This book investigates the many ways in which contemporary African fiction has reflected on themes of responsibility and complicity during the postcolonial period.

Covering the authors Ayi Kwei Armah, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nuruddin Farah, Michiel Heyns, and J. M. Coetzee, the book places each writer’s novels in their cultural and literary context in order to investigate similarities and differences between fictional approaches to individual complicity in politically unstable situations. In doing so, the study focuses on these texts’ representations of discomforting experiences of being implicated in harm done to others in order to show that it is precisely during times of political crisis that questions of moral responsibility and implicatedness in compromised conduct become more pronounced. The study also challenges longstanding western amnesia concerning responsibility for historical and present-day violence in African countries and juxtaposes this denial of responsibility with the western literary readership’s consumption of narratives of African “suffering.” The study instead proposes new reading habits based on an awareness of readerly complicity and responsibility.

Drawing insights from across political philosophy and literary theory, this book will be of interest to researchers of African literature, postcolonial studies, and peace and conflict studies.

chapter |27 pages


chapter 1|22 pages

Challenging moral corruption in the postcolony

Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born and Hannah Arendt’s notion of individual responsibility

chapter 4|27 pages

Uprooted intellectuals

Multidirectional identifications and traumatic distress in Ayi Kwei Armah’s Fragments and Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions

chapter 5|26 pages

Seductive promises of wealth

Ideological misrecognition and avoidance of responsibility in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions, The Book of Not, and This Mournable Body

chapter 8|12 pages

Western readers and African narratives

Toward complicitous and responsible reading strategies