This essay looks at the novel as a globalectic heterotopia. It draws on a personal history of my writing the novel Devil on the Cross while a political prisoner in a maximum-security prison in Kenya in 1977–78. In explaining why I turned to the novel rather than any other genre, this essay uses the concepts of globalectics, heterotopia, liminality, and heteroglossia to argue that the novel is the ultimate heterotopia, containing in itself or rather reflecting in a more holistic manner than probably any other genre all the other spaces of the economy, politics, culture, values, and the psyche. The Blakean vision of eternity in an hour and the world in a grain of sand underlies the heterotopia of the novel. The essay argues that the novel contains the global; that the world it mirrors is one of unity in disunity, of oneness in diversity, of constant motion and change. Prison is seen as a liminal space, as betwixt the inside and outside of society; but in its mimicry of the outside, prison is a Foucauldian heterotopia connecting to all communities, all social groups in society. The essay argues that the novel has a future precisely because of its elasticity, its capacity to reinvent itself, its openness, its endless capacity to make a story and give us a view of the world informed by our innermost, our most intensely personal experiences.
A Globalectic Heterotopia: Writing a Novel from a Liminal Space
ngũgĩ wa thiong'o is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and English, School of Humanities, University of California, Irvine. A prizewinning author of novels, most recently Wizard of the Crow (2006) and Something Torn and New: An African Renaissance (2009), he is as well known in the United States for such critical works as Moving the Centre: The Struggle for Cultural Freedoms (1993) and Penpoints, Gunpoints, and Dreams (1998) and many articles on African culture, postcolonialism, and globalization.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o; A Globalectic Heterotopia: Writing a Novel from a Liminal Space. Novel 1 May 2016; 49 (1): 5–9. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-3458165
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