chapter  3
22 Pages

MEN FALL APART

Grace Ogot’s novels and short stories

Like 1945 and 1958, 1966 is a significant date in African literary history. For in that year Grace Ogot’s The Promised Land, the first novel by a woman to be published by the East African Publishing House, and Flora Nwapa’s Efuru, the first work by a woman in the Heinemann African Writers Series, both appeared. The year 1966 can thus be said to mark the advent of a contemporary female tradition in fiction. This event has not been written into the literary records, as critics have tended to treat the publication of the two novels as a non-event. Recently, however, several feminist critics, with no reference to Ogot’s The Promised Land, have assigned paradigmatic status to Nwapa’s text. Thus according to Susan Andrade: ‘Efuru [is] the first published novel by an African woman and the text that inaugurates an African women’s literary history’ (97). It is ‘the “mother” text of (anglophone) African women’s literature’ (100).1 In ordering my chapters, I have given priority to Ogot, partly because she has a legitimate claim to it in that she became a published author before Nwapa, with several of her short stories appearing in journals in the early 1960s.2 I also hope to show that, in terms of the strategies of resistance it inscribes, The Promised Land, too, can be deemed a ‘“mother text”’.