Garry Gillard > writing > African Fiction > 2

Formal Aspects of Fictive Narrative in Africa

Chapter 2: Spatial Aspects


The discussion of the function of space in African fiction may usefully begin with the notion of what Ernst Cassirer calls the "mythical consciousness of space". [1] There are many identifiable aspects of space in the literary work of art, some of which may more profitably be considered in other contexts: the question of narrative distance, for example, is better understood under the heading of 'narrative situation'. [2] It is more appropriate in the present context to offer analyses of selected works with regard to specific spatial characteristics, than to conduct a discussion at the general level, for example about what Joseph Frank calls the "spatialization of form". [3]

Cassirer argues that apprehension of space begins with a topological understanding, which then proceeds to become 'metric space', that is, space understood as having been measured in some way. The next stage in the progress of symbolic thought is to 'expressive space', which is the expression of mythical consciousness or 'world-feeling'. Cassirer sees this way of perceiving the world as concerned with the way in which places acquire significance in their spatial relationships. As he says: The near and the far, the high and low, the right and left - all have their uniqueness, their special mode of magical significance. Not only is the basic opposition of sacred and profane interwoven with all these spatial oppositions; it actually constitutes and produces them. What makes a province spatially distinct is not some abstract, geometrical determination, but the unique mythical atmosphere in which it stands - the magical aura that surrounds it. [4]

Without committing the naive error of seeing traditional African societies as 'primitive' and at an 'early' stage of development, it can be said that this analysis of Cassirer's of the expressive mode of spatial thinking is particularly apt for narratives which depict African societies before or during the time of contact. [5] On the other hand, in works which draw on the post colonial period, significance on a large scale is transferred from places to things, from relationships expressed in space to things existing in space. The central symbolic function is vested in the static significance of things, and often in their alienating function, rather than in the dynamic force of association. This development will be taken up again later in this chapter, in which aspects of the presented world will be shown to have the kind of significance discussed above.

The River Between

The River Between is a good illustration of Cassirer's notion of mythical space: "Space is now divided into definite zones and directions; but each of these has not only a purely intuitive meaning but also an expressive character of its own." [6] Ngugi's first novel was originally to be called The Black Messiah: it was written during 1961 during a period when he was reading for his degree. He read D. H. Lawrence who he says influenced him with "his way of entering into the spirit of things." Such an attitude could easily be potentially attractive to anyone whose inherited culture sees an essential unity between the spiritual and physical aspects of the world. Ngugi goes on: "You know I felt as if he was entering into the soul of the people, and not only of the people, but even of the land, of the countryside, of things like plants, of the atmosphere." [7] This interpenetration may be seen in The River Between, in the role of spatial features such as trees, the ridges and the river.

Ngugi's use of spatial features in his longer works if prefigured by certain of his early stories. In the earliest of these, "The Fig Tree", the tree of the title is the locus of the turning point. [8] The central character Mukami achieves a kind of spiritual vindication and self-knowledge in the shelter of the sacred Mugumo tree. And in "The Return" the River Honia plays an important role. [9] Kamau returns from the camps of the Emergency period carrying a bundle which "held the bitterness and hardships of-the years spent in the detention camps." He is dismayed to hear that his wife has in the meantime gone with another man, but begins to find reconciliation with this and other changes when the symbolic bundle is washed away by the healing river.

Both the sacred fig tree and River Honia reappear in The River Between, the former when Waiyaki's father takes him to the Mugumo tree and reveals his destiny. The tree is sacred because it was there that Gikuyu and Mumbi, the father and mother of the tribe, stood; so Chege brings him here to tell him that he is born of a line of prophets, and is very likely to be the foretold saviour who will come from the hills to deliver the tribe from the white man. Waiyaki remembers the occasion as he endures the pain of the circumcision (p.53); and he revisits the place as he prepares for the final confrontation of the action, in an attempt to understand the nature of his dedication and to renew his contact with the mythic past (pp.161-164).

