conflation of the idealities of "Africanity" and "Negritude," for Lynch is not an African, but a black American) and to "think white" is to signify that one has been poisoned, for "whiteness" represents only the destruction of "blackness." Nor is "thinking white" to be construed in ideological terms, as "thinking as an imperialist." On the contrary, Modin saves his roundest scorn for Lynch's embrace of Marxism: "Caught in the white net of minds he had sought a break for his spirit and found the whitest of philosophies, Marxism. What utter loneliness: to think Marxism was his secret discovery!" (163). Between Marxism and any other Western-originated philosophy, Modin acknowledges little difference: what Marxism has in common with all such philosophies, in his view-"whiteness"-is altogether more decisive than any "superficial" differences between it and them. Indeed, to the extent that he characterizes Marxism as "the whitest of philosophies," Modin seems to suggest that its is even more dominative than other Western philosophies-perhaps because where they bear their imperialistic intent more or less openly, Marxism disguises it beneath a veneer of revolutionism. It is clear that in Modin's eyes Lynch's resort to Marxism-a black man's resort to "white" thought-merely articulates a death wish. From Modin's perspective, only segregation can preserve revolutionary black being from imperialist white violence. On pain of death, nothing within the universe of white sociality can be allowed to penetrate the black world. Assimilation imposed is murder; embraced, it is suicide. Thus, in the first words from his pen that we read in Why Are We So Blest? Modin writes in his notebooks: The directions made available to me within this arrangement are all suicidal. I am supposed to get myself destroyed out of my own freeseeming choice. Earl [Lynch] is a suicide. All these integrants with their white wives are suicides. How to avoid their death? All other paths seem closed. The real question is not whether to commit suicide but how best to invest my inevitable destruction ... Outside of investing my death in an ongoing effort to change things as they are, it wouldn't matter much what kind of death I chose: what kind of addiction I chose. Could be drugs, could be success within the killing system, i.e., craving the white


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism man's approval. All existent methods are absurd and deadly outside of a revolutionary commitment to Africa. [31]

One of the sources of the deficiency of Why Are We So Blest? as a novel rests in its lack of differentiation. For all its formal fragmentation, the work is constructed on the level of ideology as a seamless unity, a totality best described as totalitarian since at every moment it reflects the central, essentialist determinations of its author. In Modin's notebooks, there is a passage from a naive but idealistic liberalism to a reactionary manicheism that thinks itself as supremely radical. Had this disjuncture between Modin's thinking and his own understanding of it been made the subject of reflection in Why Are We So Blest?-had the novel brought this disjuncture to articulacy as a disjuncture-it might have been able to say something searching about the pitfalls ofradicalism among (post)colonial intellectuals. But the novel does not even attempt to do so. On the contrary, it insists that the disjuncture is not a disjuncture. Modin's misrecognition of the thrust of his own thought is not only replicated by Solo, who finds himself "converted" to manicheism once he starts to read Modin's and Aimee's notebooks, but is endorsed by Why Are We So Blest? as a whole. What has emerged for us, therefore, as a blindness on Modin's part, the consequence of an acute lack of self-consciousness, assumes increasingly, in the context of the novel at large, the structure of a malign dogmatism, reductive and unyielding. One has only to consider the status of Aimee in the novel to see that this is so. Aimee is ruthlessly subordinated to the novel's manicheism. Within the universe of the text, everything about her can be conveyed in the space of three words: Aimee is white. For the novel itself, this is enough. Because she is white, Aimee is an agent of destruction, of destruction pure and simple, for its own sake, remorseless, wanton, and unmotivated. She is the white Westerner, "the hyperactive embodiment of that energy, that hatred, that has impelled Europe against us all" (229). She is the white Westerner, "daughter of a race of destroyers" ( 149). The words here are Solo's, uttered after he has examined Aimee's notebooks, but the impression they convey is borne out throughout the text in everything Aimee does or says, even in what she herself writes in her private journal. Solo's judgment, therefore, that there was "[s]o much destructiveness caught in everything she said, everything she did, the way she moved, the tenor of her being" (149), is shown by the novel as a whole not to be a personal one, distorted by his rage against Aimee, but an accurate assessment of her character. Aimee is white: therefore she is a murderer, "born to destroy effortlessly, naturally, easier


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than [she] breathe[s)" (150). She is white: therefore it follows that she is vindictive, selfish, callous, predatory, manipulative, demanding, rapacious, and insatiable! In terms of the ideology of the novel, the relationship between Aimee and Modin is to be read as a variation on the theme of assimilation. Thus far, in addressing Modin's predicament, I have focused primarily upon the place of education in securing subordination to the social logic of assimilation. Modin, of course, is first lured into the labyrinth of assimilation through means of Western education. But assimilation does not only operate "intellectually," it seems. As Why Are We So Blest? situates it, it is a tactic in the handbook of empire, designed to facilitate Western predation and exploitation, and it scores itself not merely on the sociocultural, but also on the psychosexual level. In fact, the relationship between Modin and Aimee suggests that it is precisely at the psychosexual level that the poison of assimilation is at its most deadly, hence most characteristic. As Derek Wright explains: Armah does not merely suggest that black-white relationships which are destroyed by inherited cultural stereotypes are common and therefore typical. His argument seems to be that the colonial prototype of exploitation and servitude is the definitive pattern of, and the key to, all such relationships and is thus an inflexible law governing each one. From here it is a rapid rhetorical stride to the inference that colonialism is in fact most supremely itself, and finds its quintessential expression, in the terms of an inter-racial erotic ritua1.21 It is in these terms that the function of Aimee is elaborated. She is to be the means of Modin's destruction, a cultural cipher "sent" to be his drug, his private instrument of annihilation. She is to be to Modin what Marxism is to Earl Lynch; that is-speaking generally-what the poison of "whiteness" is to the addicted black would-be integrant. She is to be just what Modin "needs" for his own destruction. It is as such that Solo immediately recognizes her in Laccryville. Meeting her for the first time, he is instantly alert to her inner, racial-essential violence:

She was big in a tall, bony way ... [S]he ... moved as if control were something alien to her nature, and her behavior, her words and her gestures as she talked-all gave a strong impression of a destructive wildness, of a lack of self-control. She seemed the kind of person it would be impossible to share a small space with. Wide, endless expanses, dotted with lifeless things, hard and unbreakable-that would have been the perfect environment for her." [62)2 2 Solo notes the "uncanny complementarity" ( 116) between Aimee's violent bearing and Modin's gentleness. It is a complementarity that suggests design


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism or deliberation. And indeed, design is implicated, for Solo later comes to characterize Aimee as a deadly missile, preprogrammed to seek out and destroy Modin, her African target, as befits the imperial agent she has always secretly been. After her "mission" has been accomplished, thus, after Modin has been killed and Aimee has returned to the United States, Solo will write: "After the African's death I have seen what of himself he put down in his notebook. His words brought me other questions I cannot put to rest. Why could he not see his companion? This was an object, destructive, powerfully hurled against him from the barrel of a powerful, destructive culture. Why could he not see that?" ( 115 ).

"Why could he not see that?" The question is central to the interrogation of assimilation in Why Are We So Blest? How is it conceivable that Modin, of all people, should be so suicidally insensitive as not to detect the danger to himself represented by the white, Western Aimee? For Modin is not just any prospective integrant. On the contrary, in the terms established by the novel itself he is to be distinguished sharply from other Africans, other black men, in his situation. Where these latter fall easy prey to the "trap" that is assimilation, Modin sees this trap for what it is, and bends his entire will to the task of circumventing it. On this reading, he is alert to every danger to which "the West" exposes him except one-and that one, the exception that obliterates the rule, destroys him. He sees so much, but because he does not recognize Aimee for what she is, he might just as well be blind. In fact, Modin's notebook shows that he does not quite not see the stuff that Aimee is made of. By the time he meets her, he has long since taken to heart the injunction that it is impossible to conduct a friendship with a white person ( 12 3 ). Unsurprisingly, therefore, he constantly feels the need, once he has embarked upon a relationship with Aimee, to justify himself in the face of the anticipated (and sometimes delivered) objections of his radical black friends. Several of Modin's journal entries are addressed to Naita, a black American woman with whom he had had a brief affair shortly after arriving in the United States, and whom he has subsequently constructed as the implied reader of his diary's confidences. These entries testify to his defensiveness about Aimee: "I did not go searching for her, Naita" ( 167); "We can't help serious involvements, Naita" ( 181 ); "Last night a frightening thing happened, Naita. You will blame me and call me a fool for not ending the friendship when it happened, but let me tell you everything. Something still tells me Aimee is not the same, not like the others I have known here, not a destructive person" ( 193 ).


Why Are We So Blest?

These rationalizations need to be read in the light of "answers" to the two central questions they implicate. First, there is the question of what, given his views on the subject, drives Modin to befriend-and then to persist in a relationship with-a white woman. To this, the apparent answer is loneliness, against which, Modin suggests, he has been powerless to struggle: hence, "We cannot help serious involvements, Naita." Second, there is the more narrowly defined question of Modin's choice of Aimee: what drives him to befriend her, of all the white women who are shown throwing themselves upon him in the course of the novel? To this, he proffers the answer of "difference:" Aimee, he insists, "is not the same, not like the others.'' 23 Before these defensive answers can be assessed, it is necessary to consider the tone and quality of Modin's previous contacts with white women in the novel. We have seen how, in the course of his dealings with Mr. Oppenhardt and the foundation, Modin comes belatedly to the realization that it is impossible to conduct an honest relationship with white men. Substantially the same "discovery," it seems, is made with respect to white women. The white woman in the novel at whose hands Modin learns this "truth" is Mrs. Jefferson, wife of one of the board members of the foundation, Professor Henry Jefferson. Mrs. Jefferson (who is not given a first name), is represented as stalking Modin from his first days in America, pursuing him in stereotypically predatory fashion as black flesh. At the earliest possible opportunity she pounces on her victim. Here is how Modin narrates the episode: She came toward me. I thought she was giving me a goodbye kiss but she did not go. "Hold me," she said. I kissed her back. She pressed her body hard against mine. "Lock the door, please, Modin." "What is happening?" I asked her. "You're exasperating. Can't you see? Didn't you know all this time?" I had seen her, looked at her, found her attractive in that special, almost-too-ripe way. I had not thought she would come to me like this. I too needed someone like her. I wished she were Naita. [129-30] Some of the implications of this passage are worth exploring in detail. The reader notices first of all the degree to which Modin casts himself as the passive, naive, and guiltless victim of Mrs. Jefferson's lust. He kisses the American woman only at her bidding. He locks the door only when she instructs him to. Later, he will masturbate her under the cover of blankets in the back seat of her husband's car-but only after she has initiated proceedings by placing his hand upon her thigh and reaching with her own hand for his crotch. Later still, he will make love to her whenever she comes up to his


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism room-but will never search her out himself. The force of the evidence is quite unambiguous: we are obliged to conclude that in all his dealings with Mrs. Jefferson, Modin remains more acted upon than actor, more the victim of her assault than her uncoerced partner. Even his naivety functions to exonerate him and to indict Mrs. Jefferson. "What is happening?" he asks her, not at the beginning but well into the seduction scene: it had remained his assumption, evidently, even as she had "pressed her body hard against [his]," that she was just being especially friendly! And nor, by the novel's own reckoning, is Modin ever implicated in the moral problematic of Mrs. Jefferson's "infidelity" to her husband. Certainly, he never gives a single thought to the ethical implications of his liaison with this married woman. The self-righteousness that we observed earlier, in his dealings with Mr. Oppenhardt, resurfaces here, but to more sinister effect. For while Modin, locking doors and-unbidden-pulling shades, insists that he is ignorant of Mrs. Jefferson's intentions, he is plainly anything but: indeed, he has himself, it seems, been eyeing her in explicitly sexual terms for quite some time: "I had seen her, looked at her, found her attractive in that special, almosttoo-ripe way." The novel's "unconscious," here, seems to give the lie to its conscious design. It is obvious that, as readers, we are meant to interpret Mrs. Jefferson's "seduction" of Modin in the light of a rape. Instead, we cannot but view Modin as fully complicit in the affair. By the same token, although it is obvious that we are meant to recoil from Mrs. Jefferson's objectification of Modin, her racist reduction of him to black flesh, it is remarkable that the novel itself remains blind to Modin's objectification of Mrs. Jefferson, his sexist reduction of her to female flesh. "I too needed someone like her": in spite of the evident reciprocity of this justification, Modin-and, behind him, Armah-is not remotely concerned with female sexuality. Rather, it is men who have "needs," and women who, in the "natural" scheme of things (the novel appropriates the category of "naturalness" with stunning complacency) service them. No sooner are Modin and Mrs. Jefferson engaged in lovemaking than this "natural" order is brought into view. For it seems that Mrs. Jefferson does not know how to make love "like a woman": "Her lovemaking made it hard for me to think she was a woman, a mature one. I saw her face. She meant well and her body had some shape, but the way she made love, it was a friendly frenzy, and I could not help it if a part of me stood outside of us, watching her joy that had the motions of agony" ( 130). It is Modin who is unquestionably in control here, not only in the sexual act itself, but also in its judgmental re-presentation in his notebook. It is only from within masculinist discourse that the statement " [s] he meant well and her body had some shape" -a statement dripping with both contempt and swaggering pride, and which is simultaneously essentialist and falsely universalizing-could have been articulated. The hegemony of the masculinist


Why Are We So Blest?

ideology of (hetero)sexuality, which empowers Modin as a man and-in spite of the novel's argument-disempowers Mrs. Jefferson as a woman, is simply taken for granted and thereby legitimated in the novel. Thus even Naita, who tries to warn Modin that his relationship with Mrs. Jefferson is destructive, militantly affirms the novel's view of white women as the sexual predators of black men. In reprimanding Modin, Naita displays absolutely no awareness of the politics of gender. Instead, she takes issue only with his rationalization that Mrs. Jefferson is "a nice friend to have" ( 133 ). She leaves Modin in no doubt that she regards this "defense" as culpable rather than simply uninformed: Why you talk so dumb all of a sudden? You need sex, take it. But this talk about love and sincerity is just foolishness. I thought you were smart enough so white folks couldn't get you sick, but you ain't. That's just too bad. Their men box you in so you feel all tight and lonely. Then their women move in to pick you clean and you too dumb to know it's got nothing to do with love and sincerity. You gon stay that dumb, just stay away from me till you grow up, hear? [134] It is because men have sexual "needs" that the novel moves to identify loneliness with sexual abstinence. As a man, Modin "must" have sex. Not to have it would be "unnatural." However, Modin is not merely a man: he is a black man. And just as the novel, in its sexual essentialism, leaves the "naturalness" of heterosexuality entirely unproblematized, so too, in its racial essentialism, does it suggest that all interracial sex is "unnatural," "perverted" in much the same way as homosexuality is construed as "perversion." With the black American woman, Naita, as the following-and quite literally phallocentric-passage makes clear, Modin is able to express his sexuality "truly":

Naked, Naita is perfect. Nothing about her is fat. I had never thought it possible I would bend to kiss a woman down there, but last night it was a natural, wonderful thing to do. She kissed me, too. I did not know two people could be together so freely, so easily ... Neither of us moved. The way she held me, I felt peaceful. Inside me, the troubled feelings aroused by thoughts of the Oppenhardts vanished. Then I felt a soft pressure ... The focus of that feeling was my penis. Her vagina was contracting around my penis and then letting go, slowly, easily. No hands could ever imitate that gentleness of feeling. The sweetness filled my body, my head. What was most beautiful, I knew she felt something of my exhiliration with every contraction. We were quiet like that, how long I cannot remember, then just when there was nothing I could do to keep myself from moving she said to me: "Move in me, Modin, yes."


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism I could not have done otherwise no matter how hard I might have wanted to. The motion of my body then was something entirely natural, the unavoidable result of everything Naita had done. We moved together. Each motion told me she felt what I felt. Our end was unforced, natural. She said nothing. I just felt every motion, knew everything. I cannot feel lonely any more. (122-23) The novel phrases male (hetero)sexuality as elemental. Hence when Naita leaves him, Modin is "forced" to seek out other women, since "loneliness" cannot be endured. Here, however, Armah presumes too much on our credibility. For no other black women make their appearance in Modin's life. It is as though Naita were the only black woman in America! When she leaves him, therefore, Modin is left "alone," a black man among white women. This implausibility the novel merely asserts, without bothering to defend. And yet it is a necessary fiction. For given the novel's homophobic and manichean focus, there would be no way, short of this magically induced "absence" of black women, to account for Modin's resort to white women to satisfy him sexually. 24 It is not only that black women are better lovers than white women. They are better in every respect. It is not an accident that whereas the all-knowing Naita is also "perfect" physically, the best that will be able to be said about Aimee, whose intellectual accomplishments are mediocre, is that "she ha[s] beautiful teeth, for an American" (257). 25 After Naita's departure, Modin continues his dangerous friendship with Mrs. Jefferson until, one night, their lovemaking is interrupted by an enraged Professor Jefferson, who attacks Modin, stabbing him in the head, neck, chest, and abdomen. It is later revealed that Mrs. Jefferson had inadvertently called out Modin's name while making love with her husband the night before, thus confirming the latter's suspicions and provoking his jealousy. Modin is confined to a hospital bed for a sustained period, during which he attempts to take stock of his situation and to think through the significance of his painful experience. It is in hospital that he comes fully to accept Naita's extremist and conspiracy-laden reasoning, and to merge his essentialist view of white men with his essentialist view of white women. It now occurs to him that in becoming involved with Mrs. Jefferson, he has been the dupe of a colossal syndrome geared toward his own annihilation: "My life here has had a self-destructive swing all the time, only I haven't thought seriously about it. Loneliness. The search for a way out. Involvement, the thing you warned me against, Naita. Catastrophic involvement. Disaster. Exhaustion. Then withdrawal, intense, complete. Loneliness again" ( 156 ). The more he reflects upon it, the more convinced Modin becomes that


Why Are We So Blest? this syndrome has been in evidence in all of his sexual relationships with white women hitherto. (It seems that there have been many such relationships.) From "planned" loneliness through ruinous involvement to damaged withdrawal, the process seems to admit of no counter-destructive impetus. Nor, and this strikes Modin as its most terrifying feature, does it appear to rely on coercion for its smooth functioning. For so well is the "unnatural" and deadly involvement with white women disguised as a felicitous means of escape from the unendurable "loneliness" to which the (male) integrant is unforgoably exposed, and so well is its inevitable outcome, damaged withdrawal, disguised not as an inevitability but as a merely contingent escape from "the sheer satiation of too much forced living" ( 158 ), that the harried integrant is wont to leap as though he were a hamster on a treadmill from rung of mania to rung of depression without once sensing that in doing so he is hastening toward his own destruction. "The suicidal impulse," Modin observes, "is well hidden. Ifl chose to I could still say all I've been looking for was a series of pleasant escapes from loneliness" ( 158 ). Once sprung, it seems, the lethal "trap" -designed by "whiteness" to destroy black identity-resembles no trap at all. Nobody forces Modin to respond to Mrs. Jefferson or, indeed, to accept any of the invitations he receives. Nobody forces him to retreat from disaster to withdrawal to disastrous involvement once again, to move unerringly "to just those exits promising destruction" ( 158 ). The fact that he does so, therefore, must, by his new reasoning, betoken his own unwitting absorption of an assimilationist death wish: I am frightened now. These things I thought I was doing freely, out of my own desire-they are also part of the larger scheme that aims at our destruction. My friendships here have been different invitations to different kinds of death, calls to a spiritual disintegration far beyond the merely social disintegration Africa has suffered since how many centuries? This throwing out of the self, to have it caught in a direction not first determined by the self itself, the projection of our persons in alien directions, this alienation with no overt, no visible force, this is the sign that our death is complete. Europe has no need to destroy us singly any more. The force for our own death is within us. We have swallowed the wish for our own destruction. [158-59] Modin suggests, here, that his "self" is no longer his own; it now receives its "first determination" from an agency outside itself. This suggestion is not to be taken in the poststructuralist sense, as arguing for a theory of subjectivity as the effect of a play of constitutive forces. What Modin has in mind is altogether more prosaic: he maintains very simply (not to say simplistically) that the assimilated "self" is alienated because "Europe" has come between it and its essence.


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism Yet if assimilation is an addictive poison, to which Modin, in common with all other (male) integrants, has been exposed, then what, in the novel's terms, is the significance of Modin's own recognition (however belated) of its ideological functioning? For surely this recognition, which sets him apart from those integrants who remain unaware of their entrapment within the "killing system," must count for something? In Modin's opinion, certainly, it seems to do so. As he thinks through the implications of his relationship with Mrs. Jefferson, he begins to believe that his lately acquired knowledge of how assimilation operates will afford him the opportunity to break out of its "trap." Not only, he supposes, has he come to understand the central role that interracial sexual relationships play within the total process of assimilation, he has also been made aware of the forces that "impel" white women to seek him out as a sexual partner. To explain these forces, he offers an allegorical reading of a fable in which a knight, coming to the rescue of a damsel in distress, engages the dragon threatening her in combat. In Modin's reading, the fable is conflated with a second narrative, featuring himself, a young white American woman (Sandra) with whom he has had an affair, and the white man whom she has married while still involved with Modin: I see her in slow motion, between her new, distracted groom and me. She tells her husband about me, about our love-making, of her respect for me as a man, and how it all makes it hard for her to respond to him, to respect him. She tells me about her husband's anger, his despair, his wanting death first for himself, then for her, finally for my unknown self. In the center the young bride is the focus of a self-created drama. This is youth searching for the excitement of life lived at the level of its culture's basic myths. My new friend is the Western European damsel in distress, the valued prize after the conflict between dragon and knight. But the conflict now grows in complexity. There is no knowing who the knight may be, and who the dragon, for this is one of history's crossroads, and old values may or may not get changed. Standing at the crossroads, Sandra, the American youth, prize after the great cataclysm, from which she would be the only certain gainer. [157] In terms of Modin's presentation, the white woman/damsel is sexually unresponsive to the white man/knight. Her frigidity is matched by his impotence, and both conditions are phrased as symptomatic of an atrophy at the heart of white culture itself. The black man/dragon, by contrast, is primal and potent, therefore dangerous. His arrival on the scene allows the white woman/damsel to contemplate the prospect both of transcending her culturally determined frigidity and of rebelling against the sterile authority of the white man/knight. This "rebellion," however, is intended not to


Why Are We So Blest?

secure her autonomy but to punish the white man/knight for failing to satisfy her. The desire of the white woman/damsel is to use the potency of the black man/ dragon instrumentally toward the end of her own sexual gratification, while simultaneously provoking the jealous passion of the white man/knight. The constituent elements of her desire-danger, instrumentality, and gratification-become fused in her mind as inseparable. Although she is to be "given" to the victor of the contest between the black man/dragon and the white man/knight, and is therefore nominally the "object" of this contest, she is in fact its subject, instigator, and "only certain gainer," since, whatever the outcome of the contest, she will get "what she wants." This reading tells us more about Modin than it does about the psychosexual dynamics of interracial relationships. Above all, it reveals the depth of Modin's misogyny. To affirm-and, indeed, to accentuate-the fabular representation of the woman/damsel as the agent provocateur of the narrative is merely to heap misogyny upon patriarchy, hatred upon ideology, brutality upon repression. Not only is the white woman/damsel not to be regarded as the victim of the fable, it seems that she is to be viewed as the victimizer, the architect ultimately responsible for the entire episode: for Modin places her at "the center ... of a self-created drama." To move from this allegory to the general image of white women in Modin's notebook is to encounter a staggering hatred of women. Mo'din portrays white women as ferocious creatures in whom a monstrous insensitivity coexists with a frenzied need to pursue stimulation for its own sake to the point of extremity and destruction. They, and not white men, are the true bearers of "whiteness" and "Westernity." Their lives turn upon the search for adventure, excitement, mere experience-a search which necessarily implicates them in looking beyond their own cultural horizons, for there is nothing within these horizons that has not already had the desired "fire" stolen from it, the desired "passion" drained completely away. Simultaneously rapacious and dependent, white women batten upon black men, whom they objectify as exotic, and nurse dreams of vengeance against white men, who are no longer able to satisfy them. They are nymphomaniacs (94) possessed of "deep needs to wound their men" ( 162). In throwing themselves at Modin, therefore, their objectives are not only to quench their own lusts for sensation but also to assert themselves against white men. Effortlessly attuned to the culture that has spawned them, matchless embodiments of this culture, white women are fetishistic, exploitative, and pathologically callous. Their insatiability perfectly mirrors that of neocolonial capitalism. The implication is even drawn that, within the universe of "whiteness," white women are to be blamed for an evisceration or, more precisely, an emasculation of white men. In a fully pathological externalization of castration anxiety, Modin constructs white women as an army of


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism emasculators. Driven by unfulfillable lust, they turn initially to white men to gratify themselves. So rapacious are they, however, and so unbridled their lust, that their usage of white men passes over into cannibalism. In their immoderation and frenzy, they "suck the life" out of white men, leaving them drained and enervated. Their response to this development resembles that of a child who, having broken a toy, projects its rage onto the damaged object. Caught between their rage at white men for failing them and their unsated and mounting lust for stimulation, white women now eagerly seek out black men, whom they not only consume as they have already consumed white men, but whom, as exotic objects possessed of legendary and dangerous potency, they use as symbolic tinderwood to re-ignite the flame of passion in white men. To be held against white women at all costs is the charge that they "get what they want" (stimulation, sexual excitement) no matter what transpires: should white men, stung by white women's taunting of them, drive out the black men these women have taken as lovers, they would through this act have "remasculinized" themselves, and would therefore have once again equipped themselves to service the lusts of white women; should they fail to do so, conversely, white women would continue to prey upon black men. In either event, their "satisfaction" would be guaranteed. Mrs. Jefferson is palpably a white woman in this idiom. As Modin presents her, she has reduced her husband to impotence (for which she despises him) and sees in Modin the means both to obtain the sexual gratification she ceaselessly desires and-indirectly perhaps-to taunt her husband into reassuming his "masculinity." The transgressive pleasure she takes in "using" Modin is intensified for her by the risk that they will be discovered. She actively courts this risk. Her sexual enjoyment is greatest when she is able to seduce Modin under threat of discovery. On the night that will end with Modin's stabbing, for example, she is particularly forward, evidently aroused to fever-pitch by the proximity of her jealous husband, to whom she has "inadvertently" revealed that Modin is her lover: When I sat by her she pulled me directly on top of her. I kissed her. "Jesus Christ!" she said, "I didn't think I'd last through all that waiting. Make love to me, Modin." "You're in a hurry." "Make love to me, Modin, please. I've been waiting all night." Under her dress she had nothing on. I felt her; she was the wettest I had ever known her to be. [155] Between Mrs. Jefferson and Aimee there is very little to choose. For Aimee, too, is palpably a white woman in the stereotypical idiom promoted by the novel. Precisely because of this identity, however, it is important to consider Aimee's depiction in Why Are We So Blest? in terms of the two


Why Are We So Blest?

questions raised earlier. First, how is it possible-after he has been stabbed, after he has thought through the implications of his relations with whites in racist America, after he has reached his grimly and inflexibly manichean conclusions about assimilation, and after he has emphatically disavowed all further friendships with white people-that Modin could enter into a "serious involvement" with a white woman? Second, what lies behind the specific choice of Aimee as sexual partner? I have already hinted at the novel's answer to the first of these questions. It turns on an essentialist theorization of black male (hetero)sexuality and on an implausible "absence" of black women from Modin's universe. Modin's relationship with Naita serves both to potentiate his "masculinity" and to render its expression "appropriate" (where appropriateness is determined according to criteria of racial exclusivity). Since there are evidently no other black women in America, Naita's departure provokes a crisis. Inasmuch as Modin is a man, he "needs" women, for "loneliness" is unendurable; yet inasmuch as he is a black man, he "needs" black women-and precisely these are "unavailable." Trapped on the horns of this dilemma between his "needs" as a man and his "needs" as a black man, Modin is ultimately "forced" to tum to white women for gratification. (Where "masculinity" and "racial being" are in conflict, apparently, the former assumes priority. We are left to assume that this is because its "naturalness" has not been voided from it, whereas in the case of "racial being" "nature" has been rewritten by "Westemity" as mere false consciousness, something to be disavowed, but only at the cost of "alienation.") Thus it is that Solo, reflecting upon Modin's resort to white women, will come to suggest that Modin had no choice in the matter: But what else could we . . . do in our loneliness? Go with our love aching inside our isolated bodies, go searching after contact with our people whose life of pain we have fled? Easier to let white females absorb the loving impulse, use the accumulated energy within our black selves to do work of importance to their white selves. Of what other use have Africa's tremendous energies been these many centuries but to serve the lusts of whites? Sucked-out men, should our bodies survive our murdered souls, we float between the blessed and the damned, attached to none but our specific murderers, caught in their deep-hating embrace. Ah, Africa. [208-09) The scenario outlined here by Solo differs from Modin's general conceptualization only insofar as in it, the implausible "absence" of black women is rationalized not as an absence, but as the outcome of a thoroughgoing cooptation: black women other than Naita do exist, apparently, but only in the dominated realm. 26 Both Modin and Solo construct "loneliness" as assimilation's trump card, not always needed for victory, but always successful


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism when it is used. Because all ("real") men have "needs," those involvements that Modin labels "serious" can never be avoided. Even "loneliness," however, cannot account for Modin's choice of Aimee. In terms of the ideology of the novel, Modin's misrecognition of Aimee proves deadly to himself, yet it is also meant to be taken as testimony to the reach of assimilation in the era of imperialism. On the one hand we are presented with Modin, who, after his experience with Mrs. Jefferson, is appalled by the tentacular reality of the "killing system" and determined at all costs to struggle free of its sway. On the other hand we are presented with Aimee, who is not just any "daughter of [the] race of destroyers" but a veritable consummation of the species, a perfect killing machine. No greater antinomy could be imagined than between this man and this woman. And yet, or so the novel argues, the force behind assimilation is so potent and so insidious that it is able to succeed, where nothing else could, in drawing Modin and Aimee together, the would-be resistive African male to his destruction at the hands of a Western female. Throughout the danse macabre that constitutes their relationship, Modin labors under the pathetic delusion that Aimee is different from the other white women he has encountered. It is difficult to know how to address this delusion, for it is proof against all manner of counter-demonstrations. Aimee behaves in a way that makes it perfectly clear that she is in no respect different from all the other white women whom Modin has encounteredand still he clings to the fiction that she is "not the same." His friends and well-wishers, none of whom evince any difficulty in seeing Aimee for the destructive character she is, express their opinions openly and forcibly to him on a number of occasions-but he somehow manages not to take cognizance of their words. How is this "blindness" on his part to be explained? How is it to be squared with his manichean intellect, which in all other respects has declared "whiteness" to be a poison and pronounced all whites to be destroyers? If such questions are unanswerable in the abstract, they become even more so on the level of the concrete. Consider, for instance, the matter of Aimee's pathological conduct. As she is presented in the novel, Aimee is consumed with the desire to find stimulation, to be excited. Not only is she frigid, but her frigidity is complemented both by an unresponsiveness to all but the most extreme of physical sensations and by a dramatic emotional poverty. 27 Nothing about her own existence interests her. She finds America stagnant and uninspiring. College life strikes her as "pallid, boring, lifeless" ( 143 ). Even a year-long field trip to Kansa [Kenya?] in Africa ("If there is fire left anywhere that should be the place" [143)) leaves her unfulfilled and petulant in the conclusion that "I'll always be bored ... life is so dull. I don't feel anything" ( 145). Inasmuch as Aimee is almost wholly devoid of physical or emotional


Why Are We So Blest?

responsiveness, she is prone to confuse mere sensation with pleasure. Anything at all that makes her "feel" is affirmed as a welcome experience. As a subject in a psychological experiment to monitor tolerance to pain, for instance, she thrills to the application. of electric shocks to her legs at intensities way above those of the experimental safety ceiling ( 172- 73 ). Similarly, when Modin one day during their lovemaking bites her clitoris so hard that he "take[s] in a slight taste of salt, something raw and fresh" ( 195), she responds excitedly, "thrusting herself against [his] face again, craving a renewal of that first sharp contact. 'Yes, Modin. Again. Yes.' " ( 195). This psychocultural pathology in Aimee is compounded by a further conflation of domination and pleasure. Her notebooks show her indulging frequently in fantasies in which she imagines herself asserting a sexualized power over men: In class, that Professor Kaufmann's eyes look so scared that they start me seeing things. I've imagined holding those eyes captive with the sheer power of mine and making him come to me and stand still while I take his clothes off for him. That makes him stop talking ofEast African revolts. He's got his prick tied down to his thigh but it comes up anyway, red and knotty. His nose stops twitching and he drops his chalk. Instead of writing he shoots his juice up on the board, writing figures like a bloody YPSL poster. MAJI MAJI: 100,000 AFRICANS KILLED He shakes all over when he's finished. [ 185] Within the context of the novel, the resistive moment of this fantasy, expressed in the imaginary insurrection against patriarchal power (student against professor, woman against man) receives absolutely no consideration whatsoever. Instead, the fantasy is situated entirely to Aimee's disadvantage. It "reveals" her in the monstrous light of a double evil: a Westerner consumed with power lust, and a woman exercising sexual power over a man. In another fantasy, this double evil is intensified through the supplement of colonial racism: it becomes a triple evil. Aimee fantasizes that she is the wife of one Kapitan Reitsch, in real life a relative of hers on her father's side and a man whom she subsequently establishes had been" [i]n charge of pacification in the Ungoni area" ( 194) of "German" East Africa at the time of the Maji-Maji rebellion. In the fantasy the Kapitan is impotent. He spends all of his time in the bush on patrol. Aimee is sick from lack of stimulation, but all of her servants "see their future too clearly to respond to human needs from me" ( 186). Inside the house, however, there is Aimee's personal servant Mwangi-and the "memsahib" discovers that the "houseboy" can be ordered to do what the other servants unanimously shrink from doing: But inside, there is the boy. He is young. When I'm back in bed I call him away from the others, and he comes in. I tell him to close the door.


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism He obeys. Such a timid creature. He could grow into a fine specimen ... "Mwangi?" "Memsahib?" "Feel memsahib chest, here." "Mwangi no feel memsahib." "Mwangi feel memsahib now." "Mwangi feel memsahib now, memsahib." "Memsahib chest very hot, Mwangi?" "Memsahib chest very hot, memsahib." "Memsahib very sick, Mwangi." "Memsahib very sick, memsahib." "Mwangi very sorry?" "Mwangi very sorry, memsahib." "Mwangi feel memsahib, down here." "O no sah, memsahib." "Memsahib say Mwangi feel memsahib down here." "Mwangi feel memsahib down here, memsahib." "Sick memsahib very hot, Mwangi." "Very hot, memsahib." "Mwangi?" "Memsahib?" "Mwangi hot?" "Mwangi not hot, memsahib." "Memsahib feel Mwangi." "Memsahib no feel Mwangi." "Memsahib say memsahib feel Mwangi down there." "Memsahib feel Mwangi, memsahib." [186-87] In this fantasy, Aimee is aroused both by the fact of Mwangi's blackness and by her ability to command him to do her bidding. Her desire is to experience herself in the position of colonial dominatrix, imposing her will as a white, Western woman upon a black, African man, using him purely instrumentally for her own purposes. In the fantasy, moreover, she is able to bring herself closest to orgasm when she adds an element of danger into the already boiling cauldron: her imagined seduction of Mwangi takes place not in the safety of her "husband's" absence but precisely when his return is imminent: I'm looking over Mwangi's head. He's been silent a long time, moving in me. The Kapitan Reitsch is coming back, along the path. He's very big. His face is red. Mwangi knows nothing. His head is turned away from that window. My husband has no shirt on. He still has his gun. I am forced to look at the gun. From that distance he's aiming it into the room, at Mwangi's head.


