Original Research

Woman and language in darkest Africa: The quest for articulation in two postcolonial novels

A. Brink
Literator | Vol 13, No 1 | a719 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v13i1.719 | © 1992 A. Brink | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 May 1992 | Published: 06 May 1992

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A. Brink, University of Cape Town, South Africa

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The paper focuses on issues raised by Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and on ways in which two recent novels, The Expedition to the Baobab Tree (Stockenstrdni) and The Whales in Lake Tanganyika (Hagerfors) employ the same model of the journey of exploration in order to break down phallo- and eurocentric concepts of language in an attempt to arrive at a new articulation of Africa. In Heart of Darkness Marlow crosses the limits of language in his confrontation with the Other (Kurtz, and Africa, both of which have a female dimension) and has to invent a ‘new’ language, post facto, to explain his discovery to the Woman who awaits him at the other end. In the Stockenstrdm text, the narrator and central personage is already female, but she is illiterate; and in order to articulate her body, in which her journey is subsumed, an implied narrator may have to narrate on her behalf, in a language which first has to liberate itself from the processes of bondage and appropriation to which the slave woman has been subjected all her life. In The Whales in Lake Tanganyika an interiext arises from the dialogue of this narrative with H.M. Stanley's historical journal; and this projects the diarist Shaw as the deconstructor of male and European dichotomies. Shedding conventional langitage, linearity and 'reality’, his diary becomes the translation of an inaccessible ‘new’ language which is the only way in which Spivak’s 'subaltern’ can attain speech to articulate the femininity implicit in Africa.


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