The category of the postcolonial novel is familiar, but what makes a novel anticolonial? This article attempts to answer this question by reconstructing a genealogy of anticolonial fiction. I argue that these novels are preeminently the product of a social and intellectual class that inherits Franco Moretti's novel of bourgeois subject formation with all the attendant problems and opportunities of traditional bourgeois realism, while seeking to replace the privileged place of irony in those texts with a partisan spirit of conviction. One consequence of this is a deeper investment in allegory and metonym, pressed into the service of a totalizing metaphor for the wholesale corruption of a society that must be entirely dissolved. Drawing on the work of Anne‐Lise François, the article suggests that, more specifically, the history of decolonization and the literature that it engenders repeatedly figure torture, and scenes of torture, as the “open secret” that reveals the peculiar nature of social relations under colonialism. Examining these scenes closely reveals a set of problems for literary form that are inherent to the anticolonial novel of the postwar years of decolonization, recurring problematics that nonetheless make the case for its existence as a distinct genre. No novel better emblematizes this genre than William Gardner Smith's The Stone Face (1963). Smith's novel is read as an attempt to narrativize the problem of intersectionality for a revolutionary internationalism and to push back against some critiques of the novel, such as Paul Gilroy's, that have questioned the limits of its conception of solidarity and the function of racial blackness in its politics. The novel exemplifies, the article argues, both the greatest qualities and the greatest limitations of the anticolonial novel as a genre and offers an unromantic and ultimately sobering account of the ethical and aesthetic costs of revolutionary conviction.

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