Why Are We So Blest? I say nothing to Mwangi. He feels so good in me. He has a smile. He moves silently. I have a happy feeling, rising ... [188-89)28 Later, when Aimee has embarked upon her relationship with Modin, she attempts, during their lovemaking, to transmute her fantasy into reality by casting Modin as Mwangi. In the midst of their intercourse one day, she calls out the name of her fantasy slave. Modin's response is to terminate the lovemaking on this occasion, but not, as he puts it, to "end . . . the friendship" ( 193 ). In short order, he allows his relationship with Aimee to resume-and on her terms. That this is an inexplicable resolution, given everything that we have seen about Modin, is anticipated by the novel. For his very next words allude to the mysteriousness of his feelings for Aimee: "The disgust I began to feel with Aimee is gone. A tenderness I cannot explain has replaced it. I thought I would put her out but in the end I just talked to her" (213). As readers, it seems, we are meant to find Modin's inability to free himself from Aimee beyond comprehension. It is no wonder, then, that Solo should come to write, "I do not, in the end, understand his attraction to her. The truth is, I do not want to understand. I am afraid to understand. Afraid, ultimately, for myself" (71).

Yet as readers we cannot in the final analysis both construe Modin's intellect as it is phrased in the novel and accept his failure to recognize Aimee for what she is. Or, rather, we might be able to do so, but only by situating Modin in terms that the novel plainly disavows: for if we ask the counterfactual question of what it would take for Modin to think as he does and to fail to "see through" Aimee, no answer short of severe cognitive dissonance suggests itself. A reading of Modin's blindness in terms of psychopathology might be possible. But this would already be to concede too much to the text, for it would be to treat its characterization of Modin as aesthetically credible. In fact, however, the depiction of Modin in the novel, like the depiction of Aimee, is internally contradictory and cannot be appropriated in realist terms. Hence Derek Wright's telling observation that Modin's dual role as theoretical analyst and participatory victim of the process he analyses produces some internal inconsistencies in his own narrative, where his many thinly-drawn selves seldom match. The ... cynical astuteness taught him by the Jefferson fiasco makes a mystery of his further involvement with Aimee. The political allegory crudely requires Modin's "observed self", in the role of Africa, to be an innocent sacrificial victim and infatuated slave, even though it must be clear to the intelligent "observing self" that Aimee's sick fantasies repeat to the


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism last detail the Jefferson scenario of impotence, nymphomania and revenge. As this scenario almost killed him, the stupidity supplied by his racial victim-status becomes untenable at the realistic level, irreconcilable as it is with his personal perception.29 Wright's identification of a dislocation between Modin as "observed self" and Modin as "observing self" is helpfuL Formalized as a structural principle, it enables us to focus upon certain elements of Why Are We So Blest? that resist authorial inscription and, in so doing, point to acts of violence and suppression, not on the part of"Westernity," but on the part of the authorial presence itself. That this presence is in fact authoritarian can be glimpsed initially in the "surplus" details with which Armah goes to inordinate lengths to provide us, not for purposes of "depth" but rather to preempt opposition. The details in Why Are We So Blest? serve as control towers: graphic and monumental, they simultaneously take possession of the terrain on which they have been pitched and strive to insure that nothing occurs within their orbit that has not first been sanctioned as permissible. Consider for example a scene in which we discover that Aimee does not keep herself clean. The narrator is Modin: I held her clitoris, I was putting out my tongue to feel it when her smell hit me .... "What's wrong?" she asked. "You stink." ... "It's just cunt smell." "Cunt smell my foot. What you've got in there is dead sperm." "You want me to wash?" "If we're going to make love." [ 195] Later, in Laccryville, this scene will be recalled when Modin and Aimee argue about their squalid quarters, prompting Solo to ask, "[d]o all Americans think revolution is the same thing as filth?" (261 ). In context, however, its major role is to lock Aimee into a restricted space, "safe" from all readerly attempts at retrieval. It is not enough, apparently, that she should be constructed one-dimensionally as "castrating white bitch"; she must also be morally reprehensible as sluttish and dirty!3° No ambiguity will be allowed to cloud her appearance as the incarnation of "Westernity." In spite of these crude tactics, not all of the novel's "details" obediently serve the ends for which they have been elaborated. Throughout Modin's notebook, in fact, we can, if we are prepared to brush the text "against the grain," uncover a social logic that places Aimee not as the bearer of imperialist aggression, but as herself a victim of patriarchal violence. Two instances of this kind of "placement" are worthy of mention. The first centers upon Modin's discovery that Aimee is "frigid." The occasion of the couple's


Why Are We So Blest? initial lovemaking becomes a war of wills. Aimee announces that she has never experienced orgasm; Modin, defining sexual "satisfaction" precisely in terms of orgasmic release, refuses to climax without Aimee, and insists that unless Aimee climaxes with him, he will not make love with her ( 180). It is significant that the limits of this conversation between the lovers are set by Modin, who declares summarily that" [i]t's not love-making, coming alone," but "masturbation." The definition is articulated with authority. Modin brooks no disagreement here. Aimee is left only with the choice of affirming her own deficiency or of embracing the "perversity" of "masturbation." Culture is on Modin's side: "We don't make love that way" he declares; and whether his first-person plural refers to all men or to all black men is irrelevant. In either event, Aimee is judged and found wanting. The judgment is not open to discussion: having delivered himself of it, Modin turns his back on Aimee, satisfied, presumably, that there is nothing further to say. And when, thus shut out, she screams with frustration and-recognizing her powerlessness-starts to cry, he resorts utterly unselfconsciously to the predictable masculinist dismissal: 'This is foolish ... The only trouble with you is you don't want to." It seems that Aimee is being "irrational!" The scene can be read in its entirety against itself, as exemplifying the mechanics of patriarchal power. Aimee does not succumb easily: for when, a few days later, Modin returns to the subject and tells her, in the frankly paternalistic manner he assumes when laying down the law, that she is "afraid to make love," she attempts once again to resist his right, as a man, to construct her in his image: "No." She was calm. "I just don't want any part of anybody's illusions. I don't like being treated like a child." "That's not happening here." "You insist on ignoring what I tell you about my own body. It's very insulting. And tiring." [ 181] In the aftermath of this scene it becomes very difficult for us to accept the novel's representation of the sexual economy between Modin and Aimee at face value. In the novel's own terms, as Robert Fraser has argued, Modin is to be seen as sacrificing himself "on the altar of Aimee's emotional rehabilitation.''31 Aimee is to be seen as exploiting his "energy" by way of igniting her own sexual sensitivity, overcoming her frigidity. She is to be seen as using him in order to extract from him the "life-force" that, as a white woman, she lacks-an extraction that constitutes, therefore, just one more historic means through which Africa's "tremendous energies" have been expropriated "to serve the lusts of whites." But how are we to interpret Aimee's emotionality at the "achievement" of orgasm? In her notebook she writes, "The world is different. I'm not frigid. I'm not frigid. Hey, hey, I am not frigid. Aimee is not frigid" (217). Is this euphoria or hysteria, elation


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism under the sign of predation or of conformism? If Modin can describe assimilation as a process designed either to render the integrant compliant or to kill him, might not the same logic be applicable to Aimee's "achievement" of the cultural standard of heterosexuality? Might it not be said, in fact, that in "achieving" orgasm in heterosexual intercourse, Aimee is consolidating not her (racial) exploitation of Modin but her (sexual) exploitation by him? At the very least, after taking into consideration her protest against his masculinist arrogance-"You insist on ignoring what I tell you about my own body" -we cannot possibly view her "achievement" of "normal" heterosexuality as an unproblematical valence. A second significant example of this kind of episode, in which the text's intended placement of Aimee as white agent of destruction is quite undermined by its unwitting depiction of her as victim of patriarchal domination, is to be found in the pages of the novel set in Algeria. At one point in their travels through the newly independent nation, Aimee and Modin are offered hospitality on a feudal estate, now reconstructed as a communal farm. After they have eaten with the managerial cadres, Aimee follows the women who have served them into the kitchen. She returns almost immediately. Once again the narrator is Modin: Aimee returned. She had gone after the women in high spirits. She was low now. "You saw the kitchen?" the engineer asked her. "Yes," Aimee answered. "You, you're not made for the kitchen." "No one is made for the kitchen." "A/ors, voyons," the manager said. "And the women you saw there?" "The place was filled with smoke." There was laughter, good-natured, free, from the manager. "It's a kitchen, what do you want?" "But you've had a revolution," Aimee said. "Yes, we have had a revolution. Our women helped us a lot. They continue to help, as you see. Revolutions are not for turning women into men." "I guess so," I said, looking at Aimee. "What are you hunting tonight?" "There's a hyena roaming around here," the engineer said.... When they went and brought their guns, Aimee's depression lifted at once. [243) The feminist sensitivity that this passage pointedly makes its own is belied by the matter presented. The passage opens with Aimee's articulation of a feminist critique of any "revolution" that leaves intact a hierarchical sexual division of labor. In the course of the passage, however, Aimee's agency as the articulator of the critique is evacuated. Aimee is silenced by Modin; the


Why Are We So Blest?

feminist sentiment is stripped from her and attributed to Modin's narrative voice; and then, adding insult to injury, Aimee is resituated as the imperialist who brightens up whenever guns are brought into her line of vision. The "look" that Modin gives Aimee plays a crucial role in the sequence of events. It marks Modin's entry into the discussion between Aimee and the manager, a discussion in which Aimee is forcefully contesting the manager's rationalizations. Modin's "I guess so" does not, of course, signify his agreement with the manager's retrograde position. Its purpose, rather, is to stop the argument that is developing, and to do so along the line of least resistance, by silencing Aimee. Thus his statement is accompanied by a suppressive "look" at Aimee, a look that commands her to silence. His next words change the subject altogether: "What are you hunting tonight?" This is already to identify Modin's intervention as a dominative one; but the thrust of the passage goes even farther. In terms of the authorial ideology framing the passage, Aimee cannot be left occupying the high ground of political righteousness. Instead, that ground must be appropriated by Modin, and Aimee "resettled" on the reservation to which the novel as a whole restricts her. Hence the significance of the guns: "Aimee's depression lifted at once"; she becomes once more what the text insists she has always been, an Isak Dinesen figure, joying in the excitement of the safari, intent on "stimulation." The feminist critique is left without an author; under cover of narrative representation, Modin claims it as his own.

We have already seen that the longer Modin remains at Harvard, the more insistent (not to say one-dimensional) become his views about Western education and the mechanics of assimilation in general. At the same time, the longer he remains at Harvard, the more difficult he seems to find it to think of a way out of the "killing system." He is convinced that he cannot escape his "destiny" unless he manages to br,eak from the elite fold: The reforming argument I find stupid: stay within elite structures to disseminate anti-elite awareness. The argument is caught up in the foolish assumption that the European-selected elite is the only group worth relating to, i.e., that the destroyers are those we should expect creation from. Accepts the European principle that for all real purposes the African people themselves should be shut out, denied information and locked out of participation, being brought in only for purposes of rhetoric. How to search for non-elitist methods of disseminating consciousness? All the institutions set up by the Europeans are traps to destroy awareness. [222-23]


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism Modin knows, thus, what he would like to do, but not how to go about doing it. Committed to the belief that, as he puts it, "[a]ll existent methods are absurd and deadly outside of a revolutionary commitment to Africa" (31), he fails to consider that this commitment might be honored in more ways than one. Instead, in a display of anti-intellectualism that only a guilty intellectual could have mounted, he hastens to affirm the front line of guerrilla struggle as the only "positive direction" and to disavow his education on the grounds that it has not prepared him to take up a position on this front line. "All my past training has oriented me in negative directions" (223), he concludes; in order to have been "positive," his training would have had to preach "[w]ar against the invader" (222). In the novel, Modin's self-hating romanticization of"practice" is phrased as authentic revolutionism. It is seen to set Modin apart from other integrants, who talk in grandiose terms about how much they intend to do to change things when they return to Africa, and yet who invariably slot neatly into the imperial subsystem as "factors" when that time actually comes. In a crucial scene in Why Are We So Blest? Modin and a conservative white colleague of his, named Mike, argue about the significance of assimilation one Thanksgiving weekend. Mike likens America to the Olympus of classical Greek legend, and situates the integrant as a "crossover," a mortal from the plains of mediocrity who has managed through his heroism to "rise above the plains to live on Olympus" ( 101 ). In Mike's understanding, "nobody goes through the struggle to get here so they can fall back into that communal dirt" ( 101 ). Modin counters that Mike has excluded the "Promethean factor" -that pertaining to a "reverse crossover" -from his mythological schema. Ought not Mike to allow for the possibility of a figure who would return to the plains bearing the gift of revolutionary fire? Mike, however, indicates that he regards Prometheus's crossing as a unique exception to the general principle, for, as he puts it, "who has the idiotic ambition to go through the crossing twice: first a heroic, then a Promethean crossing? That's insane" ( 102). Modin, however, is gripped by precisely such an ambition, and determines to act upon it. Like Solo before him, he resolves to travel to Algeria in order to enlist in the Congherian maquis. He approaches officials of the UPC in New York and Washington. They do not take him seriously, but when he persists they inform him that if he travels to Laccryville under his own steam, he ought to be able to enlist. He informs Aimee, who elects to travel with him. To the extent that it is treated in the novel, Aimee's "motivation" can be speedily dispensed with. Having "found" Modin, she does not wish to "lose" him. Moreover, from her perspective, Algeria looms as a source of excitement: after all, as Fraser has put it, suitably sardonically, "Algeria is fashionable, if you happen to be a self-styled revolutionary. For Aimee, one senses that that is the sum of it."32


Why Are We So Blest? From this point, the novel's narrative thread is very easily unwound. The occasion of Modin's and Aimee's entrance into the uPc bureau in Laccryville is recorded by Solo, who happens to be present: From top to bottom the two wore identical clothes: coarse-woven blue shirts in the American style with their collars held down by small buttons, light-colored cowboy jeans with nothing to hold them up, thick white socks and very strong canvas shoes with thick soles and a blue line over each toecap. Two people, so different, yet so willfully assimilated. The thought came to me, here was an acute case oflove ... The girl strode into the interior of the Bureau with long, loping strides. Her black companion walked more diffidently, looking ill at ease. His movements, quiet and catlike, had an almost effeminate smoothness, and made an unnerving contrast with the girl's awkward angularity. [56-57]

Addressing this passage, Wright has argued that its characterization of Modin is unmotivated. In his view, nothing in the "American" sections of the novel has prepared us for the depiction of Modin' in Algeria as "effeminate."33 My own interest, however, lies less in the discrepancy between Modin in America and Modin in Algeria than in what the passage just cited tells us about Modin's "revolutionary" outlook. Seeking enlistment in an anticolonial maquis, he presents himself at the bureau of the anticolonial forces not only in the company of Aimee, a distinctly middle-class even if self-proclaimedly radical American college student, but looking himself for all the world like an American tourist. In these terms, for Solo to tell us, as he will later do, that Modin had been "the African absorbed into Europe, trying to escape death, eager to shed privilege, not knowing how deep the destruction had eaten into himself, hoping to achieve a healing juncture with his destroyed people" (232), is to misrepresent the facts, not merely to cast them in the most generous of all possible lights. Almost literally wearing his class privilege on his sleeve, Modin appears in the uPc bureau and declares his desire to join the fighting forces. He makes his declaration humbly, it is true, but humility is no substitute for revolutionary commitment, above all when it is saturated, as Modin's is, with the compensatory anti-intellectualism of that style of ultra-leftism that Lenin correctly termed "infantile." The positions of Jorge Manuel and Esteban Ngulo in the novel are discredited; but it is impossible not to agree with them when they decline Modin's application to join the uPc forces on the grounds that "revolution is not the same thing as suicide" (255). Unfortunately, Manuel and Ngulo do not reject Modin (and Aimee) outright. Instead, they resort to bureaucratic evasion to keep the couple at a distance, trusting that they will soon become frustrated and leave Laccryville. Modin and Aimee are told to prepare statements in support of their


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism applications, then to wait two weeks, then another two, then still another two. In the interim Solo himself attempts to disillusion Modin, but he discovers that Modin's convictions are proof against any uncomfortable truth: "What will you do," I asked, "if they don't let you in?" "What do you meah?" [Modin] asked me. "Suppose the promise is not kept, and you cannot join the fight. Have you thought of what to do, just in case?" "Nothing outside of that is worth while," he said without hostility. "I know, brother, I know. But I was wondering: if you are disappointed, how will you arrange to spend time? Have you thought of that?" "No."

The hostility beneath that simple word was massive. I understood the man. More clearly than with words, he was indicating to me that he did not mind my coming near him, but as for the poison of my own twisted pessimism, I should keep it to myself. [257-58) Examining this exchange, we are obliged to recognize that Modin's "revolutionism" is not only infantile and romantic, it is also wholly unreflexive. Earlier, in discussing Modin's dealings with Mr. Oppenhardt and Mrs. Jefferson, I drew attention to the strong strain of self-righteousness in his character. Now, in Laccryville, we see further that he is without self-conscious awareness. He simply does not see in himself and in his bearing what others cannot but interpret as contradiction, dogmatism, even hypocrisy. On the contrary, when others express reservations about his plans, he moves uncritically to condemn them as "twisted pessimists," or opportunists, or deluded failures. In the novel's own terms, however, Modin's desire to enlist in the anticolonial maquis is to be taken at face value. The presence of Aimee is obviously intended to indicate the extent to which he has been "poisoned by whiteness" in spite of himself. But if his assimilation is sufficient to cripple his attempt to move in the only "positive direction," at least his ambition to do so marks him as an "authentic" African. In spite of Aimee, Modin seems, in Solo's words, "to want really to be a revolutionary" (235). He has come to Laccryville because enlisting in the maquis has come to seem to him the only means of avoiding "the hell of Europe" ( 160). He has given no thought to a future outside of the maquis, no thought to what he might do should it prove impossible-for whatever reason-for him to enlist. Thus Solo will write, "[h]e seemed to have absolutely no desire to go in any direction, other than the one he had hoped to find" (262). The consequence of this, as the novel presents it, is that Modin is gradually reduced to despair as it becomes apparent to him that Manuel and Ngulo have no intention of letting him join the uPc as an active participant


Why Are We So Blest? on the warfront. He is increasingly racked by "a sense of utter futility" (2 3 5) as his hope dissolves. "There really must be something wrong if the attempt to find a justifiable way to live can be so difficult" (235), he observes at one stage, stricken by the thought that ifhe were to go elsewhere, other "revolutionary" African movements might also, like the UPC, determine to fob him off recurrently by bureaucratic sleight-of-hand. It is in this state of mind, and when he has once again been informed by Ngulo that his application to join the uPc will require a few more weeks in the processing, that he undertakes to hike across the Sahara with Aimee, in the hope of making direct contact with the anticolonial forces. The ensuing assault of the couple in the desert is described in graphic detail in Aimee's notebook. Predictably, given what we have seen above, Aimee's description implicates not only the four white assailants, but also Aimee herself. Right at the outset, thus, when the assailants pull their jeep over to the side of the road in front of the hiking couple and order them to climb aboard, Aimee complies unreservedly even though Modin has already indicated to her his unwillingness to do so. (He correctly suspects that the men are French soldiers.) The men proceed to attack Modin, forcing him into their jeep and driving deeper into the desert. Aimee's reaction to this sequence of events is wholly unbelievable: "The desert was open. A lot of space. I forgot the situation I was in. There was freedom out there. It made me happy to be here" (284). The premise is absurd. But worse is to follow. Once they have reached a remote and isolated spot, the men stop, tie Modin to their jeep, forcibly undress Aimee (who has, presumably, now recollected "the situation [she] was in"), and, holding her, drag her before Modin. Again, her narrative, which begins by situating her as the victim she unquestionably is in this context, moves inexorably to cast her as an active participant in the events being described: They held me, legs apart, and rubbed me up and down against Modin. They succeeded in arousing him. He stared in my direction, but not at me. When his prick got hard they slid my body forward so he entered me, then they snatched me back at once. But they held me so close to him I could almost reach him. Modin had no control over himself any more. It must have been painful; I have not seen him so frustratingly distended. They moved me so close to him, and always drew me back. I let my body go loose. Their grip became looser too. I stayed limp till they pushed me up to him once more, then I threw myself forward as far as I could. I felt him hot inside me. I never wanted to continue more. The pain of not having him in me after that was worse than when he refused to be Mwangi. [286] "I never wanted to continue more." We are here asked to credit the suggestion that in a moment of supreme menace and personal danger, not 170

Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism only to Modin but also to herself, Aimee is aroused to a peak of sexual excitement. Modin is reduced to a position of pure passivity; in this he resembles Professor Kaufmann, who, in Aimee's fantasy, became the mere instrument of her sexual will. But to say this is to "forget" that in the desert episode Aimee is forced to arouse Modin. In fact, her body is itself used purely instrumentally by the four white men. The source of this "forgetting" in Aimee's description is surely not Aimee herself but the novel's authorial voice, which wants to establish a racial identity between Aimee and the four assailants. That this "identity" cannot be sustained is made glaringly apparent by the rape of Aimee that immediately follows the event just described. Aimee's account is brief and rather dispassionate: "They raped me. They took turns, after many jokes about who should get in me first. All four of them raped me, but the one with his eye bleeding, the driver, wanted to make me come. He had to give up too" (287). Following this assault, the men castrate Modin by tying a piece of thin wire around his penis and pulling it tight. Here is how Aimee records the scene: Modin started bleeding. The blood curved out in a little stream that jerked outward about every second. I reached him and without thinking of what I was doing I kissed him. His blood filled my mouth. I swallowed it. I wanted him to speak to me. He had groaned a little when I took him and kissed him, but he said nothing. I asked him "Do you love me?" He didn't answer me. "Say you love me, Modin, please." He wouldn't say a word to me. [288] Two related implications of this passage, which, as Adewale Maja-Pearce has observed, "is shocking ... , but not in the way it is intended to be," are worthy of consideration here.3 4 First, there is the matter of the novel's trivialization of rape, its contemptible rationalization of Aimee's assault. Second, there is the matter of its construction of Aimee as an active participant in Modin's castration-indeed, as the paradigmatic participant, since it is she who actually swallows his blood and who ultimately, therefore, in terms of the novel's guiding metaphor, "sucks the life" from his body, "draining" him to nourish herself. The novel reckons Aimee's rape very lightly indeed. On the very night of her return to Laccryville after the incident, Aimee is seen by Solo at a nightclub. She is evidently enjoying herself: "I saw two females. Manuel's American woman and the girl Aimee. They were laughing softly together under the low sound of the music. The girl was miming something. Whatever it was, it made the other laugh compulsively" (269). The impression that the reader is encouraged to derive from this picture is not only that, unlike Modin, Aimee has survived her ordeal, but that she has in fact been left altogether unaffected by it-indeed, that once she returns to America, 171

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she will be able to represent it to her friends as just one of the exotic experiences she underwent while in Algeria! Nothing in Why Are We So Blest? is uglier and more vicious than this figuration of the rape of white women as an act of no import, and perhaps even as a source of stimulation to them. We are reminded that in Modin's reading of the fable of the damselin-distress, the damsel's predicament is not merely of her own making, but is elaborated in such a way that she is bound to profit from its resolution. The novel needs to cast Aimee's rape as insignificant, of course, since it is determined to situate her, and not the four white men in the jeep, as the dominant figure in Modin's castration. The mechanics of this placement are structurally similar to those operating in the passage, analyzed earlier, in which Aimee's feminism is appropriated by Modin and her ideological orientation repositioned as imperialist. In the present instance, Aimee is made to incriminate herself in her narrative representation of the events, revealing first that her own (multiple) rape is a trivial matter, and, second, that far from being, like Modin, a victim, she plays a decisive and active role in the only "real" assault perpetrated, that of Modin. Hence her own sexuality needs to be implicated in the episode, and she needs, at its climax, to be seen to be operating of her own volition, unrestrained by the French men: "I gathered all my strength and shook myself free of the two men holding me. They let me go" (288). It is as a free subject that she fellates Modin's castrated penis and, vampirelike, swallows the blood that spurts orgasmically from it. In thus cannibalizing Modin, Aimee is supposedly acting upon a racial tendency that has been latent in her from the outset. 35 It is not for nothing that, quite early in her relationship with Modin, she should tell him about a sexual fantasy of hers, in which she crushes the testicles of her male professors at Radcliffe ( 196 ). Nor, in the novel's terms, is it an accident that Modin's thoughts of Aimee, as the couple attempts to hike through the desert, should all be overdetermined by his recollection of a newspaper article describing a white American woman's castration of her lover: Aimee, your mouth has taken my penis, and your teeth have caressed it. I have not been afraid, even when I saw your sickness. But now I don't know what to do with the recurring newspaper picture of the Boston girl who cut off her man friend's testicles with a nail clipper, put them in her handbag, then tried to disappear southward, into the South American hinterland. Did she wait for him to go to sleep first? Or did she talk to him, arouse him, get the man's blood up trying to enter her, and then snipped them off? She'd maybe opened up her cunt, or if that was telltale dry with hate she'd received him with her drooling mouth, lubricated it and let it slip in unhurt past teeth half-made of dentist's metal, then in his foolish confidence she'd cut him off with


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism two quick strokes. Or one? I cannot shake the image of a cunt with nail clippers in it, a part of it. [2 7 6- 77) This, of course, is pure misogynist projection on Modin's part. 36 In the context of the novel, however, it is held to express an elemental truth about Aimee and all white women: they are all cannibals and emasculators even if they are not always afforded the opportunity to act upon their predatory desires. It comes, therefore, as absolutely no surprise to find Solo, once he has read Modin's notebook and absorbed its "truth," beginning to refer to white women as "beast[s) of prey:" I watched them; their faces, their napes, their hair, their movements as they talked, drank and talked. I have never seen humans look so predatory. So much in me has changed. The sight of white women brings back their look. Before this night the sight of white women with black men turned me to thoughts of love. Now I don't even think of slaves and mistresses. I see in each such happy black man carrionfastened onto by a beast of prey. [269)

In concluding my discussion of Solo and his predicament, I observed that he is transformed by his reading of the notebooks of Aimee and Modin, moving from his "zero point" position of crippled disillusion to a savage manicheism very like that assumed by Modin at his most dogmatic. Now that we have explored the content of the notebooks in some depth, it is time to return to this observation, in order to consider its implications. It is obvious that, in the novel's own terms, Solo's obsession with Modin's notebook is not prompted exclusively by admiration for his now dead acquaintance's radicalism or powers of understanding, but rather by his conviction that he and Modin had had so much in common. The point is made repeatedly in the novel that in reading about Modin's past, Solo is revisiting his own. Reading Modin's notebook, he believes himself to be watching his own life story unfold. With every new page of the notebook that he reads Solo finds confirmation of another parallel with his own life; with every page he reads another memory is sparked. Thus Modin's account of his progressive isolation and loneliness put Solo so much in mind of his own passage to alienation that he begins "to feel the words came from [his] own soul" (268). Similarly, Modin's thoughts about the need to leave America for Africa with something positive to contribute exactly recall Solo's own former impressions about returning home from Portugal ( 114, 223). On the basis of his reading, Solo concludes that Modin's writings are so


Why Are We So Blest? accessible to him because the process that they chronicle is one that he, too, has undergone, and from whose legacy he has found it impossible in later years to extricate himself. Recognizing so much of his own situation in Modin's, Solo is able as it were to relive his experiences of Portugal and Sylvia through Modin's descriptions of America and Aimee. Increasingly he comes to see himself (and, indeed, all assimilated black men) as the coaddressees of the question, "how could Modin not have seen Aimee for what she was," so that the question begins to re-present itself to him as: "What is the root of this fatal attraction, this emotional fixity drawing us to the daughters of our white death?" (230). Certainly Solo's understanding is always at one remove from Modin's. His "initiation" has taken place sometime in the past, while Modin's disillusioning and subsequent disintegration are charted as ongoing developments. Where Solo regards his own alienation as already completed, therefore-he speaks of himself as a ghost, a shade hovering on the margins of life, "a specter from an unwanted destiny" ( 139)-Modin's frustrations unfold in the present tense in his notebook. Solo sees his world as lacking the immediacy that marks Modin's. He describes himself as stagnant where Modin is "a growing man, searching, however blindly, to find a world in whose creation he could share" (85). His vision is entropic, Modin's is "revelatory" ( 113 ). He is altogether without optimism, Modin struggles against his "destiny"-struggles, Solo surmises, until his death puts an end to any further struggling, thereby confirming the bottomless disillusion of Solo's own outlook. These differences of perspective, however, seem to Solo to be merely contingent in nature. They mark the experiential distance between the two men-one of whom, for reasons of sheer "luck" (229), survives what the other does not survive-not any fundamental opposition between them. When Solo observes that "[w]here [Modin] hoped to go I had already been" (83 ), he is indicating that in his eyes only time and an "initiation" that "death ohhe hopeful spirit" that he has already undergone-separate Modin's position from his own. Indeed, it is precisely because he believes that it is his story in all but name that he reads in Modin's notebook, that Solo feels justified in moving to affirm Modin's racial-essentialist political sentiments, by adopting them as his own. Increasingly over the course of the novel, therefore, we find Solo's rhetoric flattening out, becoming more insistent and less reflexive, more one-dimensional and less nuanced. White women are reduced to predatory animals. Heterogeneities are homogenized, differences collapsed into binary oppositions: white/black; "Westemity" /"Africanity"; collaboration/resistance. Cultural practice becomes ideology, good or bad depending upon its specific thrust: "In this wreckage there is no creative art outside the destruction of the destroyers. In my people's world, revolution would be the only art, revolutionaries the only creators. All else is part of Africa's destruction" (231).3 7 174

Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism As readers, we are meant to grasp this resort to a separatist position on Solo's part as a well-reasoned defensive strategy, mandated by the "truths" revealed in Modin's and Aimee's notebooks, but tragically never acted upon by Modin himself. Solo reads the notebooks; they convince him, against his will-for though he has lost the illusions of his innocence, he has not lost the longing for what he calls "harmony" (229)-that Modin's fate is paradigmatic of that encountered, without exception, by all African men coming into contact with the West in the modem era; with this "truth" in mind, he reconsiders the circumstances of his own life as an assimilado, and discovers that they, too, fit the manichean pattern; finally, recognizing this, he moves, as a defensive strategy, to assume and to advocate a position of racial separatism. The problem with this scenario is that no matter how compelling it might seem on the level of political symbolism, it is not sustainable on the basis of the textual evidence presented in Why Are We So Blest? Two insuperable obstacles present themselves. First, in spite of the fact that there is no ironic distance whatsoever between Solo's final, manichean understanding of the world and that of the text at large-so that in the journal entries of Modin and Aimee we are presented with an allegory that precisely confirms Solo in his ultimate views, and that presents separatism as literally a matter of life and death-the novel fails to convince us that Modin's fate is paradigmatic of that of all assimilated African men, that the "destiny" of co-optation is unavoidable even (or especially) by those who set themselves the task of resisting the "killing system." Second, Solo's manichean reconsideration of the circumstances of his own life-predicated upon his "recognition" of himself in Modin's narrative-is more remarkable for the radical disjuncture it appears to reveal between his actual experience and the meaning he comes to draw from it, than for its "identification" of any deep-rooted affinity between his condition and Modin's. I shall consider the second of these "obstacles" first. I have already traced the developments that lead Solo from the liberal idealism of his youth to disillusion and despair. The more under the sway of Modin's fundamentalist reasoning he falls, however, the more inclined Solo becomes to "rewrite" these developments accordingly, to reconstruct them in his memory as systematically more sinister, more portentous, and more conspiratorial than they seem actually to have been, until, ultimately, he arrives at a representation of them that is not only extreme in its generalizations and insistently racist, but also frankly delusional. An excellent case in point is provided by his "reconsideration" of Sylvia, the white Portuguese women he had loved and lost as a student in Lisbon. Early in the novel, Solo recounts the events of his final evening with Sylvia. The pair had gone, hoping to be alone, to a nightclub. There, however, they had been joined by four white friends of Sylvia's, who had followed them with the clear intention of confronting Sylvia, hoping thereby to force her to renounce Solo. The four had harrassed 175

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and insulted the innocent couple before leaving the club. Sylvia had been quiet after their departure; it seems that her companions' exhibition had finally persuaded her of the impossibility of sustaining her love for Solo. Later that evening, she had brought an end to their relationship: When we left the night club we walked along the main road and I looked for a place where we could sit undisturbed. I found one, a lawn at the back of a small church near the river, and we sat down on the grass. Sylvia leaned back, rested her head in my lap, and lay a long time looking at the sky. There were very few stars, but it was not really dark, even so late. I stroked her hair. From her there was absolutely no response. Her eyes looked past my face, into the miles of space above her ... It was only when I looked at her and said, "Sylvia, I would like to make love to you," that I saw she had been crying. In the dark the tear running straight down the corner of her eye had not caught any light, and I had turned so that my body was already pressing against hers. Suddenly, but still quietly, she pushed me away with a violence that could only have come out of a great fear. At the same time she held her hand out to me and I took it, thinking she was granting me some unexplained gesture of reconciliation. But she drew her hand away as soon as I touched it and left in mine the ring I had given her. Then she got up. [66-6 7] As we encounter her in such early scenes as this, Sylvia seems a sympathetic character, generous and forlorn, torn between her love for Solo and the demands and expectations of her family and friends. Solo's initial description of her as being "very gentle, very soft" (62) strikes the reader as substantially accurate.3 8 Once Solo has read Modin's notebook, however, and taken to heart what he perceives as its truth, Sylvia begins to loom in an altogether different light in his eyes. Indeed, the farther the novel progresses, the more relentlessly functional and homogenizing Solo's representation of her becomes. Even in his initial recounting of her departure, he observes that no sooner had she left him than her going began to seem "such a natural event, that I was amazed at myself-that I could have thought anything else possible" (67). Already displaying the influence of Modin's thought, he moves to (re)interpret their breakup: Sylvia had been loving and responsive, but she had been white in a white and racist culture. As such, it had always been "inevitable" that she would abandon him to return to the people whom she regarded as her own, with whom she shared the most fundamental values and assumptions and among whom she felt most at home: "She had gone back to something she could be sure of, so that even if she strayed from it, it would come after her, offering her the uncompromising protection of the group" (67-68).


