The conventional wisdom that contemporary fiction has little use for the nation cannot explain the plurality of recent novels that attend to states in crisis. To detail the effects of state collapse is at the very least to insist on the state's continued relevance to the form. This fiction of failure also has a stake in the state's future. This essay considers how recent novels use civil wars as a setting for generic experimentation. It offers a truncated genealogy of literary interest in state crisis to demonstrate how fiction collaborates with political scientific scholarship in defining the “failed state” as a more or less normative condition in much of the world. It proposes that “the nation” has been subordinated to global logic of management both longer and more effectively than is often supposed and that formally adventurous novels have played a part in that subordination. The essay concentrates on the examples of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun (2006) while referencing a genealogy whose literary exemplars include works by Yvonne Vera, V. S. Naipaul, NgügË wa Thiong'o, and Rebecca West.

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