Any sociopolitical experience as traumatic as colonialism is bound to leave its mark. And I think we must start by accepting this fact, warns the Nobel Prize, to write from these countries.
“There is a difference between the clinical report on the one hand and, on the other, the admission as a vicarious witness of the operation of the mechanisms of repression – including even its bureaucracy – which is the triumph of literature”. Wole Soyinka, the world will be free in New writing from Africa south of the Sahara.
We are in Queretaro. At the Hay Festival. One of the highlights of the program is the 1986 Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka, the first Nobel Prize winner for an African writer. He is a man of very white color and hair, with an affable face and talk. Some consider that they gave him the Literature prize yes for his literary work, but partly because he would also deserve the Peace Prize.
This is a writer whose main work has passed between various genres, mainly poetry, theater; but also the novel, the essay. He is also a powerful voice against fundamentalisms, unique voices, racism, violence. He has been a fierce critic of Islamic and Christian fundamentalisms alike. Solynka destroyed his green card when Trump was elected, and accused Trump of representing the most regressive of American politics. He, too, exudes pain from the violence and brutality in his homeland of Nigeria. In fact, the novel he presents – his first novel by him in the last 50 years – is about it, the pain of a country that looks too much like Nigeria.
That’s why, at a rushed press conference, he’s asked to talk a bit about writing from a country that comes from a colonized past. From the outset, he asks himself: –Can he be considered, as some do, a post-colonial writer?
Wole Soyinka replies:
“Academicians are the ones who talk about postcolonialism. But they do it as much as postmodernism, post-existentialism… it is, well, an academic self-indulgence.
However, he clarifies, “there is the after: Any sociopolitical experience as traumatic as colonialism is bound to leave its mark. And I think we have to start by accepting this fact.”
But in addition, “there are different types of colonialism. And there’s what you do with it. There are also different forms of postcolonialism. For example, in Africa, we have what they call internal colonialism, settler colonialism.”
The latter is “when lords of colonialism they try to become part, of the above, of the people, and try to create a totally new nationality, imposing their beliefs. And writers have to deal with these differences. If you look at Bessie Head’s work, she was a product of settler colonialism.”
So, the Nobel laureate warned, these writers from countries that have suffered colonization must deal with this; they require “an effort to get rid of that expression that has been imposed on society”.
And I add:
“When I look at a country like Mexico or Brazil, I see an assimilated culture. Assimilated by the experience of colonialism”. But also “I see a Spanish culture, I see the authentic, original autochthonous culture, and I also see the African culture. And that African culture is very vibrant. So what you have here, in this postcolonialism is texturally different, different from settler colonialism […] it’s very different”. It is, in short, he explained, very complex “but academics like to pigeonhole things into neat capsules, to make things easier. Simply writers and artists must find their way to deal with this phenomenon.
Lydiette Carrión I am a journalist. If it wasn’t, I’d like to walk through real and imaginary forests. I am interested in stories that change whoever lives them and whoever reads them. She is the author of “La fosa de agua” (debate 2018).
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