Professor Zoë Wicomb, South African writer, Emeritus Professor at the University of Strathclyde and current STIAS fellowwill present a talk with the title:
Reading Brian Chikwava’s novel, Harare North
Michel Foucault characterises the contemporary as the epoch of space, ‘the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed’; in other words, a time of unsettling spatial relations. Through this Foucauldian concept of heterotopia I read Brian Chikwava’s novel Harare North (2009), a narrative about the plight of Zimbabwean migrants in London. The narrator is a Mugabe supporter, an ex-member of ZANU-PF Youth Movement who terrorised the opposition, and whose history does not entitle him to political asylum. We ought not to empathise with this anti-hero through whom the narrative is focalised. Through an investigation of the rhetorical devices, the strategic (and humorous) non-standard English, as well as the intertext used by Chikwava, I discuss Harare North as heterotropic. The novel’s outstanding achievement is that in spite of the narrator’s deluded politics the ethical is inscribed and the reader’s empathy is engaged.
Zoë Wicomb is a South African writer and critic; she is Emeritus Professor at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. Her latest novel, October, was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction prize. In 2013 she was the inaugural winner of Yale’s international Windham-Campbell Literature Prize. Wicomb’s critical work is on Southern African writing and culture.