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism Already latent in this representation is the attribution to Sylvia of a collective racial design. To suggest that, leaving Solo, she "had gone back to something she could be sure of," is to hint at an intentionality on her part that does not square with the impression we as readers have gained of her, even though it is only through Solo's narrative that we have ever "encountered" her. From the attribution to Sylvia of design, it is then only a short step to the conception of her relationship with Solo as an adventure, a liaison or dalliance from whose potentially dangerous consequences (should she threaten to "stray" indefinitely from whiteness) she would be protected in advance by racial solidarity and colonial power. In the course of Why Are We So Blest? Solo takes this short step, yielding to an increasingly unstable reconstruction of Sylvia as white predator. His relationship with Sylvia becomes cast as an imperialist conspiracy, with Sylvia being viewed sometimes as expendable "bait" and sometimes as, herself, in on the deal. He comes to define interracial love as [a] fusion, confusion, of the self with an other self. With terrifyingly different, other, selves, a terrifying case of love. A loss of identity, the beginning of wild erring journeys for the soul dissolved ... What, save its own dissolution, would move an African soul to a European? ... My love for Sylvia; it no longer looked the same. [ 139] Later we read of Sylvia as colonial siren, playing a role that Solo imagines to be as old as domination itself: I think of Sylvia. The old regret is buried, but I have earned no peace of mind. There is doubt, there is certainty, that my love too was that same ancient call to death ... the death of our people, gilt with all the sweetness of the force itself 'of life, affection. What a destiny, this destruction. [ 150] The logic that is revealed in such ruminations as these in Why Are We So Blest? is a paranoid one, which cannot be sustained by the evidence of the text. Nothing that we see of Sylvia fits Solo's manichean conspiracy theory, and yet we are increasingly asked to entertain the suggestion that between Sylvia and Aimee there is only a cosmetic difference, a difference of styles, without true substance. Sylvia's manifest gentleness, it seems, is not after all to be regarded as gentleness but merely as passivity: "I was lucky. Sylvia was passive; the American girl [Aimee] is the hyperactive embodiment of that energy, that hatred that has impelled Europe against us all" (229). Solo's "luck," in short, consisted not in the fact that Sylvia was gentle, but rather in the fact that the murderousness of her species-white womanhood-was, in her (and for some unspecified reason), in remission. What is true of the trajectory of Solo's thought in the novel with respect to Sylvia is true also of the trajectory of his thought in other areas. In general,


Why Are We So Blest?

we witness a slide from a discourse of disillusion into a discourse of violent reaction. The emergence of the latter discourse, however, is phrased by the novel itself as an affirmative development, symptomatic of Solo's absorption of the "lessons" of Modin's destruction. A consequence of this is that the most extreme and reactionary of Solo's articulations in the novel, such as the following, are those given most credence by it: What draws a white woman to any of us, lonely results, creatures of her people's destructive thrust against ours, against the world? What kind of love fir:es the white-haired American, sucking life that cannot fertilize her dryness, from sources already several times dessicated? What is this love of their people's creatures but a love for the manipulable, the already manipulated, open to further shaping? [208) The fact that such statements make no sense whatsoever deriving from Solo, the fact, indeed, that they are contradicted by the evidence of Solo's own biography, is simply brushed aside as an irrelevancy in the novel. In actuality, though, Solo's resort to manicheism is so unmotivated by his own experience that the reader cannot but suspect that it might be appropriate to view its emergence in the light of psychosis. This possibility is urgently suppressed by the novel itself, which, as indicated above, insists that Solo's resort to manicheism and racial separatism constitutes a vital defensive strategy. Only through separatism, we are given to understand, can "Africa" hope to survive the instrumentality of the "Western" projection. Modin had spoken of "the European genius for destroying everything ( 100). He had "recognized" the extent to which "the whole world is covered over with the hell of Europe" ( 160). Yet he had ultimately proved incapable of resisting the lure of assimilation. He had staked his life on his ability to steer a path through "Westemity." In the event, however, this had proved impossible. As Solo reflects, I regret the wholeness I lack: to be one with that unfortunate African soul eager to shed privilege before he had settled into it, shrinking from power with the realization his training for it was a careful apprenticeship for becoming an accomplice in the murder of his people. He thought he could escape his destiny; he did not know his death was multiform, waiting for him whichever way he chose to tum. I could not reach him. Against my voice the contrary pull was too strong. He thought his life was gaining direction. It was only ending. [232)

The totalizing quality of Solo's thinking here is extraordinary. Assimilation destroys; as a "killing system," moreover, it functions flawlessly. It is so limitlessly resourceful that it succeeds in "recruiting" every subject who strays or is enticed into its orbit.3 9 At the same time, it is unerringly effective,


Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism never failing to "hollow out" and "refunction" its recruits to suit its own imperialist ends. It is seamless, inhuman, implacable. It cannot be resisted from within, only succumbed to. The conception is universal, and it does not fail to implicate Solo himself. For if, earlier, I noted that he survives what Modin does not, this is not to be taken as signifying anything more than that he remains alive where Modin is killed. He does not withstand assimilation's poison. Certainly, he sees himself as being dead in life. He regards his own existence as quite worthless, believing that in the final analysis it represents merely a different type of death from that suffered by Modin, a spiritual death characterized by alienation, impotence, and obsessive and purposeless introspection (85). In The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, Teacher's strategy of withdrawal had been condemned on the grounds that it was premature in its defeatism. Although the gleam made slaves of all who fell under its sway, it was still possible to live as "the man" was doing, in the radius of its glare, but not subject to it. "The man's" success in tracking this "third" path had been sufficient to delegitimize Teacher's strategy of withdrawal. Why Are We So Blest? is altogether bleaker than The Beautyful Ones in this regard. Its characters are no longer "free" to choose between a beleaguered integrity and an unhappy withdrawal. Indeed, they are afforded no real choices at all. From birth to death, as assimilados or as those who remain on the plains beneath Olympus, as revolutionaries or as integrants, they are wholly "administered" by imperialism. Thus Modin: The choices are clear. Those who stay in the peripheral areas intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, totally, are not lonely. They are in touch with home, not cut off. The price they pay for not being lonely, however, is that they suffer the crudest forms of manipulation, mystification, planned ignorance. Those who shift from the periphery to the center can hope to escape some of these cruder forms of manipulation. But the price they pay is loneliness, separation from home, the constant necessity to adjust to what is alien, eccentric to the self. [33] It is in this context that Why Are We So Blest? attempts to construct Solo's mere and "accidental" physical survival as the distant source of hope. The attempt rests on the premise that Solo's reflections on Modin's life and death equip him to act upon what, in Modin's case, had proved incapable of actualization. Like Modin, Solo is an assimilado. His assimilation cannot be revoked. Only through his assimilation does he now possess an identity, even though this identity is predicated upon negativity and absence: impotence, alienation, lack, separation, division, distance. And yet, living his devastated life, but surviving its devastation without being killed or wholly infantilized ("co-opted"), Solo is able-or so the novel implies-to articu-


Why Are We So Blest?

late a politics of refusal. He is able to withstand the imperatives of assimilation, to prevent assimilation from fulfilling its destructive mission through him. The victim of assimilation, once addicted to its poison, Solo has now been jolted beyond its reach, to a position from which he is capable of resisting its calls to destruction, disguised as invitations to happiness or liberation. Not that such resistance has become a formality-on the contrary, he observes that even after he has taken to heart the "lesson" taught by Modin's death, he finds it difficult to be as categorical as it is "necessary" for him to be: Even now, after his destruction, I catch myself struggling to limit what my mind knows, searching for ruses to justify my unwillingness to achieve the rational, ultimate rejection of [Aimee's] destructive race. I want to say this kind of destructiveness is in her alone, a personal evil which should not interrupt thoughts of possible harmony with her people. But Sylvia, whose memory creates these inhibiting traces-I did not know her. What happened between us was index enough against my foolish sentiments of reconciliation. The pull of her race was strong in her. It went against me, and she followed it. [229] The "lesson" that Solo learns from what he terms Modin's "useless, unregenerative destruction" (263) is thus twofold. It consists, first. in the "recognition" that separatism constitutes the only meaningful response to "Westernity." There is, as Naita had tried to warn Modin, "nothing like friendship possible between us and them" ( 123 ). Second, Solo learns that separatism as a politico-intellectual posture can only hope to be effective ifit is supported by ideological resilience. Modin's "gentleness" might have been admirable, but it had prepared the way for his exploitation by Aimee. In place of this "gentleness" (represented in the novel as a racial essence) in himself, Solo now moves to install the "hardness" necessary for survival. He takes from Aimee, a white Westerner, the only thing of value that she can give him-the secret of her own indestructability, which consists in her alleged capacity to use rather than to suffer experience. In Aimee, this is cast a racially determinate capacity; in Solo it becomes a self-defensive strategy, consciously adopted. It is true that in elaborating this strategy, Solo is in a sense using Modin's destruction at Aimee's hands to strengthen himself. As he himself acknowledges, there is something vulturine, something Aimeelike, about his conduct in this respect: "There still is part of me, closer to the girl, the consumer of experience, user of people. She played at love; her aim was survival, not union: to survive, a possessor of the experience, not its victim" (232). But under existing circumstances, the novel suggests, when not only revolution is unimaginable but even meaningful resistance, the assumption of "hardness"-containing, as it admittedly does, an acknowledgment of and deferral to imperial hegemony-might be not simply justifiable but positively necessary. 180

Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism Such an hypothesis had been mooted before in Armah's work, in the 1965 short story "Contact." In this story, a black American man, Lowell, engaged in conversation with a Ghanaian student named Kobina, had maintained that the fire of imperial domination could be fought only with matching fire, not with the water of African "gentleness:" The way this world is run, it's people using people. We Afros may act dumb, but we know it, and it's something you Africans ought to know. But you think it all ends with your crude politics. Exploiter and exploited, oppressor and oppressed, that's only Lesson One. It goes beyond, into all of life. Everyone fighting whoever gets in his way. People using people. Men using women and vice versa, and it's childish romantic nonsense to try and escape that fact. You can't. You use or you get used. 40 Lowell had advised Kobina to take a lesson from the way in which, in combating domination, black musicians in America had been forced to abandon the "soft" spirituality of traditional African musical forms and embrace instead a new music, aggressive, uncompromising, "phallic": "It's what living in this culture does to you. It toughens you." Kobina, searching for "meaningful contact," had disregarded Lowell's warning, just as, in Why Are We So Blest? Modin, searching for "serious involvements," disregards similar warnings given to him by his friends. But Solo is positioned to profit from these "mistakes." An "accidental" survivor, he moves-however belatedly-to clothe himself in the protective armor of "hardness," borrowed from the arsenal of domination. Yet he does so without any real understanding of the reactionary nature of his purportedly resistive strategy. Accordingly, the critique that Wright has leveled at Lowell's "use or get used" philosophy in "Contact" is directly pertinent also to Solo's manicheism in Why Are We So Blest?: "White violence and discrimination are answered by black violence and segregation; there is no attempt to find an alternative, nonwhite code that will lead out of this totalitarian reality, only a return to the white American 'erect phallic culture' which denies true reciprocity of contact between human beings.'' 41 This critique can be stated in another way, by drawing attention to the heterosexism that saturates Solo's discourse in the novel precisely at the moment of its revolt against imperial racism. It is a measure of the masculinism of Why Are We So Blest? that the "hardness" with which Solo moves to arm himself should not be recognized as being organized around the phallus (for patriarchy is never identified in the novel) but solely around the axis of "whiteness." The critique that Aimee tries to articulate to the manager of the "workermanaged" estate in "revolutionary" Algeria-that any revolution neglecting to transform patriarchal sexual relations must be considered to have failed-can with preemptive justice be brought to bear against Solo and, indeed, against Why Are We So Blest? in general. For the advocacy of "hard181

Why Are We So Blest? ness" is reactionary in both senses of that term: derivative and politically retrograde. In terms of the ideology of the novel, however, Solo's strategy is affirmed, even though, as he himself recognizes, he cannot put on the armor of "hardness" without being stained by the guilt of its Western origin. In a very different context, Theodor Adorno once argued that in order to "go on living" after Auschwitz, it was necessary to cultivate a "coldness" indistinguishable from that which, as an institutionalized social ethic, led precisely to Auschwitz: Perennial suffering has as much right to expression as a tortured man has to scream; hence it may have been wrong to say that after Auschwitz you could no longer write poems. But it is not wrong to raise the less cultural question whether after Auschwitz you can go on livingespecially whether one who escaped by accident, one who by rights should have been killed, may go on living. His mere survival calls for the coldness, the basic principle of bourgeois subjectivity, without which there could have been no Auschwitz; this is the drastic guilt of him who was spared. 4 2 Like Adorno, Solo has "survived" what "by rights" he ought not to have survived. And like Adorno, too, his is (therefore) a "drastic guilt." The evocation of this guilt in Why Are We So Blest? is compelling. Ultimately, however, a "drastic guilt" does not make, and is no substitute, for a coherent radical politics. We can see this very clearly when we analyze the following passage, for example, drawn from the beginning of the novel: Almost everyday I walk down the long road from where I live to the center of the city ... On the way down and on the way back up, the world shows me its face. It is not beautiful. After I have been forced to contemplate it, I am overwhelmed first by a disgust I cannot help, and then by guilt. I am surrounded by this ugliness, insistent and grim, and yet the only occupation I desire is with beautiful truths. When I have had a day's fill of looking at what goes on, I wonder if anything exists that is at the same time both beautiful and true. [ 15) This "confession" helps us to place Solo's "zero point" position in the novel in ideological terms. Solo betrays himself as an aesthete, ostensibly "revolutionary" in his sympathies, but ultimately rather moralistic and self-regarding. We cannot be certain, thus, that his stated hatred of poverty is not prompted by an "aesthetic" disapproval, on the part of one who desires only to commune "with beautiful truths," of poverty's "ugliness." More pointedly, we cannot be certain that his "guilt"-ideologically inappropriate in any event-does not secretly amount to rage at the oppressed, who insist on dirtying the landscape with their presence! Once sown, this seed of doubt about the ideological bearings of Solo's 182

Intellectualism, Masculinism, and Racial Essentialism thinking is never uprooted, even as Solo advances toward the manicheism that characterizes his ultimate perspective in the novel. This ultimate perspective-definitive, as I have tried to show, of that of the novel as a whole-is ostensibly premised upon the "collapse" of the "African revolution." Politically speaking, though, its governing assumptions continue to smack irreducibly of intellectualism. Solo refers to the domestication and recuperation of anticolonial militancy, and to the "structured" bankruptcy of African leaders. But what is revealed above all through his ethically fastidious discourse is not radicalism but the enormous, unbridgeable, and class-specific chasm between his situation and that of the "masses," whose deepest hopes he claims to know and share. In Why Are We So Blest? Solo's manicheism is cast as the searing and uncompromising voice of truth, and no dissenting voices are granted any credence. He speaks of the "masses" (placing them as oppressed, brutalized, and leaderless), and on behalf of the "masses," but he only allows them to represent themselves to the extent that they confirm his suppositions. Thus we find, as the novel progresses, a lingering romanticization of the "masses" as implicitly revolutionary, a conception "borrowed" from the ultra-leftist rhetoric of Modin's notebooks, and issuing in the call for what Modin had called "an authentic African leadership" (221) able to make common cause with the "masses." Yet we also find a more defeatist line, construing the hegemony of imperialist domination as unassailable. Domination is said to have installed itself at the heart of things. The prevailing order not only reproduces itself, but has become unalterable: it has managed to insure that no individual not subject to its authority can ever rise to leadership: "The few who try sincerely to create in life those new spaces they have found in their minds, this life destroys them so easily" (84). All those emerging as leaders, therefore, in "liberation movements" as much as in "independent" states, are necessarily, and always, in the service of empire. Inevitably and invariably "the huge social fight to destroy injustice is swallowed in the petty private struggle to promote the isolate self into sharing privilege, oppression's fruit" (83).

From Solo's manichean perspective, in short, the situation seems irremediable. He despises the prevailing order, despises what has made him despise it, and despises himself for his isolation. An implacable foe of empire, he is scornful of all organizations instituted to combat it, arguing that in their institutionalization they necessarily mirror the hierarchies they have been created to abolish. All leaders are by definition puppets. ''The masses" are by definition brutalized, incapable of generating their own responsible leaders. Finally, the repressed desire of "the masses" for revolution can by definition only be represented by phantomlike intellectuals severed from their ranks, whose intellectual empowerment is, designedly, inversely proportional to their political disempowerment. At the beginning of the novel, Solo had been told by the "revolutionary" 183

Why Are We So Blest? activists whose "iron toughness" ( 13) he had disdained on account of its lack of reflexivity, that in raising ethical dilemmas he was merely wasting time, interesting himself in abstractions (54). In embracing a separatist position, however, he moves to assume a masculinst "toughness" of his own, at least as unreflexive as that of these disdained "revolutionaries." Even in taking up this extreme standpoint, moreover, he ironically fails to transcend the vitiating, intellectualist abstraction of his "zero point" position. Especially when he talks of revolution, we can discern the rampant idealism of Solo's position and its alienation from those in whose name it is spoken: Europe hurled itself against us-not for creation, but to destroy us, to use us for creating itself. America, a growth out of Europe, now deepens that destruction. In this wreckage there is no creative art outside the destruction of the destroyers. In my people's world, revolution would be the only art, revolutionaries the only creators. All else is part of Africa's destruction. (231) If this is not a conclusion from which Solo can draw any comfort, it is not for the reasons he imagines. Solo's statement shows us, rather, that his alienation from "his people" is to be measured less in terms of distance, as a "gap," than in terms of ideological temperament. It is true that to the extent that he speaks in the totalizing terms of "destruction of the destroyers," Solo reveals an ignorance of the ways in which domination is in fact ceaselessly resisted by those who are dominated. More significant, however, is the fact that in posing revolution as an "all-or-nothing" affair, Solo reveals the messianic elitism of his political vision. The words that Georg Lukacs once wrote about the ethical idealism of the followers of the Hungarian poet and activist Endre Ady are directly applicable to Solo: "[they] feel that there is no way out except revolution ... [they] see that everything in existence is bad, cannot be corrected, and must be destroyed to make room for new possibilities. The need for a revolution does exist, but it is impossible to hope that one could be attempted even in the distant future." 43 Desperately believing that "revolution" is indispensable but thinking it in such a way that that it resembles not revolution but redemption, Solo asserts categorically that under prevailing circumstances it is impossible, and that this is indicative of its "betrayal." Ultimately the reader cannot but conclude that Solo's manicheism is here appropriately exposed: it is radical, perhaps, but in its absolutism it is, above all, abstract, authoritarian, and self-defeating.



After the Break Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970

I have tried to argue that Why Are We So Blest? must, by any standards, be accounted a novelistic failure. The novel's sweeping dogmatism, its manichean racial and sexual essentialism, and its conspiratorial view of African history, all combine to destroy its internal plausibility and to undermine its ideological integrity. Setting out to interrogate the limits of creative intellectualism in the colonial and postcolonial contexts, it tends increasingly to represent these contexts not only as implacable and seamless configurations but, even more disturbingly, as brilliant strategies hatched in the minds of ruthless and predatory "Westerners." This means that even where colonialism and neocolonialism are not quite phrased as effectively indistinguishable moments in a world-historical conspiracy, they are still viewed in harshly functionalist terms as crucial planks in a world system that works perfectly. Against this "killing system," radical intellectualism emerges axiomatically as useless. What is not part of the "solution"-and there is only one such-is part of the "problem." As Solo comes to put it in the novel: "Only one issue is worth our time: how to end the oppression of the African, to kill the European beasts of prey, to remake ourselves, the elected servants of Europe and America. Outside that, all is useless." 1 Casting itself, on the strength of this kind of rhetoric, as uncompromisingly radical, Why Are We So Blest? collapses instead into extremism and selfcontradiction. It moves to advocate "revolution" in place of "intellectualism," without seeing that its conception of "revolution" is itself irreducibly intellectualist. Yet if Why Are We So Blest? fails on these grounds, it does so at least partly because it pushes a certain prevalent way of thinking about postcolonialism to its limits. The questions that govern the novel-concerning ethical intellectualism, revolution, and independence, co-opted leadership and the depoliticization of "the masses," betrayal, marginalization, and diminishing possibilities for resistance in the neocolonial context-all issue from within the horizons of this distinctive and historically determinate way of thinking, or "problematic.'' 2 As I demonstrated in chapter 1, this problematic is not Armah's alone but represents rather the prevailing way of thinking about


After the Break postcolonialism of a generation of radical African intellectuals in the 1960s. Therefore, to the extent that Why Are We So Blest?s extremism and contradiction ultimately testify to the inadequacy of its informing assumptions, it can be argued that its collapse into manicheism is symptomatic of a larger collapse, implicating not only Why Are We So Blest? but also The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, Fragments, and the works of a range of other African writers: the implosion of what I have spoken of as these writers' "messianic" representation of the decolonizing process. In order to give substance to this argument, I shall examine the ideological narrative that unfolds over the course of Armah's three novels ofpostcolonialism. We have seen that the social ethic that informs The Beautyful Ones Are Not li't Born is squarely messianic. The novel's organizing assumption is that the decolonizing years in Ghana were years of popular unity and uplift, and that, at independence, it would have been possible for the nation as a whole to be systematically transformed, or revolutionized. It is taken for granted in the novel, not only that Nkrumah's anticolonial radicalism during the decolonizing era was honestly maintained on his part, but also, and more significantly, that between Nkrumah and "the masses," leader and followers, there was an exact understanding and empathy. Nkrumah is spoken of as having represented "the masses": the words he spoke during his campaign are said to have been the words "the masses" wanted to hear. Thus, after she has been to a mass rally and listened to Nkrumah talking, Teacher's friend Maanan observes that Today things have gone inside me, and they have brought out what I have hidden in me. He brought them up. They were not new to me. Only I have never seen anything to go and fish them up like that. He was reading me. I know he was speaking of me. To you too. But did you hear him? How can a man born of a woman tell me my thoughts even before I myself know them?3 Maanan's experience of Nkrumah is phrased as definitive of that of "the masses" in Ghana. Yet a problem presents itself here: for Maanan's class background is never clearly specified in the novel. We know, on the basis of scores of memoirs and works of literature similar in this respect to The Beautyful Ones Are Not li't Born, that radical intellectuals in Ghana tended to interpret Nkrumah's message during the decolonizing years in a way consonant with Maanan's description. What he said was unquestionably what they wanted to hear. But the response of "the masses" to Nkrumah is more difficult to ascertain. The novel presents us with a picture of widespread mobilization and popular consensus. It attributes to the masses of the Ghanaian people-supposedly made up of such characters as Maananpolitical sentiments identical with those held by radical intellectuals such as Teacher. In this attribution, however, there is the strong suggestion of an


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 unwarranted generalization on Armah's part. His universalizing assumption seems to be that because Nkrumah's supporters numbered in the hundreds of thousands, they must all have had the same political ambitions and aspirations as the intellectuals among them. At the very least, the fact that Teacher, Maanan, and "the man," who do not share the same class situation, should nevertheless share political interests, hopes, fears, and even ethical suppositions, seems suspicious. One recalls Ben Obumselu's complaint that "the man" thinks like "an American tourist" and not at all like the railway-clerk he is said to be. 4 Certainly, it is difficult to sustain The Beautyful Ones's messianic representation of the Ghanaian "masses" in the decolonizing years as a potentially revolutionary force in the light of scholarly analyses of Nkrumahism. As early as 1966-two years before the publication of The Beautyful Ones-Bob Fitch and Mary Oppenheimer had argued that although Nkrumah's Convention People's Party billed itself as a mass political party, this identification was quite misleading. The CPP was a mass party only in the sense that it had a large membership. It was not a mass party in the sense of mobilizing large numbers of people and bringing them into the political arena as active and politically conscious participants. Many of the men and women who bought membership cards in the CPP did so for the same reason that citizens in the United States buy tickets to a policemen's ball. In both cases, the sale involves a tax levied on the vulnerable by the powerful. 5 Having committed itself to a vision of revolutionary unity in the decolonizing era, however, The Beautyful Ones is obliged to represent Nkrumah's postcolonial policies as a betrayal-not merely of his promise alone, but of the African revolution in general. In the eyes of the novel, the opportunity had been there, at independence, to revolutionize Ghanaian society-but Nkrumah in power had found himself seduced by the very things that, in the decolonizing years, he had campaigned against: privilege, luxury, status, power. Having led the charge to the castle gates, he had not tom the castle down but rather installed himself in it; and with every day that had passed he had come to resemble more closely the rulers who had preceded him. The despair of such characters as Maanan and Teacher in The Beautyful Ones is a measure of the perceived treachery of Nkrumah's aboutface. In The Beautyful Ones, therefore, Ghana's independence is taken to have marked a moment in which all Africa held its breath, believing that the whole world might change forever for the better. In Fragments, independence is presented as an altogether sorrier spectacle. The full-blown messianic identification of revolution and independence is here partially retracted. Certainly, it remains appropriate, still, to speak of betrayal on the


After the Break part of the postcolonial leadership. But the enormity of this betrayal seems greatly diminished. In The Beautyful Ones, Nkrumah's betrayal is seen as unassirnilable, an event of massive (because unique) significance. In Fragments the betrayal of the postcolonial leadership in Ghana is viewed as predictable and unexceptional. There is nothing to distinguish it from the treacherous conduct of countless generations of previous leaders. In The Beautyful Ones, the existential strategies elaborated by Teacher and "the man" are framed in answer to the question of how to live against the gleam. In Fragments, Armah's canvas is considerably narrower. It is above all intellectual practice that concerns him now. The objectionable universalism of The Beautyful Ones is superseded, since Fragments is fully alert to the ideological specificity of intellectual consciousness. The central dilemma confronting Baako, Juana, and Ocran is that of dissolving the socially engineered barriers between themselves, as oppositional members of a ruling elite, and the vast majority of the Ghanaian people. The poverty and dispossession of these people, both in urban Accra and in the rural hinterland, are evoked very concretely in Fragments. Unlike The Beautyful Ones, moreover, Armah's second novel insists upon the politicality of"the masses" in the postcolonial era. The mounting anger of the Ghanaian population at large is represented unambiguously in Fragments. Crucially, however, this anger is seen to be unfocused and inarticulate; the more it grows, the more inclined it becomes to turn in on itself. The general climate is seen to be dangerously volatile: what is needed is revolution, and this is also the solution toward which the unconscious social desire of "the masses" tends; but what is in all probability in the offing, at least in the forseeable future, is not revolution but the fomenting of ethnic or regional hatreds, the generation and intensification ofreckless and destructive kinds of violence, vented on scapegoats and on the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. Fragments differs from The Beautyful Ones, thus, in casting the Ghanaian "masses" in the postcolonial era as latently resistive. In the earlier novel, the radiance of the gleam is shown to infect the society as a whole, penetrating even to those strata whose members can never reasonably hope to accede to wealth or privilege. In Fragments, by contrast, the dispossessed implicitly recognize and rue the fact of their dispossession. Yet, lacking an understanding of its mechanics, they are unable to counteract it. Spontaneously militant, latently resistive, they nevertheless lack leadership, where leadership alone is seen to be capable of tempering their raw energy and forging it into a deliberate, purposive force. It is obvious, in these terms, that the idea of responsible intellectualism is taken very seriously in Fragments. The debate between Baako and Ocran turns, ultimately, on the question of leadership. As radical artists, visionaries on the side of "the people," both characters take for granted their theoretical capacity to function as social therapists. Their potential social utility is grounded, they believe, in their ability to see what


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 "the people," by virtue of the immediacy and comprehensiveness of their deprivation, cannot: the root causes, the etiology, of their suffering. Baako and Ocran recognize, of course, that this "ability" on their part is not an inherent quality but a product of their own privilege, that is, of their own class-determined freedom from material want. Nevertheless, they aspire, in their social practice as intellectuals, to place their acquired talents at the service of "the people," to contribute not to the mystificatory cause of "independence" but to the revolutionary cause of national liberation. Fragments charts the difficulties that attend the exercise of radical intellectualism in the postcolonial era. Baako discovers that the "gap" between "haves" and "have-nots" in postcolonial society is not, as he had supposed, made up of empty, "neutral," space, but is instead patrolled by an army of institutions and apparatuses functioning precisely to insure that no modern-day would-be Prometheus, like himself, is able to smuggle sparks from the cozy hearths of the "haves" to the dry and wintry grasslands of the "have-nots," where they might be used to ignite a revolutionary fire. Baako insists that it is only in the continuing attempt to cross over from the one realm to the other with sparks in hand that the radical intellectual can hope to justify his existence. Ocran counters that to the extent that a successful crossover seems impossible under prevailing circumstances, it is perhaps necessary for the radical intellectual to rein in his Promethean aspirations and concentrate his energies on perfecting his skill as a drawer of sparkstrusting that better opportunities to use them will arise in the future. It falls to Juana to mediate between these two intellectual positions. Juana's intellectualism, like Teacher's in The Beautyful Ones, is underpinned by a utopian remembrance of a time when youth was not something one had lived through, not just a defeated thought, but the hope of constant regeneration, the daring to reach out toward a new world. Life then had taken its color from the brilliance of an always immanent apocalypse, and if the beautiful colors were mixed with the red of blood and the sulfurous yellow of flames, that was in no way a reason to run from the dream. The burning of old frames and the shedding of cruel blood would not be against the making of another world. Life had a charge, and every day's efforts had at their end the hope that things dreamed of had been brought closer. 6 Since Teacher idealistically runs together the moments of revolution and independence, his revolutionism does not survived the bitter experiences of betrayal and political retrenchment in postcolonial Ghana. In Juana's case, however, the figuration ofredemptive revolution is not as closely bound up with the moment of independence. Accordingly, she is able to look beyond the setbacks of postcolonialism and to confirm her commitment to revolu-


After the Break tion by adopting a very long-range perspective, much more like "the man's" than Teacher's in The Beautyful Ones. In Fragments, thus, she moves ultimately to adopt an ethico-political standpoint compatible with Baako's in its radicalism, and powered, like his, by a utopian conception ofrevolution, but altogether more sensitive than his to the limits of objective possibility and regulated, where his is not, by the need to think tactically. Her adoption of this standpoint is overdetermined by her clinical experience as a psychiatrist. For in this capacity she is obliged to think very pragmatically and locally, to make what interventions are possible when and where they are possible, not whenever and wherever they might be necessary. Juana's radicalism constitutes the most realistic resistive position to be taken up in any of Armah's three novels ofpostcolonialism. Her intellectual practice is prototypical of that that will be advocated and exercised by a character such as Damfo in Armah's fifth novel, The Healers ( 1978). Fragments is thus a portentous novel; and yet its shaping assumptions are entirely different from those that underlie a novel like The Healers. The latter simply could not have been written during the 1960s, since it is literally unimaginable from within the horizons of any messianic conception of postcolonialism. Before Armah (or anybody else) would be able to write such a novel, in other words, it would be necessary for the cogency of the prevailing way of thinking about postcolonialism on the part of radical African intellectuals in the decade following independence to be shattered. Now Why Are We So Blest? cannot be represented as the work in which this shattering is effected. On the contrary, it shows itself to be as categorically limited to the terms of the prevailing way of thinking as is Fragments. Precisely because it fails so decisively, however, the novel might be interpreted as revealing the historical obsolescence and the encroaching political inutility of this way of thinking by the late 1960s and early 1970s. Why Are We So Blest? represents a dead-end rather than a new beginning in African literature. Yet it is possible to argue that had it not been written, Armah, at least, would have been unable to "think himself beyond" the labyrinth of radical 1960s African intellectualism. The argument can be stated in terms of a paradox: on the one hand, in spite of the conceptual continuities between them, Why Are We So Blest? does not pave the way toward The Healers; on the other hand, in spite of the enormous differences between them, without Why Are We So Blest?, The Healers could never have been written. In Fragments, independence is seen to involve an orchestrated shift from colonial to neocolonial dispensations in Africa. The transition is enthusiastically heralded and lavishly celebrated by the nation's political class, but for the overwhelming majority of the indigenous population it betokens little or no change in the material circumstances of life. 7 In the postcolonial era this majority festers in its misery, brooding, latently resistive yet lacking


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 the theoretical wherewithal to organize its opposition to the prevailing order. On the other side of the class divide, committed intellectuals like Baako urgently seek ways of making contact with these "masses," but typically find them elusive if not impossible to come by. Why Are We So Blest? radicalizes this analysis. In it, independence is figured entirely as mystification, as a carefully conceived imperial strategy designed to strengthen the chains binding Africa to the West. Africa becomes cast as the more or less passive victim of imperial depredation, dominated as comprehensively in independence as it had been under colonialism. The decolonizing years emerge, in these terms, as years of plaintive and unavailing yearning for change on the part of "the masses," accompanied by cynical exploitation of this yearning on the part of the political class. Never having been satisfied, the same yearning, and the same cynical exploitation of it, are in evidence in the postcolonial era. In Why Are We So Blest? "the masses" are represented by the scores of cripples and derelicts and orphans who litter the streets of Laccryville with their emaciated and mutilated bodies and implore the passer-by for money. The activist register of Fragments, which had credited "the masses" with a degree of agency, even in the most adverse social circumstances, is here retracted: the depiction of"the masses" in Why Are We So Blest? is abstract in the extreme, even where it is graphically detailed. We are presented with numberless victims of a catastrophe, shriveled and dehumanized, more acted upon than acting, and haunted (to the residual extent that, like the onelegged man Solo encounters in hospital, they are concerned still to ask questions of life) by the past, by the need to know "what hit them." Beyond the desperate and not always successful struggle to survive, in other words, they are portrayed as being animated only by consciousness ofloss: what cannot be comprehended, above all else, is how that postcolonial future, which they had been promised and for which they had struggled in the decolonizing years, could possibly have become this postcolonial present. The representation of "the masses" in Why Are We So Blest? returns us to the suspect universalism of The Beautyful Ones Are Not ~t Born: between Solo and his one-legged interrogator there is a class distinction but not, apparently, any ideological divergence. The questions that the one-legged invalid asks are precisely those that resonate in Solo's own consciousness. Again, as in The Beautyful Ones, it is difficult not to infer from this that the consciousness attributed to "the masses" in Why Are We So Blest? corresponds to an unwarrantedly generalized intellectualism, not to any plausible peasant or proletarian disposition. In two respects here, however, Why Are We So Blest? differs sharply from The Beautyful Ones. First, where The Beautyful Ones, in accordance with its universalism, does not address the social distance between elite and "masses" as a particular problem for radical intellectuals in the postcolonial


After the Break era, Why Are We So Blest? follows Fragments in identifying this distance as a major obstacle to the exercise of radical intellectualism. Indeed, it goes further than Fragments. For between the victimized "masses" and the African intelligentsia there is, in Why Are We So Blest? not just a formidable but an insurmountable barrier. "The masses" "suffer the crudest forms of manipulation, mystification, planned ignorance." 8 The intellectuals, however, exist only inasmuch as and to the extent that they have been prevailed upon, for whatever reason, to climb the ladder of assimilation, to embrace the social ethic of "Westernity" and become latter-day "factors" rendering up their people for Western exploitation. They exist, in other words, only inasmuch as they come to embrace the socially induced separation between themselves and the majority of their people not as an alienation to be deplored and if possible combated, but as the saving moat that protects them in their new-found civility from being overrun by the barbarians without. The very emergence of intellectuals as a social fraction is cast, in Why Are We So Blest? as a moment within the drama of empire; it is entirely circumscribed, in all its manifestations, by imperial social logic. A second decisive difference between Why Are We So Blest? and The Beautyfu/ Ones (and, for that matter, Fragments) follows from this first. In Armah's third novel, the very possibility ofradical or "creative" intellectualism is denied. Indeed, even the terms, "creativity" and "intellectualism," emerge as oxymoronic. To become an intellectual is to be tamed, to become a creature of empire. Conversely, creativity can only be exercised through means of revolutionary warfare. As Solo puts it: "In the imperial situation the educational process is turned into an elitist ritual for selecting slave traders. The revolutionary ideal is an actual, working egalitarian society ... War against the invader should be the educational process for creating new anti-European, anti-imperial, anti-elitist values." 9 Returning, thus, to the ground upon which Juana, for instance, had painstakingly constructed her ethic of resistance in Fragments, Why Are We So Blest? proceeds by turning Juana's achievement against itself. The cornerstone of Juana's position had rested in her affirmation of creative intellectualism, in her delicate but tough-minded coordination of the standpoints of utopian revolutionism, on the one hand, and therapeutic gradualism, on the other. This simultaneity is disavowed in Why Are We So Blest? In terms of the novel's manichean conceptualization, the idea of radical intellectualism as a long-viewed healing practice is condemned. "The cure for oppression [is] revolution, not therapy," Armah had written in 1969, in his essay on Frantz Fanon; 10 and this stark and antinomial judgment becomes the axis around which the presentation of intellectualism in Why Are We So Blest? turns. As I suggested in my analysis of Why Are We So Blest? in chapter 5, the central problem with the novel's vision of intellectualism is that it is ultimately not radical but only reactively anti-intellectualist. The novel draws


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 a categorical distinction between theory and praxis. Theory is the mode of activity of intellectuals, not of revolutionaries: however radical it might sound, or present itself as being, it is always-already recuperable by the prevailing order, whose interests it always ultimately serves. Although it constitutes a mode of activity, moreover, it does not constitute work in the sense in which the novel understands that term. As Modin puts it, with reference to the activity of writing his undergraduate thesis, "[i]t is not work. Busy work. Not necessary, but just a game to keep me occupied doing nothing real." 11 Praxis, by contrast, is-or would be, since the novel's central protagonists can find no evidence of its actually being practiced anywhere-the mode of "authentic" revolution: it is effective, interventional, focused; it strikes; it is "real" work, which means that it consists in action, not words; what it means is what it does, not what it says. It is obvious that this positioning of theory and praxis is susceptible to criticism on the grounds of its dualism and lack of reflexivity. It seems clear to me, at least, that far from contributing to the cause ofrevolution, Armah's presentation of intellectualism in Why Are We So Blest? serves instead to define revolutionary practice in such a way as to render its actualization impossible under any circumstances. It is not an accident that the "praxis" that Modin and Solo are looking for cannot be found. It cannot be found because it has nothing to do with revolutionary practice. What Modin and Solo are looking for is not revolution but redemption: a messianic strike against the hegemonic order (imperialism) by a united people, acting consciously and deliberately to change the world forever. This idealization is just that: a messianic idealization. It is, moreover-and, given the anti-intellectualism of Armah's text, this is densely ironical-a peculiarly intellectualist idealization: ultra-leftist, utopian, ethically voluntaristic, and not merely anti-elitist but also so virulently anti-bureaucratic that even the basic organizational structures without which there could never be a revolutionary movement are, in its terms, themselves automatically suspect. "How to search for non-elitist methods of disseminating consciousness?" 12 Modin's question becomes the pretext for a repudiation not merely of elitism but indeed of leadership. Consider again, thus, the passage, already examined in chapter 5, in which Solo describes the photographic display in the UPC bureau in Laccryville: The pictures are intended to show the movement as a serious, disciplined and well-organized force. In this they are successful. The first shots are historical. In them everything appears exaggeratedly rudimentary. The soldiers of the rebellion appear to be a confused crowd, wearing assorted clothes. There is then a rapid progression through stages in which only a few are in uniform, then most, until in the last pictures everyone is in uniform. Not only that. Now there are different


After the Break types of uniform for different ranks, the colors getting lighter with increasing rank. 13 The final image here, evoking an organizing philosophy in terms of which lightness is correlated with rising status, is telling; it functions perfectly to demolish the claims made by the UPC leadership that they are revolutionaries committed to the overthrow of colonial capitalism. Also present in the passage, however, is a troubling critique of organization per se. In advancing from a "rebellion" to a "movement," the passage suggests-an advance secured by "discipline" and "organization"-the spontaneous militancy of "the masses" is co-opted by the "movement's" leaders, whose interests are not only not the same as those of "the masses" but in fact diametrically opposed to them. In terms of the official ideology of the "movement," the early "rebels" had been spontaneously revolutionary, but, lacking leadership and organization, they had been "confused." This, of course, is precisely the understanding arrived at in Fragments. Yet Why Are We So Blest? opposes itself explicitly to such a representation. Although it stops short of suggesting that, left to itself, the "rebellion" might have grown into an authentic revolution, it is adamant that the organization of the "rebellion" corresponds only to its domestication, and guarantees its failure. There is no role for leaders, still less for intellectuals in the revolution envisaged in Why Are We So Blest?

