Extravagant Postcolonialism
157 pages

Vous pourrez modifier la taille du texte de cet ouvrage

Obtenez un accès à la bibliothèque pour le consulter en ligne
En savoir plus

Extravagant Postcolonialism


Obtenez un accès à la bibliothèque pour le consulter en ligne
En savoir plus
157 pages

Vous pourrez modifier la taille du texte de cet ouvrage


Brian T. May argues that, contrary to widely held assumptions of postcolonial literary criticism, a distinctive subset of postcolonial novels significantly values and scrupulously explores a healthy individuality. These "extravagant" postcolonial works focus less on collective social reality than on the intimate subjectivity of their characters. Their authors, most of whom received some portion of a canonical western education, do not subordinate the ambitions of their fiction to explicit political causes so much as create a cosmopolitan rhetorical focus suitable to their western-educated, western-trained, audiences.

May pursues this argument by scrutinizing novels composed during the thirty-year postindependence, postcolonial era of Anglophone fiction, a period that began with the Nigerian Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart and that ended, many would say, with the Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 publication of the Rushdie Fatwa. May contends that the postcolonial authors under consideration—Naipaul, Rushdie, Achebe, Rhys, Gordimer, and Coetzee—inherited modernism and refashioned it. His account of their work demonstrates how it reflects and transfigures modernists such as Conrad, Eliot, Yeats, Proust, Joyce, and Beckett. Tracing the influence of humanistic values and charting the ethical and aesthetic significance of individualism, May demonstrates that these works of "extravagant postcolonialism" represent less a departure from than a continuation and evolution of modernism.



Publié par
Date de parution 03 novembre 2014
Nombre de lectures 3
EAN13 9781611173802
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0130€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


' />

Extravagant Postcolonialism

Modernism and Modernity in Anglophone Fiction 1958-1988

The University of South Carolina Press
2014 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
May, Brian, 1959- author.
Extravagant postcolonialism : modernism and modernity in anglophone fiction, 1958-1988 / Brian May.
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-61117-379-6 (hardbound : alk. paper) - ISBN 978-1-61117-380-2 (ebook) 1. Commonwealth fiction (English)-History and criticism. 2. Postcolonialism in literature. 3. Modernism (Literature) I. Title.
PR9084M39 2014
823.009 9171241-dc23
Jacket illustration: base illustration by hpkalyani at www.istockphoto.com
To my family, Catherine Kelly May, Robert Talbott May, William Shortell May, and Elizabeth Howe Talbott-May
1 Memorials to Modernity: Postcolonial Pilgrimage in V. S. Naipaul and Salman Rushdie
2 Chinua Achebe: Tradition and the Talent for Individuality
3 Modernism Re(d-)dressed: Interrogativity and Individuality in Jean Rhys
4 Nadine Gordimer: The Conservationist as Conversationist
5 J. M. Coetzee: A Question of the Body, and an Answer
Conclusion: Postcolonial Modernism, Postcolonial Humanism
Portions of the introduction first appeared as Extravagant Postcolonialism: Ethics and Individualism in Anglophonic, Anglocentric Postcolonial Fiction; Or, What Was (This) Postcolonialism?, ELH: English Literary History 75.4 (Winter 2008): 899-937. Most of what is now chapter 1 was published as Memorials to Modernity: Postcolonial Pilgrimage in Naipaul and Rushdie, ELH: English Literary History 68.1 (Spring 2001): 241-265. And a good deal of chapter five appeared as J. M. Coetzee and the Question of the Body, MFS: Modern Fiction Studies 47.2 (Summer 2001): 391-420. I thank the editors of ELH and MFS as well as Johns Hopkins University Press for permission to reprint. I also thank my editor at the University of South Carolina Press, Jim Denton, and Linda Haines Fogle, assistant director for operations, for their patience and consideration. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Department of English, Northern Illinois University, funded the color insert: many thanks.
Northern Illinois University also provided a sabbatical leave that enabled me to write an important part of the book; another leave gave me time to finish it. But the book began earlier and elsewhere, and my honors students from the nineties and the University of North Texas, so many from the music school, so many unforgettable, Priscilla and Sarah, Nicole, Matt, Carl, Stephen, John, Mario, Joel, Ryan, and, yes, Tybalt (whereabouts unknown), will recognize these analyses and arguments. It was good for the high concept that it had to find footing in the rich, raw terrain of the undergraduate classroom. As myself a raw youth I found my feet only with the help of Patricia Blaszak, Robert Bailey, Cheryl Worsham, Alice Loftin, James Lynch, Michael Squires, Arthur Kirsch, and Irvin Ehrenpreis; my thanks to these mentors. Thanks, also, to Ron Strickland, Ron Fortune, Daniel Morris, Peter Richardson, the late Scott Simpkins, Richard Begam (who summoned Cardinal Bellarmine as I was writing chapter 1 ), and the anonymous readers for the journals mentioned above, a number of whom were kind enough to comment upon early portions of the book but none of whom, however kind, should be held responsible for the shape it has assumed. My most extravagant thanks are reserved, of course, for Kelly, Bob, Will and Betsy, each incomparable, inimitable, inestimable, irreducibly individual, and irreplaceable.

The notion of the individual-, exclaims Satya Mohanty in a 2008 interview, that s a horribly tainted Western idea, isn t it? 1 In so exclaiming, Mohanty points to one of the more resolutely unexamined (and exasperating?) assumptions that have governed literary criticism over the past quarter-century, one that Mohanty finds wondrous, fabulous: why would we think that, say, Indian, Chinese, or Native American cultures didn t value the notion of healthy individuality? It s a myth that they didn t; in fact, if you go to the cultural practices and texts, you see rich notions of individuality in all kinds of cultures. This discussion is dedicated to the proposition that rich notions of healthy individuality may indeed be found valued in those particular cultural practices, those particular texts known as postcolonial novels, particularly in a certain grouping of them. The assumption judged mythical by Mohanty is one made with respect to all kinds of non-Western cultures, all sorts of non-Western cultural practices, all manner of non-Western novels. How much more richly trammeled in the realms of myth, then, the same assumption when the novels in question are unabashedly Anglocentric Anglophone novels, what have been described and sometimes spurned as the most canonical of the putative postcolonial anticanon, the most Western -to the point that it may seem a mistake to term them non-Western ?
One reaction to such putatively non-Western novels that do not spurn the notion of the individual is to spurn them. But in Extravagant Postcolonialism -what I mean by extravagant soon will become clear-my ambition is to do otherwise. I aim to study a particular region of modernity that remains fairly obscure, thereby providing a window on a particular, peculiar modern subject(ivity). To that end, significant novels by Salman Rushdie, J. M. Coeztee, Nadine Gordimer, Jean Rhys, and Chinua Achebe, novels that propose rich notions of individuality, I richly explore. That is, I explore rich individualities, these novels characters being, so many of them, characters. Coetzee s Magistrate, Rushdie s Mirza, Achebe s Obi Okonkwo, to name a few, exhibit a protean excess of personality that spills into their adjacencies and makes vehicles of the objects (some being vehicles) that they find there. Trying to find themselves, they often rove, undertaking pilgrimages ( chapter one discusses postcolonial pilgrimage), journeys, trips, treks, and tours, on foot ( padyatra ), by train, plane, or car, sometimes exhibiting extravagant behavior of the worst sort (Gordimer s Mehring criminally gropes at thirty thousand feet). Achebe s Obi Okonkwo, who turns criminal and is sent to prison, has a problem with locomotion ( chapter two explains); if these characters often rove, they sometimes rave. If they cannot stay put, they also fail to fit in. Even when they are mimic men - Extravagant Postcolonialism is in part a study of a particular corner of postcolonial masculinity-they are mimic men with tenuous commitments and bad consciences, full of self-blame and self-contempt.
What is most distinctive about these distinctive characters postcolonial criticism has tended to ignore or to explain in other ways, treating character as a largely social and cultural construction-a tendency that I will try to resist. The habit in postcolonial criticism has been to define oddity and eccentricity as symptoms of a social and political condition, which at times they certainly are, rather than as expressions of creative idiosyncrasy, which at other times, as I shall argue, they may rather be. Even with the more decidedly Anglocentric novels that I shall be discussing, the critical focus has typically fallen, as one critic phrases it, on a collective social reality more than on (say) an individual s existential crisis. 2 Again and again particular and peculiar forms of individuality have been ignored in favor of yet another inquiry into forms of postcolonial collectivity.
I recognize that the particular and the peculiar can themselves become fetish-objects of an obeisant attention. Individuality, eccentricity, oddity-how far are we from idiosyncrasy, irresponsibility, insanity? Certainly these, too, can be forms of individuality. Are they thus goods in themselves? Given the habit of viewing the postcolonial in general as a collective phenomenon, a somewhat discrepant interest such as my own-an interest in what I shall show to be a fairly small subset of the larger postcolonial phenomenon, in a suprapolitical (in Karl Jaspers s phrase), ethical universalist (in Kwame Anthony Appiah s phrase), humanist, modernist ( epiphanic, in Charles Taylor s phrase), and above all individualist postcolonialism, an eccentric, extravagant postcolonialism, indeed-may itself appear to be eccentric. 3 Not that eccentricity should be taken for inauthenticity, even if one disagrees with John Stuart Mill that the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour, and moral courage it contained. 4 Yet, whatever one thinks of eccentricity, my very interest in it may appear less eccentric once we take note of a similar interest expressed by one of the most influential thinkers centrally associated with the postcolonial, one of the so-called Holy Trinity, namely Edward Said. 5
For Extravagant Postcolonialism is not other than Saidian in the complex sense determined by Said s later work. This work being explicitly defined by Said himself as humanistic, Extravagant Postcolonialism sustains Saidian postcolonialism s conception or at least intimation of a postcolonial humanism, one of those new humanisms, as Emily Apter calls them-a welthumanism proper to secular criticism in a worlded era. 6 Clearly a humanism of this welt - sort will entail a transnational politics on behalf of the group or the collective or even the multitude, one built on revolutionary social formations and subjectivities. 7 But it may also prescribe, if Said s version of it is indicative, an unequivocal, unconditional, raw celebration of human will and agency wherever they may be found, and even when the will and agency in question, the subjectivities, are found to be too quirky, too idiosyncratic, too heedless, too individualistic, too extravagant , to be considered deliberately, programmatically revolutionary. 8 That is, Saidian welt-humanism exhibits not just what Apter terms a transnational, multitudinous inclusiveness but also an interest in a specifically individual agency and achievement. 9 Apter herself mentions how in his introduction to Erich Auerbach s Mimesis Said offers a moving account of Auerbachian humanism, capturing a sense of the vulnerability of subjectivity, or individuality, in Auerbach s magnum opus. 10 Indeed, one might regard these two elements of Said s welt-humanism , the collectivist and the individualist/subjectivist, as equally essential to any sort of humanism, welt or other, worthy of the title; one might even regard the latter, less obviously revolutionary of the two as the more essential one, given its specification of common human qualities (for example, will and agency ) without which humanist political activists could not build transnational campaigns. In any event, this latter, less collectivist element is my topic here. The eccentric element in the postcolonial novel being precisely my focus, my premise being that eccentricity is more or less equivalent to extravagance, I follow this second of the two Saidian-humanist prescriptions, the first, more baldly political one having attracted numerous followers heretofore.
