Transgression in the Modern Swahili Novel: a Comparative Approach to Narratives and their Reception


Dr. Rémi Tchokothe

Research Area:


The beginning of the 1990s has witnessed the emergence of complex texts in Kiswahili. These texts are considered thought-provoking because they brought about new types of narratives in the Swahili literary landscape, their language is overloaded with both culturally specific and cross-cultural symbolisms, their contents are (un)wittingly twisted and most strikingly, they cheered up the ageless debate on generic classification to name but a few aspects. As a consequence, they are regarded as ‘intellectual writing’. This categorization hints (in)directly at the specified readership postulated for such narratives whose understanding calls for new reading techniques and habits breaking away with the linear reading that labels realistic fiction.

In the context of literature in an African language whose firm grounding is continually being approved though it does still fight for recognition at some levels, it would be interesting to ascertain the historical, artistic and biographical reasons behind such moves. Moreover, given the observation that these narratives are ‘taxing’ on the readers, therefore, addressed to a presumably identified audience, the rationale for surveying the reception of such works materialises. An attempt to appraise the readership of selected texts in countries that are in the first place pointed linguistically-culturally and geographically will be made. At last, field work in Kenya and Tanzania will hopefully license what I am proposing to call an ethnography of reading.