This article examines the figuring of Black voices in literature, specifically addressing the grotesque sonority of Anglophone and Francophone African writing. The analysis focuses on the Zimbabwean Dambudzo Marechera’s stuttered speech in the semi-autobiographical short fiction The House of Hunger (1978) and the Congolese Sony Labou Tansi’s tropical sounds in the dictator novels La vie et demie (1979) and Les septs solitudes de Lorsa Lopez (1985). The article argues that the authors reprise colonial misconceptions of Africa as a noisy continent and parody racist mishearings of Black voices as illegible or dissonant in order to establish a literal and conceptual proximity of voice to violence. Marechera and Sony Labou Tansi thus identify the truly grotesque brutality of colonialism, including its sounded modes of bodily regulation, racist accent policing, ableist speech norms, and inimical linguistic control. The authors reject notions of proper speech and beautiful sound altogether. Instead, they turn to screaming, stuttering, and other postlingual utterances to cast doubt on the governability of sounded language in both graphic and phonic iterations. The article contributes to postcolonial literary criticism and sound studies by revising approaches to orality in African writing and racialized sound in literature more broadly.

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