But what if we regard the later Said not as a divinity but as a fallen angel turned all too human(ist), his celebration of Auerbach (!) signifying his having moved from the center of the movement he helped to found-an eccentric Said, indeed, being prototype of a post-postcolonialism? Here one of the questions prompted by my title becomes urgent. Extravagant Postcolonialism : the question in what sense extravagant I shall be answering at some length in this, what is an exposition as well as an introduction. But there is another question bound to cross the path of even the most vagrant reader of this book, the question prompted by the phrase s other substantive term, postcolonialism. An extravagant postcolonialism ? Postcolonialism in what sense? No brief invocation of Said will be enough to answer this question.
The titular term postcolonialism is of course justified if the following fictions, each of which is studied thoroughly in this book, may be deemed significantly postcolonial : Chinua Achebe s duet, Things Fall Apart and No Longer at Ease , Jean Rhys s Wide Sargasso Sea , V. S. Naipaul s A Bend in the River , Nadine Gordimer s The Conservationist , J. M. Coetzee s Waiting for the Barbarians , and Salman Rushdie s The Satanic Verses . But what makes these texts significantly postcolonial texts? What, aside from their having been recognized as significantly, even as definitively postcolonial? The question, of course, is that of what makes a work, whatever the work, whatever its genre, sharply indicative of the postcolonial-sharply indicative rather than vaguely resonant, sharply indicative rather than entirely unrepresentative. And there is the yet more fundamental question of what is meant by postcolonial, to begin with, a term that has proved by all accounts notoriously difficult to define. 11
For one thing, as most would agree, these texts were written in the aftermath of what Barbara Fuchs and David J. Baker (among others) term high imperialism, an aftermath that these works address topically (if sometimes only figuratively or allegorically), substantially (at some length and in some depth), and critically (not neutrally). Which is to say, historically and thematically, as it were, they occupy a period that we may term, adapting Fuchs and Baker, high postcolonialism. 12 This period began perhaps with Achebe in the late 1950s and continued for three or more decades, the 9/11 attacks only certifying a change in attitude that began with the Fatwa-hence my own end-date of convenience, 1988 (symptomatically, perhaps, the same year but one often cited as inaugurating the academic field of postcolonial studies, what with the publication of The Empire Writes Back ). 13 Few would say that postcolonialism, at least in the form of the recognizably postcolonial novel, continues in its original form to this day (note, for example, Vijay Mishra and Bob Hodge s important 2005 commentary, What was Postcolonialism?* ). However and whenever one dates the putative ending of the period (the term period itself is rejected out of hand by some), it is clear that a number of Anglophone novels that have been found important and judged to be significantly different from those Anglophone novels that came before (and perhaps after) were written in the sixties, seventies, and eighties, novels that attracted to themselves this very term, postcolonial. Most eminent Anglophone writers of these novels, members of a group that among others includes Chinua Achebe, Bessie Head, V. S. Naipaul, Wole Soyinka, Athol Fugard, Nadine Gordimer, Andre Brink, J. M. Coetzee, Salman Rushdie, and Ruth Prawyer Jhabvala, were doing their defining work during these years.
Of course, to define postcolonialism thus periodically, as if denominating just another of the well-established historical trajectories that go by such names as Romanticism, Victorianism, and Modernism, is to court a certain objection-namely a charge of historiographical dubiousness. 14 Beyond the problems that arise with all such acts of literary periodization, of course, are those proper to the construction of the larger, indeed foundational cultural and historical period that subsumes the literary as well as other media. For there are those who question the very premise that there is or was a postcolonial era, a single distinct postcolonial epoch. Fuchs and Baker, for example, complain that all too often only the colonialism informed by Western universals and its aftermath are [regarded as] relevant for scholarly considerations of colonialism and postcoloniality. 15 Criticizing Dipesh Chakrabarty s Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference for just this inability to transcend the moment of modernity, Fuchs and Baker regard as presumptuous all attempts to tell an overarching story of a single, progressive historical development, especially when that development is associated, more or less exclusively, with the high imperialism of the eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries, and with its aftermath. 16 Such being my own exclusive focus, what with my construction of a high postcolonialism in the space of which is plotted an ethics of aesthetic and affective vagrancy, I here recognize the necessity of, if certainly not outright rejection of the term postcolonial, clear admission and delineation of its partiality. Hence the modifier, the qualifier, in my subtitle: what was postcolonialism, this postcolonialism, this particular ( extravagant ) form of a phenomenon that was undeniably multiform, even radically heterogeneous ? 17
But beyond this historiographical difficulty with the definition of postcolonialism just offered lies a second, equally insistent difficulty, one that has less to do with historiographical narrowness than with conceptual vagueness. This is the problem caused by characterizing significantly postcolonial fiction merely as fiction that, inhabiting a certain historical period, a certain aftermath, makes that aftermath its topic. For the significantly postcolonial work, many would agree, has to do more than merely address that phenomenon; it must also address that phenomenon in a certain way or ways. It must exhibit a particular, an authentically postcolonial, response or one of a particular set of such responses to that phenomenon. And what I take to be one of those proper responses may be sharply delineated by contrasting two characterizations of the postcolonial, one offered by Stuart Hall, the other, for my purposes a more authentic one, as I argue, being offered by Kwame Anthony Appiah.
Hall characterizes the postcolonial broadly and suggestively: it is something new, yes, but it is also what it is because something else has happened ; it is after a certain kind of colonialism, after a certain moment of high imperialism and colonial occupation-in the wake of it, in the shadow of it, inflected by it. 18 Thus Hall s postcolonial thinkers, whether intellectuals, theorists, writers, or artists (and there are a great number of them, postcolonialism being so defined), try in various ways to make it new, jumping or riding that wake, seeking a kind of balance in the cultural turbulence, exploring, enlightening that space of shadow, inflecting that inflection. For Hall, clearly, thinking postcolonial does not require that one try to fight the waves, to throw off those shadows (or stamp them out), or to dis-inf(l)ect. For Kwame Anthony Appiah, on the other hand, thinking postcolonial does require a certain decision with respect to these space-clearing gesture[s] -that one not try to make them, that indeed one go on to reject the nativist, nationalist, realist, and even optimist aspirations behind them. 19 Postcoloniality, asserts Appiah, is after all of this, after and against any nativist-nationalist-realist-optimist program that would try to eradicate lingering forms of Hall s imperial and colonial something else so as to substitute for Hall s something new something old, something recovered or resurrected, something original. 20 Substituting for the nativist-nationalist-realist-optimist farrago the ethical universal[ist], the humanis[t], Appiah s postcolonial thinkers, a distinct subset of Hall s, tend to subordinate politics to ethics and promote aesthetics; they clear a little space for, for example, a non-nativist and -nationalist pan-African postcolonialism (ironically, they do so by Widening the split, one evident to many in Hall s big tent, between postcolonial literature and postcolonial theory). 21 Yet Appiah narrows even further, applauding especially that subset of his subset, those fewer still among his fewer, who deconstruct a formative binarism of [African, for example] Self and [monolithic Western] Other. 22 These are those who refuse what they regard as a narrow Africanist aspiration as well as the aspirations of the nativist-nationalist-realist-optimist. Though Appiah does not make this precise point, it may be that they do so in order to follow the universalist and humanist alternative as it stretches unmistakably beyond the imaginary borderlines of any African or pan-African (or other sort of ethnicist, as we may call it) community. Such postcolonials counter or at least supplement Western humanism with what they hope to be a more authentic humanism, one that throws the door open to those who once shut them out. 23
We may term such postcolonials, for want of a better phrase, universalist postcolonials, and it is among such non-nativist-nationalist-realist-optimist-ethnicist, such indeed globalist, humanist, ethicist postcolonials, that we may find the extravagant postcolonial novelists who are my concern. 24 For, when all is said, as I shall demonstrate, extravagantly postcolonial fiction exhibits as profound and formative an interest in the ethics of the human individual, wherever it [the individual] may be found, as in the politics of the collective. 25 Indeed, and here I may part company with Appiah (see the next section), I will define extravagant postcolonialism as a literary constellation made up of those who tend to seek aesthetic, affective, and moral space within or without, next to, near, but most certainly beyond (as in, if nothing more, not entirely subsumed by ) the collective, the social, the political. In passing, I should note that the term constellation is meant to suggest my humble sense of a set of Wittgensteinian family likenesses - a complicated network of similarities overlapping and criss-crossing: sometimes overall similarities, sometimes similarities of detail -among these authors rather than anything approaching to an essential identity. 26 Most simply put, then, here studied is a constellation, a collocation of those who refuse to keep the critical focus on a collective social reality more than on (say) an individual s existential crisis. 27 Accordingly, it will be the business of many of the following pages to elucidate what Zubin Meer in Individualism: The Cultural Logic of Modernity calls the intimate subjectivity of the postcolonial characters populating these authors works. 28
We may now briefly note, somewhat polemically, how these authors own private lives have often exhibited a certain detachment from the urgencies of postcolonial national or at least collective social ambition. Such personal disengagement has consorted and comported with a certain so-called failure-the failure of sophisticated, acculturated postcolonial authors, brought on by first-world sophistication, acculturation, assimilation, cooptation, and so on, to write proper, Fredric Jamesonian third-world national allegory, the sort of writing focused on what John Marx terms repudiation (as opposed to revision ) of the West for purposes of nation building. 29 But what if repudiation is simply not the central and compelling rhetorical purpose from which smaller purposes radiate? What if the third-world subject simply does not find more or less single-minded occupation of the nationalist/collective framework, for all its hypervisibility and seeming inescapability, exhaustively satisfying? 30
Clearly our extravagant postcolonial authors have not always found it exhaustively satisfying-hence, what has sometimes been regretted, not just their interest in revision over repudiation but also simply their international breadth, their cosmopolitan, overseas, often Anglo-metropolitan vocational and rhetorical focus. 31 This is a focus that suggests something other than a consuming Sartrean or Fanonian commitment, signifying rather their membership in what Appiah ( ungenerously ) characterizes as a comprador intelligentsia, a relatively small, Western-style, Western-trained, group of writers and thinkers who mediate the trade in cultural commodities. 32 Dubious as Appiah s assignment of a simple and selfish economic motive may be, it serves to pry open the more or less Sartrean container into which many of these extravagant postcolonial writers and thinkers have been placed. With the exception of, at certain times in her career, Gordimer, these are not writers famous for subordinating the elements and ambitions of their fiction to explicit and specific political causes. When push comes to shove, as I shall argue in the next section, the novel as genre does not encourage such subordination, and these authors are novelists. Novelists or not, certainly their aesthetic-vocational careers, at any rate, do not suggest the original and enduring supervening of an essentially political motive even as they do express obvious political commitments (to be sure, Achebe, for example, has been at times a politician, both a political activist and an elected official).