Another sacred place in The River Between, and one which is central to the work, is the initiation grove, where Waiyaki and Muthoni are both circumcised, and where he and Nyambura meet. The connexion with the soil is established at the moment of the symbolic operation: "Blood trickled freely on to the ground, sinking into the soil. Henceforth a religious bond linked Waiyaki to the earth..." (p.53) The same place is later the scene of Waiyaki's declaration of love for Nyambura. It is here, where Muthoni was initiated, that she can feel close to her dead sister. The area is given further significance when it is associated in Waiyaki's thoughts with the precinct of the fig tree: "Waiyaki could not tell why the place reminded him so much of the sacred grove where long ago his father had taken him and revealed the ancient prophecy. This place she was in was sacred too." (p.119) Finally it is the "sacred ground" where Waiyaki and Nyambura make love. The confluence of all these elements of the action with this spatial feature is completed by the proximity of the river. The River Honia is, as the title suggests, the most significant of these features in the work, the central element in its structure.

The structure of The River Between is lucid: its ideology finds its basic symbolic expression in a simple combination of three elements, the river and the two ridges between which it runs. The ridges, it seems, represent the opposition which exists between two social groups as a result of their espousing a different metaphysics, while at the same time showing their common humanity; the river also corresponds to other features of the work in its ambivalence. While obviously dividing the two ridges and the two factions, it further embodies the possibility of union - by joining the two banks. It is emphasised that its name "Honia" means 'cure' or 'bring-back-to-life' (p.1).

The ridges, Makuyu and Kameno, are the most predominant of a series of binary oppositions. Each of the groups living on the ridges claims predominance over the other because of its own favourable version of the origin myth. Each has its patriarchal figure; but whereas Chege of Kameno is a descendant of Mugo wa Kibiro, the seer who warned the tribe of the coming of the white man, Joshua of Makuyu has been won over to the European religion and is its local representative. The ridges have now been divided: the ideal of the conservation of tribal beliefs and customs confronts the pragmatic acceptance of Europeanization.

Attempting to overcome this opposition and unite the divided people are the children of the patriarchs, who are associated with the river in its role as a symbol of healing and unity. Muthoni, Joshua's younger daughter, attempts to live in both worlds. Although not wishing to give up Christianity, she nevertheless wants to be circumcised, so as to become "a real woman, knowing all the ways of the hills and ridges" (p.29), and also to become eligible for marriage. But she is disowned by Joshua and then dies as a result of infection after the operation. Her death hardens attitudes on either side; it also has the effect of altering the way in which she is seen by the reader: her role in the work takes on a deeper significance.

Waiyaki's role is special from the outset as has been indicated above. He is set apart by his birth for the role of hero who must perform the rites of passage: separation, initiation, return. He is sent by Chege away from his family to the European school at Siriana. At this point, Waiyaki is separated from the 'here' of the tribal environment and enters the 'there' of the territory of the newcomers. The space of the action expands to include an only partially seen quasi-European environment. The main threat to the world of the book is thus distanced and left somewhat mysterious. The hero returns from the mission school having been 'initiated' into the ways of the Europeans, so that he will be better able to help his people to resist them. However, unlike Muthoni who is prepared to live out the ideal of unification, Waiyaki is unable to close the gap: he embodies the ambivalence which runs through the book at all levels. He can see the strengths of both the opposing religions but cannot reconcile their systems; he sees the need for political unity and joins but then leaves the Kiama, the organisation for tribal unity and purity; he wants to give Western education as his gift brought back from outside, but knows that the tribe will disintegrate without its roots in the past. Although "committed to reconciliation" (p.125), at the crucial moment he 'forgets to speak of it.

This ambivalence may also be seen in the way the narrative breaks off before the resolution of the fate of Waiyaki and Nyambura. The open structure in the narration is resumed in the final image of the river, its "beat ... reaching into the heart of the people of Makuyu and Kameno", thus allowing the possibility of unity, while at the same time continuing to manifest division.

