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Politics, plunder, and postcolonial tricksters: Ousmane Sembène's Xala

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In Ousmane Sembène's novel and film, Xala, the winding currents of equivocal past, deplorable present, and contested future in relation to Africa intersect when a dramatic encounter occurs between two tricksters: El Hadji, the story's corrupt businessman, and a blind, unnamed street beggar who seeks revenge against him. Traits associated with two different types of tricksters of oral tradition may be discerned, respectively: the insatiable rogue on the one hand (El Hadji), and the avenger and culture hero on the other (the beggar). The invocation of oral narratives in creating modern literary works is a means by which African authors reinterpret and revalidate narrative resources that are part of their heritage. Contemporary writers have drawn on trickster figures of oral tradition partly to amplify the human qualities of their fictional characters, partly to draw on the insights about human nature that tricksters of folklore can offer, and partly to affirm the treasures of indigenous oral traditions.
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Keywords: African literature; folklore; francophone literature; modern novel; postcolonial; trickster figure

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-12-01

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  • The International Journal of Francophone Studies offers a critical preview for a new development in the understanding of 'France outside France', with a thorough insight into the network of disciplinary issues affiliated with this study. The journal complements the thriving area of scholarly interest in the French-speaking regions of the world, bringing a location of linguistic, cultural, historical and social dynamics within a single academic arena.
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