The African Palimpsest

Indigenization of Language in the West African Europhone Novel. Second Enlarged Edition


Author: Chantal Zabus
Uniting a sense of the political dimensions of language appropriation with a serious, yet accessible linguistic terminology, The African Palimpsest examines the strategies of ‘indigenization’ whereby West African writers have made their literary English or French distinctively ‘African’. Through the apt metaphor of the palimpsest – a surface that has been written on, written over, partially erased and written over again – the book examines such well-known West African writers as Achebe, Armah, Ekwensi, Kourouma, Okara, Saro–Wiwa, Soyinka and Tutuola as well as lesser-known writers from francophone and anglophone Africa. Providing a great variety of case-studies in Nigerian Pidgin, Akan, Igbo, Maninka, Yoruba, Wolof and other African languages, the book also clarifies the vital interface between Europhone African writing and the new outlets for African artistic expression in (auto-)translation, broadcast television, radio and film.

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CHANTAL ZABUS is Professor of British and Postcolonial Literatures at the University Paris 13. She is the author of Tempests after Shakespeare (2002) and Between Rites and Rights: Excision in Women’s Texts and Human Contexts (2007). She has edited Le Secret: Motif et moteur de la littérature (with Jacques Derrida, 1999); Changements au féminin en Afrique noire (2000), and Fearful Symmetries: Essays and Testimonies Around Excision and Circumcision (2008).
"A very valuable book … a detailed exploration in its concern with language change as demonstrated in post-colonial African literatures" – Bill Ashcroft, University of New South Wales
"Apart from its great documentary value, The African Palimpsest provides many theoretical concepts that will be useful to scholars of African literatures, linguists in general … as well as comparatists who want to gain fresh insights into the processes by which Vulgar Latin once gave birth to the Romance languages." – Ahmed Sheikh Bangura, University of California, Santa Barbara
"As Zabus’ book suggests, it is the area where the various languages of a community meet and cross-over … that is likely to provide the most productive site for the generation of a new literature that is true to the real linguistic situation that pertains in so much of contemporary urban Africa." – Stewart Brown, University of Birmingham

1. (M)Other Tongue and the Third Code
2. Glottopolitics and Diglossia in West Africa
3. Pidginization and Multilingual Strategies
4. The West African Palimpsest: Case-Studies in Relexification
5. The Visible Trace and Beyond
6. Towards Othering the Foreign Language

Works Cited
Appendix: Tables and Figures