This special issue was first announced as "Postcolonial African Fiction in English," the title of which had to be shortened with the acceptance of an article on Mariama Bâ. Also I should make clear that by Postcolonial African fiction, I mean fiction produced by Black Africans from Independent Africa. This is a vast enough topic in and of itself, but it also means that some better known writers and their works associated with Africa await another forum. The fiction written by Europeans who had some experience on the continent or who were born there (and who also are usually to some degree or another categorized as literary "modernists"1—and even in some quarters as "Africanists"), such as Joseph Conrad (MFS special numbers 1:1 [February 1955], 10:1 [Spring 1964]—and about whom more will be said in my review essay), Karen Blixen, Elspeth Huxley, or Joyce Cary (MFS special number 9:3 [Autumn 1963]), belongs to the period of colonial domination. As such this fiction is deeply embedded in the presuppositions of imperialism no matter what an individual writer may dislike of this or that aspect of the system. Contemporary writers from White South Africa such as Alan Paton, Nadine Gordimer (the recipient of the 1991 Nobel Prize for Literature), or J. M. Coetzee are cruelly caught and compromised by the politics of apartheid [End Page 377] even when they may be individually opposed to it. These South African writers can hardly be characterized as "postcolonial," living as they do in a country which continues to persist in the codification of the very worst of European Imperialism's attitude toward the majority African population and in a country which has been aided and abetted in this state of affairs by the old colonial powers of Europe and the neocolonial policies of successive United States administrations.
So far as I can determine, the first essay on contemporary postcolonial African fiction to appear in MFS was Viney Kirpal's "The Structure of the Modern Nigerian Novel and the National Consciousness" (34 : 45-54) in a special issue on "Modern Black Fiction." It was followed by an essay by Charles Ponnuthurai Sarvan, "Feminism and African Fiction: The Novels of Mariama Bâ" (34 : 453-464) in the second special issue of volume thirty-four, "Feminism and Modern Fiction." The same volume also saw the first review of critical work on Postcolonial African fiction.
I am pleased to be able to welcome back these two pioneering critics as contributors to this special issue of MFS on postcolonial African fiction. I would also like to extend a welcome to all the other contributors, particularly those from Ghana and Nigeria, who have articles appearing in MFS for the first time. Contributions on Postcolonial African fiction continue to appear in special issues, but it is unfortunate that such essays have yet to appear in MFS's general issues (although there is reason to believe that this will soon no longer be the case). The world of scholarship on African literature and the politics of publishing have in effect meant that the appearance of such material has been largely confined to specialist journals, particularly so far as scholars from Africa have been concerned, and the time seems long overdue for more extensive mainstream exposure of African critics and African fiction.
This special issue does not pretend to provide a general or even balanced picture of contemporary postcolonial fiction in Africa. The vast amount of published material from the Anglophone, Francophone, and Lusophone spheres of influence (and not forgetting works in Arabic from North Africa, the Sudan, Somalia, or works in any of the indigenous languages of the continent), much of it as yet not systematically studied, would defy comprehension within the compass of a single massive volume let alone within the covers of a single journal issue. For the future, however, it would be easy to imagine special issues devoted to writing from particular countries or devoted to prominent individual writers such as Chinua Achebe (Nigeria), Mongo Beti (Cameroon), Buchi Emecheta (Nigeria), Bessie Head (Botswana), Ngũgũ wa Thiong'o (Kenya), or Ousmane Sembène (Senegal).
The call for...