- Introductory Comments
Just as we think of Africa as an invention, we can also think of it as a text that is imagined and interpreted by all who have represented the continent in a broad variety of texts, including novels and films. In such works, we often find representations of violence about which little has been said and about which no rhetoric of motives or grammar of motives exists. This failure to adequately explore questions of the significance of violence, specifically in the production and the reading of African literature, was the starting point of our panel on violence at the San Diego ALA Conference in 2002 that directly led to this section in RAL.
In the opening paper to this section Kenneth W. Harrow looks at the realities and fantasies regarding recent violence in Rwanda. Now we cannot help but think not only of the literature that has come out of that genocide, but also of the recently released American film Hotel Rwanda. Richard K. Priebe considers some ways we might look at the representations of violence, both old and new, across Africa in a post-9/11 context. Odile Cazenave explores questions of age and gender as she looks at women writers who are focused on youth and violence. Then Perraudin focuses on the aesthetics of violence in a one novel, Labou Tansi's La vie et demie.
Against the on-going real violence in Africa, against the almost four million who have died in conflicts just in central Africa over the past ten years, the exploration of the aesthetics of imagined violence might seem to pale in importance. We feel, however, that better understanding of the one is connected with a better understanding of the other. We hope this is a useful start, however small and limited.