This article diagnoses and discusses the emergence of a set of contemporary realist novels that engage with historical events, connect disparate parts of the global South through depicting travel or displacement, and feature subaltern protagonists. Exemplified by Amitav Ghosh's Ibis trilogy, these novels stage a reengagement with the archives of imperialism and oppression to discuss global rather than national histories, from the viewpoint of the marginalized. Frameworks such as the postcolonial historical novel or postmodern historiographical metafiction obscure the novelty of these texts, which signal a shift from the national to the transnational, from postmodernism to dense realism, and from the “middling” protagonist to marginal, subaltern protagonists. Working through close readings of two representative novels, Peter Kimani's Dance of the Jakaranda (2017) and Esi Edugyan's Washington Black (2018), the article proposes that the framework of the global South novel is more relevant, as these novels respond to the same stimuli—disillusionment with the nation-state and globalization, and a concrete investment in subaltern solidarity as a counternarrative to these earlier reactions to the end of colonialism and the Cold War—that global South theorists are addressing. It concludes by arguing for the value of defining the genre of the global South novel intrinsically, from the content and form of the work, rather than extrinsically, on the basis of the author's origin, the place of publication, or the setting of the work.

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