The novel appears to conceptualize revolution in explicitly messianic terms as a "leap in the open air ofhistory," 14 after which everything will be different. It casts revolutionary practice as the only "real" labor, but defines this practice in terms that exclude organization, mobilization, politicization-exclude, in short, the work of forging a revolution. Of this work, painstaking, arduous, patient, flexible, governed at all times by pragmatic considerations, the novel appears to have no grasp. In 1969, Armah had documented the kinds of activity in which Frantz Fanon had engaged after he had left the employ of the French colonial administration and joined the Algerian national liberation movement: Early in 1957 Fanon went to join the revolutionary base operating from Tunis. There he began writing for the press services of the Algerian revolutionary movement, working as a member of the Editorial Board of the soldiers' newspaper El Moudjahid (The Combatant), while continuing medical and political work with the militants. His major concern at this time was to help shape the theory and doctrine guiding the guerilla war-the kind of guiding work whose absence made other African uprisings (like Tanganyika's Maji-Maji and Kenya's Mau-Mau) such sad, blind, wasteful disasters.1 5 In Why Are We So Blest?the significance of this passage is entirely disavowed. Thus where Fanon, in his capacity as revolutionary intellectual, had written


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 for an underground newspaper and served on its editorial board, Armah's third novel dismisses this kind of work as useless. Where Fanon had sought to "shape the theory and doctrine guiding the guerilla war," the novel insists that such an ambition is intellectualist and is to be mistrusted. To the extent that radical intellectuals wish to contribute to the struggle, the novel invites them to eschew "theory" for "praxis" and join the fighters on the front line. To the extent that "intellectual work" is unavoidable, Modin suggests that it ought to be performed "by the old people, or sick people." 1 6 In making this suggestion, Modin mistakes self-abnegation for "class suicide." He imagines himself to be striking a radical blow against intellectualism. Instead, he is only revealing the self-hatred of an intellectual who, "guilty" of his privilege, condemns himself and his activity by way of compensating atonement. Moreover, the content of Modin's discourse, far from gesturing toward any "authentic" revolutionism, only confirms his mandarin intellectualism. Alienated from "the masses," knowing nothing of the material circumstances of their lives or of the way these are made sense of, adjusted to, or struggled against by them, Modin nevertheless arrogates to himself the right to characterize the unconscious will of "the masses" as a will to revolution. To this revolution, conceived in messianic terms and on the basis of his own abstractions, he commits himself unreservedly. To the extent that reality proves intractable to his conception of revolution, he tends, not to revise the theory, but to harden and extend its scope. If "the masses" are not "revolutionary," it is because they have been "duped." If other theories of revolution are less voluntaristic, more pragmatic and measured than Modin's own, it is because they have been "infected" by "Westemity.'' At every point, Modin's intellectualism is sharpened, intensified, rendered less flexible. His view of the world becomes more and more abstract, extreme and totalizing-and more and more irretrievably intellectualist. Ultimately he drives himself to the conceptual desert of racial essentialism, upon whose quicksands he predicates his conspiracy theory of African history, and commits himself to a "practice" that, ostensibly revolutionary, is instead both entirely ineffectual and suicidally inept. When he is killed, furthermore, Solo emerges, ideologically speaking at least, to take his place. At no stage in Why Are We So Blest? is the idea of "working for the revolution," in the sense of bending oneself to the tasks necessary to bring it about, treated with anything but contempt. In terms of the ideology of the novel, revolution is an all-or-nothing affair. It is a matter ofredemption, not of objective possibility. Nor is the fact that such a representation necessarily condemns "the African revolution" and all other revolutions in history to failure viewed, in the novel, as a liability. On the contrary, it is taken to testify to the unassimilability, hence authenticity, of Modin's conception of revolution. The calcifying intellectualism of this ferociously doctrinaire self-justification apparently escapes the novel's own


After the Break awareness. Since the more totalizing and extreme Modin's theorizations become, the closer to authentic revolutionism they are phrased as being, it follows that when, ultimately, he arrives at the conceptual terminus of manicheism and moves, from this purely theoretical standpoint, to repudiate theory altogether and commit his "de-intellectualized" self as a fighting machine to "the African revolution," his decision is affirmed by the novel in spite of the fact that it leads to his death and advances the cause of the revolution not in the slightest. Solo observes, thus, that Modin had been trying "to achieve a healing juncture with his destroyed people." 17 He does not observe that this juncture could never have been achieved under the auspices of Modin's ultra-leftism. The latter observation, however, is the truer of the two.

The ultimate irony of Why Are We So Blest? is that, for all its desperate anxiety to retain a commitment to the cause of "the African revolution," it is a profoundly disenabling work, more reminiscent of the metaphysical fatalism of a writer like V. S. Naipaul than of any resistive aesthetic project. Room to maneuver is severely restricted in all three of Armah's novels of postcolonialism. As the 1960s "drag ... themselves into the 1970s"l8-as the setbacks of postcolonialism begin to loom not as temporary reverses but as fixtures in the landscape of "independent" African states-it becomes progressively more so, so that by the time of Why Are We So Blest? there is none. Radical intellectualism is impossible. Any attempt to justify it constitutes a cynical lie, or, at best a "justificatory hallucination." 19 Revolution is similarly impossible although only revolution can "solve" Africa's problems. In short, everything is necessary but nothing can be done. An obvious paradox reveals itself here: the world is "dying for change";20 Solo and Modin are "dying" to change it (literally in Modin's); and yet the novel ends as it had begun, with the world entirely unchanged-Modin's death is merely "a waste ... useless, unregenerative destruction." 21 The more radically totalizing Armah's thinking becomes in the passage from The Beautyful Ones Are Not ~t Born to Why Are We So Blest? the more defeated and defeating; and the more defeated, the more it tends to represent the world as unalterable. It is precisely this configuration, however, that renders Armah's novels of postcolonialism uniquely representative in the context of their time. For the set of relations that I have just outlined between radicalism and increasingly totalizing theory at the end of the 1960s and between such theory and political paralysis are not limited to Armah's intellectual practice. On the contrary, they designate a world-historical crisis ofradical intellectualism at


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 this time. It is not an accident that the questions raised by Modin and Solo in Why Are We So Blest? should find an echo in the work of such radical Western theorists as Jean-Paul Sartre, who, in the aftermath of the events of 1968 in France, moved to describe "the classical intellectual" in quasi-Maoist terms as "objectively an enemy of the people," and to call upon him (or her) to "negate his intellectual moment in order to try to achieve a new popular statute." 22 Above all, this crisis of radical intellectualism can be observed in the work of various "Third World" writers and intellectuals, across the broad range of their practice: in literature, in social and cultural theory, in anthropology, psychology, and fiction, as well as in economics and political science. Consider, by way of an example, the trajectory of dependency theory. 23 Deriving initially from the analysis of Latin American societies, but, by the midl 960s, being applied also to the ex-colonies of Africa and Asia, dependency theory set itself the task of accounting for the intensifying structural dependence-above all, and seemingly paradoxically, within the era of postcolonialism-of the "peripheral" Third World upon the "center" constituted by the capitalist First World. Faced with the evidence of this intensifying dependence, more mainstream sociologists and political scientists had tended to see it as an exclusively internal problem, which they had "explained" in broadly Weberian or Parsonian terms, through reference to the survival of "traditionalism" in Africa and the corresponding absence of an ethos of "modernity" -the latter understood to be the cultural sine qua non of national economic growth. Appropriately rejecting these conceptions as ethnocentric and unhistorical, the dependency theorists maintained that the condition of the "Third World" should be viewed not as one of undevelopment, but rather as one of underdevelopment. In a decisive turn, they sought to demonstrate an inverse and structural relationship between the situation of the "First World" and that of the "Third World." It was not only, they showed, that the wealth produced by the "wretched of the earth" on the peripheries of the "world system" was appropriated by the capitalist nations of the center. For this process itself required the forcible "peripheralization" of the "peripheries," the yoking of domestic and regional economies in Latin America, Africa, and Asia into the world system as subordinate instances. It required, in fact, the reconstitution of domestic economies, the destruction of their internal rationality, and the repositioning of their means and ends in accordance with the dominant interests of the world system. The dependency theorists concerned themselves less with the question of the extraction of surplus than with the dynamics through which domestic peripheral economies were undermined and, thus underdeveloped, bound more and more implacably into a world order headquartered in New York, Tokyo, and Paris. Viewed retrospectively as a radical alternative to the premises of metro-


After the Break politan social theory, dependency theory played an indispensable role. Not only did it succeed in articulating a devastating critique of the limitations and hidden ideological assumptions of mainstream theory, it also made possible a materialist analysis of the transition from colonial to neocolonial orders in the era of multinational capitalism. Increasingly as the 1960s unfolded, however, and a variety of different "progressive" policies in the postcolonial world foundered and collapsed, dependency theory tended to lapse into ever-more all-inclusive evocations of an imperialist world system so relentlessly powerful that resistance to it seemed futile. Not only did the "peripheralization" of domestic economies in Latin America, Asia, and Africa function to underdevelop them, but, it was now suggested, this arrangement also inevitably secured the addictive dependence of peripheral social formations upon those of the center. Not only had the periphery been shackled to the center, thus, but it was now effectively powerless to escape. It was not possible to "opt out" of the imperialist world system: one could escape it only by shattering it, and only a world-revolutionary movementsuch as did not exist and was inconceivable at least in the forseeable future-could effect this kind of shattering. Considered in these terms, dependency theory of the late 1960s and early 1970s can be seen to have possessed weaknesses very similar to those that came progressively to undermine Armah's radicalism during these years. As Peter Worsley has observed, [p]olitically, to be told that "for the underdeveloped parts of the world to develop, the structure of the world social system must change", seemed a profoundly demobilizing counsel of despair not only to reformers striving to improve education or health-and sometimes succeeding-but even to revolutionaries for whom the only practical possibility was not to change the entire world, but their own society. 24 Nor were the radical conceptualizations of dependency theory merely politically self-defeating: they gave rise also to a rampantly homogenizing kind of thinking, in terms of which specificity and particularity were swept aside in a welter of unwarranted generalizations. To speak of peripheral societies only as such was, obviously, to elide (potentially significant) political and historical distinctions between them. Similarly, to fail to differentiate concretely between colonial and neocolonial dispensations was not only to totalize, but also potentially to misrecognize the form and substance of oppositional practices within each dispensation. This point can be extended to refer not only to Armah's ideas and to dependency theory, but to almost all the thought issuing from within the problematic of radical African intellectualism of the late 1960s. The more generalizing it became, the more such thought tended, in spite of its radical intent, to cast Africa as the passive victim of imperialism, and to define local or regional social movements in


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 advance as meaningless. Since the significance of all such movements came to be measured only in terms of their effect (if any) on the overarching world-system, it followed that to the extent that a particular movement failed to force a modification in this world-system, it remained more or less invisible to the radical theorist. Increasingly, therefore, as it hardened and became more and more totalizing in its fruitless attempts to account for the setbacks of the postcolonial era in the late 1960s and early 1970s, radical theory found itself incapable of taking adequate cognizance of a multiplicity of local. heterogeneous, particular events and developments within postcolonial societies. There was a symptomatic failure, for instance, as Hamza Alavi and Teodor Shanin have written (with respect not merely to Africa but to "developing societies" at large), to grapple with [t] he effects of indigenous social forces within the developing societies themselves, the variety of strategies introduced by governments in those countries that were not necessarily dictated from the outside; industrialization in some of the "developing societies"; the influence of class struggles within some of the developing societies on the ways in which those countries actually developed; the experience of a multiplicity of roads and diversity of outcomes.25

Contemplating the alienation of radical intellectuals from the working classes that accompanied the rise of fascism in Europe during the 1930s, Bertolt Brecht once wrote that "[t]here is only one ally against growing barbarism-the people, who suffer so greatly from it. It is only from them that one can expect anything. Therefore it is obvious that one must tum to the people, and now more necessary than ever to speak their language."26 Ultimately, it proved to be through a similar "(re)tum to the people" that the crisis of radical intellectualism in postcolonial African society that we have been considering came to be resolved. Significantly, the resolution was achieved not initially through theoretical but through political practice. Exactly at the same time as intellectuals like Armah and the dependency theorists were expressing themselves in the absolutist and defeatist language of underdevelopment, co-optation, and world-system, struggles for national liberation elsewhere in Africa-and, crucially, in the most viciously policed and administered colonies, those of Lusophone Guinea-Bissau, Angola, and Mozambique-were gathering momentum. In these latter struggles, it was not only the political superstructures of colonialism that were under fire, but, very clearly and selfconsciously, the economic basis upon which these superstructures rested. In


After the Break the anti-imperialist movements that developed in the Lusophone African colonies, as Emmanuel Ngara has written, [t]he question ... was not just "independence" but "what form of independence?" This was the question posed by those countries which gained their freedom through protracted armed struggles in the seventies and eighties-Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Zimbabwe. When they acquired their freedom, these countries had a different concept of independence from the countries which had acceded to sovereignty in the previous two decades. Their long struggle for independence, and the experience of independent African countries now under the grip of neo-colonialism taught them to look at national independence from a radical ideological point of view, and they consequently chose the socialist path to development.2 7 The successes of these militantly anti-imperialist movements in GuineaBissau, Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe exploded the defeatist rhetoric that had come to characterize the discourse of radical intellectuals elsewhere in Africa. The case of Guinea-Bissau was particularly inspiring: for there the revolutionary party, the Partido Africano da Independencia da Guine e Caho Verde (PAIGC), which by 1968 was already winning major battles against the Portuguese colonial forces, liberating and placing under its jurisdiction large sections of the interior of the colony, had been founded as late as 1956 by a group of just six radical intellectuals. The leaders of the various liberation movements in the Portuguese colonies-such as Amilcar Cabral, Agostinho Neto, and Eduardo Mondlane-were assimilados like Solo in Why Are We So Blest?; but they were altogether without either the messianism with which he had initially viewed independence or the paralyzingly intellectualist self-consciousness to which his experience ofpostcolonialism had driven him. Their practice demonstrated to their would-be counterparts elsewhere in Africa that it was necessary for them to commit themselves to producing the conditions of possibility of revolution, even under the most daunting and seemingly hopeless of circumstances. Where in Why Are We So Blest? Armah had addressed the alienation of intellectuals from the majority of their compatriots as not only a structural but also an insurmountable barrier, and had moved from this definition to characterize revolution as impossible, the examples of Cabral and others like him now revealed this to be an unacceptably intellectualist formulation. The theorization of the "revolutionary politics" of the liberation movements in Lusophone Africa is to be found in such texts as Cabral's Return to the Source ( 1973) and Mondlane's The Struggle for Mozambique ( 1969). To tum from a novel like Why Are We So Blest? to either of these texts is immediately to appreciate the significance of the Lusophone developments in sparking the collapse of the way of thinking about postcolonialism


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 represented by radical African intellectuals like Armah in the late 1960s and early 1970s. For where Armah casts intellectualism in decidedly dualistic terms as a cancer that can only be cured through an abandonment of (reactionary) theory for (revolutionary) practice, Cabral, by contrast, speaks of intellectuals not generically, but in terms of their politicality. By his reckoning, revolutionary intellectualism is not only feasible, it is indispensable. Certainly he concedes that "the majority of colonized intellectuals" accommodate themselves to "the colonizer's mentality." 2 8 However, he avoids the pitfall of generalizing simplification here: while a majority of colonized intellectuals embrace the social ethic of assimilation, a minority resists such recuperation. For Cabral this minority plays a decisive role. It is not enough, however, that its members should define themselves in their radicalism as antiimperialist. In order for them to "unclass" or, in Cabral's words, to "reconvert" themselves, it is necessary for them to take their place alongside those with whom they wish to identify: "A reconversion of minds ... may take place before the struggle, but it is completed only during the course of the struggle, through daily contact with the popular masses in the communion of sacrifice required by the struggle" (RS 45). In Why Are We So Blest? Modin, too, desires nothing more than to place himself among "the popular masses" in the struggle. But between Modin's understanding and Cabral's there is all the difference in the world. For Modin, the act of "reconversion" looms as a process of "de-intellectualization." He expresses a desire not to assume a position of leadership in the struggle, but to contribute on the ground level, as it were, as a freedom fighter undifferentiated from other freedom fighters. Although this gesture is intended by Modin as a strike against elitism, it can, from Cabral's perspective, only be interpreted as an abrogation of responsibility. This is because in Cabral's work the relationship between "reconverted" radical intellectuals and "popular masses" is theorized as a properly dialectical one, whose revolutionary productivity consists precisely in its tension. Thus, Cabral insists that the liberation movement must "base its action in popular culture" (RS 47). This means that it is necessary for the leaders of the movement-" drawn generally," as Cabral notes, "from the 'petite bourgeoisie' ... or the urban working class" (RS 54)-not only to speak "on behalf of" and to "side with" the "popular masses" of their compatriots (most of whom are peasants), but also to commit themselves to living among these "masses," to get to know at first hand both the material conditions under which they live and the manner in which these conditions are experienced, endured, adjusted to, and resisted by them. Simultaneously, however, he insists that the liberation movement must not simply re-present the culture of "the masses" but must strive, rather, to channel it, to shape its articulation as revolutionary national culture: "the liberation movement must be capable of distinguishing within


After the Break [popular culture] ... the essential from the secondary, the positive from the negative, the progressive from the reactionary in order to characterize the master line which defines progressively a national culture" (RS 47-48). Living among the peasant masses, the leaders of the national liberation movement must not only "come to know the people better" (RS 54) they must also seek to change "the people," to promote their "political and moral awareness" (RS 5 5) by way of reconciling "the people's" consciousness with that of the movement. As Cabral puts it in a famous passage that recalls the revolutionary optimism ofFanon's writings without, however, participating in the messianic register of the Fanonian discourse: The leaders of the liberation movement ... having to live day by day with the various peasant groups in the heart of the rural populations, come to know the people better. They discover at the grass roots the richness of their cultural values ... , acquire a clearer understanding of the economic realities of the country, of the problems, sufferings and hopes of the popular masses. The leaders realize, not without a certain astonishment, the richness of spirit, the capacity for reasoned discussion and clear exposition of ideas, the facility for understanding and assimilating concepts on the part of population groups who yesterday were forgotten, if not despised, and who were considered incompetent by the colonizer and even by some nationals ... On their side, the working masses and, in particular, the peasants who are usually illiterate and never have moved beyond the boundaries of their village or region, in contact with other groups lose the complexes which constrained them in their relationships with other ethnic and social groups. They realize their crucial role in the struggle; they break the bonds of the village universe to integrate progressively into the country and the world; they acquire an infinite amount of new knowledge, useful for their immediate and future activity within the framework of the struggle, and they strengthen their political awareness by assimilating the principles of national and social revolution postulated by the struggle. They thereby become more able to play the decisive role of providing the principal force behind the liberation movement. [RS 54]

Throughout Africa, the remarkable success enjoyed by such liberation movements as PAIGC, FRELIMO (Frente de Libertafao de Mofambique) and ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union), beginning in the late 1960s and leading to independence in the 1970s, decisively undermined the


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 prevailing defeatism of radical thought about decolonization and postcolonialism, overturning extremism and its propensity to totalize. Attention shifted from totalistic considerations of collaboration and resistance, continuity and change, to more subtle and nuanced inquiries into "the teeming and refractory particulars" of everyday life in specific and concretely defined African communities. 29 Of crucial importance here was the deflection of attention away from the urban elites and onto different categories of social actor: the peasantry, the proletariat, the unemployed, the hungry, the uprooted and dispossessed. The theory of neocolonialism itself came under attack; not, as had always been the case, from the political right, but from the left. Hitherto the concept of neocolonialism had been invoked to draw attention to the continuing imperial domination of Africa in the postcolonial era. Such invocations had had the effect of casting Africa (and its popular masses and radical intellectuals) in the by-now-traditional role of victim to external forces-a role that, in spite of its passivity, proved perversely attractive to African intellectuals of the 1960s, since it allowed them at least to shift the blame for Africa's continuing woes onto metropolitan and imperial agents. Now, however, a number of theorists moved to contest the authority of this understanding of neocolonialism. In an article entitled "Neo-Colonialism, State Capitalism, or Revolution?" for instance, Archie Mafeje argued that the prevailing view of neocolonialism was imprecise and unhistorical: The term "neo-colonialism" is dangerous in its ambiguity. It suggests both change and continuity and the qualitative difference between the two is often lost in undue emphasis on the latter. While neo-colonialism can be rightly regarded as a revision of forms and methods of control to maintain the old dependency relations, it is equally important to bear in mind that it is within the competence of independent governments to counteract such manoeuvres. Wherefore, historically and qualitatively, a distinction must be made between colonialism, which was an unmitigated imposition, and neo-colonialism, which is a contractual relationship even if accompanied by very severe constraints. 30 The implications of Mafeje's argument were clear. Not only was it necessary to draw a distinction between colonialism and neocolonialism, but it seemed to him both inaccurate and, more importantly, politically counterproductive for intellectuals to so dwell on the enormity of imperialism as to render oppositional practice futile even in prospect. This was not to say that the palpable and damaging effects of empire ought to be ignored. Rather, it was to urge that contemplation of them not be allowed to cripple counter-hegemonic activity in advance. As Ezekiel Mphahlele argued in Voices in the Whirlwind ( 196 7):


After the Break It is quite true that neo-colonialism is with us, full and strong. But there

is a considerably large area of choice for the African. He can revolutionize his educational system, set his own standards, cut loose from Christianity and Islam altogether or liberate them in such a way that they cannot recognize themselves anymore, create a climate for the release of his cultural and creative energies ... In so much of Africa the black man does not want to choose: he is afraid of seeing his real personality. He does not even realize that he can use modem technology to promote an indigenous culture.31 This questioning of dominant paradigms and modes of thinking also proved decisive within the field ofliterature, where it prompted a wholesale and fundamental reconceptualization, on the part of established and new writers alike, of cultural politics and artistic methods and priorities. The questions that had been at the heart of Armah's novels of postcolonialism, concerning betrayal and disillusionment, intellectual responsibility, and mass political demobilization, had also informed such novels as Chinua Achebe's A Man of the People ( 1966), Kofi Awoonor's This Earth, My Brother (1971), Gabriel Okara's The Voice (1964), Lenrie Peters's The Second Round ( 1965), Robert Serumaga's Return to the Shadows ( 1969), and Wole Soyinka's The Interpreters ( 1965). In these works, and many others like them, writers had moved in expressive and sympathetic fashion to identify and deplore social injustices in postcolonial societies, and even, on occasion, to call for the revolutionary transformation of these societies. Achebe and Soyinka, the most "visible" of this group of writers during the 1960s, had also written extensively about African literature and society, calling explicitly for a literature of social engagement. For all the manifest progressivism of this writing of the 1960s, however, it had remained caught up, in ideological terms, within the class project of the national bourgeoisies of the various postcolonial societies. It was not only that, in spite of its patent commitment to questions of intellectual accountability and social regeneration, the writing had tended to focus centrally (and often exclusively) on the situation of intellectuals and other members of the political elite in the postcolonial universe. It was also that, in the literary and critical works even of authors like Soyinka, Achebe-and Armah-no matter how admirable or ideologically progressive, it had always been possible to discern a residual strain of class arrogance. Starting in the mid- l 960s, however, this "intellectualist" address of most of the writing of the first years of independence began to be subjected to radical critique. In an important article of 1966, for instance, entitled "Wole Soyinka, T. M. Aluko and the Satiric Voice," Ngiigi wa Thiong'o argued that in spite of the breadth of Soyinka's social canvas, and the integrity of its critique of political abuses, the Nigerian author's work was marred by stasis and abstraction-defects, Ngiigi maintained, that derived from the margin204

Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 alization of "ordinary people" in Soyinka's drama and in his novel, The Interpreters: Confronted with the impotence of the elite, the corruption of those steering the ship of State and those looking after its organs of justice, Wole Soyinka does not know where to turn ... Soyinka's good man is the uncorrupted individual: his liberal humanism leads him to admire an individual's lone act of courage, and thus often he ignores the creative struggle of the masses. The ordinary people, workers and peasants, in his plays remain passive watchers on the shore or pitiful comedians on the road. Although Soyinka exposes his society in breadth, the picture he draws is static, for he fails to see the present in the historical perspective of conflict and struggle. It is not enough for the African artist, standing aloof, to view society and highlight its weaknesses. He must try to go beyond this, to seek out the sources, the causes and the trends of a revolutionary struggle ... which, though suffering temporary reaction, is continuous and is changing the face of the twentieth century. 32 The central problem with the type of postcolonial writing of which The Interpreters was such a sympathetic example, Ngugi suggested (the same argument could have been made with respect to Achebe's A Man of the People), was that it was only able to pose the question of the failures of the postcolonial regimes. It was not able to suggest ways of reversing these failures. Of great importance, in Ngugi's critique, was his identification of a class distance between Soyinka as intellectual and the "ordinary people" represented not only marginally but as marginal in his work. In all of Soyinka's writing of the 1960s, fictional and nonfictional, we encounter what, following Ngugi's lead, we might describe as an elitist and self-justifying conceptualization of intellectualism. Such a conceptualization received manifest formulation in 1967, when, in a celebrated address delivered at a conference in Sweden, Soyinka spoke of the historic role of the African artist as "the record of the mores and experience of his society and as the voice of vision in his own time."3 3 Soyinka was immediately and appropriately criticized, at this conference, for rather grandiosely overestimating the significance of writers in society. Lewis Nkosi argued that it was quixotic in the context of postcolonial Africa to attempt to retrieve or refunction an essentially Romantic (not to say, Western) conception of artists as the "unacknowledged legislators" of the world. Writers, Nkosi mused drily, "can have a fantastic capacity both for self-deception and for sheer inability to understand what is very clear.'' 34 To Nkosi, it seemed merely tautological to urge writers to be the bearers of a vision: "Every writer has a vision. Otherwise I do not see what he is doing writing."35 Beneath the ultimately secondary matter of Soyinka's hypostatization of 205

After the Break cultural creation, however, lay the more weighty question of the social assumptions borne by African writers in social situations similar to Soyinka's own during the 1960s. For Soyinka was by no means alone in retaining throughout the decade an elitist presumption as to the uniquely privileged, hence uniquely portentous and significant, role of intellectuals in the postcolonial social process. Consider, for instance, the following passage, from Chinua Achebe's essay "The Novelist as Teacher," written in 1965: Here then is an adequate revolution for me to espouse-to help my society regain belief in itself and put away the complexes of the years of denigration and self-abasement. And it is essentially a question of education, in the best sense of that word. Here, I think, my aims and the deepest aspirations of my society meet. For no thinking African can escape the pain of the wound in our soul ... The writer cannot expect to be excused from the task ofre-education and regeneration that must be done. In fact he should march right in front. For he is after all ... the sensitive point of his community. 36 This is an extremely well-known passage, whose fame is at least partially a testament to its effectiveness. In it, Achebe economically and eloquently espouses a literature of commitment, one devoted to the progressive transformation of African society. Yet we should look closely at what is revealed in Achebe's rationalization of "teaching" as a fit vocation for the African novelist. The reader will have noticed that Achebe himself declares that there is a need for such "teachers"; that he determines that what is "taught" should relate to cultural retrieval; that he stipulates who stands to gain from his "lessons"; that he finds himself qualified to "teach." His stance here is presumptuous and uncritical, even if it is not necessarily authoritarianeven, as a matter of fact, if it is actually progressive. Too much rests on his mere presumption that in what he outlines, "my aims and the deepest aspirations of my society meet." When we sound these words today, it is impossible for us not to hear in them the echo of that bourgeois nationalist discourse which Frantz Fanon had criticized in The Wretched of the Earth as falsely maintaining its identity with "the innermost hopes of the whole people." 37 The critical point here is not only that there is a separation between Achebe as socially conscious intellectual and "the whole people." Also of fundamental importance is that Achebe does not seem to see this separation as an alienation, reflecting the divergence between his social aspirations and those of "the whole people," but only as a distance, something that, with the right training, "the people" could reduce and ultimately make disappear. Achebe's assumption here, it seems, is that the substance of his progressivism does not stand in need of verification at the hands of "the people." And it is in this assumption, ultimately, that the strain of class arrogance in his thought inheres.


