Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Special Issue on Literature No.3 October, 2015                  Pp.197 -210

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 An African Condition in a European Tradition:
Chinua Achebe and the English Language of Native Narratives 

 Nabil Baazizi
University of Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle


This paper intends to investigate the passage from orature to literature in Africa, and the problem of the language used, in the context of the work of the Nigerian novelist and critic Chinua Achebe, whose novel Things Fall Apart (1958) is considered as the first African novel. The problematic dialogism that engaged the African writer with canonical literate traditions evokes the difficulty of writing an African history and narrative while the records are missing, for the Africans did not have a written tradition. It is true that writing about an oral society that did not know writing sometimes turns into a syncretic account, but the African writer is also faced with the paradox of representing the experience of oral societies using the colonizer’s literate language. Accordingly, we are led to question: how can such fiction do justice to the colonized culture? While this paper admittedly tries to figure out how the worldview in oral societies is cyclic since the past and the present are fused, it invites new perspectives by highlighting the empowering effects orature has had on African writers who learnt to revisit their oral tradition and make out of it their emancipating and decolonizing project.
Key wordsdecolonization, indigenization, notarization, Nigerianization, orature


Dr. Nabil Baazizi has recently completed and defended his PhD dissertation at the University
of Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle. Entitled “The Problematics of Writing Back to the Imperial
Centre: Joseph Conrad, Chinua Achebe, and V. S. Naipaul in Conversation,” it traces the
literary genealogies of colonial and postcolonial narratives, investigating the strategies of
decolonizing fictions in Africa and the Caribbean. Dr. Baazizi has received many grants and
fellowships to French, American and Canadian universities where he explored his main areas of
research, namely postcolonial literature. He has also participated in numerous international
conferences and published articles on these issues. His latest article appears in Commonwealth
Essays and Studies 36.2 (2014).