As John Marx reports, The most abiding criticism of those writers and readers who privilege revision [over repudiation] is that their activity transforms postcolonial literature into a stridently elite category, one that presumes a thoroughly canonical education and that cannot help but be oriented toward Western-or Westernized -readers. 33 The fact is that, for better or for worse, most such writers and readers themselves were provided precisely that education. Many of these extraordinary writing careers began with formative vocational years spent not wholly in Lagos, Nairobi, Cape Town, Mumbai, or Port-of-Spain but also in London, Paris, Boston, New York, or Washington, D.C., usually in school. More than one happy careerist was once an excellent young student who won a study-abroad scholarship; more than one excelled in a foreign-built colonial educational institution of one kind or another. The Igbo and Umuofian Achebe, for example, grew up in a British-protected place he calls British colonial Nigeria and was educated at St. Philip s C.M.S. Academy and Government College, Umuahia-which he calls without irony a first-class boarding school set up by the British. 34 It betrays no disrespect to one who has suffered periodic sentences of enforced exile and who has been at times a virtual political refugee to note that, though he did not have much choice in the matter of where to go to school, he has had a good deal of choice in the matter of where to teach and live since becoming one of the world s most famous authors, and he has gone pretty far West (west and north, to be exact). The fact is that Achebe was in September 2009 David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and professor of Africana Studies at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, 02912, U.S.A., having been Charles P. Stevenson Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, 12504, USA) for the previous nineteen years and having taught at the University of Massachusetts (USA) and the University of Connecticut (also USA) before that. Achebe s professional choices have not betrayed sharp wariness of the West, acute anxiety in the face of its subtle conscriptions and assimilations. Coetzee s autobiographical Youth devotes substantial attention to the young Coetzee s failure to thrive in the corporate culture of the London office of IBM, the one to which, full of hope, he fled from his native country; at one point, Coetzee s only friend is a fellow emigre Ganapathy, an Indian even more out of sorts than himself, being unable even to keep himself fed. 35 The young Coetzee s remedy? He moves back to South Africa, buys a remote farm, and tries to reimagine and reconstruct Boer life on some line, whether pre-, post-, or somehow extra-apartheid? Rather, he moves to Austin, Texas, to study linguistics; he moves to Buffalo, New York, to become a professor in an American university; he returns to South Africa but spends a number of years abroad in visiting professorships here and there; now he lives in Adelaide, Australia. Rushdie, having moved to Manhattan, exclaims that discovery is fun . I am incredibly open to everything. 36 Rushdie now is recognizably a New Yorker. Even their formative years of literary apprenticeship are not notable for an insistence on sustaining in their own private lives (by choice of place of residence, choice of friends and associates, choice of romantic involvements, or whatever else) some version of natal, native, or colonial identity; in their early careers, especially, these writers indeed sustained their largely Western academic training by way of a Western-style preoccupation with European and especially English literature. For example, they demonstrated an ambition to become major English authors, to win prestige in the Anglo-American literary world. Often such ambition was signaled by enthusiastic participation in the Booker Award contest; even the most renegade among them (Arundhati Roy, for example, who of course falls beyond my convenient historical marker, 1988 ) have not refused when offered the usual major prizes, a fact not lost on a number of recent critics. 37 Neither Gordimer nor Coetzee refused the Nobel Prize; nor did Naipaul, of course; neither will Rushdie if and when the time comes. They also betray in various ways a cosmopolitan rhetorical focus, the intended audience for their fiction being often enough in at least some part the elite, well-educated, Western-trained intelligentsia to which they themselves belong.
It could be objected, with a killing emphasis, that this project shamelessly presumes a more or less complete Westernization -that it tends to behave as if everything we need to know about these [extravagantly] postcolonial characters comes from their respective plots, and a good knowledge of humanism and Modernism. 38 For, rather than establishing any sort of [non-Western] social, political or cultural backdrop for [these] readings, [this book often] insists that we treat them in a vacuum. 39 Though I find this an unfair assessment, especially with respect to my individual chapters (they discuss at least in passing such extrahumanist, extramodernist, and extra- plot matters as the Haj or padyatra [Rushdie], the Armarnath pilgrimage [Naipaul], racism against South Indians and Dravidians [also Naipaul], the Igbo sense of the art weapon [Achebe], the Igbo respect for the individual talent [also Achebe], the West Indian concept of beke [Rhys], the Afrikaner sense of the South African multicultural complex [Gordimer], the Afrikaner sense of proper daughterhood [Coetzee])-though, again, I believe that this assessment overlooks my discussion s substantial engagement with the social and political worlds in which these novels were written, I plead guilty to a slightly different charge. Where these extravagantly postcolonial novels are concerned, this project does assume that humanism and modernism, for example, are important explanatory contexts. It does proceed as if a subtle knowledge of Euro-, chiefly Anglo-humanism, -individualism, and -modernism playing over the products of close attention to these literary texts may in itself provide new and valuable readings of them, if but readings intended to supplement rather than to supersede. The premise is that these authors enjoyed formative contact with Anglo-humanists and -modernists and that this contact was in many instances salutary, constructive, generative, creative. Like the event of Coetzee s encountering Breton and writing a scholarly article about him in the 1970s, Coetzee s 1960s reading of Beckett in the Manuscripts Room of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin-something Coetzee discusses in a New York Times essay with the suggestive title How I Learned about America-and Africa-in Texas 40 -was not an imaginary or ethereal episode best ignored; it mattered, as did Achebe s encounter with Yeats, Rushdie s reading in Nietzsche, Gordimer s thorough knowledge of Joyce and Conrad, and so on. To direct attention pointedly (not, after all, exclusively) to what these postcolonial authors made of the philosophical and literary and aesthetic materials that they found so fascinating and empowering (albeit also in some cases irritating and exasperating), even when in so doing attention is shifted from certain social and political backdrop[s], is scarcely to treat [these novels] in a vacuum. And again, my attention to Coetzee s Bretonian backdrop, for example, is not so insistent that it leads me to overlook his socially and politically charged portrait of a colonial drudge-maiden.
Where modernism in particular is concerned, to be perfectly clear, my premise in these chapters is not that modernism assimilated these postcolonial authors but that these authors received and refashioned modernism. My aim is to show how these extravagantly postcolonial fictions suggest a kind of postcolonial modernism (or, perhaps, modernist postcolonialism) alongside a certain concept of postcolonial individualism (extravagant postcolonial modernism I find aiding and abetting extravagant postcolonial individualism). Thus I hope to contribute to a relatively new project of rethinking the relationship between postcolonialism and modernism as not simply conflictual-as, indeed, often quite the reverse. The editors of the well-received 2007 Duke University Press collection Modernism and Colonialism: British and Irish Literature, 1899-1939 remark that a collection of essays strikingly different from their own could be produced, one that would view modernism from outside [their own] largely metropolitan perspective and that would explore how non-European writers like Coetzee, Desai, Emecheta, Naipaul, Ngugi, Rhys, Rushdie, Roy, Walcott and others adapted and transformed modernism. 41 Such a book is in certain ways precisely what I am offering. As I note in my chapter summaries and as the chapters themselves bear out, Extravagant Postcolonialism explores how Rushdie and Naipaul adapt and transform -indeed, often trope and trump-Friedrich Nietzsche and Joseph Conrad, among others, how Achebe tropes and transfigures Yeats and Eliot, how Rhys recasts Bergson and incorporates Proust, how Gordimer use[s] (Gordimer s own word) Joyce, and how Coetzee abuts and ablates Beckett and makes synecdoches of surrealists like Breton and Magritte. 42 One of the formative ambitions of this study is a degree of attentiveness to concrete literary detail perhaps unusual in postcolonial literary criticism, especially where modernism and its influence are in question. Nowhere is my own scrutiny sharper than in my account of how these postcolonials engage the modernists who went before them.
Of course, were I aiming to offer commentary on the postcolonial, in general, rather than on a kind of postcolonial modernism in particular, a certain question would arise: why choose these postcolonials, these postcolonial novels and novelists, all of whom and which are Anglophonic, the great majority being definable, albeit more arguably, as Anglocentric? This, the issue of selection, is an unquestionably difficult, long-standing, and still volatile issue that admits of no fully satisfying answer. Indeed, the difficulty endemic to the very act of selection has only been exacerbated in our era of globalization. The problem of comparability, which has always been with us, is now only more intense; as Jonathan Culler asks, What, in this newly globalized space, justifies bringing texts together? 43 And what, we might add, justifies not bringing certain other texts into the mix? One reply to this query points out that academic literary postcolonialism proper has so often been, after all, an Anglophone affair. Many of the particular novels most often studied by those concerned to frame the phenomenon of the postcolonial have been written not in a native language such as Hindi or Swahili or in the colonialists French or Belgian or German, for example, but in the King s English, and, not by accident, many of these novelists hailing from a British-protected background of some sort. Of course, to say all of this is scarcely to offer a satisfying defense of the choice to study these particular novels yet again. The better answer to Culler, then, largely eschews a defense and offers in its stead what Gayatri Spivak calls a scrupulous declaration of interest. 44 As I have tried to signal by way of a repeated use of the phrase, extravagant postcolonialism, this study does not attempt to characterize all existing modes of postcolonial expression-if such a thing were possible. Rather, I am concerned with what Michael Levenson calls the fate of individuality in the postcolonial era, especially as that fate is entangled with the fate of modernism. Perforce the postcolonial novelists most deliberately engaged with the legacies of individualism and of modernism are indeed the Anglophonic, Anglocentric, extravagant postcolonial novelists I have named.
Final among the objections to my approach that I shall register here is the complaint that the argument proceeds as if what applies for particular novelists/texts is the same everywhere. 45 This, also an issue of selection, is what we might call the geographical issue created by the choice to group together, higgledy-piggledy, Indian as well as West Indian, not to mention Nigerian and South African, texts, finding a single common attitude (for example, toward justice) in novels emanating from very disparate cultures. The charge is one of Anglo-centrism: does not this approach end in a degree of multicultural generalization that ignores all manner of blessedly insoluble cultural specificity and relativity? But, again, what I am proposing is not assimilation that would tend to erase difference so much as coordination designed to highlight it. I offer a mapping from the center: how do those who come from (a postcolonial) elsewhere differ from those at the (metropolitan) center? You cannot answer that question by ignoring the center any more than by ignoring the periphery. I study difference from rather than independence of. And, hoping not to surrender all conceivable notions of collectivity even as I explore notions of individuality, I try to find a common difference from, the question being where these culturally disparate writers more or less agree in their differences from. What do they have in common in their explorations of-something a little other than- Western-style individuality? How are they in their representations of epiphany, for example, different from Joyce-and how are they like one another? Those who find these questions foolish are unlikely to have gotten past my table of contents. But those who regard them as good questions may not be particularly bothered that I do not explore by name Afrikaner modernism, say, in Coetzee or Gordimer, or Nigerian modernism in Achebe, or West Indian modernism in Rhys, preferring to keep the focus on, for example, Rhys s sensuous, even sensual adaptation and transformation of Proust rather than on how Rhys reflects a larger and putatively West Indian predilection for sensuousness. And, it must be said, to denominate, say, Rhys s adaptation of modernism a kind of West Indian modernism is itself to risk assimilation. Should Rhys in her engagement with and transformation of European modernists be seen as a mere agent of culture or as a mere site of cross-cultural discursiveness? What does such a move do to Rhys s individuality? These are questions every bit as pressing as the familiar anxieties started by the perception that insufficient credit has been given, say, Caribbean culture. Coetzee in his essay on his Texas years recalls the moment when he discover[ed] himself for the first time suspecting that languages spoke people or at the very least spoke through them ; it was a doubly odd position for someone with literary ambitions to speak one day, somehow, in his own voice. 46 The notion that languages and cultures speak people has become a belief widely shared by contemporary intellectuals. Coetzee s crucially balancing sense of its oddity, on the other hand, has not.