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 It was precisely against such representations that Ngiigi moved to take up a revolutionary position on the place of the writer in postcolonial society. Responding to Soyinka's Swedish address, thus, Ngiigi spoke of the need for African writers not merely to speak on behalf of "the people" but, more concretely and decisively, "in the terms of" "the people." As he put it: When we, the black intellectuals, the black bourgeoisie, got the power, we never tried to bring about those policies which would be in harmony with the needs of the peasants and workers. I think that it is time that the African writers also started to talk in the terms of these workers and peasants.3s This declaration proved to be of epochal significance in the development of a radical aesthetic in African literature. Well in advance of the majority of his fellow African writers, Ngiigi had diagnosed the crisis of consciousness in progressive African thought for what it was and moved to take the measure of liberation struggles in the Lusophone African colonies and elsewhere in the world-South East Asia, Latin America-by advocating a "(re)tum to the people" on the part of radical writers. Such a (re)tum, Ngiigi theorized, could not possibly be grounded on the terrain of the prevailing radical way of thinking about postcolonialism. Its radicalism notwithstanding, the latter was a terrain within the larger universe of African middle-class ideology. Instead, Ngiigi moved to advocate a decisive break with middle-class intellectualism. Where Chinua Achebe, thus, had spoken of the responsible writer as an educator, whose task it was to guide "the people," Ngiigi now took a leaf out of Cabral's notebook and called upon writers not only to act in solidarity with "the people's" interests but to position themselves directly among these "people" -and not, as though that were an entitlement, at their head. For he argued that African writers could only truly hope to serve their greater communities if they first "unclassed" themselves. The conscious repudiation by writers of their class of ascription was an indispensable precondition of their legitimacy as representatives of "the people's" interest; only through means of such a repudiation could the forging of "a regenerative link with the people" be consolidated.39

In the search, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, for a more concretely committed, less elitist, more accessible African literature, the work of Ousmane Sembene of Senegal proved to be of pathbreaking significance. The real importance of Sembene's work lay in the daring simplicity of its overall conception. Even in his early work, dating back to the 1950s,


After the Break Sembene had broken radically with the urban, intellectual biases prevailing in African literature. His most celebrated novel, God's Bits of Wood ( 1960), had taken as its central focus a major railroad strike that had occurred in French West Africa in the late 1940s. Scrupulously avoiding abstraction or grand theorizing, it had devoted itself to a very close and concrete exploration of the material effect of the strike on the lives of a number of peoplemen, women, and children, strikers and strikebreakers, beggars and small traders, and proletarian activists-living and working in various communities along the thousand-mile rail line between Bamako and Dakar. Through this means, Sembene had been able to convey immediately and compellingly a sense of the movement of ideas in time, and of the intersection between thought and action in political events. Where other African writers might have spoken about the politicization of the laboring classes, Sembene, a self-proclaimed Marxist, had made this process the very subject of his novel, addressing it not simply as a series of external events but phenomenologically, as in the following passage, with an eye to its human and conceptual implications: And so the strike came to Thies ... The days passed, and the nights. In this country, the men often had several wives, and it was perhaps because of this that, at the beginning, they were scarcely conscious of the help the women gave them. But soon they began to understand that, here, too, the age to come would have a different countenance. When a man came back from a meeting, with bowed head and empty pockets, the first things he saw were always the unfired stove, the useless cooking vessels, the bowls and gourds ranged in a comer, empty. Then he would seek the arms of his wife, without thinking, or caring, whether she was the first or the third. And seeing the burdened shoulders, the listless walk, the women became conscious that a change was coming for them as well. But if they were beginning to feel closer to the lives of their men, what was happening to the children? In this country, they were many, so many that they were seldom counted. But now they were there, idling in the courtyards or clinging to the women's waistcloths, their bones seeming naked, their eyes deep-sunk, and on their lips a constant, heart-bruising question: "Mother, will there be something to eat today?" ... The days were mournful, and the nights were mournful, and the simple mewling of a cat set people trembling. One morning a woman rose and wrapped her cloth firmly around her waist and said, "Today, I will bring back something to eat." And the men began to understand that if the times were bringing forth a new breed of men; they were also bringing forth a new breed of women. 40


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 In his subsequent work (he is also one of Africa's most acclaimed film directors) Sembene has continued to give prominence to the dispossessed strata of modem African society. His novels, stories, and films represent landless peasants, slum dwellers without work, beggars and aged people for whom nothing is assured, not even their own survival. By drawing attention to the daily struggles of this "invisible" multitude-invisible, that is, to the architects of African "modernization" -Sembene is able not only to show that they are casualties of the existing order, but also, subtly but unmistakably, to hint at their potential revolutionary impact on society, latent in the first instance in their sheer numbers. In its range and orientation, much of the literature that has emerged in Africa since 1970 clearly takes the work of Sembene as its inspiration and point of departure. Three distinct though frequently overlapping strains in this "new" literature warrant specific mention here. The first of these strains consists in a naturalist idiom that might be labeled "street-wise." Young writers such as Dambudzo Marechera of Zimbabwe, and Thomas Akare and Meja Mwangi of Kenya, characteristically write about the lives of beggars and squatters, the unemployed and underemployed members of a vast African lumpenproletariat camping in the sprawling ghettos that have mushroomed around the edges of large cities throughout the continent. 41 The temper of their writing tends to be pragmatic and brutally matter-offact, as in this passage from Mwangi's Going Down River Road (1976): [Ocholla] leads Ben into an alleyway, past a heap of excrement, Ben wonders who squats here and when. They emerge in a dark back street that smells of dust though it is wet. This leads into another lane that in tum vomits them into River Road. The place is crowded with its usual mass of haunted, hungry faces, poverty-hypnotised faces, hateful faces, and the fragrant stink of unwashed bodies and burst sewers. Though most shops are closed down, the ghostly wanderers are still here. This is one place where there will still be people left after doomsday. They have survived repeated police cleanups. They can take anything.42 In its deliberately unromantic quality, this kind of writing is far removed from various attempts made during the 1960s to "capture" the pulse of life on the streets of Lagos, Nairobi, or Lusaka-one thinks, for example, of a novel like The Gab Boys ( 196 7) by the Ghanaian writer Cameron Duodu. Beneath the deceptively casual register of Mwangi's prose, there is evident a sharp under-edge of anger, exploding occasionally into harshness. The particular power of Mwangi's work, like that of other writers of his idiom, lies in its understated naturalism. The sparseness of his writing is peculiarly subversive: like the characters whose lives are described in it, its lean and hungry energy threatens the established order with insurrection. A second strain of writing to have emerged since 1970 in African fiction is


After the Break

social (and sometimes socialist) realist in tendency. Represented by such "new" writers as Festus Iyayi of Nigeria, Mongane Serote of South Africa, and Aminata Sow Fall of Senegal, this strain is closely related to the naturalist idiom of Mwangi and Marechera, but is more explicitly and sustainedly political in tone. Sow Fall's second novel, The Beggars' Strike ( 1979), is particularly interesting in this respect. Like much of Ousmane Sembene's work, it centers on the plight of the huge but marginalized and dispossessed stratum of urban postcolonial society composed of beggars, the disabled, and the unemployed. The strike referred to in the novel's title is precipitated when a government minister resolves to remove all beggars from the streets of the capital city of an unnamed African nation. The presence of these beggars, it seems, is bad for business and tourism! Like Sembene's Xala ( 1974), The Beggars' Strike reveals the greed and corruption of the postcolonial elite; more important than this, however, it focuses on the extent to which the political system upheld by this elite is not working. The dispossessed masses in the novel have been spawned by this system: recruited by it, used, exploited, and now neglected by it, they are its casualties. Responsibility for their immiseration therefore rests with the elite who administer this system. This point is made tellingly by Sow Fall in her novel. 43 A third strain in the "new" writing from Africa might, with some caution, be characterized as feminist. Composed for the most part, though by no means exclusively, by women writers, it, too, typically roots itself, in diverse ways, in the experiences of hardship and dispossession. Often it addresses itself to the lives of men and women in poor peasant communities, where its concern is to convey an impression of the felt reality of everyday life. The writing of Bessie Head is exemplary in this respect. As Lewis Nkosi has pointed out with respect to her first novel, When Rain Clouds Gather ( 1969), Head's great achievement is to have offered a superbly focused portrait of what is involved and what it means to live at a particular time in a particular place, within the constraints of particular social relationships: This bleak, attentive study of a small community of a mere four hundred people, situated in a dusty, arid Botswana village, a people struggling to improve its agricultural techniques in food production but mercilessly torn by petty conflict and self-seeking ambition, contains an admirable range of characters ... drawn with an exquisitely sure touch and amazing self-confidence, by a novelist who is not after all a native of the country. Similarly, the evocation of the sun-parched waste of Botswana, with an occasional desert "bloom" such as the village of Golema Mmidi; the slow almost imperceptible changes of the seasons and the unhurried accumulation of the physical details of everyday life, these are just some of the achievements of this South African novelist. This


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 materiality of everyday existence happens to be the most difficult thing to achieve in a novel; and yet recreating in fiction the microcosm of the larger social world, and breathing a new life into the harshly familiar and the unrelentingly dull, is what writing novels used to be about; Bessie Head manages her task with immense skill and sympathy.44 Bessie Head's work is focused more on the shifting tensions between gender and culture systems than it is on the politics of postcolonialism. This has led such otherwise sympathetic critics as Nkosi to argue that she "is not a political novelist in any sense that we can recognise."45 The truth, however, is that the work of Head and of such feminist African writers as Flora Nwapa and Buchi Emecheta (both Nigerian), is differently political than that of their more established male counterparts, not less so. Head's writing is not unpolitical; it is fiercely committed to a politics oflocalism: small-scale, decentered, heterogeneous, agrarian, egalitarian, flexible, opportunistic. Such a politics, though, stands opposed to the grand recit of national liberation struggle that constitutes the dominant narrative mode of political fiction in Africa. With so many African women excluded from the arena of political power-not only before independence but equally since-we must wonder whether the specter of "national liberation" could ever have held for women the symbolic resonance that it has clearly held for men. In Head's short story "The Wind and a Boy," independence announces itself to the rural village of Ga-Sefete-Molemo in the form of a truck belonging to a member of "the new, rich civil-servant class." Driven too fast and without brakes, this truck runs over and kills a boy from the village. Head concludes her story: "And thus progress, development, and a pre-occupation with status and living-standards first announced themselves to the village. It looked like being an ugly story with many decapitated bodies on the main road." 46 From the perspective of women and the lower strata of African societies, this conclusion might be taken to possess general validity. Other African writers in the "feminist" idiom concern themselves not with peasant or proletarian communities, but with the contradictory status of middle-class women, simultaneously privileged (by virtue of their class position) and subordinated (by virtue of their gender). In Nuruddin Farah's Sardines (1981) and Mariama Ba's So Long a Letter ( 1980), we are shown the huge discrepancy that exists between the protagonists' relative social mobility as middle-class and as female subjects. As middle-class subject in Ba's novel, for instance, Ramatoulaye is able to write that It was the privilege of our generation to be the link between two

periods in our history, one of domination, the other of independence. We remained young and efficient, for we were the messengers of a new design. With independence achieved, we witnessed the birth of a republic, the birth of an anthem and the implantation of a flag. 47


After the Break Ramatoulaye's political position here is squarely that of bourgeois nationalism. In this respect it is fundamentally different from that of the altogether more radical and theoretically sophisticated Medina in Farah's novel. Yet both positions are reflective of intellectual mobility, a function of the middle-class status of their exponents. This mobility contrasts with the constraints under which Ramatoulaye and Medina are both obliged to labor as women in their respective societies. As female subject, thus, Ramatoulaye is repeatedly made aware of "the slender liberty granted to women." 48 As middle-class subject she had experienced independence as a time of emancipation and achievement; as female subject, she is obliged to recognize, upon her husband's death, that for women nothing has changed: This is the moment dreaded by every Senegalese woman, the moment when she sacrifices her possessions as gifts to her family-in-law; and, worse still, beyond her possessions she gives up her personality, her dignity, becoming a thing in the service of the man who has married her, his grandfather, his grandmother, his father, his mother, his brother, his sister, his uncle, his aunt, his male and female cousins, his friends. 49 For all the power of their work, however, writers such as Mwangi, Sow Fall, and Farah have not been the major strategists of the "new" writing that has come to the fore in Africa since 1970. This role has fallen to writers like Sembene and Ngiigi who were already active during the 1960s, and to other well-established writers, like the radical Cameroonian Mongo Beti, who, having stopped writing in the late 1950s, took up the pen again in 1972, publishing three novels in the period between 1974 and 1979. 5 0 But it was not simply the fact that these authors continued to publish in the 1970s that was important; rather, it was that between their work of the 1960s and their work of the 1970s, a fundamental revaluation of formal and artistic priorities and political tactics seemed to have taken place. It was in the work ofNgiigi wa Thiong'o that these changes in the fields of vision of African writing in the 1960s and the 1970s were most obviously apparent. In some respects, it is useful to compare Ngiigi with Sembene, at least to the extent that of all the African writers writing in English during the 1960s, Ngiigi showed the greatest sensitivity to and awareness of the plight of the peasantry and laboring classes. Even in his early work-in such novels as Weep Not, Child ( 1964) and The River Between ( 1965)-he focused not on the activity of urban elites but on local, rural responses to colonialism in Kenya. In his third novel, A Grain of Wheat, published in 1967, he painted an unforgettable picture of the depredations and hardships endured by the rural population during the years of the Emergency in Kenya, between 1952 and 1956, when thousands of Kenyan men and women took to the forests to join the "Land and Freedom" armies fighting against the British colonial government. 212

Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 Yet although in A Grain of Wheat Ngiigi was writing about the Kenyan peasantry and about peasant experience during the Emergency, it can be seen in retrospect that the novel was very much a work of the "break" between one determinate way of thinking about postcolonialism and another. A Grain of Wheat is situated on the border between a messianic and intellectualist field of vision, by the late 1960s representing decolonization as a failure, and a more concretely committed socialism, casting the decolonizing process in similarly radical but more soberly material and historical terms. The novel leaves the reader with an image of hope, embodied in Gikonyo's carving of a stool in the shape of a pregnant woman, but also with the fear that, as represented, the victory of British colonialism will prove to have been a Pyrrhic one. It would only be in his fourth novel, Petals of Blood ( 1977)-a novel that it would take him seven full years to writethat Ngiigi would be able to find a less intellectualist register for his new political sensibility. And even here, in the formulaic quality of the final pages, in which the specter of proletarian internationalism is rather implausibly seen to be arising in the collective political imagination of Kenyan workers and peasants, there is the suggestion of a residual intellectualism. Nevertheless, in several respects, Petals of Blood is definitive of the new politically committed writing that has emerged in Africa since 1970. Set mostly in the countryside, it portrays a community struggling against an environment that a combination of factors have contrived to render sterile and harsh: drought and desertification, colonial neglect and despoiliation, postcolonial mismanagement and venality. To the members of this commu nity, independence is only a word: its substantive impact on their lives has been virtually nonexistent. Between these villagers and an authentic independence there stand daunting obstacles-economic, historical, political psychological. Yet through the whole novel there is Ngiigi's insistence upon the transformability of existing conditions. Meaningful social change will come, he suggests: perhaps not tomorrow nor the next day, nor even the day after that, but still it will come, for "the peasants, aided by the workers, small traders and small landowners ... ha[ve] mapped out the path" for themselves to follow.51 Ngiigi has, of course, not only declared his commitment to a revolutionary conception of intellectualism; he has attempted to put it into practice. Increasingly convinced of the need to address the failures of postcolonial government in Kenya in terms of a class struggle between an indigenous bourgeoisie buttressed by and representing the interests of metropolitan capitalism, on the one hand, and the masses of the peasant and working classes, on the other, he has sought to forge and institutionalize alliances between workers, peasants, and radical intellectuals in the general cause of anti-imperialism. While still teaching at the University of Nairobi in the early 1970s, he helped to found the Kamiriithu Educational, Cultural and Community Centre, which devoted itself to programs of community de213

After the Break velopment, adult literacy, and the like. Gearing his literary production to the needs of the Centre's membership, Ngtlgi resolved to write not in English but in Gikuyu, and to turn his hand from the form of the novel to that of workshop theater. Since this move was designed precisely to combat the prevailing Romantic conceptions of the writer as a privileged and uniquely sensitive member of society-since, in fact, it sought to demolish the ideologically constructed gaps, not only between "critical" and "creative" labor, but, even more ambitiously, between mental and manual labor-it is perhaps not surprising that Ngtlgi should have incurred the wrath of the postcolonial authorities in Kenya. Ngtlgi was imprisoned without charge for almost a year in 1978, stripped of his position as Chair of the Department of Literature at the University of Nairobi, and has subsequently been obliged to seek exile in Britain. With grim irony, he has pointed out that it is today dangerous for African writers to attempt to represent the realities they daily encounter. From the point of view of officialdom, it would seem that what is required of African writers is that they continue to hurl abuse at colonialism while euphemizing the authoritarianism of different postcolonial regimes under the rubric of "nation building": When I myself used to write plays and novels that were only critical of the racism in the colonial system, I was praised. I was awarded prizes, and my novels were in the syllabus. But when toward the seventies I started writing in a language understood by peasants, and in an idiom understood by them and I started questioning the very foundations of imperialism and of foreign domination of Kenyan economy and culture, I was sent to Kamiti Maximum Security Prison.5 2 Since the late 1960s, Ngtlgi has moved to redefine the situation of writers along the axis of class solidarity rather than, romantically, through reference to the mysteries of "vision" or "imagination." He insists that the responsibility of African writers cannot be assessed separately from that of other categories of intellectual; and that the responsibility of intellectuals cannot be assessed without addressing the larger and more embracing questions of national culture and political justice. In these terms it seems obvious that the attempt to silence such writers as Ngtlgi (or Sembene, or Beti, or Farah, or Jack Mapanje) must be understood as one strand within a wider crisis of legitimacy in the era of postcolonialism, and that, in spite of the brutal tactics employed by such states as Kenya and Somalia, and such rulers as Ahmadou Ahidjo and Hastings Banda, this crisis not only cannot be "done away with" through repressive state measures, no matter how terroristic, but is actually intensifying through every resort to such measures. As Ngtlgi notes,


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 Today questioning the presence of foreign military bases and personnel ... on Kenyan soil is disloyalty. Questioning colonialism is sedition. Teaching the history of the Kenyan people's resistance to colonialism is sedition. Theatrical exposure of colonial culture is sedition. Questioning the exploitation and oppression of peasants and workers is Marxism and hence treason. Questioning corruption in high places is sedition. 53 Ngflgi is exemplary of the new generation of African writers because he has, characteristically, been able to draw defiant lessons from his persecution at the hands of the Kenyan state. It is not, as he has repeatedly pointed out since his detention, that he would "wish the experience of prison" on any other writer. And yet, "To be arrested for the power of your writing is one of the highest compliments an author can be paid." 54 The point is that, in a neocolonial state such as Kenya, it is often only through persecution or imprisonment that a writer can indeed forge a "regenerative link with the people." In his prison memoir, Detained, Ngflgi recalls that in the first week of his incarceration in 1978, he encountered Wasonga Sijeyo, a fellow inmate at Kamiti Prison, who told him: "It may sound a strange thing to say to you, but in a sense I am glad they brought you here. The other day ... we were saying that it would be a good thing for Kenya if more intellectuals were imprisoned. First, it would wake most of them from their illusions. And some of them might outlive jail to tell the world." 55 Certainly, Ngflgi has lived to "tell the world." And, as he would be the first to acknowledge, he is less and less alone.

What, then, of Ayi Kwei Armah? I have said that Why Are We So represented a dead end in African literature, but that, precisely because of its extremism, it helped to throw into clear relief the overwhelmingly defeatist quality of progressive thought in Africa at the end of the 1960s. How did Armah respond to the renewal of the discourse of national liberation in the early 1970s? To what extent has his subsequent writing worked itself free of the cannibalistic intellectualism of Why Are We So Blest? Has his subsequent writing retained the pertinence and thrust of his first three novels? Armah's fourth novel, Two Thousand Seasons, was published just one year after Why Are We So Blest? Merely to open it, however, is immediately to appreciate the distance that separates it not only from Why Are We So Blest? but from all three of Armah's novels of postcolonialism. It is clear that the fundamental revaluation of formal priorities and artistic goals that had been



After the Break preoccupying writers like Ngugi wa Thiong' o and Sembene Ousmane in the late 1960s and early 1970s had been preoccupying Armah as well. Here is how the narrative of Two Thousand Seasons opens: We are not a people of yesterday. Do they ask how many single seasons we have flowed from our beginnings till now? We shall point them to the proper beginning of their counting. On a clear night when the light of the moon has blighted the ancient woman and her seven children, on such a night tell them to go alone into the world. There, have them count first the one, then the seven, and after the seven all the other stars visible to their eyes alone. After that beginning they will be ready for the sand. Let them seek the sealine. They will not have to ponder where to start. Have them count the sand. Let them count it grain from single grain. And after they have reached the end of that counting we shall not ask them to number the raindrops in the ocean. But with the wisdom of the aftermath have them ask us again how many seasons have flowed by since our people were unborn.5 6 Armah's style here is designed to approximate the oral delivery of ancestral community poets, and the new style serves a new substance. For in Two Thousand Seasons the novelist attempts nothing less than a remythologization of African history. This exercise in myth making is no longer grounded in bitter reflection on the betrayal of "the African revolution" after independence. It is aimed, rather, toward restoring to Africans the right to construct their own truths in accordance with their own needs. In Two Thousand Seasons, as in The Healers, the question of postcolonialism is eschewed in favor of the larger question of African responses to all forms of alien domination, historically and in the conjuncture of the present. In his critical study Myth, Literature and the African World, Wole Soyinka addresses the project of Two Thousand Seasons under the rubric of "racial retrieval." In Soyinka's reading, Armah's novel emerges as a rejoinder and companion piece to Yambo Ouologuem's controversial Bound to Violence (1968). Ouologuem's novel, according to Soyinka, had derived its inspiration from the premise, developed in the writings of such African historians as Cheikh Anta Diop and Chancellor Williams, that the ruinous "exocentricity" of modern African culture-its ideological dependence upon outside standards and referents-had been enforced not by European penetration and subsequent colonialism alone, but also by the "Arab colonialism" that had preceded the European invasion of Africa by several centuries. In Bound to Violence, the collison between "African" and "Arab" cultures had been represented as quite as brutal and devastating in its effects as that later enacted between "Africa" and "Europe." Islam had figured in Bound to Violence not as an ethic inherently attuned to the temper of black


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 African sociality-as it had, for example, in Cheikh Hamidou Kane's Ambiguous Adventure ( 1962 )-but as a barbaric code forcibly visited upon defeated African communities by an alien conquering force. Any lingering supposition that Africa's embrace of Islam had amounted to a fluid indigenization had not so much been questioned as demolished by Ouologuem. As Soyinka notes: Ouologuem pronounces the Moslem incursion into black Africa to be corrupt, vicious, decadent, elitist and insensitive. At the least such a work functions as a wide swab in the deck-clearing operation for the commencement of racial retrieval. The thoroughness of its approachtotal and uncompromising rejection-can only lead to the question ... what was the authentic genius of the African world before the destructive alien intrusion?57

Bound to Violence had not concerned itself overmuch with this latter question. Because it had been devoted largely to a contestation-indeed, a deconstruction-of colonialist history (whether Arabo- or Euro-centric), it had been pre-eminently a negative text. And it is precisely this negativity, in Soyinka's view, that Armah attempts to invert in Two Thousand Seasons: Ouologuem takes no interest in presenting to the reader the values destroyed in this process [Arab colonialism]. The positive does not engage his re-creative attention, and what glimpse we obtain of the indigenous reality is presented within the undifferentiated context of the oppressed and the oppressor, the feudal overlord and slave ... A social condition in which Semites (though black and pre-Islamic) are overlords and negro-Africans the slaves still leaves the basic curiosity about black historic reality unsatisfied. Not until Ayi Kwei Armah's Two Thousand Seasons ... is this aspect attempted; but even there its validity is not predicated on objective truths so much as on the fulfilment of one of the social functions of literature: the visionary reconstruction of the past for the purposes of a social direction. 58 Building upon Soyinka's groundwork, Robert Fraser and Derek Wright have moved to explore the implications of the dissimilarities-ideological and stylistic-between Bound to Violence and Two Thousand Seasons. Ouologuem's text is mannered and multiply mediated: self-conscious and willfully provocative, it revels in its status as the work of an evolue even as it professes its loathing for the racist paternalism of white society toward the integrant. Two Thousand Seasons, by contrast, eschews dilettantism for thrust. It is "deeply committed to its subject matter," representing "an instance of litterature engagee at its most earnest.'' 59 As such it embodies an active, purposive component altogether beyond the reach of Bound to Violence. It is true that its modality-a visionary one-is still abstract. But this is


After the Break not necessarily to the novel's discredit. For if it be granted, as we have seen not only Armah but also Soyinka and Achebe arguing, that among the ideological constraints to anti-imperial action are those pertaining to a "massive communal inferiority complex," 60 on the part of huge sectors of African populations-an inferiority complex embedded in the psyche of such populations over the violent course of the last millennium-then the restorative value of a coherent, Afrocentric mythology of the past, such as Two Thousand Seasons sets out to construct, might be considerable. As Armah himself has written, in a recent poem entitled "Seed time": ... but what are myths and paradigms but psychic feet and hands projected through the universe to help us move from what happened to us to what we need to be?61 Read in this light, Two Thousand Seasons might be represented as embodying one projected "solution," on Armah's part, to the crisis of intellectualism sparked by the collapse of the prevailing radical way of thinking about postcolonialism in Africa and elsewhere at the end of the 1960s, a crisis that had itself been both reflected and compounded in Why Are We So Blest? In considering the substance of this projected solution, it is not necessary to analyze Two Thousand Seasons in any great detail, for I am concerned here only with its difference from Armah's novels ofpostcolonialism, and with the implications of this difference. The work opens with a prologue that serves to introduce its sustaining motifs: Springwater flowing to the desert, where you flow there is no regeneration. The desert takes. The desert knows no giving. To the giving water of your flowing it is not in the nature of the desert to return anything but destruction. Springwater flowing to the desert, your future is extinction. [ITS ix] The vatic quality of the prologue's prose reminds the reader of Naana's meditations in Fragments. Here, however, the sustaining register is neither melancholic nor resigned, but, on the contrary, purposive and self-assured. The narrative voice speaks not from a position of powerlessness or isolation, but from within a definite community. Its social groundedness is never in question. This marks a decisive break from Armah's three novels of postcolonialism: whereas they had been obsessed with the irremediable isolation of African intellectuals, Two Thousand Seasons explicitly repudiates the


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 premise of this irremediability. It insists that what it calls "our way"-the "African way"-has not been obliterated by the centuries of foreign domination but only repressed. The narrative voice of the prologue represents itself as belonging integrally to two concentric populations: that of the African people at large and that of the artist-visionaries who bear the historical wisdom of these African people. The latter category is specifically invoked in its relation to the former: You hearers, seers, imaginers, thinkers, rememberers, you prophets called to communicate truths of the living way to a people fascinated unto death, you called to link memory with forelistening, to join the uncountable seasons of our flowing to unknown tomorrows even more numerous, communicators doomed to pass on truths of our origins to a people rushing deathward, grown contemptuous in our ignorance of our source, prejudiced against our own survival, how shall your vocation's utterance be heard? This is life's race, but how shall we remind a people hypnotized by death? We have been so long following the falling sun, flowing to the desert, moving to our burial. [ITS ix-x] Two Thousand Seasons keeps faith with Armah's three novels of postcolonialism by portraying the vast majority of the African population as in thrall to "alien" ideologies: "All around us the world is drugged white in a deathly happiness while from under the falling sun powerful engines of noise and havoc emerge to swell the cacaphony. Against their crashing riot nothing whispered can be heard, nothing said" (ITS x). Similarly, as in the novels of postcolonialism, the reformist argument is dismissed. It is not possible to exercise creativity from within the "desert" of "alien" sociality, for the desert remains an elemental and essentially destructive agent:

No spring changes the desert. The desert remains; the spring runs dry. Not one spring, not thirty, not a thousand springs will change the desert. For that change floods, the waters of the universe in unison, flowing not to coax the desert but to overwhelm it, ending its regime of death, that, not a single perishable spring, is the necessity. [ITS xi] The essentialist language, in terms of which ideologies and social tendencies are cast as natural and viewed, accordingly, as unalterable, is reminiscent of that in Why Are We So Blest?; and, as in that novel, it is not only reformism that is rejected, but also integration. The "African way" is a vibrant, life-supporting ethic, embodying the social principles ofreciprocity; "alien" ideologies, by contrast, embody the principle of taking only, unmatched by giving: It is for the spring to give. It is for springwater to flow. But ifthe spring would continue to give and the springwater continue flowing, the desert is no direction. Along the desert road springwater is the sap of


After the Break young wood prematurely blazing, meant to carry life quietly, darkly from roots to farthest veins but abruptly betrayed into devouring light, converted to scalding pus hissing its own vessel's destruction. Along the desert road springwater is blood of a murdered woman when the sun leaves no shadow. [ITS xi] Two Thousand Seasons does not, in short, differ from Armah's novels of postcolonialism insofar as its diagnosis of imperial hegemony is concerned. Nor does it underestimate the difficulties of challenging, still less of destroying, the established order. Its separation from the novels of postcolonialism stems, rather, from its conception of resistance as a shared activity. In The Beautyful Ones, Fragments, and Why Are We So Blest? resistance had been phrased as a last-ditch and largely unavailing act of defiance on the part of lonely and despairing intellectuals. In Two Thousand Seasons (as in The Healers), by contrast, it is viewed as communitarian not only in tendency and prospect, but also in process. The subject of resistance to imperialism in Armah's fourth novel is not individual but plural, a "we-subject," reminiscent of that to be found in the verse of the black American poet Gwendolyn Brooks. 62 And, as Peter Nazareth has argued, the novel "not only shows us a people being exploited but also a people resisting exploitation and surviving, a few making sacrifices for the survival of the race and being remembered by the people."63 In Armah's first three novels, the burden of resistance to the established order had been impossibly heavy because it had had to be borne by solitary individuals, in isolation from one another, and constantly subject to selfdoubt and social obloquy. Invariably alone, they had often found themselves incapable of withstanding despair. In Two Thousand Seasons, despair is viewed as a selfish and ultimately indulgent frame of mind, deriving from a loss of historical perspective. The despairing individual is felt to have become alienated from his or her community. But this alienation is not, as in Why Are We So Blest?, held to be inescapable. Instead, it is registered as a mark of intellectual weakness. There is an antidote to the "poison" of assimilation: it is the practice of "remembrance," which consists in the attempt to construct the present as a gateway between the future and the past, to direct future action in terms of traditionally derived principles of social integrity:

The linking of those gone, ourselves here, those coming; our continuation, our flowing not along any meretricious channel but along our living way, the way: it is that remembrance that calls us. The eyes of seers should range far into purposes. The ears of hearers should listen far toward origins. The utterers' voice should make knowledge of the way, of heard sounds and visions seen, the voice of the utterers should make this knowledge inevitable, impossible to lose. [ITS xiii]


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 The relationship between the "hearers, seers, utterers" and the great majority of the African people thus begins to be framed. It is a relationship of some tension, between what Armah calls "creators" or "makers," on the one hand, and "finders," on the other. Without the "finders", the "creators" are powerless; without the "creators," the "finders" cannot hope to escape their servitude. Only through a symbiotic alliance between "creators" and "finders" can the prevailing hegemony be challenged. So entrenched has the imperial order become, that such an alliance appears, in the immediate future, to be unrealizable. But the fact that" [t]he reign of the destroyers has been long" (ITS xv), coupled with the fact that even during the harshest days of slavery and colonization "some yet remained among us unforgetful of origins, dreaming of secret dreams, seeing secret visions, hearing secret voices of our purpose" (ITS xv), contains within it the seeds of a permissible hope for a future collective emancipation. Courage can be drawn from those who, going before, resisted the institution of slavery and the consolidation of colonialism. Moreover, implicit in the idea of the continuity of resistance is the idea of a liberation eventually achieved. Hence not only the value, but the indispensability, of community. Nor is it simply a matter of waiting passively until the time comes that "the people" are ready to listen to "the voice informed with knowledge of the way, that voice whose utterance is inseparable from life" (ITS xvii). For in Two Thousand Seasons, "seeing," "hearing," and "uttering" are themselves phrased as contributions to the task of liberation. As the narrator puts it in the prologue: Would you lock your gift away in pallid silence? Know then that in the absence of the utterers' work the carnage will be long and pure, and not the wisest mind can in the absence of the utterers' work trace in all our flowing blood even one broken ring of meaning. For those returning, salvaging blistered selves from death, and those advancing all hypnotised by death, in the absence of the utterers' work what will they be but beasts devouring beasts, zombis fighting zombis, a continuation along the road of death in place of regeneration, the rediscovery of our way, the way? [ITS xvii-xviii] Measured against Armah's first three novels, thus, the central achievements of Two Thousand Seasons might be said to consist formally in its embrace of the idiom of orature and, at the level of textual ideology, in its formulation of resistance as a collective practice. Two Thousand Seasons overcomes the bitter defeatism of Why Are We So Blest? and retrieves the resistive ethic of The Beautyful Ones Are Not ~t Born and Fragments without inscribing itself, as they necessarily had, within the horizons of a messianic conception of postcolonialism: where the framing assumptions of the early novels had been messianic, those of Two Thousand Seasons are more defensi-


After the Break bly utopian-oriented, still, toward a revolutionary vision of social collectivity, but no longer fixated upon independence (or any other single historical event) as the moment of this vision's realization. In spite of this significant theoretical advance, Two Thousand Seasons is still manifestly limited by its retention of certain ideological premises deriving from Armah's earlier novels, and, above all, from the third of these, Why Are We So Blest?Two of these premises are worth mentioning briefly here. First, there is the matter of racial essentialism. Fraser has argued that because Two Thousand Seasons is not a realist novel, its evident "racialism" does not constitute an artistic liability: It will be said that this novel is evidently racialist, and therefore, as art,

invalid. The first part of that claim strikes me as true; the rest here not to follow from it. That ... Armah's point is a racial one there can be no doubt. In the context of a naturalistic narrative, such divisiveness is evidently a decisive flaw, and hence must be criticized. . . . In Two Thousand Seasons ... these objections do not apply, for the paradoxical reason that Armah carries his condemnation that little bit further, so that it no longer occupies the domain of realist art. We are in an altogether different terrain now, that appropriate to myth, legend, and racial memory. Ambivalence is not to be expected because we have transcended it, have either surmounted or side-stepped its possibilities in the necessary effort to provide a strong, healing mythology. 64 The distinction that Fraser draws here is not very helpful. So concerned is he to argue for the potential acceptability of "racialist" views in nonrealist works of literature, that he neglects to examine the political and theoretical consequences of Armah's racial essentialism. Although it is certainly true that Armah is engaged in the "effort to provide a strong, healing mythology," it is important not to mistake his project for his achievement. 65 "Armah's concern," Fraser writes, is to provide an overwhelming counteraction to the colonialist distortion of history. If, in the process, individuals other than the patients themselves are slighted, this has to be accepted: indeed, the wholesale condemnation of certain groups or classes is clearly permissible if from it there results an access of health or hope for those languishing under such a corrosive misunderstanding and mistrust of their own past. 66 "If from it there results" is a big "if," to whose conditional nature Fraser does not do justice. It seems to me that he is insufficiently alert to the reactionary implications-theoretical and practical-of essentialism as a mode of fictional discourse. Fraser suggests that these reactionary implications derive only from realist fiction. I disagree. Against this view, I would argue that the critique of racial essentialism that I brought to bear against Why Are We So


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970

Blest?, an ostensibly realist novel, in chapter 5, is equally applicable to the "mythological" Two Thousand Seasons. In both texts, Armah's racial essentialism is not clarifying, but instead simplifying and distorting, and not a spur to radicalism, but instead a soporific, whose ideological consequences are extremism, fatalism, and compounded mystification. A second problematical residue from Armah's first three novels that we find still in Two Thousand Seasons is a species of elitism, in terms of which a small cadre of politico-intellectuals ("creators" or "makers") are represented as a resistive force and the overwhelming majority of the African population are cast as the duped (if unwitting and ultimately unwilling) subjects of alien designs. Certainly, Two Thousand Seasons's resurrection of the question of responsible intellectualism-the question that had been central to Fragments-is noteworthy, especially after the false turn of Why Are We So Blest?. And yet, in representing the dynamics of subjection and resistance as one-dimensionally as he does, Armah not only renders his position unambiguous, he also renders it unreflexive and intellectualist. Crediting the "creators" and "makers" with an exclusive monopoly on truth and social justice, he drastically undervalues the significance of the experience and historical consciousness of the mass of "finders." Elsewhere, Armah has heaped scorn on Marx's characterization of the peasantry as a "sack ofpotatoes."67 Yet if his own representation of the mass of"finders" in Two Thousand Seasons does not quite approach the tenor of Marx's dismissal of the peasantry, it is certainly reminiscent of Lenin's categorical theorization of trade unionists as forever incapable of generating their own solutions to the problems that beset them. For that, they needed the Party, just as Armah's "finders" need the "makers" and "creators." The trouble with this "Partyist" schema is not only that it tacitly (and sometimes explicitly) denigrates the substance of popular culture, but also that, in its lack of reflexivity, it is blind to the extent to which hegemonic ideologies are, in fact, actively being resisted by those dominated by them. 68 In an article on Armah's social and cultural criticism, Kelwyn Sole has argued that the Ghanaian writer tends to "stop at a discussion of the cultural level of society and not probe the material conditions which inform and change that culture."69 The charge can also be leveled at Armah in his fictional writings. In Two Thousand Seasons, thus, "resistance" is framed as an all-or-nothing affair, which is why only the "makers" and "creators"-those engaged in outright and uncompromising defiance of the hegemonic order-are spoken of as resisting. To be positioned anywhere else, as the mass of "finders" are, is to be assigned a value outside of "resistance"-that is, within the orbit of" domination." From the point of view of material life, however, this is not a plausible scenario. As James Scott, Terence Ranger, Eric Hobsbawm, and a number of other social historians have convincingly demonstrated, to identify classes and populations as dominated is not to suggest that they do 223

After the Break not (continue to) resist their domination. Scott, for instance, writes of contemporary South-East Asia: It [is] ... important to understand what we might call everyday forms of

peasant resistance-the prosaic but constant struggle between the peasantry and those who seek to extract labor, food, taxes, rents, and interest from them. Most of the forms this struggle takes stop well short of collective outright defiance. Here I have in mind the ordinary weapons of relatively powerless groups: foot dragging, dissimulation, false compliance, pilfering, feigned ignorance, slander, arson, sabotage, and so forth. These Brechtian forms of class struggle have certain features in common. They require little or no coordination or planning; they often represent a form of individual self-help; and they typically avoid any direct symbolic confrontation with authority or with elite norms. To understand these commonplace forms of resistance is to understand what much of the peasantry does "between revolts" to defend its interests as best it can. 10 Since Two Thousand Seasons pitches its diagnosis of African subjection only at the level of ideology, and since, in its drive for thrust and cogency, it sharpens its formulation to the point of essentialism, it fails to recognize the manifold "Brechtian forms of class struggle" specified by Scott as modes of resistance. The failure is a weighty one: on the one hand, propelled by its racial essentialism, the force of Armah's argument in Two Thousand Seasons tends toward abstraction and schematization; on the other hand, propelled by its crude (not to say, latently authoritarian) rendition of the dynamics of subordination and resistance, it tends toward idealism. In Two Thousand Seasons the price of allegory is dematerialization; and, for all the novel's intelligence and originality, this is too high a price to pay. It is conceivable that Armah sensed this, for in The Healers (published in 1978, but bearing the deliberate dateline "Dar es Salaam, Saturday 13 December, 1975"), his fifth and still, over a decade later, his latest novel, he moved to invert the idealist sweep of the historical gaze of Two Thousand Seasons. Where Two Thousand Seasons had taken as its subject the broad expanse of a thousand years of African history, The Healers is focused upon a quite specific and narrowly defined set of events, that leading to the collapse of the Ashanti empire and the fall of the city of Kumasi in the 1860s and 1870s.7 1 The historical consciousness of The Healers is thus distinctly different from that of Two Thousand Seasons, being, as Fraser has helpfully observed, inductive where in the earlier work it had been deductive: Starting from certain clearly defined tenets or premises, [Two Thousand Seasons] set out to establish their relevance, taking the entire span of the racial memory as its example. The Healers, on the other hand, may be


