The Role of the Surreal in Postcolonial African Writing

The Case of Legson Kayira’s Jingala and The Detainee

In: Matatu

Abstract

Creating a situation that is beyond the ordinary stems from the author’s desire to create utopia amidst the engulfing dystopia and the search for relevant aesthetics to satisfy that desire. It therefore requires the reader to unravel the illogical through which such texts create their meanings and assert their ideologies. Using the case of Legson Kayira’s writing, this paper observes that the surreal takes many dimensions and is the main vehicle for expressing ideology among many African writers in the sense that the dominant narratives and counter-narratives of the texts are aligned with it. As such, whether a text is wholly surrealist or merely informed by the surrealist mode of expression, there is a particular logic that is shrouded in the illogical, the extraordinary and the impractical. I draw on Legson Kayira’s Jingala (1967) and The Detainee (1974) to show how these texts rely on the surreal as the main vehicle for interrogating the postcolonial African reality and positing the author’s ideology.

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