Things Fall Apart

At the level of the fable, The River Between and Achebe's Things Fall Apart exhibit a similar structure. In both cases the protagonist leaves his original space for a period of exile, and then returns, to his downfall. Despite this resemblance, however, investigation of the deep structure of the work, as revealed by analysis of its spatial organisation, shows a radical difference. Whereas in The River Between the basic dichotomous situation prevails, in the earlier work the hero is unable to return to the original locus because it has changed significantly during the time of his exile, to the point where it is no longer the 'same' space.

In Things Fall Apart village life is circumscribed and localised. Many events in the first part of the action centre on the obi of Okonkwo, while the nearby village square is the locus of the wrestling matches and egwugwu ceremonies. This village is in turn united with the other clan villages, which one may imagine surrounding it. Thus the action of the first part takes place in relation to a firm 'centre' which 'will hold'. Then, after the killing, Okonkwo is exiled to a village of his mother's clan, so that the tight relationships at the centre of the narrative loosen; the action extends to a wider field. The adequacy of the narrative in continuing to deal with both spheres of the action is decreased. The narrative point of observation rests with Okonkwo in exile for the most part, and with him the reader has an imperfect sense of what is occurring at home. In this way, narrative function is congruent with the ideology which may easily be abstracted from the work: that the centralising controls of the traditional way of life are breaking down. When Okonkwo returns home in the third phase of the novel, it is not to the home that he knew. European culture and Christianity specifically have created another polarity towards which the villagers are turning. This is shown by the change in the spatial relationship of the church to the village. When the .missionaries first come, they are given a piece of land in the Evil Forest, not in the village, and in a place where it is expected that they will soon be killed by evil spirits (p.135). However when they have established themselves and have not died, the Evil Forest has begun to change its status and become part of the human world. By the time Okonkwo returns to the village, there is a courthouse and prison in Umuofia as well as the church. Life in the villages is now tending to revolve around this new locus. And even the destruction of the church by the egwugwu does not change the situation; it is clear by the end that European domination has been restored.

Apart from these broad spatial relationships, there are some other spatial details of particular importance. Okonkwo's reception-hut and the village arena, already mentioned, achieve significance through the narrative as such: many events are shown as taking place in these locations. Other places are set apart by a combination of narrative situation, tone, and atmosphere: such places are, for example the silk-cotton tree (p.42), the egwugwu house (p.80), and the caves (p. 97). These are important loci in the lives of the characters, and the linguistic means by which they are rendered makes this clear. When the egwugwu appear to judge the case of the wife-beater, they are presented to a large extent from the point of view of one of the spectators: from within the context of the belief system, and in an atmosphere of awe and respect. When the spirits withdraw, for example, they do not merely re-enter the spirit house, but return to their "underground home".

Although the egwugwu house is described authorially, the situation slides over into the figural: "Aru oyi de de de dei! flew around the dark, closed hut like tongues of fire. The ancestral spirits of the clan were abroad. The metal gong beat continuously now and the flute, shrill and powerful, floated on the chaos." (p.80) The position of the house, facing away from the arena is important: The spirits of the ancestors, just emerged from the earth, greeted themselves in their esoteric language. The egwugwu house into which then emerged the forest, away from the crowd, who saw only its back with the many-coloured patterns and drawings done by specially chosen women at regular intervals. These women never saw the inside of the hut..." (p.80) The mystery of the egwugwu is maintained by the positioning of the hut, both for the villagers and therefore also for the reader. This mysteriousness, which applies equally to the other features mentioned, is necessary to support on the one hand the belief system of the personae, and on the other hand the reader's imaginative involvement in it.

Luis Bernardo Honwana

The world of the stories of Luis Bernardo Honwana is no longer a world of belief: the structures of traditional society are absent in the post-contact phase. [10] Accordingly, a strong structural organisation is also no longer present in the narratives which concern themselves with this time. However, although there is no central spatial framework, aspects of space provide a key to interpreting this world in which the relationships between the personae are as tenuous as the narrative situations often are. Of the African writers examined here, Honwana seems to have gone furthest in the direction of conveying the fragmentary nature of human experience caught in the constraints of economic and racial oppression.