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 viewed as an inductive work. Taking as its field of inquiry a particular moment when the stresses to which one society was habitually subject arose to overwhelm it, it sets out to demonstrate the reasons for this failure and hence to illustrate something about the nature, not only of this culture, but perhaps also of all comparable societies which succumb to external pressure in this way. It thus tells us something important about the whole colonial experience. 12 The Healers differs fundamentally from Two Thousand Seasons in its particularity. It is as though the grandly schematic arguments that Armah presumably felt he had had to deliver with unambiguous finality in his fourth novel could subsequently be taken by him as satisfactorily absorbed by his readership. For the most part, The Healers eschews the technique of the hammer for that of the dagger in its polemical dimension. Narratively, it centers on the situation of its major protagonist, a young man named Densu. Yet it does so not primarily to capture a character in growth, but to provide us, as readers, with a lens onto the wider Akan society in the years of crisis and colonial conquest. The novels opens, arrestingly, in medias res:

In the twentieth year of his life, a young man found himself at the centre of strange, extraordinary events. Someone was murdered-a youth exactly the same age as himself. The killing was done in a particularly bloody, brutal way. Those who saw the victim's butchered body agreed on one thing: the murderer acted from a fierce, passionate motive, the kind of violent motive springing out of jealousy made hotter by pure, vindictive hate. It seemed there were no living witnesses to the murder. The victim was the heir in the house of power at Esuano, a prince named Appia. Those in a position to know said he was destined to inherit not only old power but, far more important, the possibility of fantastic wealth ... In the absence of real knowledge suspicion became the guide to thought. Strange rumours flew fast and free ... turning round and round within easy reach. Speculation churned them into a circling whirlpool; and skilful insinuation found a quiet, unsuspecting youth, and placed him at the exact centre of the dangerous, speeding vortex of suspicion. His name was Densu. So in the twentieth year of his life, just when he saw the time perfect for planning how he would live his life, Densu was forced instead to open his mind to thoughts of death: the death of the prince Appia; the presumed death of the prince's mother Araba Jesiwa; and the impending death-if he found no way to fly free of the whirlpool of suspicion so inexorably trapping him-the impending death of his own self. [H 1-2]


After the Break Rhetorically, this opening has nothing in common with the vatic quality of Two Thousand Seasons' prose. The Healers is self-consciously subtitled "an historical novel." Plainly, it is also in the nature of a thriller and adventure story. Since we know from the outset that Densu had had nothing to do with Appia's death, we remain curious as to the identity of the murderer. Moreover, much of the interest of the novel hinges upon the predicament of young Densu: as we watch him first being entrapped by the manipulative Ababio, then escaping this villain's clutches, then undertaking the arduous apprenticeship under Damfo's tutelage to become a healer, we are led to sympathize with and fear for him, to exult at his escape, and to identify with him in his creativity and perseverence. Crucially, however, Armah does not allow us as readers to become entranced by the narrative quality of his novel. Before its breathless opening can beguile us into imagining that The Healers is a picaresque fiction that "tells itself," the author intrudes to dis-illusion us: But now this tongue of the story-teller, descendent of masters in the arts of eloquence, this tongue flies too fast for the listener. It flies faster than the story-telling mind itself. Pride in its own telling skill has made it light, more than merely light. Pride has made this tongue giddy with joy. So the story-teller now forgets this rule of masters in the arts of eloquence: the tongue alone, unrestrained, unconnected to the remembering mind, can carry only a staggering, spastic, drooling, idiot tale. In such a story, told by an unconnected tongue, the middle hurls itself at the astonished ear before the beginning has even had time to be mentioned. The end itself is battered into pieces. The fragments are smashed against the surprised listener's ear, without connections, without meaning, without sense. [H 2] Thematically, with its evocation of the centrality of "the remembering mind" in the process of cultural (re)production, this disruptive passage is reminiscent of Two Thousand Seasons. Similarly, in its representation of the adverse consequences stemming from a precipitous break with traditional protocols, it puts us in mind of Naana's meditations in Fragments. Yet it is with respect to formal considerations that the true significance of the passage can be appreciated. By disrupting the narrative flow of his text as he does, Armah makes us aware that The Healers' fluency, its air of sureness in the articulation of detail, is neither a natural nor an incidental phenomenon, but a much wrought one, the product of creative labor. The Healers does not, in other words, come by its concreteness casually, but forges it, deliberately and laboriously, from the metal of language upon the anvil of narrative. For in fiction, as in thought in general-to borrow Marx's celebrated observation-the concrete "appears ... as a summing up, a result, and not as the starting-point, although it is the real point of origin, and thus also the point


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 of origin of perception and imagination." 73 The interruptive passage thus functions as an alienation effect, stripping away the illusions that simultaneously obscure the practical involvement of the artist in his art and hold the reader in thrall to this art itself. This explains why Armah elects to follow his dis-illusioning intervention not by returning the reader immediately to the scene of his novel's action, but by grounding its contingency. He has his narrative voice remind itself of how tales ought to be told, and then take appropriate steps to locate its narrative in time and place: Let the error raise its own correction. The speeding tongue forgets connections. Let the deliberate mind restore them. Proud tongue, child of the Anona masters of eloquence, before you leap so fast to speak, listen first to the mind's remembrance. Did you remember to tell your listeners of what time, what age you rushed so fast to speak? Or did you leave the listener floundering in endless time, abandoned to suppose your story belonged to any confusing age? Is it from the time of the poet Nyankoman Dua, seven centuries ago? Or did it take place ten centuries ago, when Ghana was not just a memory, and the eloquent ones before you still sang praises to the spirit holding our people together? Is it of that marvellous black time before the desert was turned desert, thirty centuries and more ago? Or have you let the listener know the truth: that this story now is not so old-just over a century old? [H 3) As this further citation demonstrates, Armah's interruption of the storyline in The Healers also serves to introduce his narrator in the assumed guise of storyteller in the traditional idiom. It becomes evident that in The Healers, Armah advances his project-embarked upon in Two Thousand Seasons-of "Africanizing" the formal as well as the content-related aspects of his art. Specifically, he breaks with the conventions of bourgeois realist fiction by rejecting the modalities of authorial identity typically represented in it. Since the relationship that he aspires to between himself as "storyteller" and his readers as "listeners" is a direct one, he attempts to subvert the distancings and objectifications of fiction-a preeminently ironic mediumthrough means of the sustained conceit that his text constitutes an instance of spoken discourse. The novel paradoxically sets itself within the creative tradition of orature. Explicit allusion is made to a pan-African and panhistorical variety of "masters in the arts of eloquence," upon whom the novelist-storyteller calls for guidance and inspiration in practicing his craft. Perhaps the most suggestive of these apostrophes is to a "master" who was not an oral poet at all, but rather a writer like Armah himself: the Sesotho writer Thomas Mokopu Mofolo. In The Healers, as in Two Thousand Seasons, Armah seeks to recuperate, publicize and, above all, "traditionalize" Mofolo's work:


After the Break Send me words, Mokopu Mofolo. Send me words of eloquence. Words are mere wind, but wind too has always been part of our work, this work of sowers for the future, the work of story-tellers, the work of masters in the arts of eloquence. Give me strength for this work, and give your own wounded soul reason to smile, seeing in the work of one who came after you a small, quick sign that your long, silent suffering was not meant, after all, to be in vain. [H 63] The appeal to Mofolo is more than incidental. I would argue, in fact, that to a certain extent-and above all with regard to the characterization of Densu-Armah's technique in The Healers is consciously modeled on that of the Sesotho author in his great historical novel, Chaka.7 4 In 1976 Armah wrote an article on Chaka for the African journal Transition. In the course of this article he said of Mofolo's distinctive presentation of the formative processes of his protagonist's (Chaka's) development, [there is] an admirable, stark clarity in the way Mofolo presents Chaka's childhood and growth. He shows his childhood as the crucial formative period, the seedtime for all the crises of his adult life. As for the process of Chaka's growth, Mofolo shows it to us as a difficult, complex progression, but so sure is his technique, so masterly his grasp of psychological details, that the result has that clear, hyaline quality that often marks the most profound works of genius. Growth becomes a series of crises, in each of which Chaka moves an inexorable step forward to his chosen destiny. 1s This passage seems to me to shed considerable light on Armah's portrayal of Densu in The Healers. For just as, according to Armah, Mofolo presents Chaka's childhood as the "seedtime" for his bearing in adulthood, so, arguably, Armah himself presents Densu's childhood experiences-his conversations with Araba Jesiwa, his friendship with Anan, his admiration and implicit respect for Damfo and his corresponding mistrust and progressive contempt for Ababio-as means of understanding his sensibility as a young adult. Just as, according to Armah, Mofolo stages Chaka's growth as a series of crises, the negotiation of each of which results in the individual Chaka's being somewhat changed, so too Armah himself presents Densu's growth to maturity as a cumulative sequence of key moments. Where Armah's text differs fundamentally from Mofolo's in this regard is in its eschewal of the Sesotho work's ideology of African history. Although, by humanizing Chaka in his novel, Mofolo had attempted to subvert the colonialist representations of the Zulu ruler as a murderous, not to say insane, despot, and of the Zulu people as a savage horde, he had left unreconstructed the idealism implicit in colonialist historians' treatment of the history of the Zulu people as synonymous with the biography of Chaka.


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 A consequence of this is that Zulu history is personalized in Chaka. The private destiny of Chaka is phrased very largely as being coincidental with the public fate of his people. The individual Chaka is cast as metonymic. He represents the Zulu "nation" in a sense that transcends the boundaries of leadership-even poetically conceived-and is ontological. It is symptomatic that he gives his people the name (Amazulu) by which they come to know themselves. 76 The ideological thrust of The Healers is quite different from that of Chaka because Armah's informing understanding of African history is at a vast remove from Mofolo's. Densu's biography bears upon Ashanti society not as metonym nor even as allegory, 77 but rather in the manner of a searchlight, probing into the darkness beneath and beyond the apparent and illuminating much that a lived ideology has contrived to conceal. Far from being representative of Ashanti society, Densu's character constitutes a critique of it. It exposes rather than encapsulates it. The distinction crystallizes in the fact that whereas in Chaka the protagonist's alienation from conventionality is thrust upon him from without (against his will, he is driven out of his community of origin and left to fend for himself), in The Healers Densu actively chooses distance from the prevailing social principles of instrumentality and manipulativeness. During the course of the rituals of remembrance, for instance, he defaults from the wrestling and shooting competitions quite intentionally, out of a conviction that what the rituals have come to stand for as fetishized trials of individual masculine athleticism is positively disintegrative of the unity of the African people in diaspora that they were originally designed to invoke and celebrate: The celebrations and festivals, as he searched for their meaning, struck Densu as merely the customs and morals of the court being imposed on life outside the court. Competitions, struggles of individual against individual, faction against faction, the sharpening of knives, the search for allies, the deception of bystanders and enemies, the readiness of professed friends to betray those already used in the unending search for more power-from all this Densu desired only distance, a great distance. Fortunately, the feeling did not end there. The sense of repulsion was strong. But beyond it there was a desire that was infinitely stronger. It was a potent urge to seek people whose ways were an antidote to all the petty poisons which were food to the men of power he had known. Densu desired a life lived with people who did not see other human beings only as material they could use and handle. [H 49] As this passage suggests, The Healers is hinged upon a dialectical schema of integrity and disintegration, creativity and destructiveness, belonging and loneliness-what it calls "inspiration," on the one hand, and "manip-


After the Break

ulation," on the other. The manipulative ethic is embodied above all by Ababio, a man whose life is governed exclusively by greed and hunger for power. Everything that Ababio does is calculating, instrumental, acquisitive: "A human being was to him nothing better than an obstacle to be tricked, lied to, manipulated and shaped by force or guile into becoming a usable ally in spite of himself. And ifthat failed, then a human being became simply an object to be destroyed" (H 49-50). In The Healers, the social ethic of manipulation is seen to have sedimented itself within the body politic at large. It is not simply that there are many Ababios. Rather, it is that manipulation has become a material force, institutionalized and routinized in the state apparatuses and in civil society alike. What "fast driving" was in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, manipulation is in The Healers: not only a way of getting ahead, of gaining access to the "gleam," but the only readily visible means of doing so. The "antidote to all the petty poisons" of manipulation is inspiration, Damfo's way and the way of the healers who live against the prevailing convention in the eastern forest beyond Esuano. The community of healers in Armah's fifth novel is obviously structurally identical to that of "creators" and "makers" in Two Thousand Seasons. Again, it is noteworthy that the healing enterprise is envisaged as necessarily a collective-not to say collectivistic-one. There is no retreat, in The Healers, to that conception of creative intellectualism as a solitary endeavor that had marked Armah's three novels of postcolonialism. Inspiration is phrased as a way of living centered on wholeness, and grounded, as was the integrative "African way" in Two Thousand Seasons, on the principles of unity and reciprocity. Damfo explains to the young Densu that although much of the healers' time is devoted to the care of individuals who are unwell, the healing vocation extends far beyond mere doctoring: We heal people, individuals. That's part of our work. But it isn't all. It isn't even the greater part of it. It's just a part. The whole of it concerns ... wholeness ... [T]here are two forces, unity and division. The first creates. The second destroys; it's a disease, disintegration. It is the first, unity, that gives healing work its strength. Think of it. Healing an individual person-what is that but restoring a lost unity to that individual's body and spirit? A people can be diseased the same way. Those who need naturally to be together but are not, are they not a people sicker than the individual body disintegrated from its soul? Sometimes a whole people needs healing work. Not a tribe, not a nation. Tribes and nations are just signs that the whole is diseased. The healing work that cures a whole people is the highest work, far higher than the cure of single individuals. [H 81-82]


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 We glimpse, in a passage such as this, one of the strains running continuously through all of Armah's work. The identification of health and unity is central to the ideological program of Two Thousand Seasons as well as The Healers; but it is also at the heart of Juana's conception of salvation in Fragments. Damfo is perfectly frank about the utopianism of his project. The healers' dream, he informs Densu, is of a communitarian social order without internal divisions and free of exploitative or dominative intersubjective relations. It is not power as such that the healers oppose, but its asymmetrical distribution in the existing society. Densu asks whether a more equitable arrangement of power can be found anywhere: "It may not exist," [Damfo] said, "but it should be possible."

"What kind of power would that be?" Densu asked. "A power based on respect. Royal power grows from contempt. The kind of power we see now grows from contempt. It comes from the abuse of human beings and things." "It will take ages for the kind of power healers want to grow against what is there now," Densu said. "Yes," Damfo agreed. "The worst kinds of power grow most easily." "Meanwhile, isn't it advisable to work with royal power?" Densu asked. "It's all there is." "Healers have tried that before. But it's never been fruitful," said Damfo. "Healers will find their true support only from a healthier source of power." "But you say that's a matter of the future," Densu said. "The distant future even." "Meanwhile?" "Meanwhile the healer heals the individual sick," Damfo said. "That is all?" "Healers work to create a power based on respect." "Where?" Densu asked. "Wherever they see possibilities." [H 94-95) Risks attend many of these "possibilities," of course. Indeed, much of the interest in the latter pages of The Healers centers on the precarious relationship between Darnfo and Asamoa Nkwantwa, the great Ashanti general who, confused and tortured by dreams, has sought the therapeutic counsel of the healer. An opening presents itself for Damfo to use his influence with the general to advance the cause of "the unity of all the earth's black people" (H 84), the highest vocation for healers. And yet the danger exists that in seeking to do so, he, Damfo himself, will unwittingly subordinate himself and his ideas to the general's distinctly secular and statist aspirations. Because he remains steadily cognizant of the fact that the healers' goal of unity will not easily or quickly be realized, Damfo manages to negotiate the


After the Break

corridors of political power without compromise. He remarks that the "disease" of African fragmentation has run unchecked through centuries. Yet sometimes we dream of ending it in our little lifetimes, and despair seizes us if we do not see the end in sight ... A healer needs to see beyond the present and tomorrow. He needs to see years and decades ahead. Because healers work for results so firm they may not be wholly visible till centuries have flowed into millennia. Those willing to do this necessary work, they are the healers of our people. [H 84] This is a definitive statement of the long-viewed utopian radicalism that, in the novels ofpostcolonialism, had characterized the resistive ethics of Juana and "the man." Here, however, not only is the implication of The Beautyful Ones' "not yet" borne by a community of activists rather than by a solitary intellectual, but it is taken up in a context quite free of the messianism that had marked The Beautyful Ones and Fragments as novels of postcolonialism. The question of postcolonialism as it had been framed in these early novels is irrelevent to The Healers, which views nationalism and, indeed, colonialism in the light of consequences of an underlying disease of African disintegration. Yet, the strengths of The Healers should not blind us to its weaknesses. The "Partyist" strain that had damaged the political credibility of Two Thousand Seasons haunts the pages of Armah's fifth novel as well. The asymmetrical and idealist distinction between "makers" and "finders" is replicated in the relationship between the healers and the mass of the African population, those who, while not themselves "manipulators," are nevertheless subject to the hegemony of manipulation. Ironically, the historical particularity of The Healers fails altogether to refigure this structural relationship between "mass" and "elite." The problem, arguably, is rooted in the fact that the concreteness of the presentation in The Healers, though an improvement over the abstraction of that in Two Thousand Seasons, is still insufficiently attentive to the materiality of life as it is lived at the level of the everyday. It is, indeed, remarkable that we never see ordinary men and women-those who live in Esuano, for instance-working in The Healers. The material production and reproduction of life is effaced entirely by the novel. As in Why Are We So Blest? and Two Thousand Seasons, Armah demonstrates an apparent ignorance of the styles of life of the majority of African populations; and he is again led, in consequence, to underestimate the degree to which this majority is actively engaged in resisting their exploitation. Related to this is the continuing problem of racial essentialism. In The Healers, Armah dismisses as sophistical and socially divisive all forms of identity politics except one, and that one-race-he elevates to the level of a natural law. Quite appropriately, The Healers identifies various historical


Trends in Radical African Literature since 1970 criteria of political identity-class, ethnicity, nationality, linguistic chauvinism-as socially instituted and "otherizing." These criteria have functioned primarily to legitimize privilege and exclusivity, to ground specific groups as groups-against-others. Race, however, is credited as being an essential, ahistoricaL natural criterion of identity. Damfo speaks, as we have seen, of black people as a "natural community," one of which he is entitled to say without fear of meaningful criticism that they "need" and "ought" to be united. Against such a view-asserted with all the solemn authority that the text can muster-it is important to note that the idea of the black or any other race as a "natural community" has no historical referent. The "marvellous black time" to which the narrator alludes in The Healers never existed. It is strictly a mythological construction-and, as I argued above with respect to Two Thousand Seasons, its ideological thrust seems to me more serviceable to the cause of chauvinism than to any campaign for African cultural retrieval. When The Healers came out in 1978, the fifth novel by Armah to be published in the ten years that had begun with the 1968 publication of The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, the novelist was approaching forty years of age. One of the most tellingly representative of the African writers active in the first decade of independence, he had begun, in his fourth and fifth novels, to explore wider horizons and to de-emphasize the significance of the moment of independence in African history in favor of a more broadly framed interrogation of Africa's modern predicament as a theater of imperial domination. Problems remained, certainly, both in his diagnosis of the African "disease" and in his stridently proposed "cure"; and yet it seemed unimaginable that Armah would not continue to flesh out his ideas in the ensuing years through his chosen medium of fiction. This has not happened. In spite of the proliferation of rumors to the effect that he has completed another two, or even three novels, the fact remains that the publication of a sixth novel does not, as of this writing, seem to be in the offing. It is not that Armah has fallen silent. Paradoxically, the situation would seem to be worse than this. For in the numerous, if intermittent, articles, stories, and poems that he has continued to publish in such journals and magazines as Presence Africaine and West Africa since 1978, there is little evidence of new ideas. His various recent writings all seem to tread the same paths as Two Thousand Seasons and The Healers, and to stumble against the same pitfalls: racial essentialism, conspiracy theory, manicheism, inflexibility, idealism, ignorance of the materiality of peasant and proletarian existence in Africa. Even the metaphors and linguistic registers of the recent writing seem bloodless and derivative; they appear not to draw any sustenance at all from the explosion of new thinking that has come to animate radical writing generally in the postcolonial world oflate. One is obliged to consider the possibility that Armah has become "stuck" in his thinking.


After the Break Should this indeed be true, African literature would have lost one of its more distinctive voices. On the strengths (and weaknesses) of his first three novels, as I have tried to show in this book, Armah's significance as a representative writer of the immediate postcolonial generation in Africa is unassailable. Until or unless a sixth novel is published, however, more than this cannot be claimed.



Chapter One: Great Expectations l Kwame Nkrumah, I Speak of Freedom: A Statement of African Ideology (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1962), 106-07. 2 See Robert W. July, An African Voice: The Role of the Humanities in African Independence (Durham, N. C.: Duke University Press, 1987), l-2: "They came at different times, these independence rites of passage, but there was a basic sameness about the festivities. Perhaps it was the repetition of essential formalities, perhaps a predictable reaction of people with heightened aspirations and exuberance to match, perhaps the pattern set by Ghana's ceremonies that memorable March day in 1957. By October 1964, when Zambia's tum had come, some twenty-five independence celebrations later, seasoned connoisseurs of these events were assessing the mood as they watched the familiar revelers singing and dancing their way through streets bedecked with flags and bunting against a backdrop of late-blooming jacaranda, flame trees, and bougainvillea." 3 Consider in this respect the words of Samora Machel. first president of independent Mozambique, in his Independence Day address to the nation, 25 June 1975: "We wish first and foremost to recall the memory of our heroes-those who fell in the struggle against the foreign invaders, those who perished in the slaughter-house of Portuguese colonialism, through deportation, the slave trade and forced labour, those who were condemned by colonial fascism to slow death, family disintegration, spiritual disintegration and depersonalisation. We wish to honour the memory of all the glorious fighters who have fallen in the course of the armed struggle for national liberation ... Their blood laid the foundations for the new Mozambican nation which asserted itself in the course of those ten years in our zones of struggle and clandestine work, which already took on material form in our liberated areas and which, before it was transformed into the national reality we are celebrating today, was already active in our consciousness." (Machel. "The People's Republic of Mozambique: The Struggle Continues," transcription of Independence Day address, in Review of African Political Economy, no. 4 [May-Oct. 1975]: 14-15.) 4 Ngugi wa Thiong'o, A Grain of Wheat (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1980), 177. 5 Ibid. 6 Cf. July, An African Voice, 4: "In Tanganyika, as elsewhere in Africa, independence meant more than freedom from colonial rule. It meant the freedom to build a new life, a better world." 7 Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History," in Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken, 1969), 262. Elsewhere in the "Theses," Benjamin speaks of the "time of the now" as a present that is "shot through with chips of Messianic time" (263). My discussion of "messianism" in the pages that follow is heavily indebted to Benjamin. Briefly, I argue that in the context of African independence, messianic thought is that which construes decolonization from the point of view of redemption. Messianic social theory tends to conceive of revolution as a redemptive irruption onto the scene of history, in the light of which everything is transfigured.


Notes to Pages 3-6 8 Ayi Kwei Arrnah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1981), 81, 85. 9 J. F. Ade Ajayi, "Expectations oflndependence," Daedalus (Spring 1982): 6. 10 David Mandessi Diop, "Listen comrades ... ," in Hammer Blows, trans. and ed., Simon Mpondo and Frank Jones (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1975 ), 21. 11 This was the slogan of the United Gold Coast Convention, founded in the years after 1945 by J.B. Danquah, an eminent Ghanaian nationalist lawyer. Kwame Nkrumah served as Secretary-General of the uGcc for eighteen months upon his return to Africa from Europe and America in 194 7. In June 1949, he left the uGcc to found the more radical Convention People's Party, which took as its rallying cry the slogan "SelfGovemment Now!" 12 In Western scholarship, this uncoupling is often "explained" through recourse to the catch-all category of "tribalism." Thus Martin Meredith, The First Dance of Freedom: Black Africa in the Postwar Era (New York: Harper and Row, 1984), 173: "The honeymoon period of African independence was memorable but brief. The mood of euphoria aroused by the advent of African rule and raised to ever greater heights by the lavish promises of nationalist politicians campaigning for power soon died away, leaving behind a sense of expectation unfulfilled. Africa was a continent too deeply affected by mass poverty, by meagre resources, by disease and illiteracy, to allow for easy solutions to its development. And once the momentum that nationalist leaders had achieved in their drive for independence began to subside, so old tribal rivalries and ambitions came thrusting to the surface. Almost no African country was immune from such tensions." Such formulations are unacceptable not only on account of their manifest Eurocentrism (almost always denied by those responsible), but also because they make it impossible to theorize postcolonial developments with any degree of ideological specificity. 13 Thus Peter Worsley speaks of the tendency, in what he calls "nationalist historiography," to develop "a legend of 'national' resistance which omits the uncomfortable fact of collaboration." In The Three Worlds: Culture and World Development (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 4. 14 See Anouar Abdel-Malek, Nation and Revolution, trans. Mike Gonzalez (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981 ), 13: "[The] nationalitarian phenomenon ... has as its object, beyond the clearing of the national territory, the independence and sovereignty of the national state, uprooting in depth the positions of the ex-colonial power-the reconquest of the power of decision in all domains of national life ... Historically, fundamentally, the struggle is for national liberation, the instrument of that reconquest of identity which ... lies at the centre of everything." 15 William Conton, The African (London: Heinemann Education Books, 1966), 33. 16 Ibid., 132-33. It is instructive to contrast this speech, with its references to hospitals, bridges, roads and "fine college(s]" built by the colonizers, with the arguments advanced by Walter Rodney in his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1982), esp. 205-23. Rodney contends that, with rare and never magnanimous exceptions, colonial administrations showed absolutely no interest in building hospitals or schools for their colonial subjects, or in providing them with social services. To the extent that they constructed roads and bridges in the colonies, moreover, they did so (often on the basis of convict or conscript labor) only where these tended to facilitate their exploitation of the colonies' resources or to promote the efficient policing of the colonies. 17 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington (New York: Grove Press, 1968), 152. Further references to this work (hereafter WE) will be given parenthetically in the text.


Notes to Pages 7-11 18 Conton, The African, 130-31. 19 Ajayi, "Expectations," 2.

20 Anthony D. Smith, State and Nation in the Third World: The Western State and African Nationalism (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983), 55-56. 21 Ibid., 51. 22 Worsley, The Three Worlds, 2. 23 See here also Worsley, The Three Worlds, 292: "All nationalisms are mystifications in that they postulate the immanent and absolute priority of the interests of the whole, usually defined by those who dominate society, over any merely sectional interest. During the phase of anti-imperialist struggle, it tells people that they are all, say, Tunisians and that if they come to govern themselves, the nation will flourish. How the governing is to be done, and which Tunisians will govern which others, is left unclear. After independence, when development becomes .the main priority, those crucial interest-groups-classes-are dismissed as the main threat to the success of the nation. The image of society is one of vertical solidarity." The classic study of nationalism in Africa remains Thomas Hodgkin's Nationalism in Colonial Africa (New York: New York University Press, 1957). 24 One thinks, here, of Marx and Engels's observation, in The German Ideology, that "each new class which [sets out to] put ... itself in the place of one ruling before it, is compelled, merely in order to carry through its aim, to represent its interest as the common interest of all the members of society." (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology [New York: International Publishers, 1981], 6 5-66.) For an excellent example of "neo-liberal universalist" assumptions at work, consider the Nigerian historian Tekena N. Tamuno's claim that in the decolonizing era, "Nigerians wanted equal opportunity and greater participation in large-scale trading, banking and similar enterprises. They also wanted diversified economies, a free choice of world markets, industrialisation, and higher living standards." ("The independence movement," in Richard Olaniyan, ed., Nigerian History and Culture [London: Longman, 1985), 177.) It is perhaps unnecessary to point out that only a fraction of the Nigerian populationthose of the entrepreneurial bourgeoisie-would have expressed their "wants" in this way. 25 A note on terminology is in order here. The "radical" intellectuals under consideration here represented themselves as opposing the nationalist line, which they scorned as conservative, elitist, and parasitic upon the West. To the extent that nationalist leaders invariably moved, at independence, to consolidate the capitalist basis upon which the national economy had been set by the colonial regime, one might suppose that the "radical" opposition would have styled itself as socialist in tendency. Many oppositional African intellectuals, indeed, did so. The problem, however, is that the rhetoric of socialism, which had proved so useful as a mobilizing force in the decolonizing years, was almost universally retained, in the postcolonial era, even by those bourgeois nationalist leaders whose policies were most conservative and aggressively capitalistic in tenor. It became almost de rigueur to proclaim oneself an "African socialist" in the early years of independence, regardless of the actual scope and substance of one's politics. Thus not only Sekou Toure and Julius Nyerere, but also Leopold Sedar Senghor and Kenneth Kaunda, emerged as "African socialists." "[E)ven in its most positive expressions" as John Saul has written, "African socialism encapsulated a characteristic ambiguity of populism: looking backwards to a rather romantically conceived (classless) past as some kind of guarantee against the inequalities and depredations of capitalism rather than forwards to the imperatives of struggle-class struggle- for a modem alternative to actually existing peripheral capitalism." ("Ideology in Africa: Decomposition and Recomposition," in Gwendolyn M. Carter and


Notes to Pages 11-14 Patrick O'Meara, eds., African Independence: The First Twenty-Five Years [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985], 303.) In its least positive expressions, moreover, "African socialism" became the more or less consciously deployed magic screen behind which any policies at all could be rationalized as "socialistic." Thus one reads of Krobo Edusei, one of the senior members of Nkrumah's Convention People's Party in Ghana, maintaining that socialism was a system in which "if you have a lot of money you can still keep it." (Quoted in Bob Fitch and Mary Oppenheimer, Ghana: End of an Illusion [New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1968], 112.) So widely and inconsistently used was the signifier of "socialism" in the postcolonial era that it came to be almost wholly without political content. Because of this, I have chosen to refer to the "radical" tendency in postcolonial African intellectualism as such, even where it might seem more appropriate to refer to it under the rubric of "socialism." 26 Frantz Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, trans. Haakon Chevalier (New York: Grove Press, 1967); and Toward the African Revolution, trans. Haakon Chevalier (New York: Grove Press, 1969). 27 See here Ian Clegg's decisive critique ofFanon's reading of the anticolonial struggle in Algeria, in his "Workers and Managers in Algeria," in Robin Cohen, Peter C. W. Gutkind, and Phyllis Brazier, eds., Peasants and Proletarians: The Struggles of Third World Workers (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1979), 236: "The immediate misconception that must be corrected is that of the nature of the Algerian revolution. Many saw the violent resistance to colonialism and the ultimate achievement of independence as revolution. This is a profound error, which can only lead to a misunderstanding of the subsequent events. What began in 1954, with the formation of the FLN and the declaration of armed struggle, was not revolution; it was the development of the fight for national independence to an intense and violent plane. To term the struggle against colonialism revolution is to mistake the nature and aspirations of this struggle. It is to confuse the identity of revolution as a class struggle aimed at the overthrow of pre-existing social, political, and economic structures with an attempt to replace them with structures more closely related to specifically national aspirations. Although a small section of the FLN in 1954 was influenced by socialist ideas, the aims of the majority were circumscribed by nationalism; their aspirations were rooted in traditional Arab, Berber, and Islamic culture." 28 See for example WE 108-09: "It cannot be too strongly stressed that in the colonial territories the proletariat is the nucleus of the colonized population which has been most pampered by the colonial regime. The embryonic proletariat of the towns is in a comparatively privileged position. In capitalist countries, the working class has nothing to lose; it is they who in the long run have everything to gain. In the colonial countries the working class has everything to lose; in reality it represents that fraction of the colonized nation which is necessary and irreplaceable ifthe colonial machine is to run smoothly: it includes tram conductors, taxi-drivers, miners, dockers, interpreters, nurses and so on. It is these elements which constitute the most faithful followers of the nationalist parties, and who because of the privileged place which they hold in the colonial system constitute also the 'bourgeois' fraction of the colonized people." 29 V. I. Lenin, What Is To Be Done? trans. S. V. and Patricia Utechin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963), 94-95. Fanon takes up this distinction explicitly in his essay on "Spontaneity: Its Strength and Weakness," WE 107-47. 30 See, thus, Ian Roxborough's crisp dismissal in his Theories of Underdevelopment (Atlantic Highlands, N. J.: Humanities Press, 1979), 136: "There is not a great deal to be said about the theories of Fanon and (Regis] Debray. They each present remarkably


Notes to Pages 14-17 perceptive analyses of the situation of underdevelopment and each end up by posing the question of revolution in purely moral and voluntaristic terms." 31 B. Marie Perinbam, "Fanon and the Revolutionary Peasantry-the Algerian Case," Journal of Modern African Studies IL no. 3 (1973): 438-39. Quite what Perinbam means by "nationalist groups" in her final sentence is difficult to know. Presumably, she is referring to the fact that the class of origin of revolutionary leaders is very often different from that of the popular "masses" whom they lead. To describe these classes of origin as "nationalist," however, seems problematical. The literature on Fanon's political philosophy and its relationship to orthodox Marxism is now extensive. Among a very large and continually expanding number of books and articles, I have found Perinbam and the following most useful: Paul A. Beckett, "Algeria vs. Fanon: The Theory of Revolutionary Decolonization, and the Algerian Experience," The Western Political Quarterly 26, no. 1(March1973): 5-27; Robert Blackey, "Fanon and Cabral: a Contrast in Theories of Revolution for Africa," Journal of Modern African Studies 12, no. 2 (1974): 191-209; David Caute, Frantz Fanon (New York: The Viking Press, 1970), esp. 73-98; Emmanuel Hansen, Frantz Fanon: Social and Political Thought (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1977), esp. 132-68; L. Adele Jinadu, "Some Aspects of the Political Philosophy of Frantz Fanon," Pan-African Journal 5, no. 4 (Winter 1972): 493-522; Martin Staniland, "Frantz Fanon and the African Political Class," African Affairs 68, no. 270 (Jan. 1969): 4-25; Peter Worsley, "Revolutionary Theories," Monthly Review 21, no. 1 (May 1969): 30-49; Peter Worsley, "Frantz Fanon and the 'Lumpenproletariat,'" Socialist Register, Ralph Miliband and John Savile, eds. (London: Merlin Press, 1972), 193-230; Derek Wright, "Fanon and Africa: A Retrospect," Journal of Modern African Studies 24, no. 4 (Dec. 1986): 679-89; and Renate Zahar, Frantz Fanon: Colonialism and Alienation: Concerning Frantz Fanon 's Political Theory, trans. Willfried Feuser (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1974), esp. 93-107. Also valuable, although addressed not specifically to Fanon but to theoretical questions central to his work, are Basil Davidson, "African Peasants and Revolution," Journal of Peasant Studies L no. 3 (1974): 269-90; Peter C. W. Gutkind, "From the Energy of Despair to the Anger of Despair: The Transition from Social Circulation to Political Consciousness among the Urban Poor in Africa," Canadian Journal of African Studies 7, no. 2 (1973): 179-98; E. J. Hobsbawm, "Peasants and Politics," Journal of Peasant Studies l, no. 1 (Oct. 1973): 3-22; Barrington Moore, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making ofthe Modern World (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966), esp. 453-83; John S. Saul, "African Peasants and Revolution," Review of African Political Economy, no. 2 (Aug.-Nov. 1974): 41-68, repr. in Saul, The State and Revolution in Eastern Africa (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1979), 297-338; and James Scott, "Hegemony and the Peasantry," Politics and Society 7, no. 3 (1977): 267-96. 32 Georg Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness, trans. Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1976), 279. Further references to this work (hereafter HCC) will be given parenthetically in the text. 33 Two such differences are worthy of mention here. First, where Lukacs, following Marx and Lenin, privileged the proletariat as the "universal class" whose struggle could not but aim to transform society in its totality, Fanon retained the conception of universality but transferred it to the Third World peasantry. Second, and related to this, Lukacs's thought remained pointedly Eurocentric in its reference, where Fanon's, of course, was grounded in a thoroughgoing critique of Eurocentric assumptions. 34 Alistair Hennessy, "Blown on the Wind," Times Literary Supplement, no. 4391, 29 May 1987, 575. Hennessy is writing about the Mexican revolution, but the applicability of his words to the African context is clear.