As I have noted, Edward Said believes that individual will and agency and achievement -dare I say the achievement of one s own voice ?-are worthy of celebration, and he finds them especially worthy, we may now add, when they are embodied in aesthetic form. 47 I have mentioned how this book sustains the late Said s later, more nominally humanist interests by way of its interest in the question of individuality. Little wonder, then, its attention to the particular aesthetic form of postcolonial writing that would seem best adapted to the task of taking up this question. What particular aesthetic form? If form matters, whatever the form, then it matters that the attention here is devoted to postcolonial novels, extended works of prose narrative that look, sound, and smell like novels, works that various authors who are often termed postcolonial, both by themselves and by others, deemed novels, works that these same authors deliberately conceived and executed as novels. For to write about the novel, whatever the sort of novel, is to write about certain issues entailed, even dictated by the genre. If, that is, we are to trust historians and theorists of the genre, from Ian Watt to Nancy Armstrong, then these postcolonial novels, like other novels, perforce approach a specific question related to but not to be confused with humanism, the question of individualism (admittedly, there are at least a few nonindividualistic humanisms). 48
Literature affords a privileged arena in which to explore individualism, asserts Zubin Meer, and questions about the place of individualism in literature have typically coalesced around the novel form. 49 Why? It is because novels individualize, where history is collective : such is the premise of more than a few theories of the novel, and histories of the novel follow suit. 50 As Michael McKeon writes, the work of the novel after 1820 is increasingly to record the struggle [between] the individual [and] a ponderous and alienated structure whose massive impingement on the individual signifies the latter s autonomy. 51 Leopold Damrosch Jr. concurs but is especially interested in the work of the novel before 1820: the early novel [displays] fundamental concern with the individual in society it is indeed the individual whose role is emphasized. 52 More than merely exhibiting concern with the individual, the early novel advanced the individual s interests, Winfried Fluck asserts: fiction has played a pioneer role in introducing the claims of the individual into culture. 53 As Armstrong claims, yet more provocatively, it is not just that fiction did and still does thus serve individualism; rather, it created and still creates individualism, or at least the individual. 54 To produce an individual, that class-and-culture-specific subject [that] we mean by the individual, according to Armstrong, is the very business of the novel (hence the bold assertion that the history of the novel and the history of the modern subject are, quite literally, the same ). 55
Being tokens, then, not just of a distinctly, particularly global, welt-humanistic postcolonialism but also of the novel, the works that I am studying in this book do more than just exemplify human agency and achievement; they also represent it, reflect on it, as it were, and endorse it. That is, they are not just tokens of human will and agency and achievement; they are also, being novels, studies of it, admonitions to it. They do not just embody an extravagant, welt-humanistic interest in will and agency and effort and achievement; they articulate and embrace an extravagant, welt-humanistic interest in individual will, agency, and effort that is enforced by the novel form. One may reasonably infer that these authors go to the novel out of an interest in, eminent among other things, individuality. This is not to say that they go to the novel first and find their interest in individuality waiting for them, virtually dictated by the genre. But this is to say that, even if they did, even if an interest in individuality were a product rather than a cause of the writing of the novel, still the interest in individuality would be significant. Hence my premise-that postcolonial fiction, particularly the group of postcolonial fictions I have chosen, constitutes the perfect cultural region in which to witness excursions and expositions in the postcolonial conception of the individual. If a so-called postcolonial entity exhibits such a conception anywhere, this premise goes, the postcolonial novel is the place to look for it. And if the postcolonial novel exhibits such a conception anywhere, the premise suggests, the welt-humanistic and extravagantly postcolonial novels that I am studying should be precisely where. My ambition in what follows, accordingly, is to write a chapter-or perforce, for all the talk of extravagance, a small part of a larger postcolonial chapter that could be written-in the larger history of individualism, that larger and longer story that Regenia Gagnier helpfully characterizes as recounting the relation of the Individual to the State or collective that has been a problem at least since Plato and exacerbated in the West since the seventeenth century. 56
A problem, indeed, and one that has been only further, perhaps exponentially exacerbated in the postcolonial space and time of the more or less Westernized non-West of the twentieth century: what is the relation of the Individual to the State when there is not much of a state, or not one that has been in existence very long? Or when the collective at hand seems as imposed and artificial as it does compelling? Or when the individual is the product of a society in which-many believe, as we have seen- the one-true-self, the stable, free self at the center of our being, the individual[,] does not exist or has not heretofore existed, when he or she is the son or daughter of individuals who would not have recognized themselves as such, not in the sense that seventeenth-century Massachusetts Puritans, sixteenth-century English Puritans, Victorian Manchesterian Chartists, nineteenth-century Russian mystics, or twentieth-century American protectionists would have? 57 When the Individual and the State or collective are not in the West, exactly, let alone of it, but nonetheless have not escaped being shaped significantly by various of its institutional and cultural practices? Or when there is not too little State but too much, when the State has come to be called The Empire, for example-or when a Big Man, an Idi Amin, a Mugabe, a Khomenei, a Sadaam, a single outsize rampant individual, has acquired the State, tamping down, when not stamping out, other individualities in the course of imposing his own?
What sort(s) of individualism, what forms of individual will and agency, emerge from such relations? One answer has been, as we have already seen, no forms, at all, none to speak of. Certainly none has been spoken of, often enough, even when identity is being spoken about as a multiple phenomenon. This is the radical inverse of the position characterized recently by John Christman in The Politics of Persons as fundamentally individualistic , one that includes no specific reference to the marks of social identity, such as race, gender, sexuality, culture, and so on, that many actual individuals may mention when describing themselves. 58 This is the position, rather, that is fundamentally collectivist (to adapt Christman), being social, in [the] deep[est] sense, one that does not recognize an individual within or beyond (or beside?) a social identity. 59 African can surely be an enabling badge, exclaims Kwame Anthony Appiah in an exemplary and characteristically pithy formulation, but there are times when it is not the label we need, since Africans and non-Africans alike live in a postcolonial world of genders, ethnicities, classes and languages, of ages, families, professions, religions and nations. 60 Appiah s discussion of African identities is remarkable for its balance; he does not declare that a badge, even when the most enabling of all badges, is all that we need. Nevertheless, he voices an assumption, a fundamentally collectivist assumption made in much postcolonial theory and criticism if not by Appiah himself, that, like it or not, badges are all we really have , that no African or any other sort of postcolonial can have an identity to speak of that is not virtually wholly the product of social mediation. 61 For all the badges and labels listed here, both the African and its alternatives ( genders, ethnicities, classes, and so forth), indicate identities that are socially stitched, woven, and displayed; this carefully inclusive list mentions nothing beyond badges, no personalities, selves, or individualities. The suggestion is that individualism and postcolonialism are essentially discontinuous and divergent cultural phenomena.
In what follows I shall be arguing, to the contrary, that postcolonialism, in the significant form of what I am calling extravagant, welt-humanistic postcolonial fiction, at any rate, has its individuals, even its individualists, its eccentrics, those rare, odd birds in parrot masks, those curious and not entirely admirable characters who in moments of profound frustration or disappointment take off the masks (let alone the badges and labels) and distinguish-individualize-themselves. 62 And how they individualize themselves is no less important than the bare fact that they do so: by, quite willfully, shaping (if not constructing out of whole cloth) images or narratives or entertaining epiphanies that, as Salman Rushdie might put it, bring newness into the world. 63 Often enough that newness emerges in the form of a new and far richer apprehension of difference or otherness, as should not shock: Charles Taylor is only voicing a quietly longstanding assumption about epiphany when he asserts that realizing an epiphany is a paradigm case of what I call recovering contact with a moral source. 64 Extravagantly postcolonial fiction, as I shall argue, features epiphanic or at times visionary performances of an unexpectedly, uniquely moral nature. These characters are at their best, ethically speaking, when at their strangest-when they embrace strangeness and try to answer (to) it. Extravagant postcolonialism thus proceeds by paradox, indeed: its greatest individualists are those characters, often mimic men of some years, who begin by fooling themselves, the better to exploit certain others (often younger, more or less subaltern women), but end by forgetting themselves, the better to conceive those others needs and to respond to them, often momentously, magnanimously, and imaginatively. Such responsiveness is often followed by these individualists assumption (or resumption) of social authority-this despite the entire sequence having originated in asocial, private, idiosyncratic spaces of fantasy, rumination, inspiration, intimation, or intuition. Also following, often enough, is a sign of authorial approbation whereby a justice-plot working toward what these characters often come to regard as well-earned, much-deserved payback is abruptly truncated, reversed, or otherwise shortchanged; the characters generosity is answered by an authorial form of the same.
Thus I shall be arguing that the forms of individuality to be found in these extravagantly postcolonial authors are indeed extravagant forms; individualist cognition and conduct as they exhibit them are of kinds that are unconventional, uncalculating, even unreckoning, if not irrational certainly not carefully rationalist, not in the end. Clear as this and my other premises may now be, however, a few brief amplifications may prove helpful.
First, it must be emphasized that these mimic men in whom such extravagant individuality tends to be found are modern men. 65 As I shall explain (most pointedly in chapter 1 ), they are all men of modernity; they are or at least begin as rationalists, realists, opportunists, self-ists, individualists in the bad sense of the term. That is precisely why it matters when they behave extravagantly. In so doing, as we shall see, they go against the grain; indeed, they articulate a kind of ontogenic reversal (a de-capitulation) of Western philosophy s infamous phylogeny with respect to individualism; finally, happily, they fail to satisfy what has emerged in recent years as the standard suspicion of a full-fledged individualism as always everywhere ultimately invariably purely a Hobbesian phenomenon in which a person s social relations are guided by an instrumentalism shorn of sentiment. 66 A sentimentalism shorn of instrumentality, where masculinist individualism is concerned, would be more accurate. This is a point developed in section III, where I argue that these individualists Hobbesian perpetuall and restlesse desire of Power after power, as it may seem, is sanctioned and even enabled by a bundle of masculinist, often paternalist affect, a nostalgia outwardly but only tactically indulged. 67 But, in the end, as I also argue, such predatory, Hobbesian-individualist desire is undercut by this same affective force, nostalgia having gone rogue, gotten out of hand, turned ungovernable and uncontainable. Refusing to remain merely instrumental, merely tactical, such paternalist sentiment ends up exposing these men to, among other things, many of them scathing, what they take to be the minds, wills, and even manipulations of those feminine others who have been treated as (often sexual) targets of opportunity. And in the happiest cases such extravagant exposure, such full and frontal experience of otherness, proves salutary; it creates an occasion for and even prompts the free exercise of a genuinely individualistic, imaginative, and ethical mode of conception, representation, and action.
Mimic men, modern men, men: the extravagant forms of individualism that may be found in this fiction may be observed shaping masculinity, especially and, we might add, auspiciously. They are forms of what could be termed, adapting Said, masculine-yes-but-finally-anti-masculinist individual will and agency. Second, then, a certain gender construction is herein explored. Specifically, this study addresses that distinctively modern masculinist orientation to the realm of social life as that supremely individualist orientation may be found represented in these extravagantly postcolonial studies of social life. 68 When that orientation is found, it is often found to be or to have become in certain critical instants an extravagant one, one that is imaginative, fantastical, eccentric, improvident, mercurial, paradoxical, quixotic, or at least whimsical and one that is, withal, ethical. It is also often found to be or to have become, it is now time to note, one that is antimasculinist. Extravagantly postcolonial fiction, I have suggested, features characters who in crucial moments act at once willfully and selflessly, characters who exercise will and agency in surprising ways, who ma[k]e a different choice -a choice of and for difference , in senses of that term suggestive of but not limited to the rich significance that it has accrued over the past forty years ( SV , 507). It is worth noting that these characters also tend to be or to become, at least in moments, antimasculinist men.
