- An Introduction to the Literature of Equatorial Guinea: Between Colonialism and Dictatorship
Marvin A. Lewis is the author of a long list of books dealing with Afro-Latin American literature, a field in which he has pioneered and demonstrated unprecedented knowledge and scholarship. His latest book, An Introduction to the Literature of Equatorial Guinea, is his first incursion in the field of African literature, and to be more specific, African literature of Spanish expression. It is a pioneering study of the development of the literature of Equatorial Guinea, the only Spanish-speaking country in sub-Saharan Africa with a literature written in Spanish. In addition, this volume is the first single-authored book on African literature of Spanish expression published in the Americas. The study proposed by Lewis, far from claiming to offer any new interpretations about the literature of Equatorial Guinea, provides, however, essential and bibliographical data and contextualized information pertaining to the period covered in the current volume. The book, as the title suggests, is a literary history of Equato-Guinean literature from the colonial period to the postindependence era, and covers a long period of literary production in Equatorial Guinea that spans from 1953, the year of publication of Leoncio Evita Enoy’s Cuando los combes luchaban, the first known novel written by a Guinean, to 2003. Lewis focuses on the works of those whom he describes as and considers the most representative authors of the country during the period contemplated by the study. It is clear that his choice of texts and authors is limited, but in analyzing the works of writers such as Donato Ndongo-Bidyogo, María Nsue Angüe, Juan-Tomás Ávila Laure, Joaquín Mbomio Bacheng, and José Siale Djangany, he manages a real “tour de force” by giving insight into their works. At the textual level, Lewis looks at representative literary genres, including novel, poetry, and essay. Since most of the writers discussed were born during the colonial situation and others during the early independence era, their literature discusses and explores, in most cases, the notion of cultural and national identity. [End Page 162]
The book is organized in five chapters and includes a preface, introduction, as well as selected bibliography. Chapter 1, entitled “Poetry in Search of an Authentic Voice,” focuses on the lyrical production of four authors, Ciriaco Bokesa Napo, Juan Balboa Boneke, Juan-Tomás Ávila Laurel, and Raquel Ilombe, cultural creators whose life’s experiences are very different. In this section, focused on poetry, the main topic is exile, a recurrent theme that permeates the production of the authors Lewis studies. Chapter 2, “The Short Story: A Genre in Search of Authors,” is the shortest section of the book, around sixteen pages. It is an overview of the short story through the work of three authors, María Nsue Angüe, Maximiliano Ncogo, and Juan-Tomás Ávila Laurel.
Chapter 3, “Drama: Oral and Written for the Stage,” eamines “the state of drama in Equatorial Guinea” and the role this genre plays in society. Lewis centers his reflections on the works of Juan-Tomás Ávila Laurel’s Los hombres domésticos and Pretérito Imperfecto, Trinadad Morgades Besari’s Antigona, Pancracio Esono Mitogo’s El hombre y la costumbre through a general discussion of some aspects of the texts he has selected. Chapter 4, “The Early Equatorial Guinean Novel: Writing under Colonialism,” analyzes what the author describes as the early novel and focuses on two writers and their work, Leoncio Evita Enoy’s Cuando los combes luchaban and Daniel Jones Mathama’s Una lanza por el Boabí. Lewis examines the constraints and limitations of writing in the colonial space and the strategies used by these writers in their efforts to produce an alternative discourse of representation. In chapter 5, “The Contemporary Novel: Hispanidad and Guineanidad Interrogated—Again,” by far the longest chapter of the book, Lewis examines what he describes as the contemporary novel in contrast to the early novel. He discusses the varied ways some...