A Bend in the Law & Literature: Greed, Anarchy, and Dictatorship in the African Worlds of V.S. Naipaul and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o
Zacks, Dustin A.
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This Article examines two giants of colonial and postcolonial fiction involving African states that heretofore have been largely ignored by the law and literature movement. Nobel Prize winner V.S. Naipaul and East Africa’s foremost novelist Ngugi Wa Thiongo’o are worth studying for their vivid descriptions of the challenges postcolonial societies face – challenges such as corruption and authoritarianism that are usually addressed, at least in legal scholarship, in the context of international or human rights law, rather than in the context of narrative fiction. The Article also critiques traditional academic literary criticism for its disparate treatment of the two authors. Naipaul is attacked as being a snobbish Westerner, whose gloomy pronouncements about the state of the law and the prospect of reform in African states arise from his supposedly racialist opinions. Thiong’o, by contrast, has been heralded for giving an authentic, non-Western view of Kenya’s independence and post-independence struggles. The Article should serve as a reappraisal of the previous criticism of Naipaul’s work in light of the precision of his dire descriptions of corrupt African officialdom, which compares favorably with Thiong’o’s supposedly more authentic voice.