A third, small, preliminary clarification amounts virtually to a self-warning. I have mentioned the happiest cases, but it will soon be clear that not all of these cases are happy ones. Indeed, it may be that none of the cases I study is entirely happy; certain it is that for every happy case we have a painful case, a hard case. In any event, this study is interested in the hard as well as the happy, one example of the former being that of Jean Rhys s Rochester, a victimized Victorian younger son once described by his wife Antoinette s kind friend, Christophine from Martinique, as a damn hard man for a young man (Antoinette herself later calls him a stone ). 69 Is Rochester, too, an individualist? As I shall argue, he does not end as one, except in a more or less parodic form, but he does begin as or become such, for a time. Here is, in any, indeed, every case (the case of Antoinette, for a conspicuous example), a form of ethical individualism that is, being unusually embattled or constrained, apparently fragile, even brittle, when not the opposite, skittish, flighty, ethereal. Fragile or merely vulnerable, here is not, in other words, a facile, sanguine celebration of the good in lonely men triumphing over the bad. We have lots of futility and frustration in these narratives, and there are times when this extravagantly postcolonial chapter in the history of individualism may appear to be the story of its abject failure. We have frustration and futility; we also have resistance. Certain of these men exhibit the sort of cosmopolitan commitment derived from a methodical cultivation of a degree of estrangement from one s own culture and history. 70 Often enough, though, there is nothing methodical or cultivated about their estrangement, or, alternatively, what has been cultivated withers away. To a man they occupy the traditional, paternalist, sentimental roles of village elder, son of the nation, defender of the rule of law, lawyer, magistrate, captain of industry, trustee, and conservator. I have already noted how they do so irritably, uneasily, inauthentically, idiosyncratically, often (in the bad, Hobbesian sense) individualistically, and ultimately unsuccessfully, the socially approved but merely tactical sentiment happily turning treacherous even as circumstances conspire to expose and to humiliate the possessive self that it has served. For all the failure and humiliation, we have a happier ending, often enough, as I shall demonstrate. But now we may note just how scathing, how thorough that humiliation often proves.
Developing this idea, one could argue (as will I) that in these fictions we encounter but later, perhaps more extreme instances of those rarefied forms of individuality that Michael Levenson, among others, finds in modernist fiction. 71 These are the fugitive modernist subjectivities memorably characterized as not just metaphysical curiosities; they are attempts to purify the subject so that, in times of cultural crisis, it can still be a worthy bearer of moral value. 72 Conrad s Marlow, one of Levenson s primary examples of modernist subjectivity, comes to mind; next to him, as I argue in chapter 5 , we may seat Gordimer s Mehring, whose subjective consciousness, like that of Marlow, lies in the text s foreground and proves idiosyncratic and impressionistic, metaphysical and rarefied. 73 Unquestionably students of extravagantly postcolonial fiction witness, as I note later, a continuation of the larger modernist conception of the individual subject into the era of postcolonial cultural crisis. But in this moment it is important to emphasize a distinction. For the purification of the subject described by Levenson becomes, in extravagant postcolonialism, with its more tenuous and tentative subjectivities, both modernist and merely modern, a brute purging, a shearing away, a bereaving. 74 One could say that Mehring, as compared to Marlow, has lost (some) consciousness and loses more as his narrative unfolds. Indeed, such loss continues until not much of a self, not much in the way of a subject, remains, even the modernist, metaphysical figment, that end product of modernist purification, being thereby exposed, plucked, subtracted, or scattered to the point that there is very little of it left to grow curious about (Mehring s own curiosity becomes so eroded that it is the narrator, not he, who has the epiphany once a buried man climactically returns-Mehring can only say no, no ). 75 In extravagant postcolonialism we see, in other words, a stripping down and away that continues to a point far beyond where we usually arrive by way of modernism, a reduction to a condition of mere subsistence wherein only the barest, most basic, yes-or-no form of autonomy is retained. And it is also the case, remarkably enough, that it is only by virtue of this modernist and, finally, supramodernist, extravagant reduction that the ethical emerges.
In thus speaking of the ethical I have come to an opportunity to clarify, fourth and finally, my ultimate ambition. As I noted, it is to explore an ethical dimension of literary works typically regarded as political in nature, as being essentially, if not unnaturally[,] preoccupied with power and the torsions of power. 76 The ethical element of extravagantly postcolonial literature has been neglected to the extent that we have sought to visit and revisit these torsions and to write allegories pitting power against diversity and difference, the latter two being regarded as indivisibly, insolubly collective entities, thus overlooking the extravagantly postcolonial interest in that particular mode of difference termed individuality or individualism. I hope to offer a view of a certain difference within difference and thereby to contribute to a better sense of extravagantly postcolonial particularity both in the realm of identity and in the realm of values. To return to my two opening questions: extravagant postcolonialism? Extravagant in what sense? As I argue, there is an extravagance in certain areas of postcolonialism, an extravagance obeyed in wanderings within and beyond our conventional allegories of power. My premise is that this wandering has been acknowledged insufficiently.
Those are the major premises; several proofs follow. What remains of this introduction takes up a number of issues that this idea of an extravagant postcolonialism entails. The broadest of such issues is one that I approach in a number of my chapters but that is addressed finally and most fully in my conclusion: the question of its ultimate literary historical affiliation. To put it interrogatively, indeed contentiously: if there truly is such a thing as an extravagant postcolonialism, then just how distinct from anti- or posthumanist postmodernism, after all, is it? Preoccupied with power and the torsions of power, is extravagant postcolonial literature truly, for better or for worse, a less than fully human literature, as Coetzee desponds over South African literature? 77 Or is it, with its interest in individualism, often enough closer to a humanistic enterprise, an enterprise of modernity and even, in many cases, of modernism? Clearly, as I argue most pointedly in my conclusion, it is indeed these alternative things. There exists in postcolonial writing at large a significant strain that radiates from the beliefs that human beings exist, that they matter, that they often make wondrous things, that, often enough, they do right and good things, that there is something in [them] that wants to do those right things or see them done ( SV , 507). It is also clear that our reception of postcolonial fiction in general as well as in its extravagant instances has been shaped unduly by way of a wellintentioned critical eagerness to remove the postcolonial from a specific sphere of modernist literature that was tremendously influential, both inspiring and enabling, but that was also sometimes felt to be containing and that was therefore often dismissed vocally on behalf of an enterprise that Appiah has called, as we have seen, space-clearing. 78
Again, this question of an extravagant postcolonialism s precise twentiethcentury cultural affiliations is one that I reserve for my conclusion. Here, by contrast, I aim to explore certain disaffiliations, and therefore I address a number of issues on which this sense of difference-difference between the extravagantly postcolonial and the postmodern as the phrase is often understood-depends. These include, first of all (section II), those most basic questions that must be put to an extravagantly postcolonial individualism: whether, where, and how it truly exists, whether, where, and how these novels represent individuality. I approach these questions by way of the question of an extravagantly postcolonial justice, the economic and personist version of which these fictions tends to eschew as unethical. 79 But not, as I argue, because there are no persons ; indeed, as I show, these fictions in the end find particular persons, individuals, innocent of their crimes and even reward or commend them for taking things (for example, their crimes) personally. 80 Their personal take on things is revealed to be, I argue (section III), a deeply ethical take-at least, it ends as such, even if it begins in a faux sentimentalism, what Gayatri Spivak calls, adapting Sigmund Freud, nostalgic affect, and even though it can lead into a kind of Cartesian blind alley. 81 Beyond, then, the question of whether extravagantly postcolonial fiction represents the individual, even the individualist, I move to the question of whether these postcolonial novels represent the (nostalgic) individualist as a good thing. I then proceed (section IV) to the question of, as posed earlier, whether this good thing is not something other than a postmodern thing. This is the question of whether the individualist s constitutive affect, an extravagantly postcolonial nostalgia, instigates a mode of consciousness that is not just soundly ethical but also fundamentally authoritative, private, and autonomous. I leave it to my conclusion to wonder, further, whether nostalgia is not a mode of consciousness the modernist and humanist nature of which we belie to the extent that we conflate the postcolonial and the postmodern. I close, finally (section V), by offering a brief overview of the chapters that follow.
His Sunday papers report that an international team of mountaineers, on their way to [Everest], ha[ve] arrived in Bombay, but Salman Rushdie s Saladin Chamcha is not thinking about mountains; he is thinking about ghosts: Now I know what a ghost is . Unfinished business, that s what ( SV , 540). For with that team has arrived, as if he were an avenging angel, the man whose mind Saladin has tried to destroy, Gibreel Farishta, and Saladin knows that Gibreel has but one thing on what mind he has left: retribution. People must pay ( SV , 544).
The unfinished business, then, is the business of justice, a kind of business the finishing of which should, as we have been given reason to expect, make for a spectacular ending to The Satanic Verses . Yet, though the ending is spectacular (Gibreel shoots somebody), it is not strictly just (Gibreel shoots himself). As such, it suggests the first observation of this section with particular clarity. Gibreel in the end has a change of heart and forgives Saladin his debt, does not make him pay ; justice-justice for Saladin, at any rate-is left undone, its economic logic uncompleted, its business unfinished. Rushdie s novel finally defies the very practice of justice that has seemed both to drive its plot (propelling Gibreel to a final interview with Saladin) and to serve as one of its most urgent themes (Saladin, having blamed Gibreel earlier for his own difficulties, continually doubts the justice of what he has done). The suggestion is that the ethos of economic justice tends to overlook the complexities of human crime or, as Gibreel bitterly puts it, the crime of being human ( SV , 544). That is why the novel stems Saladin s overwhelming feeling of guilt, of responsibility , leaving him alive at the end, rewarding him for that feeling rather than using it as evidence against him ( SV , 542).
Yet justice is unfinished in these novels in a second, equally important way. Its base transactions are truncated, its ghosts swindled, and its furies abated, yet its better angels are by no means abjured. Justice, in being left undone, is not abolished or abandoned so much as rendered more necessary than ever. Indeed, it is on behalf of a more fundamental idea or intuition of justice that these critiques of economic justice are undertaken.