What sets Honwana's stories apart, technically, is a high degree of indeterminacy: these works are characterised by what have been called 'gaps' of indeterminacy, which the reader fills or does not fill according to thematic relevance. [11] That is, in order to complete an adequate reading of Honwana's text, the reader requires a high level of creative inference, inference which depends to a large extent on the integration of spatial features.

In the case of the story called "Dina", indeterminacy is inherent in the fact that expectation is created by the text and then denied or frustrated. With regard to the action, firstly, a confrontation is developed between the Overseer and the men, the outcome of which is not fully shown. When the Overseer realises that he has committed a shameful act, his reaction, and the reaction of the men, lead the reader to believe that the situation of the Overseer may well be precarious. Then follows the unexpected acceptance of the wine, and the outspoken youth of the kraal gang is killed. Whether or not there are any consequences of this second violent act is again not given. What is the effect of these open-ended structures? As the reader's attention has been directed wholly at and through the figure of Madala, a lacuna is created in the reading experience. The result is that the reader seeks meaningful connexions elsewhere than in the action. As in many of Honwana's stories, spatial features such as (in this story) the cornfield, the wine, and the weeds seem to be the keys to revealing the latent meanings.

Owing to the juxtaposition of the forced labour of Madala with its pleasant physical setting, the 'sea' of the cornfield, his work is made to seem even more painful by being placed in this contrastive setting. The way Madala organises his work is also significant: out of the pain and difficulty of his labour he creates a little order, by lining up the weeds he pulls up. However, this order seems meaningless, because it is not related to anything - except perhaps to the obsessiveness that Madala has developed as a defence against the destructive nature of his life. The line of weeds is evidence of what he personally has done of his own volition, thus giving him back belief in his own freewill, which in fact has been taken away from him. On the other hand he has become so profoundly conditioned to the habit of hard work that he goes on working during the dinner break, but pulling up only imaginary weeds.

As for the wine, even if it were not a conventional symbol for the experience of communality, this meaning is established in any case by Madala's reflections. He is in the habit of sharing his wine with friends at the cantina; the Overseer on the other hand never shares, although he does not finish the bottle. It is only when he is driven by the shame which the reader must imagine he feels as a result of his degraded act that he gives the dregs of his wine to the offended father, an offering which is utterly inadequate to heal such a wound. Such is Madala's degradation, however, that he accepts the offer. Perhaps then it is the denatured state of Madala and his friends that we can see in them the "strange fish" of the ending of the story. The use of this natural image implies how very unnatural is the situation of the 'peonised' worker. The attempt to harmonise man with this landscape deliberately fails. The tone of the ending ironically merely appears to pacify the anger which is latent in the action - an anger, it is implied, which cannot and should not be allayed while the situation remains.

Whereas the anger is at least partially demonstrated in the case of "Dina", with the story which follows it in the collection, it is well concealed. The reader has to work hard to find the strangeness in the story, precisely because it is presented so familiarly. But again, if one looks closely at the juxtaposition of spatial features, one sees the incongruity of the richness of the intellectual life of the narrator's family as contrasted with the poverty of their material circumstances. The former is implied by the presence of the narrator's drawing materials and the magazines, which are not only very numerous but also placed in a hierarchy of value; the latter is obvious in most of the other details. An examination of this kind enables the reader to fill the undetermined gaps in the implied action, which are mostly related to Papa. No reason is given for his imprisonment, nor his hospitalisation with what we infer is a back injury. It is possible for the reader to close these gaps by inferring a connexion between the factors mentioned: poverty, intellectual activity, imprisonment and injury, but only by inferring an ideology in the work.

In "The Old Woman" also, an ideational structure is buried in the work, in the connexion between the mother figure and the "good years" as opposed to the present with its "nauseous, nauseating stares" and feelings of "a slow, soft erosion". This is carried through the narrator's ambivalent feelings towards his mother - the superficially derogatory title for example - and actual fact implies also the ending which merely seems to resolve the situation while in the impossibility of such a resolution. The attempt to hold onto the past only reveals the fact that it is past.

