Until recently, studies of postcolonial African novels emphasized the genre's relation to anticolonial critique and its expression of collective resistance. In response to the overwhelming assumption that novels from Africa were primarily anthropological artifacts rather than works of the imagination, literary critics sought to emphasize the palimpsestic nature of text by pointing to the unsayable and the indeterminate, and they devalued that which appeared mimetic, no matter what the text itself looked like. I explore the question of genre or narrative mode with special attention to realism, which I read as complex. African novels' relation to realism is not simply naive, as Anthony Appiah or Pascale Cassanova would claim. With complexity in mind, I ask what happens when readers shift attention away from the question of resistance that has so defined the field, and ask instead: how does the novel produce its effects? An answer to this question requires close attention to form because that is where the novelty of the novel lies. I look primarily at two novels: Le Devoir de violence (Mali) and The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (Ghana), both published in 1968.

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