Available on JSTOR at: doi.org/10.2307/3334261

The African novel in French is in a state of crisis. Three reasons, which all have to do with the heritage of colonization, share the guilt in this situation: the novelist writes in a borrowed language; his works are chiefly published for a foreign audience; and he is hemmed in by the literary tradition of the colonial novel. One of the first African novels, “Force-bonté” by Bakary Diallo, was in fact a glorification of colonialism. Thus, the ambiguity of its very existence reflects the ambiguity of its literary origins. In pursuing realism as a genre, the African novel is paradoxically not authentic. It represents the latest stage in a literary process which began in Europe in the 17th century and which reached a climax with the prolific and “exotic” travelogs of the 19th century, written by Europeans who knew little more of Africa than what could be conveniently extrapolated from a brief stay in a port town. The product of both colonial literature and the African novel was a serious distortion of the image of Africa. The fight for independence encouraged the African novelist to continue to wield the tool of realism. It became a political expedient in the denunciation of colonial oppression. Although the technique has come under criticism recently, its firm grasp on literature has not yet been loosened. The African novelist can only write with relevance and originality when he realizes the complexity of his tradition. Recent studies by Leopold Senghor have shown that Negro-African realism in no way excludes surrealism.

You do not currently have access to this content.