But before delineating this alternative, noneconomic idea of justice, we may pause to note how this very ambition of redeeming justice, as opposed to rejecting it, is by no means unique. As legal, social, and philosophical constructs go, justice has displayed staying power, exhibiting remarkable resilience over the course of many often intellectually caustic postwar years in the West. Justice has been called the value of values ; if this description is accurate, then it is hard to care about ethics and not care about justice. 82 Thus it is no wonder that a critical theorist like Max Horkheimer, one for whom justice is just another contingent historical construction that has to be understood genealogically, does not go on to conclude that it should therefore be dismantled without remainder. 83 Indeed, even one who takes the hermeneutic turn, a radical poststructuralist skeptic like Jacques Derrida for example, may regard justice as ultimately invincible to all skepticism this idea of justice seems indestructible, an idea of justice-which we distinguish from law or right and even from human rights -from the various forms to which it has been reduced in the past (or may be remaindered in the future). 84 Whatever one thinks of Derrida, it is a measure of the principle s power that even he does not think that we can abolish it, no matter how many of its contingent historical constructions and reductions we find to be unjust impositions. And the point here, of course, is that extravagantly postcolonial novelists recognize this, too. For J. M. Coetzee, for example, a sense of justice is a thing with which most of us are born, like arms, and in the end Coetzee and his Magistrate alike think that men and women should have arms, even if the arm does harm. 85 Coetzee and the others thus attempt some grasp of what is just, some idea of justice, even amid their indictments of its everyday business. In so doing, as I argue, these novels do not abolish the very notion of a just act so much as try to constitute themselves as more authentically ethical discursive acts, more just acts of conception and articulation. What, then, is the more ethical and less economic idea of justice that these novels articulate? Its form is certainly not retributive ; given that it is not truly consequentialist, either, and given that most theories of punishment are either one or the other (if not an amalgam of both), then it is safe to describe it as nonpunitive. 86 In fact, the extravagantly postcolonial concern is less with crime and guilt and punishment than with a certain sort of innocence, an innocence that is in various ways extravagant. It is justly pointed out in this fiction that certain persons, whatever else they have done, have done a good, good thing, a thing extravagantly good, something unusually, distinctively selfless and generous, and the consequence is, often enough, commemoration or celebration, also extravagant.
If this description of extravagant postcolonial justice is vague, we may approach our topic more directly by noting its surprising dependence on the personal or, more specifically, the individual and its concomitant articulation of a familiar and recognizable individualism. 87 Particular persons are absolutely necessary to the practice of postcolonial justice, and what is surprising about this, of course, is that punitive justice, as it were the enemy, has traditionally relied upon this same construct. The economic and punitive practice of assigning individual blame, whether justified by retributive or consequentialist theories of punishment, arises from a premise of personal accountability to be found in many cultures at many times-the assumption that the individual exercises choice, possesses volition, that he or she is more or less autonomous. And certainly postcolonial fiction tends to question this assumption. Rushdie s novel could be regarded as an instance of the kind of influential postcolonial critique often associated with Spivak; any simple concept of individual autonomy, any notion of a pure or original form of postcolonial (or subaltern) consciousness and identity, is ultimately called into question in all these extravagantly postcolonial novels, each of which anticipates our own era of truth, reconciliation, reparation. 88 Yet, as I began by claiming, scarcely do these postcolonial fictions engage in a wholesale abolition of the individual. Indeed, they trash the individual no more than they do justice itself. Having been shielded from blame and indictment, which would seem naturally to seek out individuals as targets, the individual is not finally ruled out of bounds, not when it comes time to abandon the economic and to exercise imagination and generosity, not when it is time to move past blame and toward something like praise. Paradoxically enough, then, postcolonial justice grasps with one hand what it would abjure with the other. Particular individuals, clearly, are rescued from economic justice, the suggestion being that guilt attaches to nobody in particular, but particular individuals, individuals in all their particularity, are also singled out for seemingly unearned praise. 89 As examples, consider Achebe, Gordimer, and Coetzee. Achebe characterizes No Longer at Ease s Obi Okonkwo, in his own (scholarly) way no less a village celebrity than his grandfather Okonkwo (the warrior well known throughout the nine villages and beyond ), as more than a mere victim of economic justice. 90 Certainly Obi is that; it is the business of the novel, in part, not to ratify Obi s self-judgment, his treacherous tears of self-indictment upon his bribery conviction ( NLE , 10). Here, as in Rushdie, that brisk bit of closing business settles nothing, a point that Achebe emphasizes by placing this legal ending, which ends nothing more than a public career, at the novel s beginning. But the novel does more than merely oppose the economic. Rather than go about the business of finding Obi not truly guilty, it finds him innocent-innocent not of the legal charge, that he took bribes, but of his charge against himself, that he betrayed his newly postcolonial country. What is emphasized is not Obi s act of betrayal but the innocent, individualist, self-willed ( NLE , 13), even idiosyncratic act of identification that makes his sense of betrayal possible. Second, and similarly, what ultimately matters most to Gordimer in The Conservationist is that the weekend farmer Mehring has been singular enough to have become one of them, one of those truly native to his farm-and that, in a sense, he always has been ( C , 267). Uniquely among his business acquaintances, he has always found South African business culture personally unsatisfactory. That is why this self-convicted man is not just terminally forgiven. Rather, he is ritually buried in the very soil he has guiltily tried (and failed) to possess and out of which he would have thrust the body of its true owner, a modernized and murdered native. And Coetzee s Magistrate in Waiting for the Barbarians , finally, is an individualist whose individualism is, in the end, embraced. It is this One Just Man, as he is called, the only man in his imperial outpost who exposes himself to barbarians, who is offered freedom from his own guilty history of exploitation by a closing episode that moves him extravagantly beyond blame ( WB , 114, 4).
In short, these same characters are not, after all, punished, paid back; rather, these same characters are made the recipients of an unexpected payout, a kind of windfall. If this seems incoherent, even incoherentist, then ask, what more dramatic way to defy the economic? The same person who emerges as the target of indictment, who indeed indicts him- or herself, receives the gift of consideration, commendation, commemoration. Yet it will also be clear that more is at stake than defying the economic, however pointedly. For these postcolonial fictions also promote the individualist. That is, they single out unusually intense, extended, or unexpected-in any event, uncalculated, un- economic -displays of ethical concern, a concern for others that distinguishes these characters as unusual and unconventional, as atypical, as extravagant ( Roving beyond just limits or prescribed methods ). 91 One of the forms taken by this extravagant concern is that of a sense of blame, of responsibility. As we just saw, acts of self-indictment tend to precede the postcolonial performance of exculpation. These characters are freed from blame and even praised only once they blame themselves; postcolonial authors interrupt the business of blame only once their characters willfully submit to it. Achebe s Obi is proved innocent only when he cries. Similarly redeemed in Rushdie are Saladin and Mirza, but only once Saladin accepts responsibility for Gibreel s derangement and only once Mirza heroically capitulates to his enemy s will, having come to believe finally that the end of the world [is indeed] his [own] fault ( SV , 216). The suggestion is that one of the things that wins these characters praise is precisely their readiness to accept blame, even when the responsibility in question is identical to that which their authors refuse to impose on them and which they themselves refuse to impose on anyone else. Clearly, then, it is not probity that prompts extravagant authorial generosity. Rather, it is their own rare generosity, their own distinguishing extravagance.
Is it possible to be too extravagant, to take a-postcolonial-plunge into unrestrained excess; fantastic absurdity (of opinions, conduct, etc.) ? Which is to wonder, are the limits exceeded by these postcolonial protagonists ever just limits, esp . those of decorum, probability, or truth ? 92 This is the corollary of our original question, the question of how justice can remain justice and be so given over to business. This second, equally metaethical question asks, on the other hand, how justice can remain justice and eschew business virtually altogether, and it is a question that arises when one pauses to consider the nature of any ethics deemed extravagant in the way described earlier. This question arises with force, indeed, when one contemplates extravagance while mindful of statements such as Derrida s, which point not to justice but to an idea of justice : is the extravagant postcolonial alternative to the economic a mere idea, something abstract, rarefied in its pure rationality? Is it, worse, something mystical, an idea of justice that is infinite, infinite because irreducible ? 93 For when ideas become infinite and irreducible, the suspicion goes, those (characters) who think them and those (authors) who embrace or endorse the latter do so at considerable risk of inanity. Rushdie, for example, runs this risk by exalting Mirza Saeed to the extent that Mirza s global sense of responsibility seems chimerical, coming as it does in the form of a (bad) dream after an evening spent reading Friedrich Nietzsche. The suspicion is that justice cannot be justice if it is purely conceptual, hands off, metaphysical not political (to invert Rawls). 94 Won t justice lack social substance to the extent that it cannot be conceived concretely, spoken out, acted upon? Or, to put it more tendentiously, how does a justice that has taken refuge as mere idea ever exit that refuge and rejoin the world of social dialogue and action, thus avoiding eternal condemnation as something Kantian, transcendental, noumenal, unrealizable, a justice that never will or can have hands? Even neo-Kantians like John Rawls desire not a perspective from a certain place beyond the world, nor the point of view of a transcendent being [but] a certain form of thought and feeling that a rational person can adopt within the world. 95 To move beyond the world, the claim goes, would be to retreat from ethical engagement, moral judgment, and civic activity.
In the end, such retreat is forbidden by these extravagantly postcolonial novels, as we will see. But first we should see how they might be said to favor it, which they indeed may. After all, the main characters of these novels all experience considerable solitude, perhaps the most difficult of all spaces for justice or ethics to occupy without going native, that is, succumbing to local forces, forces of personal interest. 96 Certainly these characters come across as personally interested; their egotism, egoism, and occasional solipsism are unmistakable. Here is the obverse of the coin of individualism : Gordimer s individualist, Mehring, maintains a virtual ring around his me, his identity, one from which he tries to exclude all disturbing people and ideas, thereby freeing himself from connection and concern. Rushdie s individualist, Mirza, suffers the opposite condition, the megalomaniac s dream of responsibility for the whole world. Achebe s Obi, also an individualist, could not be lonelier in metropolitan Lagos; he ends up in a prison room of his own. And then there is Coetzee s loner Magistrate, an individualist whose spaces of linguistically enforced solitude rival those of Coetzee s earlier character, Magda, who herself rivals Beckett s famous isolates, Molloy, Malone, even, at times, Mahood. Coetzee s Magistrate is, if anything, the most conspicuous case.
If we are talking about the other side of individualism, we are also talking about the downside of extravagance, of going out of the usual path, wandering beyond the crossroads of custom and convention. 97 The most extreme case of such extravagance, perhaps, is Rushdie s narrator, whose only possession is a similarly skeptical questioning and self-questioning bent ( What does this mean? ; What choice does Farishta make? / Does he have a choice? [ SV , 467]; Who am I? ; I know; devil talk. Shaitan interrupting Gibreel. / Me? [ SV , 10, 93]). Like Mehring, happiest en route from the city to his farm, and like the Magistrate, who is most comfortable in a nomad s tent, Rushdie s narrator seems virtually homeless, as bereft of fixed abode as the satanic characters of the novel and its epigraph. And it is this detached figure to whom is attached an implacably moral voice posing questions about the good and its earthly fate: Is it possible that evil is never total, that its victory, no matter how overwhelming, is never absolute? ( SV , 467).
Not all purveyors of justice, of course, would abjure all social detachment. Kantians, for example, would regard it as a desideratum of the moral self, as an indeed crucial means of independence from natural contingencies and social accident. 98 Such independence, anathema to Jurgen Habermas s community of moral subjects in dialogue, would seem necessary to Kant s solitary, reflecting, moral consciousness. 99 Reflection, to be clear, must avoid the deflections and inflections of multiple, jostling points of view. Kant is not embracing community, even when he seems to be (as in his 1781 call to reason to institute a tribunal which will assure to reason its lawful claims and dismiss all groundless pretensions, securing its categorical imperatives and vouchsafing its failsafe procedures for determining them). 100 Thus, the postcolonial preoccupation with solitary minds prompts the suspicion that any postcolonial agency of justice remaining once its business is undone may be less community-minded than individualist. And, in being the latter, it would cause community-minded readers, let alone communitarians, to wonder whether it would truly be just. Again, the premise is that the individual mind offers refuge to interests hostile to justice, interests that submit one s sense of justice or of ethics generally to personal idiosyncrasy.