Notes to Pages 17-21 35 Jurgen Habermas, Communication and the Evolution of Society, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1979), 95. Habermas goes on to add that "This is the normal way . . . of dealing with a theory that needs revision in many respects but whose potential for stimulation has still not been exhausted." See also Jorge Larrain's discussion of "reconstruction" in his A Reconstruction of Historical Materialism (London: Allen and Unwin, 1986), l-28. 36 See also Patrice Lumumba on independence in the Congo, 30 June 1960: "From all this, my brothers, have we deeply suffered. But all this, however, we who by the vote of your elected representatives are directed to guide our beloved country, we who have suffered in our bodies and in our hearts from colonialist oppression, we it is who tell you-all this is henceforth ended. The Republic of the Congo has been proclaimed, and our beloved country is now in the hands of its own children ... And so, my brothers in race, my brothers in conflict, my compatriots, this is what I wanted to tell you in the name of the government, on this magnificent day of our complete and sovereign Independence." (Lumumba, transcription of Independence Day address, in Hans Kohn and Wallace Sokolsky, African Nationalism in the Twentieth Century [Princeton, N. J.: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1965), 120-21.) 37 I refer here to the category established by Arthur Ravenscroft in his influential essay, "African Literature V: Novels of Disillusionment.'' Journal of Commonwealth Literature 6 (Jan. 1969): 120-37. 38 The term is J. D. Y. Peel's. See his "Social and Cultural Change," in Michael Crowder, ed., The Cambridge History of Africa. Volume 8. From c. 1940 to 1975 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 184: "In any society the designation given to those who hold power is usually symptomatic, but in sub-Saharan Africa the sheer variety of terms used-elite, political class or classe dirigeante, nationalist bourgeoisie or even petite bourgeoisie or new middle class-suggest the uncertainties. But of these terms, 'political class' is perhaps the most helpful since it points to the fact that social power was overwhelmingly the product of political or state bureaucratic office rather than of any material resource held independently of it." 39 Kofi Awoonor, This Earth, My Brother (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1977). That this fatalism must be regarded as marking a historically determinate moment and not a metaphysical temper is strongly suggested by the subsequent trajectory of Awoonor's career. After living outside Ghana for several years, Awoonor returned to the country in the mid- l 970s, only to be arrested shortly thereafter and imprisoned on charges of harboring a fugitive from the law. On the basis of the volume of prison poems, The House By the Sea (Greenfield Center, N. Y.: Greenfield Review Press, 1978) that emerged from this experience, and in the light of his subsequent work, it is dear that Awoonor has comprehensively rethought his position. The disillusion of the late- l 960s has been replaced by a purposive commitment to social transformation in Ghana. 40 Chinua Achebe, A Man of the People (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1975), 148-49. 41 Armah, The Beautyful Ones, 162. 42 Ayi Kwei Armah, "African Socialism: Utopian or Scientific?" Presence Africaine 64, 4th quarterly ( 196 7): 26. 43 Ayi Kwei Armah, Fragments (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1979), 259. 44 Armah, The Beautyful Ones, 56. 45 Peter Abrahams, A Wreath for Udomo (London: Faber and Faber, 1956). 46 Chinua Achebe, Morning Yet On Creation Day (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1977), 25. 47 Chinua Achebe, The Trouble With Nigeria (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1984), 10.


Notes to Pages 21-26 48 See here Claude Ake, Revolutionary Pressures in Africa (London: Zed Press, 1978), 90: "The reaction of the new rulers was all that could reasonably be expected of anyone in their situation. They decided to maintain the exploitative relations and a stratification system which they dominated. They decided to firmly discourage demands for redistribution of wealth and for mass participation. Having made these commitments, they were obliged to use coercion to solve the problems of authority and integration and to initiate the process of depoliticization." 49 Ayi Kwei Armah, "A Mystification: African Independence Revalued," Pan-African Journal 2, no. 2 (Spring 1969): 150. 50 Achebe, Morning Yet on Creation Day, 15. 51 Arna Ata Aidoo, Our Sister Killjoy (London: Longman, 1977), 95. 52 Ngiigi wa Thiong'o, Writers in Politics (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1981 ), 119-20. See here also Michael Crowder, "The Second World War: Prelude to Decolonisation in Africa," in Crowder, Cambridge History, 50-51: "Retrospectively ... we can see that the gradual loss of will for empire on the part of the colonial powers was accompanied by a realisation that Africans, in seeking the political kingdom, had lost sight of the economic kingdom. Thus it suited the colonial powers ... to concede the political kingdom whilst retaining as much control as possible of their economic empire. For by and large, of course, it was the educated elite that inherited the colonial kingdom, so that in real terms the lot of the majority of inhabitants changed very little with the change from white to black control. The world capitalist system had deeply impregnated the colonial structures by the eve of independence and the elites who gained independence were loath to forgo the very obvious personal benefits that these structures immediately brought them. Indeed up until (1975] ... very few African countries had sought alternatives to the economic structures they had inherited, however much socialist or Marxist window-dressing they may have displayed. The drama of the struggle for independence and the problems of the independent leaders after it ... is that the independence the Africans took, and the independence the colonialists gave, was in effect a qualified independence, for the reality of power, control of the economy, was still to be found overseas." 53 See Basil Davidson, Modern Africa (London: Longman, 1983 ), 95. 54 Ibid., 182. 55 Basil Davidson, Black Star: A View of the Life and Times of Kwame Nkrumah (London: Allen Lane, 1973 ), 94. 56 Clegg, "Works and Managers," 245-46. 57 Max Horkheimer, Critical Theory: Selected Essays, trans. Matthew J. O'Connell and others (New York: Continuum, 1982), 214. 58 Emmanuel Ngara, Art and Ideology in the African Novel: A Study of the Influence of Marxism on African Writing (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1985), 36. 59 Kwame Nkrumah, Class Struggle in Africa (New York: International Publishers, 1970), 40. 60 Julius Nyerere, Freedom and Development: A Selection from Writings and Speeches 19681973 (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), 25. 61 James Ngiigi [Ngiigi wa Thiong'o], discussion of Wole Soyinka's "The Writer in a Modem African State," in Per Wastberg, ed., The Writer in Modern Africa (New York: Africana Publishing Corporation, 1969), 25. 62 Ngara, Art and Ideology, 34-35. 63 In insisting that this "crisis" of African intellectualism in the late 1960s was a function of the earlier class-determined overestimation of the emancipatory potential of independence, I have in mind Georg Lukacs's analysis of naturalism as the necessarily inadequate attempt of a radical section of the petty-bourgeoisie in late nineteenthcentury Europe to align itself with the proletarian cause. In Lukacs's reading, the


Notes to Pages 26-31 ideological horizon of naturalism was an "oppositional" one, whose exponents "stood in greater or lesser proximity to the workers' movement" ("Reportage or Portrayal?" in Lukacs, Essays on Realism, trans. David Fembach (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1981), 48 ). Naturalism constituted itself in opposition to the hegemonic aesthetic mode of psychologism. Lukacs was in full sympathy with this oppositional strategy; and yet, he argued, naturalism's best intentions were necessarily undermined by its ideological partiality. The naturalist agenda was ineluctably contradictory: "This contradiction, however, was and is still not a dialectical but a mechanical one ... most representatives of the reportage novel. and especially its inventors, were petty-bourgeois opponents of capitalism, and not proletarian revolutionaries. Thus they had no materialist or dialectical understanding of capitalism's laws of motion, and the contradictions that move it. They could only recognize certain isolated facts, or in the best case groups of facts-never the contradictory unity-in-process of the totality-and pass moral judgements upon these facts" (48). We cannot, of course, impose this analysis in a substantive way upon postcolonial writing in Africa. I am suggesting, rather, that Lukacs's way ofthinking about an oppositional cultural practice that nevertheless seems to him deficient, and deficient for class-specific and ideological reasons, is both salutary and attractive, and might be taken as an example to be emulated here.

Chapter Two: From Frantz Fanon to Ayi Kwei Armah 1 Ayi Kwei Armah, "Fanon: The Awakener," Negro Digest 18, no. 12 (Oct. 1969): 5. 2 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington (New York: Grove Press, 1968), 151-52. Further references to this work (hereafter WE) will be given parenthetically in the text. 3 Armah, "Fanon: The Awakener," 40. 4 Ayi Kwei Armah, "Our Language Problem.'' West Africa, 29 April 1985, 831. 5 Ian Clegg, "Workers and Managers in Algeria," in Robin Cohen, Peter C. W. Gutkind, and Phyllis Brazier, eds., Peasants and Proletarians: The Struggles of Third World Workers (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1979), 235-36. See also the conclusions about the Algerian war drawn by Eric R. Wolf in his Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century (New York: Harper and Row, 1969), 246-47. 6 Frantz Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, trans. Haakon Chevalier (New York: Grove Press, 1967), 107. Fanon argued that the restrictions under which women had for centuries been obliged to labor had been "knocked over and challenged by the national liberation struggle. The unveiled Algerian woman, who assumed an increasingly important place in revolutionary action, developed her personality, discovered the exalting realm of responsibility. The freedom of the Algerian people from then on became identified with woman's liberation, with her entry into history. This woman who, in the avenues of Algiers or of Constantine, would carry the grenades or the submachine-gun chargers, this woman who tomorrow would be outraged, violated, tortured, could not put herself back into her former state of mind and relive her behavior of the past; this woman who was writing the heroic pages of Algerian history was, in so doing, bursting the bounds of the narrow world in which she had lived without responsibility, and was at the same time participating in the destruction of colonialism and in the birth of a new woman." 7 See Basil Davidson, Modern Africa (London: Longman, 1983 ), 95. 8 Clegg, "Workers and Managers," 239. 9 Cf. WE 166: "In spite of his frequently honest conduct and his sincere declarations, the


Notes to Pages 31-43 leader as seen objectively is the fierce defender of these interests, today combined, of the national bourgeoisie and the ex-colonial companies. His honesty, which is his soul's true bent, crumbles away little by little. His contact with the masses is so unreal that he comes to believe that his authority is hated and that the services he has rendered his country are being called in question. The leader judges the ingratitude of the masses harshly, and every day that passes ranges him a little more resolutely on the side of the exploiters. He therefore knowingly becomes the aider and abettor of the young bourgeoisie which is plunging into the mire of corruption and pleasure." 10 Clegg, "Workers and Managers," 239. Clegg goes on to assert, in rather dogmatic deference to received Marxist wisdom on this matter, that " [r] evolution, as a concept, is alien to the peasant consciousness, while the peasants' relationship to the environment remains one of passive endurance rather than active transformation." For considerably more reflexive treatments of this question, see James C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985) and T. O. Ranger, Peasant Consciousness and Guerrilla War in Zimbabwe (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985 ). 11 Robert Fraser, The Novels of Ayi Kwei Armah (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1980), 3. 12 See Ayi Kwei Armah, "One Writer's Education," West Africa, 26 August 1985, 1752. 13 See Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah (New York: International Publishers, 1971), 20. 14 David E. Apter, Ghana in Transition (New York: Atheneum, 1966), 73. 15 Armah, "One Writer's Education," 1752. 16 Ibid. 17 Fraser, Novels, 5. 18 Armah, "One Writer's Education," 1752. 19 Ibid. 20 Ibid. 21 Fraser, Novels, 6. 22 Ayi Kwei Armah, Why Are We So Blest? (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1974), 114-15. 23 Armah, "One Writer's Education," 1753. 24 Ibid. 25 Ibid. 26 Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1981), 160. 27 Ayi Kwei Armah, "Masks and Marx: The Marxist Ethos vis-a-vis African Revolutionary Theory and Praxis," Presence Africaine 131, 3d quarterly ( 1984): 36. 28 Armah, "One Writer's Education," 1753. 29 Armah, The Beautyful Ones, 62. 30 Armah, "Fanon: The Awakener," 35. 31 Ayi Kwei Armah, "African Socialism: Utopian or Scientific?" Presence Africaine 64, 4th quarterly (1967): 26. 32 Armah, The Beautyful Ones, 86. 33 Ibid., 80. 34 Armah, "African Socialism:· 8. 35 Ibid., 28. 36 Armah, The Beautyful Ones, 85. 37 Armah, "African Socialism:· 29. 38 Ibid. 39 Armah, "Fanon: The Awakener," 5.


Notes to Pages 44-50 40 See Armah, "Masks and Marx," 40. 41 See Ayi Kwei Armah, "Larsony, or Fiction as Criticism of Fiction," New Classic 4 ( 1977): 38. In "Larsony," Armah offers a ferocious symptomatic reading of an influen-

tial essay written by Charles Larson, an American critic, on Armah's own novel, Fragments. Armah exposes the tacit Western cultural supremacism of Larson's critical practice, and concludes his demonstration by suggesting that the term "Larsony" be pressed into service to refer to Western critics who follow Larson's example. 42 Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, trans. E. B. Ashton (New York: Continuum, 1973), 3. 43 Helmut Dubiel, Theory and Politics: Studies in the Development of Critical Theory, trans. Benjamin Gregg (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1985), 5.

Chapter Three: The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born 1 Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968; London, Heinemann Educational Books, 1969). Page references in the text are to the 1981 Heinemann Educational Books edition. 2 Georg Lukacs, The Theory of the Novel, trans. Anna Bostock (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1983), 89. 3 Wole Soyinka, Myth, Literature and the African World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), 115. 4 Much the same general point is made, though subsequently put to quite different usage, by Richard Priebe in his article, "Demonic Imagery and the Apocalyptic Vision in the Novels of Ayi Kwei Armah," Yale French Studies 53 (1976): 102-36. 5 Fredric Jameson, Marxism and Form (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971 ), 163-64.

6 In reading Armah's not yet as loaded toward the future, I am bringing to it the range of meanings associated with the concept of "not-yet consciousness" in the work of the German Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch. For Bloch, the utopian universe of the "notyet" is always figurally present in our lives, even when we live under circumstances of deprivation and terror. The "not-yet" reveals itself in its everyday "traces" (Spuren) as a kind of anamnestic longing for utopia. See Ernst Bloch, The Principle of Hope, trans. Neville Plaice, Stephen Plaice, and Paul Knight (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1986 ). For commentary on Bloch, see Wayne Hudson, The Marxist Philosophy of Ernst Bloch (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1982), Jameson, Marxism and Form, 116-59, and Martin Jay, Marxism and Totality: The Adventures of a Concept from Lukacs to Habermas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 174-95. 7 Henry Chakava, "Ayi Kwei Armah and a Commonwealth of Souls," in C. Wanjala, ed., Standpoints on African Literature: A Critical Anthology (Nairobi: East African Literature Bureau, 1973 ), 197. 8 Kolawole Ogungsbesan, "Simple Novels and Simplistic Criticism: The Problem of Style in the African Novel," Asemka 5 (Sept. 1979): 35. 9 In Tasks and Masks: Themes and Styles of African Literature (London: Longman, 1981 ), Lewis Nkosi locates this resistive ethic even in Armah's language: "[Armah is] a novelist ... who knows how to make language work for him rather than against him ... Often what Armah is forcing us to observe is ugly, repulsive, ramshackle, mutilated; but his language can describe defeat without yielding to it" (65). 10 Basil Davidson, Black Star: A View of the Life and Times of Kwame Nkrumah (London: Allen Lane, 1973 ), passim. 11 Michael Wolfers, Black Man's Burden Revisited (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1974), 55. 12 One is reminded here of Walter Benjamin's observation, in his "Theses on the Philoso-


Notes to Pages 50-57 phy of History," to the effect that "all rulers are the heirs of those who conquered before them." In Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 256.

l3 Davidson, Black Star, 27-28. 14 See here David Williams, "English-speaking West Africa," in Michael Crowder, ed., The Cambridge History ofAfrica. Volume 8. From c. 1940 to 1975 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 343: "From the start it was clear that [Nkrumah] was of a different stamp from the ... [nationalist] leaders, who were ready to use the disturbances as evidence to support their demand to the colonial office for self-government, but who never doubted that the government was destined to fall into the hands of people like themselves. Nkrumah ... at this time and for many years understood ... the masses. He believed that one man's-or woman's-vote was as good and as valuable as another's and he was always accessible to any citizen." 15 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington (New York: Grove Press, 1968), 166. See also Chinua Achebe, The Trouble With Nigeria (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1984), on the Nigerian nationalist leader, Nnamdi Azikwe: "Here was an eloquent revolutionary who inspired a whole generation of young idealistic activists in the Zikist Movement to the high pitch of positive action against colonial rule and then, quite unaccountably, abandoned them at the prison gates" (58). 16 Anonymous, "Letter from Ghana," New York Review of Books, vol. 9, no. 6, 12 Oct. 1967, 34. 17 Ibid., 35. 18 See here Armah's caustic comment, in his essay, "A Mystification: African Independence Revalued," Pan-African Journal 2, no. 2 (Spring 1969), that if we look at the

"human aspect" of independence, we quickly discover its limits: speaking of the innumerable calls that were made in the early years of independence to "the people" to sacrifice themselves to the building of the new nation, Armah observes that "[i]fwe stay so careful ... as not to lose sight of the fact that this so-called nation Africans are working for free in honor of has the same boundaries, the same structures of administration, and, especially in the economic field, continues to function in much the same way as the old colonial territory, then it becomes hard for us to escape the realization that the good new unpaid labor is the same good old unpaid colonial labor with a new name. The shift is in the logomachy, not in the economy. Prestation was what the imperial French called it ... unpaid work on roads, bridges, markets, etc. Conscript labor was a definite part of 'colonialism: and was fatalistically accepted, evaded, or resisted as such. The nationalist leadership in independent Africa has had the genius to dish out the same thing to their liberated countrymen, urging not just acceptance but exaltation" (148-49). 19 See Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, trans. Charles Lam Markmann (New York: Grove Press, 1982). 20 Shatto Arthur Gakwandi, The Novel and Contemporary Experience in Africa (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1977), 97. 21 Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 149-54. 22 Kolawole Ogungbesan, "Symbol and Meaning in The Beautyful Ones Are Not m Born," in E. D. Jones, ed., African Literature Today, no. 7 (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1975), 96. 23 For an anlysis of the "gleam" in terms of the Marxist categories of use-value and exchange-value, see Simon Simonse, "African Literature Between Nostalgia and Utopia: African Novels Since 1953 in the Light of the Modes-of-Production Approach," Research in African Literatures 13, no. 4 (Winter 1982): 474-75.


Notes to Pages 59-67 24 Ogungbesan, "Symbol and Meaning," 94-95. 25 My reading of the "gleam;• elsewhere modeled on Georg Lukacs's analysis ofreifica-

tion in his essay on "Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat.'' in History and Class Consdousness, trans. Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1976), 83-222, is here indebted also to Louis Althusser's theorization of ideology in "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation).'' in Lenin and Philosophy and other Essays, trans. Ben Brewster (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1971 ), 127-86; and to Jean Baudrillard's Simulations, trans. Paul Foss, Paul Patton, and Philip Beitchman (New York: Semiotext[e), 1983 ). Althusser writes, thus, that "It is indeed a peculiarity of ideology that it imposes (without appearing to do so, since these are 'obviousnesses') obviousnesses as obviousnesses, which we cannot/ail to recognize and before which we have the inevitable and natural reaction of crying out (aloud or in the 'still, small voice of conscience'): 'That's obvious! That's right! That's true!'" ( 172). He goes on to discuss the apparent "interiority" of ideology, in terms of which the subject in ideology is drawn to deny its placement therein: "what ... seems to take place outside ideology ... in reality takes place in ideology. What really takes place in ideology seems therefore to take place outside it. That is why those who are in ideology believe themselves by definition outside ideology: one of the effects of ideology is the practical denegation of the ideological character of ideology by ideology: ideology never says, 'I am ideological' " ( 175 ). 26 Cf. Derek Wright's suggestive reading of "the man" as a scapegoat whose "martyred interiorization of accusations allows the guilty deceit of [others] to reduce his idealism to an ashamed folly." In "Motivation and Motif: The Carrier Rite in Ayi Kwei Armah's The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born:' English Studies in Africa 28, no. 2 ( 1985): 121. 27 As I read it, there is little in the text to support either John Povey's contention that "the man's" "strengths are a tough rational certainty and a defiant morality that remains impregnable" (review of The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, Africa Report 14, no. 2 [Feb. 1969]: 60), or Charles Larson's that "Armah's Man knows all along that this society has lost its values and that he is the lone center of value in a society that has long traded its soul to the devil" (The Emergence of African Fiction [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1972), 259). 28 For a sympathetic reading of this dream sequence in the novel. see John Coates, "The Mythic Undercurrent in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born," World Literature Written in English 28, no. 2 (1988): 166. 29 And see here Wolfers, Black Man's Burden Revisited, writing about the coup that followed the coup that ousted Nkrumah: "The military coup brings a change of the names at the top of the leadership list, but affects little below the ruling junta. The elites remain in the positions of privilege. A cry goes up about the corruption of the ousted regime, then begins the division of spoils. I was in Accra on 13 January 1972 when the second successful military coup in Ghana took place; what was most striking of all that day's developments was the indifference shown by the ordinary townsfolk. Within a week mass demonstrations of support had been arranged, but on the first day people went to work, to the shops, were caught in the traffic jams, or idled in the streets. One felt that for once the ordinary people were making a genuine demonstration that they knew the change was scarcely significant. The photographs of public figures would be changed, but the contradictions of the society continued. Whether the photographs showed a politician or a soldier, it was all the same to the proletarian and the peasant" ( 115 ). 30 See here Nkosi, Tasks and Masks, 67: "The reason why despite [Armah's) refusal to offer any easy solutions, [The Beautyful Ones] still seems such a 'radical book' is because of the general perspective from which the novel is written. There is a rage here


Notes to Pages 67-80 which is harnessed to the yet unrealized power of ordinary men and women ... In this respect, Armah differs from Kofi Awoonor, and even more radically, from Wole Soyinka, two novelists whose critique of post-independent African societies, however powerfully mounted and however eloquently expressed, seems focused entirely on the predicament of the intellectual elite." 31 Ogungbesan, "Symbol and Meaning," 107-08. 32 Priebe, "Demonic Imagery," ll 0-11. 33 Kofi Yankson, "The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born: An Anatomy of 'Shit,'" English Department Workpapers, University College of Cape Coast, l (March 1971): 27, 29. 34 Robert Fraser, The Novels ofAyi Kwei Armah (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1980), 16.

Ogungbesan, "Symbol and Meaning," 98. Fraser, Novels, 16. Priebe, "Demonic Imagery," 112-13. One is reminded here of the character of Ramono in Mongane Serote's novel To Every Birth Its Blood (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1983). Like "the man," Ramono also has to learn that although his personal acts of resistance are indispensable, he himself will very likely not live to see their fruition: "It took some years for Ramono to realise one of the truths about working towards the oasis: that one may reach it, or one may never see it" ( 126 ). 39 This reading of the reconciliation between "the man" and Oyo at the end of the novel is supported by Coates, "Mythic Undercurrent," 167. But see also Derek Wright's altogether bleaker interpretation in two articles, "Saviours and Survivors: The Disappearing Community in the Novels of Ayi Kwei Armah," Ufahamu 14, no. 2 (1985): 139; and "Ritual Modes and Social Models in African Fiction: The Case of Ayi Kwei Armah," World Literature Written in English 27, no. 2 (1987): 203. In a third article, devoted exclusively to The Beautyful Ones, "Flux and Form: The Geography of Time in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born," Ariel 17, no. 2 (April 1986): 63-77, Wright extends his bleak interpretation to the novel as a whole, reading it against the grain of the utopian dialectic that, in my view at least, contributes the touchstone of its radicalism. 40 Fraser, Novels, 16. 41 One is reminded here of Theodor Adorno's comment about culture: "[i]t abhors stench because it stinks." In Negative Dialectics, trans. E. B. Ashton (New York: Continuum, 1973), 366. 42 I am grateful to Professor Peter Nazareth for suggesting this line of explanation to me. 43 Wright, "Motivation and Motif," 120. 44 Chakava, "Ayi Kwei Armah," 200. 35 36 37 38

Chapter Four: Fragments l Chinua Achebe, "Africa and Her Writers," in Morning Yet on Creation Day (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1977), 26. See also Emmanuel Obiechina's review of The Beautyful Ones in Okike l (April 1971): 49-53, and the comments in his Culture, Tradition and Sodety in the West African Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975 ), l 04-07. Abiola Irele's review of The Beautyful Ones appeared in Okyeame 4, no. 2 (June 1969): 125-27. 2 See for instance Atta Britwum, "Hero-Worshipping in the African Novel," Asemka 3 (Summer 1975): 1-18; Max Dorsinville, "Levels of Ambiguity in the African Novel," Canadian Journal ofAfrican Studies 5, no. 2 (1971): 213-25; S. A. Gakwandi, The Novel


Notes to Pages 80-83 and Contemporary Experience in Africa (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1977), 87-99; Omolara Leslie, "African Aesthetics and Literature," Ufahamu 4, no. 1 (Spring 1973): 4-7; Molly Mahood, "West African Writers in the World of Frantz Fanon," English Department Workpapers, University College of Cape Coast, 1 (March 1971): 4344; Charles Nnolim, "Dialectic as Form: Pejorism in the Novels of Armah," in E. D. Jones, ed., African Literature Today, no. 10 (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1979), 207-23; Ben Obumselu, "Marx, Politics and the African Novel." Twentieth Century Studies 10 (Dec. 1973): 107-27; and Oyin Ogunba, "The Politics of Poverty: Two Novels on Political Independence in West Africa," Oduma Magazine 2, no. 1 (Aug. 1974): 24-33. 3 The American poet Gwendolyn Brooks, who met Armah in Tanzania in 1971, notes that during their meeting Armah commented that he had grown to dislike The Beautyful Ones-ironically, for very much the same sort of reasons as Achebe, it would seem: it had come to strike him as Eurocentric in character. See Brooks, Report from Part One (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1972), 127. 4 Ayi Kwei Armah, Fragments (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970; London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1974; Nairobi, East African Publishing House, 1974). Page references in the text are to the 1979 Heinemann Educational Books edition. 5 Ayi Kwei Armah, "African Socialism: Utopian or Scientific?" Presence Africaine 64, 4th quarterly ( 1967): 17. As Michael Wolfers has written, "Africa's burden today is in large part the extravagance of elites, not only in their personal spending but in the directions in which they lead the mass of their countrymen. It is not apparently sufficient for the minority to adopt wholesale the customs developed in the coloniser's society, under very different conditions, but the minority tend also to impose them on the mass of the people either by example or, in some cases, by compulsion." In Black Man's Burden Revisited (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1974), 27. 6 The same image of assimilation as a ladder had appeared before in Armah's work, in his 1967 essay, "African Socialism," 16: "The successful African leader is likely to have gone quite far up the ladder of assimilation set up for his benefit by the white men. The system is quite overtly one of the progressive isolation of the subject: a heroic adventure, in literary terms. The desire to excel in competition with one's peers in a colonial situation becomes enlisted in an incentive system that offers increasing rewards in proportion as the competing individual draws nearer the colonialist ideal. For the most successful. the luckiest or the most enterprising, the treasure hunt leads through the colonial school system to the metropole itself." This trope receives its most sustained elaboration in Armah's third novel. Why Are We So Blest? 7 Joe Lurie, "Fragments: Between the Loved Ones and the Community," Ba Shiru 5, no. l (Fall 1973): 33. 8 Ibid., 33. 9 Segun Osoba, "The Nigerian Power Elite, 1952-65," in Peter C. W. Gutkind and Peter Waterman, eds., African Social Studies: A Radical Reader (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1978), 375. 10 Lurie, "Fragments," 33. 11 See Wolfers, Black Man's Burden Revisited, 94-95: "Independent Africa has such temples of conformity as the huge institutes of public administration, faithfully maintaining colonial styles of administration. It has banks with white puppet masters skilfully manipulating black puppets to go through tricks learned from Paris, London, and Rome. "Africa has tropical hospitals staffed with people highly trained in temperate medicine. It has universities modelled on the patterns of medieval Europe. It has the best of everything for a handful of people-just like the old days before nationalism raised its voice and people demanded freedom."


Notes to Pages 84-103 12 Basil Davidson, Black Star: A View of the Life and Times of Kwame Nkrumah (London: Allen Lane, 1973), 144-45. For other works on African political economy, see Samir Amin, Neocolonialism in West Africa (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1973); Gio-

vanni Arrighi and John S. Saul, Essays on the Political Economy of Africa (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973); Hosea Jaffe, A History of Africa (London: Zed Press, 1985); Bade Onimode, An Introduction to Marxist Political Economy (London: Zed Press, 1985); Ivor Oxaal. Tony Barnett, and David Booth, eds., Beyond the Sociology of Development: Economy and Society in Africa and Latin America (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. 1975). 13 For an account of the customary significance of this ceremony within Akan culture, see Derek Wright, "Fragments: The Akan background," Research in African Literatures 18, no. 2 (Summer 1987): 176-91. 14 Cf. Jean Baudrillard's commentary on the social logic of commodity consumption in his Fora Critique ofthe Political Economy ofthe Sign, trans. Charles Levin (St. Louis, Mo.: Telos Press, 1981 ), 38: "Thus objects, their syntax, and their rhetoric refer to social objectives and to a social logic. They speak to us not so much of the user and of technical practices, as of social pretension and resignation, of social mobility and inertia, of acculturation and enculturation, of stratification and of social classification. Through objects, each individual and each group searches out his-her place in an order, all the while trying to jostle this order according to a personal trajectory. Through objects a stratified society speaks, and, if . . . objects seem to speak to everyone ... it is in order to keep everyone in a certain place." 15 Lurie, "Fragments," 33. 16 Davidson, Black Star, 159. 17 See Fanon's essay "The Pitfalls of National Consciousness," in The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington (New York: Grove Press, 1968), 148-205. 18 This idea of African intellectuals "abdicating their responsibility" is developed in an article by Otonti Nduka on "The Rationality of the Rich in Nigeria," in Gutkind and Waterman, African Social Studies, 343-50. In this article, Nduka writes that "One had thought that it was the duty and privilege of the intellectuals in our [societies] to define, re-define, criticize, and articulate viable ideological. political. and social programmes for the whole nation. From their attitude and utterances in this connection it seems that they are abdicating their responsibility" (349). 19 Ayi Kwei Armah, "A Mystification: African Independence Revalued," Pan-African Journal 2, no. 2 (Spring 1969): 146. 20 Aggrey had been the first African to hold a faculty position at Achimota College, the elite colonial (and now elite postcolonial) school attended by such significant Ghanaian figures as Kwame Nkrumah, Jerry Rawlings, and ... Ayi Kwei Armah. In Fragments, both Asante-Smith and Baako are graduates of Achimota. For a critical but sympathetic view of Aggrey and Achimota, see Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah (New York: International Publishers, 1981 ), 13-23. 21 Lurie, "Fragments," 34. 22 See Osoba, "The Nigerian Power Elite," 377. 23 Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia, trans. E. F. N. Jephcott (London: Verso, 1974), 26. 24 Robert Fraser, The Novels of Ayi Kwei Armah (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1980), 35. 25 Richard Priebe, "Demonic Imagery and the Apocalyptic Vision in the Novels of Ayi Kwei Armah," Yale French Studies 53 (1976): 127. 26 Ibid., 130. . 27 In her article, "Parasites and Prophets: The Use of Women in Ayi Kwei Armah's

Novels," in Carole Boyce Davies and Anne Adams Graves, eds., Ngambika: Studies of Women in African Literature (Trenton, N. J.: Africa World Press, 1986), for instance,


Notes to Pages 103-26 Abena P.A. Busia commits herself to the following blanket assessment, which makes no allowance for the singularity of Juana's character: "women in Armah's novels never have roles independent of the novel's hero or protagonist-always a man in a male dominated society. Women are always the lovers, wives, or blood relatives of the central male characters, and have significance in the texts only in so far as they affect those characters" (89). Whatever its validity with respect to Armah's other novels, this assessment is not true of Juana in Fragments. Indeed, Busia seems belatedly to concede as much, for, in discussing Juana later in her article, she writes that "all [Baako's] constructive insights and revelations, both personal and social, come to him through her" (95). 28 Fraser, Novels, 45. 29 Ibid. 30 Ibid., 31. 31 Ibid., 37. 32 Fanon, Toward the African Revolution, trans. Haakon Chevalier (New York: Grove Press, 1969), 53. 33 Adorno, Minima Moralia, 60. 34 Achebe, "Africa and Her Writers," 26. 35 Fraser, Novels, 44-45. 36 Ron Rassner," Fragments: The Cargo Mentality," Ba Shiru 5, no. 2 (1974): 61. 37 Lurie, "Fragments," 39. 38 Walter Benjamin, "Some Reflections on Kafka," in Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 143. 39 This is an idea that will receive far greater elaboration in Armah's later fiction. In Two Thousand Seasons (Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1973 ), especially, the novelist goes as far as to charge traditionalism with having had a hand in its own destruction, citing its unguardedness, even in the face of the ruthlessly dominative proclivities of colonial capitalism, as evidence. 40 Adorno, Minima Moralia, 57. 41 Lurie, "Fragments," 40. 42 Adorno, Minima Moralia, 247.

