Journeying beyond Embo : the construction of exile, place and identity in the writings of Lewis.
Lombardozzi, Letizia Maria.
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A boundary is not that at which something stops, but ...is that from which something begins its presencing. (Bhabha 1994:1) For the purpose of this thesis, the above statement will be central, because implicit in it is a particular awareness of what constitutes exile and the exihc experience, both variously defined boundaries within which to view the historicity of the exiled subject. Bhabha's statement prompts one to reflect on the multi-faceted marginalised situation faced by the exiled subject. It can be argued that Lewis Nkosi, a black exiled South African writer, has remained a largely underresearched writer, particularly in South Africa. His works have not been as widely researched possibly as those of his contemporaries, despite his local and international profile and reputation as an astute scholar and writer, for various reasons which this thesis will explore. His writings and extensive commentaries on African and world literature certainly merit research, particularly in respect of his construction of place and identity. He has been influential in South African letters and frequently cited - however, his years outside the country have led to his neglect within South Africa. This thesis hopes to go some way towards recovering Lewis Nkosi as writer and scholar, particularly in terms of his construction of identity, both within South Africa and as exile. This thesis will examine representative texts by this writer, using perspectives of theorists such as Fanon (1986), Bhabha (1994), Said (1983) and Quayson (2002) among other writers who particularly discuss notions of space and place from a post colonial perspective. Reference to Nkosi's own history as well as his non-fictional writing will be seen as relevant in defining what 'home' and 'exile' have meant to Nkosi and how a construction of 'place' enhances the sense of identity. The question to be considered is: how, through his writing - both non-fiction and fiction - does Nkosi construct identity through place, how, in other words, has he pushed back boundaries as an exile writer? Here the impact that place has on our understanding of who we are will be explored. This thesis will investigate then the development, perception and experience of place and identity in the works of this writer. Nkosi's somewhat nomadic lifestyle in exile makes him an interesting case: the exposure to American and European culture he enjoyed as a writer in exile has not been the norm for most black South African writers. Nkosi's concept of place and identity will be analysed as they developed first in his early journalism days of Ilanga lase Natal and Drum, and subsequently in his primary works of critical essays and later fiction. Nkosi's act of writing is also the place where identity and memory meet, and this study will refer to early literary essays contained in his literary works Home and Exile (1965), The Transplanted Heart (1975) and Tasks and Masks (1981). A reading of these works together with his many earlier articles and reviews as well as his latest novels and dramas, will show the ways in which this writer self-consciously participates in the construction of place and identity, how he explores, through his writing, his sense of place and his identity as a South African exile, and how his perceptions may have changed during his long career as writer. As Nkosi affirms: "all of those are strands of memory about place and it automatically gets into your writing, because I think, it is both the terrain of consciousness and the orientation to reality" (Lombardozzi 2003:331). This dissertation will focus then, on the construction of home, identity and exile in Nkosi's discourse, written over nearly five decades of South Africa's turbulent history, a period during which all these terms were contested sites. Theories of place and identity are inevitably made more complex by the condition of exile, as place and identity are immutably concatenated, so that what is said about place must also include the construction of identity. In this regard theorists on exile such as Grant (1979), Gurr (1981), Seidel (1986), Robinson (1994) and Whitehouse (2000) will be examined, and theorists such as Cartey (1969), Fanon (1986), Owomoyela (1996) and Walter (2003) on the issue of identity will be considered. The thesis will therefore position Nkosi in terms of his generation of exile writers, and how this has impacted on his construction of identity, and will to this end, explore interconnected issues surrounding home, identity and exile.