Yet it would be a mistake to call these authors or even these characters Kantians. The tendency of characters like Mirza, the Magistrate, and Mehring to seek solitude signifies anything but a simple faith in Kantian rationality. For the habit of solitary rational reflection proves profitless in all these novels; though not fatal to one s capacity for ethical choice, not even in Mehring s extreme case, it is nonetheless represented as a bad mistake. These extravagantly postcolonial authors thus prevent us from confusing their characters with Kantians by presenting Kantianism as a harmful alternative that they transcend. For example, when Mirza s sense of responsibility for the world evaporates subsequent to the Ayesha Haj, he is left in a defunct Cartesian void; all he can do is hope to extinguish selfhood by trying not [to] think, not think, not think ( SV , 506). Yet that is not the last we see of Mirza; there is another act. Likewise, Coetzee s Magistrate s adoption of the plural we of historiography proves futile. His attempt at collective historical consciousness is succeeded by a plunge into skeptical isolate meditation, a different form of defunct Cartesianism but one that also peters out iteratively ( I think: , I think: , I think: , I think: , I think: [ WB , 154-55]). And the Magistrate, too, as we shall see, moves on from there, escaping the Kantian funk.
If the extravagantly postcolonial fascination with solitude thus does not point at the logical and rational, then just where does it point? At the imaginative and emotional, the intuitive, the willful, even the whimsical, all of which thrive in solitude as much as does the rational. What matters most in these novels is not abstract reflection but affective meditation-matters in that it leads not to retreat from the social into the abstract but to concrete ethical engagement (and extravagant authorial adjudication); the premise is that rational reflection, let alone mystical intimation, does not. At the foundation of extravagantly postcolonial justice we find the affective and the aesthetic; it is an emotion, an image, rather than an idea or concept, that opens the way to the postcolonial individual s ethical conduct and the postcolonial author s extravagant commendation thereof. That is why our discussion must now turn to the question of postcolonial affect.
To speak of affect is to approach a more or less Eurocentric discourse-psychoanalysis- potentially incommensurate with any postcolonial context, and, as Elizabeth Jane Bellamy point outs, any putatively common ground stretching between psychoanalytic and postcolonial theories will be treacherous ground indeed. 101 Yet the risk of visiting it is worth taking, I would argue, since it is a risk taken by the novelists themselves: they do not seem to fear what we might call, following Bellamy, incommensuration (perhaps because they do not attempt to carve out some utterly original postcolonial apr s , some distinct temporality). In any event, as Bellamy argues, critics like Homi K. Bhabha and Spivak attempt to translate Freudian affect into an authentically postcolonial category by associating it with a certain pernicious sort of sentimentality, a kind of nostalgia. Such nostalgia is created by a process of socialization or affective coding whereby the institutional forces of nation, religion, family, and so on assert control, the agents of these institutions (political leaders, religious authorities, fathers) profiting materially thereby. 102
Bhabha and Spivak, in talking about affect, tend to focus on those who lose thereby, the victims, rather than on those who profit, and often they invoke the subaltern, of course, a figure not to be confused with the protagonists of these novels. The latter are figures of alterity, yes, but not subalterity, being too rich, too sophisticated, too Westernized, too hybridized, too cosmopolitan, for better or worse too much the product of manifold mimicry. They display (in excess, as we will see) the subjectivity of which Spivak s subaltern or migrant sub-proletariat is by definition dispossessed, and they belong in Spivak s group of metropolitan intellectual[s], one made up of postcolonial artist[s] like Rushdie himself, academic[s], [and] political exile[s], as well as successful professional[s] or capitalist[s] ; they are Spivak s exploitative institutional agents, her agents of nostalgia. 103 Nevertheless, as we will see, nostalgia afflicts them, too, even in their capacity as agents, dividing them against themselves as relatively complacent and unselfconscious agents of an unjust social and political order. Entertaining a traditional attitude of responsibility, a sense of community obligation (Mirza dreams that the end of the world was his own fault [ SV , 216]), they, like their victims, cannot emerge from the social tangles in which they find themselves without first freeing themselves from such nostalgia-and that is a good thing. Spivak does not explore this wrinkle, does not even see it, perhaps, but there is nothing in her discussion that would discourage others from doing so. It is even fair to say that Spivak would approve these novelists thus decoding nostalgia as harmful to its agents as well as its victims. 104 What Spivak would not necessarily approve is the authors ultimate recoding of it, and that is exactly what we have in these fictions. In these texts endings, that is, nostalgia, having been decoded as exploitative, is recoded as nonexploitative, as indeed a distinct mode of ethical intuition and action. As I shall explain, such recoding is demanded by the interior or lining that extravagantly postcolonial nostalgia ultimately must display, the profound ambivalence it must ultimately express.
First, then, the decoding: Spivak and her interpreters decode (explain) nostalgia as an emotionally charged figuration that fosters, they argue, material exploitation, blocking or disguis[ing] the real of the body, obscur[ing] the subaltern female body s insertion into the economic sphere. 105 So do these novelists, who show nostalgia s agents concealing, most effectively from themselves, a sexual, psychological, or other selfish interest within a show of sympathetic concern for some conventional object of (their own) older male generosity (all these young women already have an older, usually ineffectual male relative or patron of some kind). The heavily made-up younger woman whom the patronizing Mehring picks up on the side of the road in orthodox good-Samaritan fashion is, he dimly suspects, a kind of prostitute, and yet he does not explore that suspicion; he does not contest her description of herself as a low-wage, carless, put-upon, out-of-luck granddaughter ( C , 253-54). The orphan girl ( SV , 221) and woodcarver Ayesha (an older merchant, Sri Srinivas, patronizes her, marketing her work) about whom Rushdie s Mirza is sure he is disinterestedly concerned is no prostitute ( Ayesha remained chaste [ SV , 221]), but she is a street vendor, and when she comes to embody (clothed in butterflies) at once the erotic and the prophetic, it dawns on Mirza himself that his apparent interest in the madonna of the butterflies may conceal a sexual interest in a peasant floozy ( SV , 229). Coetzee s nameless barbarian girl ( WB , 38), the un- real of whose body the Magistrate obsessively studies as a register of empire s truth, is brought to town with her father; after being tortured and bereaved, she becomes something of a street prostitute before the Magistrate makes her his concubine and encourages her to depend upon him for room and board while working in his kitchen (economic facts to which the self-involved Magistrate pays little attention even as he profits by them). Sticking with Coetzee for the moment, we might note how the commonplace bodily reality that she is happy to talk about has nothing to do with his affective interest in clarifying abstract ideas about empire, a topic she eschews. Beans make you fart ( WB , 29), she says, but she loves beans even as she disdains the Magistrate s gift of a pet who excretes indoors ( Animals belong outdoors [ WB , 34]), and it is the Magistrate s-decidedly nostalgic-interest in writing an allegory of empire, one that articulates civilized disgust with empire s filthy barbarities ( WB , 114), that distracts the Magistrate from these concrete, bodily details. The nostalgic allegory manifest in a history of the oasis ( WB , 168) wrecked by empire never gets off the ground, but the Magistrate succeeds in conjuring a nostalgic image of the girl, turning her into a kind of allegorical figure that he may manipulate, all the while trying to ignore or forget or efface the real of the girl herself.
Spivak is mistaken, then, to suggest that her postcolonial artist[s] have overlooked the subaltern allegory of affective occultation. These authors, to the contrary, incorporate occulting figures borrowed from familial, religious, and liberal humanist nostalgias. But this is not to say-and we now turn toward the recoding-that there is no difference between Spivak s allegory of affective occlusion and the allegory articulated by the novelists. For while Spivak assumes the opacity and pertinacity of these occulting figures, the novelists demonstrate their fragility and mutability. That is, Coetzee, Gordimer, and Rushdie show how such figures do not, in the end, occlude subaltern feminine materiality. Rather, they are themselves occluded, superseded, commandeered, or even monstrously transformed. It turns out that these subaltern bodies, as it were, refuse to be disguised, obscured, or troped; the figured will not be figured. Indeed, the figured subalterns turn the tables on their figurers, whose own bodies end up being both the objects of attention and the recipients of violence. Even before they do, however, even before these troped women assert themselves, their bodies defy the effort to conscript them imaginatively. The material real of their bodies simply is not successfully dematerialized; rather, it is allowed to manifest itself in images, intimations, and impressions that for a time prove ineffaceable and irresistible and that distort or mock or otherwise belie the nostalgic images that these men have tried to superimpose upon it. Where the enterprise of nostalgic sentimentalism is concerned, then, some part of these men has not gotten with the program. For example, the Magistrate s meditations fail to sustain that sentimentalized, idealized portrait of imperial victimization, that conventional stylization or, as it were, medieval ascetic icon (the kind of affective coding out of which Mel Gibson was trying to blast Christ s body in The Passion of the Christ ). Something in him will not allow them to. His sentimental images of the mistreated barbarian girl give way to impressions of her strangeness, images of a body not disfigured by torture so much as grotesquely deformed, to begin with, one that has turned itself inside out, the face of which is obtuse, slick, like an internal organ not meant to live in the light ( WB , 53). Appositely, Mehring s close inspection of the young hitchhiker s face estranges; it is a place of muck, a moon surface, a strange and remote new territory the perception of which effaces his association of her with the young women from whom he has sought sexual consolation previously ( C , 260). Nostalgic affect, which would tend to obscure the real, gives way to its indications and impressions, which often prove both repulsive and riveting.
This is a point over which to pause: in the end, nostalgia, far from secreting the real, actually gives way to it. Not a wall but a door, nostalgia serves the real as a portal, a vestibule, an occasion; it serves as the very agent of the real. For the real is approached only upon the failure of nostalgic sentiment, and nostalgia as sentimental image must obtain before it can fail. For example, Mehring s approach to the real, his impression or epiphany (often enough just this, as we will see) of the girl s startling otherness, can come about only if he is paying close attention to her-attention that begins with his attempt (ultimately futile) to sustain sentimental affect by seeking close signs that confirm the authenticity of the sentimental portrait. And what, in turn, shakes his confidence in that portrait? It is something within him ( SV , 507), something as affective as is nostalgic sentiment but opposed to it, some ethical element that cannot abide his self-serving self-delusions. Nostalgic sentiment is thus revealed to be a mere fa ade covering over an affect tending toward its opposite, which is an interest in what is really, materially, bodily there and what is bound to strike the nostalgic as strange, sparking off strange imagery, given his sentimental preferences. Clearly there is something psychologically perverse or at least complex about nostalgia. The impression or image of the real that supplants or cancels the sentimental image is, as it were, its photographic negative; the intimation of strangeness that erases nostalgic comfort is the latter s opposite or inversion, often a nightmarish counterpart or daimon that seems to accompany it and lurk within it, awaiting its own moment.