Chapter Five: Why Are We So Blest? 1 Ayi Kwei Armah, Why Are We So Blest? (New York: Doubleday, 1972; London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1974). Page references in the text are to the Heinemann Educational Books edition. 2 Derek Wright, "Love and Politics in the African Novel," Bulletin of the Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies, 7th ser., 1 ( 1985): 18. 3 Ibid., 26. 4 Robert Fraser, "The American Background in Why Are We So Blest?" in E. D. Jones, ed., African Literature Today, no. 9 (London: Heinemann Educational Books), 1978, 39. 5 Wright, "Love and Politics," 27. 6 Samuel Beckett, Endgame (New York: Grove Press, 1958), 30. 7 T. W. Adorno, "Trying to Understand Endgame," trans. Michael T. Jones, New German Critique 26 (Spring-Summer 1982): 122. 8 Ayi Kwei Armah, "Contact," The New African 4, no. 2 (Dec. 1965): 245. 9 Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, trans. Charles Lam Markmann (New York: Grove Press, 1967), 110. 1O I refer here to the very useful distinction drawn by Raymond Williams in his Marxism


Notes to Pages 126-50 and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, I 977), I I2-I 3: "A lived hegemony is always a process. It is not, except analytically, a system or a structure. It is a realized complex of experiences, relationships, and activities, with specific and changing pressures and limits. In practice, that is, hegemony can never be singular. Its internal structures are highly complex, as can readily be seen in any concrete analysis. Moreover (and this is crucial. reminding us of the necessary thrust of the concept), it does not just passively exist as a form of dominance. It has continually to be renewed, recreated, defended, and modified. It is also continually resisted, limited, altered, challenged by pressures not at all its own. We have then to add to the concept of hegemony the concepts of counter-hegemony and alternative hegemony, which are real and persistent elements of practice." I I One is reminded of the recent denunciation by Breyten Breytenbach, the radical white South African poet and activist, of the posture of at least some of those involved in South African liberation politics. Breytenbach refers to "my dear, ineffective, fat, institutionalized friends in the liberation movement ... those professional diplomats, those living off the fat of the suffering of our people back home and who've done so for years and will do so until they die, not really worried about ever going back, the suave politicians." In Breyten Breytenbach, The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist (New York: McGraw-Hill, I986), 97. I2 Robert Fraser, The Novels ofAyi Kwei Armah (London: Heinemann Educational Books, I980), 48. I 3 Readers sympathetic to Why Are We So Blest? invariably deny that the novel is racially essentialist, insisting instead that its representations are of culture, not race. In his article entitled "Personal and Political Fate in Armah's Why Are We So Blest'?" (World Literature Written in English I 9, no. I [I 980] ), for example, Edward Lobb argues that critiques of Why Are We So Blest? as racist are "predictable" and "beside the point," since "Armah is not making a racial generalization but a cultural one, and the distinction is critical" (IO). Certainly this distinction between "racial" and "cultural" generalizations is fundamental. To mobilize it in the context of Why Are We So Blest?, however, seems misguided; for, as I shall attempt to demonstrate below, the essentialism of Armah's novel is precisely racial in quality. I4 Fraser, Novels, 52. I5 Fraser, "The American Background," 4I-42. 16 See Fraser, Novels, 55. I 7 Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, 109-40. I8 Ibid., llO. I 9 Wole Soyinka, Myth, Literature and the African World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, I 978), 126-27. 20 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington (New York: Grove Press, I 968), I 50. 2 I Wright, "Love and Politics," I 5. 22 Aimee's relation to Modin obviously needs to be thought through not only at the level of race but also at that of gender. I shall take up the question of gender later. Here, it is worth mentioning that none of the sympathetic readers of Why Are We So Blest?-those defending it against the charge of racism-have seemed to notice that the novel's representations of white, Western culture are everywhere compounded by a virulent (hetero )sexism. 23 A third unarticulated question may be seen to cohabit the space occupied by these two: given his misogyny, what leads Modin to befriend and commit himself to a charged relationship with a woman? This question, however, is not so much "answered" by the text as denied by it. As I shall suggest, the failure to problematize the


Notes to Pages 150-71 hegemony of heterosexuality in Why Are We So Blest? is so insistent and emphatic as to advertise itself as a site of anxiety. Not even the manifest and explicit homophobia of the text can blind us as readers to the homoeroticism of the relationship between Modin and Solo. 24 The "absence" of black women other than Naita from Modin's life has an interesting social correlate in the dramatic under-representation of black women in the various oppositional black movements of the 1960s in the United States. In Personal Politics: The Roots of Women's Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), Sara Evans notes that black women were seldom integrated into the organizational structures of these movements. Moreover, since they often refused to be confined to "service" roles in the movements, clerical and secretarial tasks were frequently performed by white women. It is this state of affairs, arguably, in which black men and white women coexist in a sexually hierarchical universe without black women, that Armah faithfully but uncritically represents as Modin's America in Why Are We So Blest? 25 One scarcely needs to be reminded, here, of the wolf's response to Little Red Riding Hood: "all the better to eat you with." 26 The ferocious heterosexism of Solo's formulation is so manifest as to require, presumably, very little in the way of further elaboration. Suffice it here, then, to point to the biologism in terms of which libidinal energy is first physicalized and quantified (as that which "ach[ es] inside our ... bodies"), and then rationalized as "love." Also striking is the conceptualization that removes (black) women by definition from the sphere of creativity. 27 See Fraser, Novels, 56. 28 See here Wright, "Love and Politics," 25: "According to this paradigm [essentialist black American separatism] ... [t]he woman's desire is not only spiced by the lure of the forbidden but is enhanced, masochistically, by the threat of detection and punishment and, sadistically, by the prospect of violent revenge on her imagined violator for his un-nigger-like presumption. Armah adheres closely to this model of deeply secret white longings and phobias." 29 Ibid., 21-22. 30 Daniele Stewart, "Ghanaian Writing in Prose: A Critical Survey," Presence Africaine 91, 3d quarterly ( 1974): 97. 31 Fraser, Novels, 59. 32 Ibid., 50. 33 Wright, "Love and Politics," 22. 34 Adewale Maja-Pearce, "The House of Slavery," in Eldred Durosimi Jones, ed., Women in African Literature Today (London: James Currey; Trenton, N. J.: Africa World Press, 1987), 150. The full phrase used by Maja-Pearce is "shocking and disgusting, but not in the way it is intended to be." See also Derek Wright's reading of the passage, "Love and Politics," 21: "Given the implausibilities of the climactic death scene-the unlikely method of castration, the impossibility of fellating a decapitated penis, the general pointlessness of the desert trip-Aimee's ludicrous question, 'Do you love me?', after swallowing Modin's blood, is not especially out of place, although it is both intrinsically absurd and completely out of character. Mrs. Jefferson, who asks Modin the identical question after her husband has almost stabbed him to death, has at least mixed a little maternal concern with her quest for the mythical African penis. But Aimee never speaks of love and her relationship with Modin, which passes rapidly from the manipulatory and parasitical to the downright predatory, is never a loving one . . . In the light of the novel's overtly politicised sexuality, the physical improbabilities of the final scene have licensed the proliferation of abstract critical


Notes to Pages 171-85 readings. Thus, on a purely allegorical level, the terrorists' use of Aimee to produce Modin's unlikely erection, which, in turn, will moisten her for their own use, can be taken to signify the white world's tantalising temptation of the African with privileges which he desires but is not allowed to enjoy, whilst perversely siphoning off Africa's energies for its own profit." 35 On this point, see Wright, "Love and Politics," 20. 36 Modin's women-hating thoughts here are reminiscent of those discussed by Klaus Theweleit in his Male Fantasies: Volume I. Women, Floods, Bodies, History, trans. Stephen Conway (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987). It is a disturbing fact that the general image of (white) women held by Modin should be so redolent of that held by the men Theweleit examines, fascists ahd protofascists in the seedtime of Nazism in Germany. 37 In his essay, "Fanon: The Awakener," Negro Digest 18, no. 12 ( 1969): 36, Armah had derived this latter position from his reading of Fanon: "Culture is the environment we function in. If we made it for our own needs, then it's our culture. If someone else made it and imposed it on us for his own purposes, what we have is a slave culture, and we can never speak of our own culture till we have destroyed the alien environment imprisoning us and constructed an environment of our own. In other words, for slaves no culture can exist outside the struggle to take over our environment and shape it ourselves-unless we are content with the slave tatters now called our culture." 38 Thus Wright, "Love and Politics," 17, speaks of Sylvia as "a fragile compassionate creature who breaks off the engagement to spare both of them pain"; and Fraser, "American Background," 42, describes her similarly as "a flower-like waif who succumbs to the pressure of her own society in leaving him, rather than hurt either him or her friends. One has the impression that she would be incapable of destroying anything or anybody." 39 I refer here to Louis Althusser's formulation of the mode of functioning of ideology in "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)," in Lenin and Philosophy and other Essays, trans. Ben Brewster (New York and London: Monthly Review Press), 174: "ideology 'acts' or 'functions' in such a way that it 'recruits' subjects among the individuals (it recruits them all), or 'transforms' the individuals into subjects (it transforms them all)." 40 Armah, "Contact," 246. 41 Derek Wright, "The Early Writings of Ayi Kwei Armah," Research in African Literatures 16, no. 4 (Winter 1985): 503. 42 Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, trans. E. B. Ashton (New York: Continuum, 1973 ), 362-63. See also 364: "The only trouble with self-preservation is that we cannot help suspecting the life to which it attaches us of turning into something that makes us shudder: into a specter, a piece of the world of ghosts, which our waking consciousness perceives to be nonexistent." 43 Georg Lukacs, quoted in Michael Lowy, Georg Lukdcs: From Romanticism to Bolshevism (London: New Left Books, 1979), 93.

Chapter Six: After the Break 1 Ayi Kwei Armah, Why Are We So Blest? (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1974), 230.

2 The concept of "problematic" is given its most celebrated deployment in the work of


Notes to Pages 185-97 the French Marxist theorist Louis Althusser. Althusser defines a problematic as a semiotic field of concepts, or horizon, which serves to delimit the contours and parameters of thought. Thinking "can only pose problems on the terrain and within the horizon of a definite theoretical structure, its problematic, which constitutes its absolute and definite condition of possibility, and hence the absolute determination of the forms in which all problems must be posed, at any given moment" (Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar, Reading Capital, trans. Ben Brewster [London: Verso, 1979), 25). In these terms, I take a problematic to be a sort of discursive matrix on the basis of which ideas are generated and through which they are mediated in representation. A problematic must be grasped as existing in a determinate relationship with its total social universe, of which it is an index and to which, at the same time, it constitutes a response. 3 Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1981), 87. 4 Ben Obumselu, "Marx, Politics and the African Novel," Twentieth Century Studies 10 (Dec. 1973): 116. But see also Derek Wright's rebuttal of this critique in his "Saviours and Survivors: The Disappearing Community in the Novels of Ayi Kwei Armah," Ufahamu 14, no. 2 (1985): 137: "The anonymity of the man, who seems remote from class identity, has little to do with any generic or allegoric significance as "working man" or "everyman" -in fact he is atypical of his society and class of railway-clerksand has much more to do with the existing order's refusal of an identity to one estranged from its values and its sheer incapacity for recognizing value beyond its own narrow definitions." 5 Bob Fitch and Mary Oppenheimer, Ghana: End of an Illusion (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1966), 107. 6 Ayi Kwei Armah, Fragments (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1979), 45. 7 Compare, here, Arna Ata Aidoo's short story, "For Whom Things Did Not Change," in her collection No Sweetness Here (London: Longman, 1979). The literary relationship between Aidoo and Armah, both Ghanaians, was particularly close in the 1960s. Aidoo drew the title of No Sweetness Here from a phrase in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born. She also wrote an introduction to the American edition of Armah's first novel. Armah dedicated Fragments to Aidoo. 8 Armah, Why Are We So Blest?, 33. 9 Ibid., 222. 10 Ayi Kwei Armah, "Fanon: The Awakener," Negro Digest, 18, no. 12 (Oct. 1969): 34. 11 Armah, Why Are We So Blest?, 221. 12 Ibid., 223. 13 Ibid., 49. 14 The phrase is Walter Benjamin's. See his "Theses on the Philosophy of History," in Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 26 l. 15 Armah, "Fanon: The Awakener," 34. 16 Armah, Why Are We So Blest?, 225. 17 Ibid., 232. 18 Robert Fraser, The Novels of Ayi Kwei Armah (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1980), 6. 19 Armah, Why Are We So Blest?, 84. 20 Ayi Kwei Armah, "One Writer's Education," West Africa, 26 Aug. 1985, 1753. 21 Armah, Why Are We So Blest?, 263. 22 Jean-Paul Sartre, "A Plea for Intellectuals," in Between Existentialism and Marxism, trans. John Matthews (New York: Pantheon Books, 1974), 227. 23 The "classic" texts of dependency theory include the following: Samir Amin, Ac-


Notes to Pages 197-203 cumulation on a World Scale: A Critique of the Theory of Underdevelopment (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1974); Andre Gunder Frank, "The Sociology of Development and the Underdevelopment of Sociology," in Latin America: Underdevelopment or Revolution? Essays on the Development of Underdevelopment and the Immediate Enemy (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1969), 21-94; Andre Gunder Frank, Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1971); and Immanuel Wallerstein, The Capitalist World-Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979). 24 Peter Worsley, The Three Worlds: Culture and World Development (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 22. 25 Hamza Alavi and Teodor Shanin, Editors' Introduction to Introduction to the Sociology of "Developing Societies" (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1982). 4. 26 Bertolt Brecht, "Popularity and Realism," trans. Stuart Hood, in Ernst Bloch et al., Aesthetics and Politics (London: Verso, 1986), 80. 27 Emmanuel Ngara, Art and Ideology in the African Novel: A Study of the Influence of Marxism on African Writing (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1985), 36. See also John Saul, "Ideology in Africa: Decomposition and Recomposition;' in Gwendolyn M. Carter and Patrick O'Meara, eds., African Independence: The First Twenty-Five Years (Bloomington: Indiana University Press; London: Hutchinson, 1985), 301-29. It is interesting, in this respect, to compare the poetry emerging out of the struggle for national liberation in Lusophone Africa with that of the anticolonial Francophone writers of the 1950s, like David Diop, whose work I discussed briefly in chapter l, above. In the work of such Lusophone poets as Costa Andrade, Antonio Jacinto, and Agostinho Neto of Angola, and Jose Craveirinha of Mozambique, we encounter a discourse of anticolonialism impressively sensitive-where Diop's had not been-to the pragmatics of political power, and emphatic in its socialist commitment. Translation of the work of Lusophone African poets into English has been belated and slow. A volume of Agostinho Neto's poetry, Sagrada Esperan(a, was published under the title Sacred Hope, trans. Marga Holness (Dar es Salaam: Tanzania Publishing House, 1974). A selection ofLusophone African poetry in English translation is to be found in Frank Mkalawile Chipasula, ed., When My Brothers Come Home: Poems from Central and Southern Africa (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1985). 28 Amilcar Cabral, "National Liberation and Culture:· in Return to the Source: Selected Speeches of Ami/car Cabral (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1973 ), 45. Further references to this work (hereafter RS) will be given parenthetically in the text. See also Eduardo Mondlane, The Struggle for Mozambique (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1970). For a discussion of the "theoretical-historical context" ofrevolutionary discourses of national liberation, see Barbara Harlow, Resistance Literature (New York and London: Methuen, 1987), l-30. 29 Obumselu, "Marx, Politics and the African Novel," l l l. 30 Archie Mafeje, "Neo-Colonialism, State Capitalism, or Revolution?" in Peter C. W. Gutkind and Peter Waterman, eds., African Social Studies: A Radical Reader (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1978), 412. See here also John Saul, The State and Revolution in Eastern Africa (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1979), 350: "It would be incorrect to see in the replacement of the colonial state by the postcolonial state merely a distinction without a· difference. The colonial state provided imperialism with a quite direct and unmediated instrument for control in the interests of 'accumulation on a world scale' within the colonial social formation. The postcolonial state, while prone to play a similar role to that played by its predecessor, is something more of an unpredictable quantity in this regard. Unpredictable because of the greater scope for expression given to indigenous elements who now find in the


Notes to Pages 203-12 'independent' state a much more apt target for their activities and a potential instrument for the advancement of their own interests and concerns." 31 Ezekiel Mphahlele, Voices in the Whirlwind and Other Essays (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972), 15. 32 Ngugi wa Thiong'o, "Wole Soyinka, T. M. Aluko and the Satiric Voice," in Homecom-

ing: Essays on African and Caribbean Literature, Culture and Politics (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1978), 65-66. 33 Wole Soyinka, "The Writer in a Modern African State," in Per Wastberg, ed., The Writer in Modern Africa (New York: Africana Publishing Corporation, 1969), 21. 34 Lewis Nkosi, response to Soyinka's "The Writer in a Modern African State," in Wastberg, The Writer in Modern Africa, 56. 35 Ibid., 57. 36 Chinua Achebe, "The Novelist as Teacher," in Morning Yet on Creation Day (London: Heinemann Educational Books), 1977, 44-45. 37 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington (New York: Grove Press, 1968), 148. 38 James Ngugi (Ngugi wa Thiong'o), response to Wole Soyinka's "The Writer in a Modern African State," in Wastberg, The Writer in Modern Africa, 25. 39 Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Detained: A Writer's Prison Diary (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1981), 160. 40 Ousmane Sembene, God's Bits of Wood, trans. Francis Price (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1976), 32-34. 41 See for example Dambudzo Marechera, The House of Hunger (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1978); Thomas Akare, The Slums (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1981); Meja Mwangi, Kill Me Quick (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1973). Marechera died in 1987, at the age of 32. 42 Meja Mwangi, Going Down River Road (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1980), 57. 43 See Aminata Sow Fall, The Beggars' Strike, trans. Dorothy S. Blair (London: Longman, 1981); and Ousmane Sembene, Xala, trans. Clive Wake (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1976). See also Festus Iyayi, Violence (London: Longman, 1979) and

Mongane Serote, To Every Birth Its Blood (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1983).

44 Lewis Nkosi, Tasks and Masks: Themes and Styles of African Literature (London: Longman, 1981 ), l 00. See also Bessie Head, When Rain Clouds Gather (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1972). 45 Nkosi, Tasks and Masks, 102. 46 Bessie Head, "The Wind and a Boy," in The Collector of Treasures (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1977), 75. See also Flora Nwapa, This is Lagos and Other Stories (Enugu, Nigeria: Nwamife Publishers, 1971); and Buchi Emecheta, The Joys ofMotherhood (New York: George Braziller, 1979). 47 Mariama Ba, So Long a Letter, trans. Modupe Bode-Thomas (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1981), 25. See also Nuruddin Farah, Sardines (London: Allison and Busby, 1981); and Buchi Emecheta, The Double Yoke (London: Ogwugwu Afor Company, 1982). 48 Ba, So Long a Letter, 51. 49 Ibid., 4. 50 All three of these novels have been translated into English. They are: Perpetua and the Habit of Unhappiness, trans. John Reed and Clive Wake (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1978); Remember Ruben, trans. Gerald Moore (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1980); and Lament for an African Pol, trans. Richard Bjornson (Washington, D.C.: Three Continents Press, 1985).


Notes to Pages 213-23 51 Ngiigi wa Thiong'o, Petals of Blood (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1977), 344. 52 Ngiigi wa Thiong'o, Barrel of a Pen: Resistance to Repression in Neo-Colonial Kenya (Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1983), 65. 53 Ibid., 2. All of Mongo Beti's works written since 1972 have been banned in his native Cameroon, and Beti himself has been obliged to live in exile since 1959. Similarly, Nuruddin Farah's work has been suppressed in his native Somalia, and he too has been driven into exile. Camara Laye, a Guinean, died in exile in Senegal. But Senegalese writers have themselves not been immune to persecution: Ousmane Sembene's film version of Xala was cut without his knowledge before being distributed in 1977, and all of his more recent films have been censored or banned outright. The Malawian poet Jack Mapanje was arrested on 25 September 1987. As of this writing (December 1988), he has still not been charged or released. 54 Quoted in Sasha Moorsom, "No Bars to Expression," New Society, 19 Feb. 1981, 334. 55 Ngiigi, Detained, 8-9. 56 Ayi Kwei Armah, Two Thousand Seasons (Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1973 ), 1. Further references to this work (hereafter ITS) will be given parenthetically in the text. 57 Wole Soyinka, Myth, Literature and the African World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), 105. See also Yambo Ouologuem, Bound to Violence, trans. Ralph Manheim (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1977); and Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Ambiguous Adventure, trans. Katherine Woods (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1983 ). 58 Soyinka, Myth, Literature and the African World, 106. 59 Fraser, Novels, 70. See also Derek Wright, "Orality in the African Historical Novel: Yambo Ouologuem's Bound to Violence and Ayi Kwei Armah's Two Thousand Seasons," Journal of Commonwealth Literature 2 3, no. l ( 1988): 91-101. 60 Fraser, Novels, 73. 61 Ayi Kwei Armah, "Seed time," West Africa, 23 May 1988, 926. 62 The affinity between Brooks's poetry and Armah's narrative technique in Two Thousand Seasons has been commented upon by Peter Nazareth, in his article, "Africa Under Neo-Colonialism: New East African Writing," Busara 6, no. l (1974): 19-31. Nazareth writes of a meeting between the American poet and himself in the mid- 1970s, in which he "told her that I thought that Armah had written his new novel very much in the style in which she wrote her poems: in her poems, the personal voice is not the voice of the poet but that of a whole people, the BLACK people in diaspora. She told me that she was very pleased to hear me say so because she had met Armah in Tanzania two years ago and he had told her he was trying to write in just the way she wrote her poems" (30). 63 Ibid., 21. 64 Fraser, Novels, 72-73. 65 Fraser speaks of this effort as socially "necessary." It is worth noting in passing that this assessment seems to me eminently disputable. 66 Fraser, Novels, 73. 67 See Ayi Kwei Armah, "Masks and Marx: The Marxist Ethos vis-a-vis African Revolutionary Theory and Praxis," Presence Africaine 131, 3d quarterly (1984): 43-44. 68 See here Stuart Hall's argument, in his recent essay, "The Toad in the Garden: Thatcherism among the Theorists," that "we ... have to rethink and finally reject strategies based on the assumption that the great mass of people live permanently in false consciousness. I do not think it is possible to argue that a small number of people, who are themselves, of course, not in false consciousness . . . should address and mobilize large numbers of people who are. I don't think you will convince anyone by


Notes to Pages 223-29 saying, Tm sorry. I can see through you, but you can't see through yourself.'" In Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg, eds., Marxism and the Interpretation of Cultures (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988 ), 66. Much the same argument is made by Zygmunt Bauman in his recent book, Legislators and Interpreters: On Modernity, Post-Modernity and Intellectuals (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987). Noting the uniformity with which intellectuals tend to distinguish between themselves as "thinkers" and the mass of "ordinary people" who, by implication, do not (and cannot) "think," Bauman suggests that this distinction "leads to altogether formidable consequences. It engenders an acute asymmetry in the deployment of social power. Not only does it promote sharp polarization of status, influence, and access to the socially produced surplus, but it also (and perhaps most importantly) builds upon the opposition of temperaments a relationship of dependency. The doers now become dependent upon the thinkers; the ordinary people cannot conduct their life business without asking for, and receiving, the [thinkers'] assistance. As members of society, the ordinary people are now incomplete, imperfect, wanting. There is no clear way in which their morbid flaws can be permanently repaired. Burdened with their flaws forever, they need the constant presence and ongoing intervention of the shamans, magicians, priests, theologians" ( 11-12 ). 69 Kelwyn Sole, "Criticism, Activism and Rhetoric (or: Armah and the White Pumpkin)," Inspan L no. l (1978): 131. 70 James C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985 ), 29. 71 Ayi Kwei Armah, The Healers (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1979). Further references to this work (hereafter H) will be given parenthetically in the text. 72 Fraser, Novels, 84. 73 Karl Marx, "Introduction to a Critique of Political Economy." Included in The German Ideology, C. J. Arthur, ed. (New York: International Publishers, 1981), 141. 74 Thomas Mofolo, Chaka, trans. Daniel P. Kunene (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1981). Chaka was written in 1909 or 1910, but was first published only in 1925. 75 Ayi Kwei Armah, "The Definitive Chaka," Transition 9, no. 50 (Oct. 1975-March 1976): 11. 76 For more on the social assumptions that frame Chaka as a novel, see my "The Logic of · Equivocation in Thomas Mofolo's Chaka," English in Africa 13, no. 1(May1986): 4160. 77 I have in mind here Fredric Jameson's recent contention, in an essay on "Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism," 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 ... Third-world texts, even those which are seemingly private and invested with a properly libidinal dynamic-necessarily project a political dimension in the form of national allegory: the story of the private individual destiny is always an allegory ofthe embattled situation ofthe public third-world culture and society" (Social Text 15 [Fall 1986): 69). This is not the place to develop a critique of Jameson's argument, which seems to me surprisingly and distressingly supremacist in its assumptions, and subject to criticism on a multiplicity of grounds, not least the conspicuous selectivity of its examples. However, for a vigorous rebuttal of Jameson's argument, see Aijaz Ahmad, "Jameson's Rhetoric of Otherness and the 'National Allegory,'" Social Text 17 (Fall 1987): 3-25.



Abdel-Malek, Anouar, 5 Abrahams, Peter, 20 Achebe, Chinua, 20, 218; A Man of the People, 19, 204, 205; on postcolonial leadership, 21; on The Beautyful Ones, 21, 80, Ill; on independence, 22; elitism, 206 Adorno, Theodor, 46, 80, 108, 114, 117; politico-intellectual position of, 44-45, 95, 115, 121, 182 Ady, Endre, 184 African Personality, the, 2-3 African Revolution, the: betrayed, ix, 2122; Fanon's theory of, 12-17, 27-33; recuperated, 30, 36-37; Armah's treatment of, 36, 37, 38-45, 52-53, 68-69, 70, 77, 120, 125-32, 141, 187-90 passim African Socialism, 41 Aggrey, Kwegyir (James), 90 Ahidjo, Ahmadou, 214 Aidoo, Arna Ata, 22 Ajayi, A. F. Ade, 3-4, 7 Akare, Thomas, 209 Alavi, Hamza, 199 Aluko, Timothy M., 204 Anticolonialism: and African intellectuals, 4-5; reductive rhetoric of, 5; at Achimota College, 34; Armah's treatment of, 41, 50-52, 127-30, 194 Armah, Ayi Kwei: and postcolonial African literature, ix, x, 26, 204, 233-34; intellectual debt to Fanon, x, 27, 33-34, 36-45, 55-56, 89, 105-06, 139-40, 144, 192, 194-95; sociological writings, 19-20, 22, 27, 28, 38-44 passim, 90, 192, 194-95, 223; and the literature of disillusionment, 20-21; early years and education, 34-35; political radicalization, 34-36; experience of liberation struggle, 35-37; messianism, 35-43; pan-Africanism, 36; conceptual universe of fiction, 36-45, 185-96, 215-


34; on the vocation of writing, 38; on intellectual labor, 44-45; and Adorno, 44-45; and late 1960s crisis of intellectualism, 185-86, 196-97, 198-99 -The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, ix, 27, 38, 46-79; ideological horizons of, x, 40-44 passim, 51, 55, 117, 118, 134, 186-92 passim, 221-22; figuration of independence, 3, 19-20, 23; portrait of postcolonial elite, 21, 49, 50, 53-55, 66-67; criticized by Achebe, 21, 80, 111; dialectical novel, 46-48; affirmative vision of, 46-48, 67, 73-79, 114, 115; Ghana as neocolony in, 48-50, 81, 87; portrait of anticolonial nationalists, 50-52; portrait of Nkrumah, 50-53, 68-69, 70, 77, 186-88; messianism, 51, 55, 186-90 passim, 232; African revolution betrayed, 52-53, 68-69, 70, 120, 187-90 passim; metaphor of the gleam, 56-66,68, 71-72, 73, 79,81, 188,230; commodity fetishism in, 57-58, 60, 109-10; corruption in, 58-59, 63-64, 77, 78; strategies for resistance, 66-79, 96, 130, 179, 188,220,221-22;portrait of the masses, 66-67, 186, 188; moralism, 77-78 -Fragments, ix, 80-116; ideological horizons of, x, 42, 43, 117, 118, 122, 134, 186-92 passim, 221-22; portrait of postcolonial elite, 20, 21, 82-92; Ghana as neocolony in, 81-89, 104-07; portrait of the masses, 82, 83, 106-08, 188-91 passim; conspicuous consumption in, 85-86, 112; mimicry in, 86-87; corruption in, 88; irresponsibility of intellectuals, 90, 93; creative intellectualism, 92-102, 103, 114-16, 120, 130, 188-90, 192, 220, 223, 231-32; psychiatry as cultural practice, 104-08, 189-90, 192; affirmative vision of, I 08, 114-16; cargo cults, 110-12; postcolonialism and tradition, 112-13, 218,

Index Armah, Ayi Kwei (cont.) 226; African revolution betrayed, 18788; messianism, 187-90 passim, 22122, 232 -Why Are We So Blest?, ix, 117-84; ideological horizons of. x, 21. 27, 36-37, 40-44 passim, 185-86, 190-96, 22122; portrait of anticolonial leadership, 41. 127-30, 194; as psychosexual allegory, 117-18, 175; racial essentialism, 118, 134-84 passim, 195, 219, 222-23; masculinism, 118, 150-73 passim, 181-82, 184; intellectual elitism, 12122, 167-68, 182-84, 185, 191-96, 200-0L 232; anti-intellectualism, 123, 144-45, 167-68, 192-96; creative intellectualism, 123, 185, 192, 220, 223; assimilation, 125, 135-84 passim, 192; African revolution betrayed, 125-32, 141; conspiracy theory, 139-54 passim, 177, 185, 191, 195; portrait of the masses, 183-84, 191. 195; dead-end in African literature, 190, 215; messianism, 193, 200-01, 221-22; and late 1960s crisis of intellectualism, 218-19 -Two Thousand Seasons: ideological horizons of. x, 43, 215-27 passim, 230-32, 233; style, 216; racial retrieval, 216-18, 222; difference from Armah's earlier fiction, 218-24; creative intellectualism, 219, 220-21. 223; racial essentialism, 219, 222-23, 2J4; intellectual elitism, 221,223-24 -The Healers: ideological horizons of. x, 190, 224-34; historical consciousness, 224-25, 228-29; narrative technique, 225-27; creative intellectualism, 22932; difference from Armah's earlier fiction, 232; intellectual elitism, 232; racial essentialism, 232-33 Assimilation: in Armah's fiction, 125, 13 5-84 passim, 192 Awoonor, Kofi, 18, 19, 204 Ba, Mariama, 2 11-12 Banda, Hastings, 214 Beckett, Samuel, 121 Benjamin, Walter, 3, 113 Beti, Mongo, 212, 214 Brecht. Bertolt. 7, 48, 199 Brooks, Gwendolyn, 220


Cabral, Amilcar, 24, 38, 200-02, 207 Castro, Fidel, 71 Chakava, Henry, 48, 78 Clark, John Pepper, 13 7 Class-suicide, 24-25, 195, 197, 200-01, 207 Clegg, Ian, 23, 30, 31, 32 Conton, William, 6-8 Davidson, Basil, 22-23, 49, 51, 84, 87 Development, 3-4, 83; uneven, 4; Nyerere on, 25; contrasted with growth, 83-84; and underdevelopment. 83-84, 197-99; and dependency theory, 19799 Diop, Cheikh Anta, 216 Diop, David Mandessi, 4 Disillusionment, literature of. ix, 18, 23, 25; Armah and, 20-21 Dubiel, Helmut, 45 Duodu, Cameron, 209 Emecheta, Buchi, 211 Fanon, Frantz, ix; model for Armah, x, 19, 27, 33-34, 36-45, 55-56, 89, 192; critique of nationalism, 6, 8-10, 12, 40, 55-56, 89, 206; explanatory power of critique of nationalism, I 0-11; model for radical African intellectuals, 1 L 18; role in Algerian national liberation struggle, 12, 16, 29-30, 194-95; messianism, 12-17, 27, 30-32; and Lukacs, 15-17; on African independence, 2728, 31-33, 40, 52; on populist leadership, 31-32, 39-40, 40-41, 52; on colonialism and psychiatry, 105-06; on race and racism, 124, 137; on colonialism and cultural domination, 139-40, 144; and Cabral, 202 Farah, Nuruddin, 211-12, 214 Fitch, Bob, 187 Frankfurt School, the, 45 Fraser, Robert, 34, 35, 36; on The Beautyful Ones, 69, 72, 76; on Fragments, 97-98, !03, 112; on Why Are We So Blest?, 118, 135, 137, 164, 167; on Two Thousand Seasons, 217, 222-23; on The Healers, 224-25 Gakwandi, Shatto Arthur, 55

Index Habermas, Jurgen, l 7 Head, Bessie, 210- l l Ho Chi Minh, 38 Hobsbawm, Eric, 223-24 Horkheimer, Max, 24 Independence: ceremonies of, l-3; and African intellectuals, l-26 passim; expectations of, 2, 3, 23; and anticolonial struggle, 2, 4; represented in Armah's fiction, 3, 19-20, 23; and national liberation, 10, 28, 199-200; and imperialism, 21-22, 40; Fanon on, 27-28, 3133, 40, 52 Intellectuals, radical: and social activism, ix, 26, 38; and African independence, l-26 passim; contradictory social position of, l 0- l l, 211-12; messianism of, ll-12, 17-18, 23-24, 25, 27-45 passim, 51, 55, 186-90 passim, 193, 20001, 221-22, 232; and elitism, 25-26, 204-07; crisis at end of 1960s, 185-86, 196-200,218-19 Irele, Abiola, 80 Iyayi, Festus, 210 Jameson, Fredric, 4 7 Kafka, Franz, 113 Kane, Cheikh Hamidou, 21 7 Lenin, Vladimir, 13, 38, 168, 223 Lukacs, Georg, 15-17, 44, 46, 184 Lumumba, Patrice, 35 Lurie, Joe, 82, 83, 86, 113, 115 Luxemburg, Rosa, 15 Machel, Samora, 24 Mafeje, Archie, 203 Maja-Pearce, Adewale, 171 Mao Tse-Tung, 38, 71 Mapanje, Jack, 214 Marechera, Dambudzo, 209, 210 Marx, Karl, 223, 226-27 Masculinism: in Armah's fiction, 118, 150-73 passim, 181-82, 184 Messianism: defined, ix, l l-12; in Fanon, 12-17, 27-32; distinguished from voluntarism, 14; in Lukacs, 15-17; in postcolonial intellectualism, 18, 23-24, 25, 27-45 passim; in Armah, 35-43, 51,


55, 186-90 passim, 193, 200-01, 22122, 232 Mofolo, Thomas Mopoku, 227-29 Mondlane, Eduardo, 24, 200 Mphahlele, Ezekiel, 203 Mugabe,Robert,24 Mwangi, Meja, 209, 210, 212 Naipaul, Vidiadhar S., 196 Nationalism: as ideological formation, 5, 6-8, 9; and radical anticolonialism, 5, IO, 13; represented in literature, 5-8, 211-12; criticized by Fanon, 6, 8-10, 12, 40, 55-56, 89, 206; and independence, l l, 13; criticized by Armah, 404 L 50-56, 127-30, 194; and African socialism, 41 Nazareth, Peter, 220 Neocolonialism: defined, 21-22; Ngiigi on, 22, 213; Fanon on, 27-28, 40, 56; Armah on, 40, 48-56, 81-89, 104-07; concept criticized, 203-04 Neto, Agostinho, 24, 200 Ngara, Emmanuel, 24, 25-26, 200 Ngiigi wa Thiong'o, 20, 2 L 216; A Grain of Wheat, 2, 212-13; on neocolonialism, 22, 213; on intellectuals and elitism, 25-26, 204-07; and revolutionary intellectualism, 207, 213-15; Petals of Blood, 213; and the politics of language, 214 Nkosi, Lewis, 205, 210-l l Nkrumah, Kwame, 8, 34, 35, 36; and Ghanaian independence, l, 2, 3, 5, 18; and the African Revolution, 24-25; as populist leader, 31; represented in Armah's fiction, 41, 42, 50, 52-54 Nwapa, Flora, 21 l Nyerere, Julius, 24-25 Obiechina, Emmanuel, 80 Obumselu, Ben, 187 Ogungbesan, Kolawole, 48, 59, 60, 69, 71 Okara, Gabriel, 204 Okot p'Bitek, 20 Oppenheimer, Mary, 187 Osoba,Segun,93 Ouologuem, Yambo, 216-17 Perinbam, B. Marie, 14 Peters, Lenrie, 204

Index Priebe, Richard, 72, 98, IO I Race and racial essentialism: Fanon on, I24, I37; in Armah's fiction, I I8, 13484 passim, I 95, 2 I 9, 222-23, 224,

Sole, Kelwyn, 223 Sow Fall, Aminata, 2IO, 2I2 Soyinka, Wole, 20, 47, 140, 204, 2I6-I8; criticized by Ngfigi, 204-07; romantic conception of artist, 205-06


Ranger, Terence, 223-24 Ravenscroft, Arthur, 23 Representation: concept in Fanon, I2-l3 Sartre, Jean-Paul, I 97 Scott, James, 223-24 Sembene, Ousmane, I I, 207-09, 2 IO, 2I2,2I4,2I6

Serote, Mongane, 73, 2IO Serumaga, Robert, 204 Shanin, Teodor, I 99 Sijeyo, Wasongo, 2 I 5 Smith, Anthony D., 7-8

Vo Nguyen Giap, 38 Whitman, Walt, 20-21 Williams, Chancellor, 216 Wolfers, Michael, 49-50 Women in postcolonial society: status of, 30, 31, 68, 21I-12

Worsley, Peter, 8, I 98 Wright, Derek, 118, I48, 162, I68, 18I, 217

Yankson, Kofi, 6