Postcolonial novels that tend to become popularly acclaimed in Western Europe and North America share a number of features: they are predominantly written by women; they are presented from the perspectives of culturally innocent or marginal protagonists; they thematize the emotional consequences of familial or public upheavals; and they are not too long but, if they are, they compensate by being thematically, formally, or linguistically unadventurous. This is the primary context of reception of much contemporary African writing, and it is not surprising that new works of fiction by African writers feed into this typology. The novel remains about the most inclusive of literary forms, but a certain kind of novel has become so dominant today as to be viewed as the gold standard, especially when this is measured by popular or critical success. This paper discusses these features in relation to three issues: the structure of the prose form, especially the novel; the external factors of economics and symbolic capital; and the politics of postcolonial stories. The paper argues that the process of cultural politics through which symbolic capital is reproduced in postcolonial stories is a function of what writers perceive to be the market of their works. By reading against the grain of Allah Is Not Obliged (Ahmadou Kourouma) and Purple Hibiscus (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), the paper suggests that contemporary African writing remains fraught with a paradox, the productive foreignness of a sensibility that is estranged from its own interests.


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