The ending of "The Hands of the Blacks" is also ambivalent, in a more superficial way, in that we do not know why exactly the mother is crying. What is clear is the ideology of the story. Different versions of myths explaining the origin of the pale hands of the black peoples reveal different degrees of intolerance or concern. The mother's story is the only one which is manifestly moral; it therefore causes all the others to be seen, retrospectively, in a moral light.

Turning to the title story, one is immediately struck by certain aspects of the print level, such as the subtitles. Titles and subtitles are usually seen as being in the authorial register, that is, under the direct control of the author, as opposed to being part of the mediation process. But in the present case, this is not necessarily so; and examination reveals that a particularly elusive kind of textual indeterminacy is operating, which recalls for example the Aeolus section of Ulysses. In that part of the novel which deals with the newspaper offices, Joyce makes use of a quasi-headline for each small section of the chapter. However, the contents of the section are not necessarily related to the preceding 'headline'. A dialectic is thus set up by the expectation created by the text which the reader has to try to resolve. In this way, the reader becomes more involved in the reading process, as he is forced to create his own meaning for the relationships between different aspects of the text. In "We killed Mangy-Dog" the first subtitle could well be authorial, as it sums up both the subject of the first section and also directs attention to the ambivalence of the image of Mangy-Dog's pathetic blue eyes, simultaneously sick, yet appealing However, the second subtitle (p.82) is clearly mediated by the figure of the narrator, involving one more degree of complexity. The statement is not of the conventional form of a sub-heading, and does not seem adequate to head the whole section, as it is only relevant to the first two pages. It seems to be merely an anticipatory interruption.

One of its effects is to draw attention to the text as such, and in this respect tends to be like the writing of authors such as John Barth, whose work has been called ' metafiction'. [12] Honwana's text draws attention to itself as such, although initially not by self-reflexive elements in the narration, but by devices in the authorial register, and at the print level. It remains unclear, however, why the sub-headings are indecisive and sometimes misleading. It seems that the indeterminacy and the ambivalence of the subtitles (in their partial misdirection of expectation) is congruent with the indeterminate nature of the presentation of the narrator's consciousness, which leaves much to be inferred.

The same thing applies to the variations in typeface which occur in the climactic passages. There is some uncertainty as to what the use of a particular typeface precisely denotes. Their main effect is to indicate a confusion in the narrator's mind about how strongly he should be feeling the force of what he is saying or thinking. There is a quality of hysterical overstatement and repetition which suggests that he is not sure that his feelings and thoughts are appropriate to the circumstances. This confusion may be seen in his actions also: why does Ginho run to fetch his gun if he is sympathetic to Mangy-Dog; why does he allow himself to be persuaded by the gang to fire a shot when later he holds onto a mere girl while she blocks his ears? All these confusions at different levels accord with confusions which are essential to the text's ideology, in which manliness is construed as a pose of cynical callousness and affection is perverted and shameful.

L'Enfant noir

L'Enfant noir (1953) is a narrative of the growth and education of a Guinean from the age of about five until the end of adolescence. As he grows and extends his grasp, the narrative extends its world correspondingly. The work begins with the young child playing around his father's hut, which is the whole extent of the narrative's scope at this time. By the end of the work, the presented world has expanded to include a sizeable portion of the real world. At the beginning, the narrator is quite explicit about his limits: "My private domain at that time consisted of the verandah that ran round the outside of my father's hut, and the orange tree that grew in the middle of the courtyard." (p.13) Also included in this domain is the little black snake which is "the guiding spirit of the race". This snake provides the means of the first extension of the work's space. In the first place, the snake's movements are described in realistic detail: "He was proceeding calmly towards the workshop, he was moving gracefully, very sure of himself ... When he reached the workshop, I noticed for the first time, cut out level with the ground, a small hole in the wall. The snake disappeared through the hole." (p.15) The child's world includes this new inhabitant and its particular territory.

The snake's significance is soon explained to the child by his father: "First of all, he made himself known in the semblance of a dream. He appeared to me several times in slumber, and he told me the day on which he would appear to me in reality: he gave me the precise time and place." (p.17) The snake now exists in two realms: those of reality and of the imagination. The importance of the latter in relating objects in the real world to the world of ideas is in this way introduced to the child.

