The chapter analyses short stories by Sefi Atta and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “Housekeeping” (2010) and “Transition to Glory” (2006). Both short stories feature the figure of the African leisure traveller, tourist, and hotel guest. The hotel has frequently been conceived as a place and symbol of in-betweenness, deviance, and displacement. In “Housekeeping”, the hotel serves as a setting for the exploration of the socio-economic differences between migrants and symbolises a sense of diasporic unbelonging. In “Transition to Glory”, the hotel room is used as a symbol of an adulterous relationship. It comes across as a space of deviance that is not properly inscribed in either the private/domestic or the public sphere. While set in spaces of transit, both texts articulate senses of longing for home and challenge the conventional ideas of mobility as empowering and desired.
The chapter studies Alain Mabanckou’s Lumières de Pointe-Noire (2013), a travelogue in which the author returns to his native Congo-Brazzaville. The ‘homecoming’ is marked by a sense of unease. Firstly, this unease manifests itself thematically in the way in which the text negotiates the traveller’s identity along the axis of native versus tourist and in the oscillation between nostalgia and loss. Secondly, unease marks the representation of ‘homecoming’ as witnessed by the text’s attempts to destabilise the centrality of the travelling I/eye and the confinement of the white female photographer in the margins of the narrative. These elements betray the narrator’s struggle to claim belonging to the present tense of his childhood city, the tensions that his socio-economic privilege generate, and the complexities relating to the narrator’s centrality with regard to a literary genre that is marked by its colonial roots.
The chapter discusses the novel Faire l’aventure by Fabienne Kanor. The analysis follows two lines of inquiry. Firstly, it focuses on the representation of the protagonist’s clandestine travels from Senegal to European insular locations which, from a central European perspective, are peripheral: the Canary Islands and another currently widely mediatised insular ‘gateway’ to Europe, Lampedusa. The novel portrays the insular settings as unsatisfactory substitutes for the ‘real’ Europe that the protagonist keeps striving for. Secondly, the analysis discusses the novel’s conceptualisations of popular cosmopolitanism, and pays attention to the limits that the concept faces in the context of clandestine Afroeuropean migrant mobility.
This chapter traces popular cosmopolitanisms in novels that portray African migrant newcomers’ urban everyday mobilities in Paris, namely Michèle Rakotoson’s Elle, au printemps (1996) and Alain Mabanckou’s Tais-toi et meurs (2012). The focus of the analysis is on the protagonists’ use of urban public transport and the ways in which the narratives produce urban cartographies as a means of inscribing the newly arrived African migrants in the metropolis. Through their representations of the characters’ urban mobilities the texts articulate a practical cosmopolitanism. The texts’ poetics of mobility and the protagonists’ journeys to peripheral dead-ends convey the anxious aspects of their attempts to claim Paris as their city through mobility.
This chapter addresses the non-physical aspects of mobility. The analysis promotes a practical understanding of cosmopolitanism by arguing that in the era of globalisation the world beyond the local becomes accessible through imaginative, virtual, and communicative forms of travel. The chapter focuses on the communicative dimensions of mobility by discussing the ways in which Liss Kihindou, NoViolet Bulawayo, Véronique Tadjo, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie address the topic on the thematic and formal axes contained in their novels. The recurring trope of a communication gap suggests that the relations between those who leave and those who ‘stay behind’ are marked by a schism that translates into an emotional, epistemic, and cultural distance that may be much harder to reconcile.
The chapter focuses on Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes: A Love Story (1991). The novel’s characters are constantly on the move. Cars, hotels, business and leisure travel, modern technologies, and the figure of what can be referred to as the Afropolitan avant la lettre play a pivotal role in embodying meanings that pertain to class, gender, globalisation, and consumerism marking the postcolonial African condition. The chapter adopts a wholesale understanding of mobility in order to explore the ways in which Aidoo’s characters employ different mobility practices in their processes of fashioning themselves as modern African subjects. The analysis draws attention to the anxiety that informs the proces3juses of the self-fashioning of the African urban elites, caught as they are between the tensions of the traditional and the modern.
This chapter explores the precarious form of mobility exemplified in Sub-Saharan African aspiring migrants’ odysseys across the Sahara towards the Mediterranean. These journeys are characterised by insecurity: the itinerary is subject to continuous revision, and reaching the destination is never obvious. The chapter analyses Sefi Atta’s short story “Twilight Trek” (2009) together with the third part of Marie NDiaye’s triptych Trois femmes puissantes (2010). By focusing on tropes pertaining to identity, mobility, and slavery, this chapter draws attention to the way in which Atta’s and NDiaye’s texts convey the idea of the precariousness of the arrested migratory endeavour and exclude the underprivileged travellers from the orbit of cosmopolitanism.