The English Book and Its Marginalia

Colonial/Postcolonial Literatures after Heart of Darkness


This book is about books that recount the story of encountering another book. There are various versions of the story told and retold from the heyday of imperialism up to the present day (Homi Bhabha calls it the trope of ‘the discovery of the English book’); by considering each of these versions carefully, we may also give an alternative account of twentieth-century ‘English literature’ as the site of an intercultural discourse. This project is very much inspired by debate on postcolonial theory, namely, the debate between Said and Bhabha. Part I is devoted to the discussion of Conrad, especially of Heart of Darkness, and investigates how the novella has continually been reproduced to the extent that it represents ‘the English Book’ of colonial/postcolonial literatures. The chapter on Hugh Clifford (Ch.3) is virtually the first intensive critique of his novels, such as Saleh (1908), with a particular focus on their intertextual relations with Conrad’s texts. Part II examines how the story of the English Book is repeated and revised in the texts of the following authors: Joyce Cary, Isak Dinesen, V. S. Naipaul, Kaiko Takeshi, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.

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Ch.1 Introduction: The English Book Part I Speaking with Conrad Ch.2 Towards Heart of Darkness Ch.3 A Kurtz in Malaya Ch.4 After Heart of Darkness Part II Marginalia Deciphered Ch.5 Revising Africa: From Daventry to Mister Johnson Ch.6 Dinesen’s Blank Pages Ch.7 The Return of Naipaul Ch.8 Luminous Darkness: Reading the Vietnam War, Reading the Japanese Novel Ch.9 Ngũgĩ’s Unlearning of the English Book