The importance to the child of his father as an individual and as an artist is brought out in the following chapter, which is concerned with his working in gold. The process is described in a detailed evocation of the workshop and of the things and activities which it contains, evoking especially the value of the gold and the stature of the father. "It might happen that, feeling he had too little room to work in, my father would make his apprentices stand well away from him. He would merely raise his hand in a simple gesture ..." (p.25) Space is felt to have functional importance in all stages of the operation. Thus: "... it is our custom to keep apart from the working of gold all influence outside those of the jeweller himself." (p.28) The appropriate influence which should be - and is - present is the "guiding spirit" snake which is curled up under the sheepskin on which the artist sits.

As the child grows he is able to move around increasingly. From Kouroussa, where he lives, he often goes to Tindican, to his mother's family, to stay for a few days. His world extends not only to their village, but also to the fields where they harvest. This work is done communally: the men march together to the field to the rhythm of a drum, throwing their sickles in the air. At a given signal they all begin to work at the same time, and move across the field in a row. This representation invokes a sense of collectivity in which the narrator and the reader share.

The next major extension of the novel's space is to school. Here again there is an experience of collectivity: "... at an order from the older boys we would all line up like peasants about to reap or glean a field, and we would set to work like members of a chain gang." (p.59) As the space of the novel expands, the pace of the narration is correspondingly increased. The school years are dealt with by the presentation of a few typical scenes.

The preparation for initiation and the circumcision ceremony itself form the climax of the narrative. Once again the individual is gathered into a group with whom he collectively shares these experiences. On the occasion of Konden Diara, the uncircumcised boys are actually collected together by their elders who encircle them and in this way take them off for the ceremony and the test of endurance. At this point, there is another extension of the real world into that of the imagination, as the spirit Konden Diara is heard to roar, frightening the youths. After the ceremony, the huge bombax trees are seen to be hung with white threads. This too is explained as having a supernatural cause. Although more plausible explanations are offered shortly afterwards, in the narrating present, the reader's impression of the extending imaginative grasp of the child remains.

On the occasion of his circumcision, the narrator and the other boys of his age-group are decisively set apart from the rest of the community in "a hut built apart from the compound. This hut, which was very spacious, would henceforward be our dwelling place; the spacious square in which it stood was fenced off by such tight-woven osiers that no inquisitive eyes could see through them." (pp.98-99) This setting-apart has several functions: it preserves the secrecy and therefore the importance of this part of the initiation; it emphasises the ordeal aspect of the process, as the initiatee is separated from his family, and his mother in particular; and it creates a physical space which is analogous to the hiatus between childhood and adulthood which is the meaning of the initiation ceremony.

A major break with the family occurs when the narrator goes to the capital, Conakry, to continue his studies. The significance of the break is attested by the extent of the preparations, which continue for a week and include most people in the neighbourhood. Also, there is the long journey by train during which many details of the landscape are given; even the change in dialect is mentioned.

Conakry is a sea-port, and the narrator is introduced for the first time to the vast plain of the sea. It reminds him of "another plain: the great plain of Upper Guinea where I had grown up." (p.121) This metaphor, drawn from space, also includes a time continuum, extending into the past, when he was growing up, and also into the future which implicitly awaits him over the sea.

Another metaphor is explicitly used to refer to this extension in time. On the occasion of the death of his friend Check, the narrator thinks "that Check has gone before us along God's highway, and that all of us will one day walk along that highway ... the one we set foot on when we are born, and which is only the highway of our momentary exile. (p.150)

This passage is the ending of the penultimate chapter and it is preparatory to the journey which is the last and greatest of the book. The book ends as the narrator is about to leave the country for Paris, where he will continue his studies. This is the final extension of the book's space, and is in fact too great for the narrative to sustain in the context of the same work: it therefore breaks off, ending the novel. It is significant in the present context that the final image of the book shows the protagonist in his seat on the plane as he begins his journey, with the map of the Paris Metro in his pocket. The fairly horizontal quality of the story is broken at the end by the intrusion of technology, the suggestion of the vast space of Paris necessitating the use of a map as a key. However, the map remains an object-symbol suggesting the possibility of control.

