The Commonwealth Impresario
A perfect historical context and illustration of postcolonialism, and of postcolonial theory of literary production in Africa as sites of overlapping mediations, presents itself in its intensity and contradictions in a little known memory of the saga of Bernth Lindfors working to preserve the manuscripts of Amos Tutuola. The contestations that expressed themselves in the Lindfors’ Nigeria experience could be said to have crystallized ultimately in what is famously known as the Arusha Accord: a gathering where African writers and publishers contracted a memorandum of understanding to guide their mutual enterprise. The “Accord,” unusual though it sounds, echoes the proxy wars and treaties of empire in which, ironically, local publishers were now ceded to the frontlines as if they were the last men warring against those “taking possession” ala Joseph Conrad. I approach this chapter by taking Lindfors’ particular episode as the first in a series of proxy struggles in which the Commonwealth and the nation set the beginning stages over the struggle for control of the production of culture. A discussion of the archive enables “some pertinent discussion of the politics of various kinds of modern repository” that includes museums and publishers’ repositories. These repositories are symbols and vehicles of power, the control of which animates the struggle over cultural production. The travails of international scholarship enable us to segue into the complicated legacies of international publishing, its contexts, and genealogies. It is precisely to make possible such analytical correlation and transition, and to capture the practice of commonwealth in the production of culture, that I have advisedly chosen the term impresario over publisher in the title of this chapter. The chapter is thus an engagement, behind and beyond the veil of aesthetic form, with the sweeping macro-, socio-cultural and literary developments that subsequent chapters take on at the micro-, stylistic, level of textual analysis and close reading.