This essay takes a close look at the way Alain Mabanckou positions himself vis-à-vis discipline and market by way of his negotiations of a range of terms—French, francophone, postcolonial, and world literature—and the ways that such disciplinarity and appeal might be generated in his first major novel, Blue White Red. How Mabanckou picks his way through these intercalating terms speaks to the appeal and centrality of his work in a world literature canon. The authors argue that Mabanckou quite consciously and effectively makes use of the figures of allegory and parable from a distinctly biblical context, mapping the permutations and vicissitudes of his protagonist's rise and fall in fortunes to the life and narrative of Saint Paul—primarily his conversion and his epistolary interventions in the shape of a universal(ized) Christianity. The authors ground this Pauline allegory in Alain Badiou's own mobilization of Saint Paul as the engineer and emissary of a certain kind of antiphilosophical intervention. This parallel thereby foregrounds the liminality of the transnational African emigrant and his or her struggles with identity, citizenship, economics, and esteem in the novelistic form, which is read as a complex cautionary tale about the erosion and challenges to those transnational aspirations of success and seamless transnational citizenship. In this manner, Blue White Red disempowers narratives that blindly valorize emigration, and the text serves as a kind of epistle to those whose aspirations require self-conscious blindness to the complexities and hurdles to effortless movement across borders in the globalized economy.
Research Article|July 01 2017
Paul's Letter to the Congolese: Allegory, Optimism, and Universality in Alain Mabanckou's Blue White Red
Genre (2017) 50 (2): 239-265.
James Arnett, Angela Wright; Paul's Letter to the Congolese: Allegory, Optimism, and Universality in Alain Mabanckou's Blue White Red. Genre 1 July 2017; 50 (2): 239–265. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-3890055
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