This complexity of nostalgia, this doubleness or duplicity, is illustrated particularly well by Mirza. The butterflies that come to adorn and otherwise attend upon the prophetess Ayesha begin as Mirza s courtiers ( SV , 216). To Mirza, they are so familiar as to seem mundane ( SV , 217), so agreeable, indeed, that his sentimental portrait of Ayesha (as madonna ) is able for a time to enlist them aesthetically (not just any madonna, she is madonna of the butterflies [ SV , 229]). Soon, however, it is as though the butterflies transmogrify and turn traitor, thereby confirming our (and Mirza s own) first discrepant glimpse of them with Ayesha going willingly towards their own deaths down her throat ( SV , 219). That is, they come to suggest something about this madonna that is not exactly maternal: a murderous hunger for power. And for Mirza this second Ayesha, Ayesha as murderous madonna (her lips, cheeks, chin heavily stained by the different colors that had rubbed off the dying butterflies [ SV , 219]), is the more smashing of the two Ayeshas ( SV , 219); he cannot take his eyes off her. Clearly, then, this nostalgic affect exhibits a doubleness resistant to Spivak s explanation of it as a simple mode of self-delusion, a tactic designed to disable conscience, thus enabling sexual exploitation, economic opportunism, or figurative manipulation. What Spivak misses is the fact that the sentimental delusion may dissipate, being effaced by its polar opposite, the intimation of a strange reality. Nostalgia, then, is no purely, straightforwardly sentimental affect; rather, it contains its own contrary. It is, in a word, a kind of ambivalence.
Studying extravagantly postcolonial nostalgia as a form of ambivalence is worthwhile; the strangeness shadowing nostalgic sentiment proves compelling. No mere passing mood, it is as irrepressible as the familiar, sentimental aspect is frangible, and it matters, too; as Rushdie s narrator would say, it brings newness into the world. This newness entails ethical action, finally, as we will soon see. But its immediate form is that of a devastating sense of loss. Though the subaltern female body stirs and unsettles, even horrifies, the agents nevertheless prove attentive, eventually at great personal cost. Like Mirza, they cannot look away, even when they look upon a sight that would destroy [their] peace of mind forever ( SV , 219), even when it is a strange and unsettling sight that begins their fatal adventure (Mehring s first glimpse of the hitchhiker is of eyes fixed on him as target or goal [ C , 252]). However it begins, all this fascinated imagining of the subaltern female body, which is in various ways degraded, dislocates and estranges these agents geographically, socially, and psychologically, taking them on a trip (an actual road trip, in many cases) that does not end until their own bodies become in various ways degraded. For example, Mirza s bitter energy of desire for [Ayesha] continues even after her mad Haj has literally decimated the village of which he is zamindar and all but destroyed him in virtually every imaginable way ( SV , 497). As newnesses go, then, this is of the painful variety, and it gets worse. Just as the transports of postcolonial nostalgia entail degradation, so does the degradation entail desperation, despair, deracination, or sometimes all three. Agents like Mirza, Mehring, and the Magistrate being modern m[en] (the phrase is Mirza s [ SV , 476]), men of a logical, empiricist, rationalist cast of mind, typically their own experience of degradation provokes a strong measure of reflection. Coetzee s Magistrate, upon return from his own trip, suffers several kinds of painful treatment, being by turns tortured, damaged, disfigured, humiliated, and neglected; not surprisingly, his preoccupation with the barbarian girl s degradation by empire is succeeded by rapt attention to his own. What most acutely occupy him are his own responses to pain, just as Mehring s responses to fear invade his interior monologue when he begins to recognize that the trip-ending tryst is really a trap, an ambush ( C , 262). Mirza, on the other hand, is so deracinated by the deaths of his wife and fellow villagers in the Ayesha Haj that he becomes virtually catatonic, oblivious to his own desiccation and decay.
One sort of newness to which nostalgia leads, then, is a period of ineffectual ratiocination, which I have already discussed, and happily these extravagantly postcolonial agents survive it. Yet such defunct Kantianism is not the dead end of extravagantly postcolonial nostalgia. Rather, amid the thoroughgoing deracination, from within it or beyond it, another sort of newness emerges: a revelation, and often a salutary one, ethically speaking. But a revelation of what? My claim is that postcolonial nostalgia, in the end, discloses the primacy or priority, the ineluctability, even, of our physicality. Here, finally, Spivak s real of the body construct comes into play. We are given a glimpse of such a real when nostalgia as it were exhausts itself. Nostalgia, regarded as consisting both of opportunistic sentiment and of its contrary, strangeness, finally points beyond both. Thus it frees the mind not just from this reflective, Kantian reaction to physical degradation and self-estrangement but also from the affective, both as comforting sentimental image and as its opposite, the unsettling image of strangeness. It is freed to witness what is out there, what is real (of course, as should not be forgotten, all this occurs in imagination and recollection). 106 What is out there being, undeniably, a body, postcolonial nostalgia thus yields a sense that what it mean[s] to live in a body, as a body, for example, is an important meaning, that it is indeed the meaning of humanity, as Coetzee s Magistrate puts it ( WB , 115). The suggestion is that such a meaning may be discounted only at the expense of the same empiricist values of modernity that these men have avowed. Little wonder that this ultimate yield of extravagantly postcolonial nostalgia, this virtually corporeal meaning of humanity, is not garnered abstractly, syllogistically. When the body asserts itself as not that which is not, as indeed inescapable fact, rather, it does so concretely, evidentially, and dramatically, if also imaginatively. 107 Rushdie s Mirza does not formulate this fact; he witnesses it, momentously, if only in an imagined scene. The paradox of witnessing fact only in imagination is one that we will address in the next section. For now it is enough to note that Mirza is confronted at the climactic moment of his dying meditation with a spectacle of bodily distress ( he saw the water fill [Ayesha s] mouth, heard it begin to gurgle into her lungs [ SV , 507]), a fact of life underwater that he recalls (he has read of how her pilgrims bodies have begun to wash up on the shore of the Arabian Sea) even as he is imagining this destructive visionary suffering the very fate that he feels that she deserves. Gordimer s Mehring likewise passes away (or out) before he can construct a proposition about bodies and their reality, but he does have time to register the distressing fact of strong male calves in woolen stockings shockingly vivid as someone crouches in the foliage ( C , 261). Mehring and his readers therewith encounter a fact no less inescapable and no less striking than that of the improperly buried body recently washed up by the flood on Mehring s farm ( C , 15). Another inescapable fact of moment is that of every wrinkle in a certain barbarian s face; these are wrinkles that deeply intrigue Coetzee s Magistrate, who recollects them only as he himself is being tortured ( WB , 120).
Despite the Magistrate s talk of meaning, then, such immediate and momentous revelation of physical fact typically points in a direction that is not intellectual but visceral. But it is a direction that is also, to introduce our next point, not individual but social. For often the physicality so momentously apprehended is the physicality not of one s own being but of another s. And with this fact of another body out there, beyond if beside one s own, comes a new sense of the otherness of that other. Faced with that other body, these agents often exhibit vibrant sympathy, if not just simple curiosity, thereby initiating an encounter in which a kind of positive vibration may pass between the two bodies in question. Which is to say, these agents often, as it were, open, present, or expose themselves to these others, even if the kind of communication that ensues, if any does, is typically nonverbal, being merely visceral, merely vibrant. The wrinkled face of the old barbarian, the image of which comes to the Magistrate s mind as he is himself being tortured, prompts him to regret never having learned the barbarian girl s language; longing to know the experience that has wrinkled barbarian brows, he cries out in pain, and it is as if his body itself is trying to speak-and thus to solicit from the barbarians, from the wrinkles- barbarian language ( WB , 121). The happier version of this encounter offered by Coetzee s later novel, Foe , details the narrator s intrepid attempt to retrieve Friday s story (he press[es] a fingernail between the upper and lower rows [of his clenched teeth], trying to part them ), which is finally rewarded, after a fashion. 108 Friday s mouth opens, and the narrator, even if he does not hear anything, feels a slow stream beat[ing] against [his] eyelids, the skin of [his] face ( F , 157). What is most remarkable here is the fact that Friday opens his mouth only once the narrator himself opens up, exposing his face to Friday s. Likewise, the drowning Ayesha gets through to Mirza, reach[ing] deep within him, only when Mirza himself finally chooses to open (literally: his body split apart [ SV , 507]).
How, then, may extravagantly postcolonial nostalgia be said to provoke ethical action? It may seem fair to conclude the opposite: that postcolonial nostalgia steers us beyond our definitively personal needs and aims and wishes and choices and, thus, that it points us beyond ethics, since ethics depends on choice (one cannot be moral or ethical by accident or under some external compulsion; one must be autonomous). 109 Personally speaking, Mirza would like nothing more than to see Ayesha drown; that would seem to be his choice, if left to himself. Nostalgia, then, the arc of which phenomenon ends only with his choice to save her, even at his own expense, would seem to be a mode of affect that truncates or at least curtails personality, individuality, and autonomy. Nostalgia would thus seem to obviate the ethical moment altogether, the moment of crisis, melodramatically beloved of Coetzee and Rushdie in particular, wherein one either does or does not do the right thing (here, of course, Mirza seems to want to choose to do the wrong thing-namely to savor vengeance watching Ayesha gurgle). 110 How, then, may nostalgia be said to be ethical?
The answer is that nostalgia steers us beyond our autonomy only by way of our autonomy. I shall have considerably more to say on the topic of postcolonial autonomy in the next section, there to deal with a certain objection to the phrase, but I should note immediately that extravagant postcolonialism by no means abjures the notion of autonomy. For example, though the narrator of Foe is successful only once he has stopped willing, that cessation itself requires a deliberate and difficult act of the will (and, as we will soon see, there is a sense in which the will in these moments does not cease and desist so much as go behind the scenes). If the postcolonial individual surrenders freedom, it is only in a moment of personal freedom. In opening, both the Magistrate and Mirza make free choices, acting by decision, not compulsion, the upshot being that such postcolonial self-exposure is typically represented as an ethical act. 111 Mirza s self-opening is conspicuously a matter of will, of deliberate and difficult election. It is not that he chooses to have Ayesha drown and is overruled by another; rather, he changes his mind. Rushdie is careful to spell it out: at the critical moment, Mirza made a different choice, reject[ing] his previous choice ( SV , 507), and what Mirza chooses is a good thing (not only does he save another; he also opens himself to a subjectivity [Spivak s term] previously abjured). By no means does postcolonial extravagance ignore the claims of the personal will, which is found to be significantly more capricious than the will of the collective on the one hand or than the protocols of the reflective mind disciplined by the categorical on the other. Rushdie contrasts us tougher nuts, Human beings, with those symbols of mild collectivity, the angels, who don t have much in the way of a will. To will is to disagree; not to submit; to dissent ( SV , 92, 92, 92-93). Admittedly, the form of dissent may be nutty, quixotic. But, in the end, clearly, extravagant postcolonialism leaves more space for individuality, extravagance, or harlequinade than one might think. The thoroughly modern Mirza is in a sense the biggest fool in his book, and it is no accident that he teams up with a traveling clown in opposition to Ayesha, just as Coetzee s disgraced Magistrate, an enemy in his own way of the state ( WB , 108), becomes a kind of trickster figure (at one point his antagonist Joll calls him a clown, a madman [ WB , 114]).

  • Accueil Accueil
  • Univers Univers
  • Ebooks Ebooks
  • Livres audio Livres audio
  • Presse Presse
  • BD BD
  • Documents Documents