Two Thousand Seasons

Although it is discussed elsewhere, Two Thousand Seasons should be mentioned in the present context because of a particularly striking and innovative feature of the work's space. This is the integration, by virtue of nomenclature, of a spatial feature with a persona and with a stated idea. At the beginning of the narrative, the name 'Anoa' is applied to a persona, a quasi-historical figure who is the source of the prophecy which takes up much of the first two chapters, and which informs the whole work. As the narrative proceeds, the sense of the name Anoa which applied to the persona is gradually detached, until the 'prophecy of Anoa' is the warrant for the fulfilment of a political program, in much the same way, for example, as the term 'marxism-leninism' is used to represent such a program.

'Anoa' is also the name of the grove which is the centre of the revolutionary activity in the second half of the book. It is the central one of a number of concentric groves which surround and protect it, and lend it an atmosphere of secrecy and gravity. It is here that the seer Isanusi lives, who is the patriarch of the revolution and another source of stated ideas which concern the metaphysics of the young radicals. These young people come to him through the outer groves as though approaching a holy place for some religious observance. Enemies of the revolution, the servants of the puppet-king Koranche, are not permitted to enter the central grove, and are trapped and repelled in one of the four outer circles.

Finally, out of the identification of place, persona and prophecy, by the assimilation of each into the one title, comes a unity of spirit of place which is also the spirit of the revolution. This unity forms a bond at the ideological centre of the work, and is the source of its structural strength.


1. Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (New Haven: Yale U.P., 1957, III, p.243. Other works consulted include: Gaston Bachelard, La Poétique de l'espace (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1957; Sharon Spencer, Space, Time and Structure in the Modern Novel (N.Y.: N.Y.U.P., 1971); Michel Butor, Inventory (N.Y.: Cape, 1970), p.22; Ricardo Gullon, "On Space in the Novel", Critical Inquiry (Autumn 1975), vol. 2, no. 1, pp.11-28; Eugene F. Timpe, "Spatial Dimension - A Basis for Style Typology," in Patterns of Literary Style, ed. Joseph Strelke (Pennsylvania State U.P., 1971).

2. This has been discussed in Chapter 1.

3. Joseph Frank, "Spatial Form in the Modern Novel," Sewanee Review, (Summer, 1945).

4. Cassirer, p.150.

5. Apart from works by Achebe, Ngugi and Laye discussed below, other works of this kind include: Elechi Amadi, The Concubine (1966) and The Great Ponds (1969); Nkem Nwankwo, Danda (1964), Onuora Nzekwu, Wand of Noble Wood (1961) and Blade Among the Boys (1962).

6. Cassirer, p.243.

7. Dennis Duerden and Cosmo Pieterse, African Writers Talking, (London: Heinemann, 1972), p.122.

8. Later called "Mugumo" when published in Secret Lives and Other Stories (London: Heinemann, 1975), pp.2-8.

9.Secret Lives, pp.49-54.

10. Luis Bernardo Honwana, We Killed Mangy-Dog, And Other Stories, tr. Dorothy Guedes (London: Heinemann, 1969).

11. Roman Ingarden, The Literary Work of Art, trans. G.C. Grabowicz (Evanston: Northwestern U.P., 1973), pp. 246-254. Wolfgang Iser, "Indeterminacy and the Reader's Response in Prose Fiction," in Aspects of Narrative (English Institute Essays 1971), ed. J. Hillis Miller (New York: 1971). Horst Ruthrof, "Reading Works of Literary Art", Journal of Aesthetic Education, VIII (1974), pp.75-90.

12. Robert Scholes, "Metafiction", in The Iowa Review, vol. 1 (Fall 1970), pp.110-115.

13. Camara Laye, L'Enfant noir, trans. by James Kirkup as The African Child. Page references are to the Collins 1959 edition.

New: 3 August 1996 | Now: 22 January, 2018