The nation as metaphor: Ben Okri, Chenjerai Hove, Dambudzo Marechera

Elleke Boehmer

in Stories of Women

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print June 2005 | ISBN: 9780719068782
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781701898 | DOI:
The nation as metaphor: Ben Okri, Chenjerai Hove, Dambudzo Marechera

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The first, post-1945 phase of anti-colonial nationalism in Africa, as in other colonised regions, was distinguished by literal belief structures: a strong, teleological faith in the actual existence of the nation as ‘people’, and the sense that history essentially unfolded as a process of that nation's coming-into-being. There was a belief, too, in Africa as in South Asia, as in the Caribbean, that the distinctive forms of modernity, in this case in particular the sovereign state, could be incorporated, indigenised, repatriated. These may seem at face value rather obvious statements to make about nationalism, which broadly demands some form of belief in the national entity and acts of loyalty expressed towards it. This chapter investigates the self-interpellation and self-inscription of second-generation male writers as indifferently national subjects. The Zimbabwean writers Chenjerai Hove and Dambudzo Marechera, and the British-resident Nigerian novelist and poet Ben Okri, experiment with metaphor, nightmare and fetish as the signifiers of a national reality, as opposed to viewing the nation as literal truth. The post-colony here becomes phantasmagoria and malaise.

Keywords: nationalism; Africa; self-interpellation; self-inscription; Ben Okri; Chenjerai Hove; Dambudzo Marechera; metaphor; nation; post-colony

Chapter.  8746 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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