No-Man’s Land: Nuruddin Farah’s Links and the Space of Postcolonial Alienation



The novel of the cultural nationalist period of modern African literature was often heavily invested in the rural. Also sometimes referred to as the rediscovery phase of African literature, the novels of this period usually focused on the lives of characters inhabiting a ‘pure’ rural space, undistorted by the alienations of colonialism and modernity. In this body of writing, the rural was seen as the social space in which the African subject lived in organic harmony, integrated into a functioning social order and at one with the rhythms of nature. This, the reasoning went, was the state of pre-colonial African societies. For the writers of this period therefore, the rural represented the space of unsullied ‘Africanness’, where the authentic essence of Africa could still be found. Colonialism was seen as the disruptive force that severed the link between the African self, the social order and the natural world. By introducing a new order of things that destabilized the continuity of tradition, colonialism in effect introduced a regime of alienation on the people. In the literature, this alienation was not only portrayed as epistemological, in the sense of the ways people understand and orient themselves to the world, but also spatialized, in terms of the division between the rural and the urban. The idea of colonial alienation is fairly commonplace in African literature and the ‘city’ was depicted as the space of its location, the site of its unfolding. This is perhaps the most common depiction of alienation, and, in this regard, African elaborations of the sources of colonial alienation do not differ from descriptions of alienation in the West, often seen as consequent upon the mechanization and bureaucratization of life in modern industrial and post-industrial societies.


Social Order African City Binary Opposition City Life African Literature 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Works cited

  1. Comaroff, J., ‘Governmentality, Materiality, Legality, Modernity—On the Colonial State in Africa,’ in African Modernities: Entangled Meanings in Current Debate. Ed. J.-G. Deutsch, P. Probst and H. Schmidt (Portsmouth, NH, Oxford, UK: Heinemann and James Currey, 2002).Google Scholar
  2. Davis, M., City of Quartz (New York: Vintage, 1992).Google Scholar
  3. Davis, M., Planet of Slums (London and New York: Verso, 2006).Google Scholar
  4. Descartes, R., Discourse on Method. Trans. D. A. Cress (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1980).Google Scholar
  5. Farah, N., Maps (New York: Penguin, 1986).Google Scholar
  6. Descartes, R., Secrets (Cape Town: David Philip, 1998).Google Scholar
  7. Descartes, R., Links (Cape Town: Kwela Books, 2003).Google Scholar
  8. Descartes, R., Links (London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd, 2005).Google Scholar
  9. Garuba, H., ‘Mapping the Land/Body/Subject: Colonial and Postcolonial Geographies in African Narrative,’ Alternation, 9. 1 (2002) 87–116.Google Scholar
  10. Lehan, R., The City in Literature: An Intellectual and Cultural History (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  11. Mamdani, M., Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism (Kampala, Cape Town, London: Fountain Publishers, David Philip Publishers, James Currey Ltd, 1996).Google Scholar
  12. Mbembe, A., ‘Aesthetics of Superfluity,’ Public Culture, 16: 2 (2004) 373–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Moolla, F., ‘ “Worldliness” to “Worldlessness”: Unquestioned Individualism in Nuruddin Farah’s Links.’ Paper presented at the AUETSA conference, Durban, South Africa, 2007.Google Scholar
  14. Okwui, E., C. Basualdo, U. M. Bauer, S. Ghez, S. Makaraj, M. Nash and O. Zaya (eds) Under Siege: Four African Cities—Freetown, Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Lagos (Documenta 11_Platform4. Germany: Hatje Cantz Publisher, 2002).Google Scholar
  15. Said, E., The World, the Text, and the Critic (London: Faber, 1984).Google Scholar
  16. Scott, J. C., Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  17. Soja, E. W., Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and other Real-and-Imagined Places (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996).Google Scholar
  18. Watson, S., City Publics: The (Dis)Enchantments of Urban Encounters (London: Routledge, 2006).Google Scholar
  19. Yaeger, P., ‘Introduction: Dreaming of Infrastructure,’ PMLA, 122.1 (Special Issue on Cities. January 2007) 9–26.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2008

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations