20.06.17 10:07

Imagining the European periphery: Aminatta Forna’s 'The Hired Man'

Öffentlicher Gastvortrag "Imagining the European Periphery: Aminatta Forna's 'The Hired Man'", Dr. Janine Hauthal, Dienstag 04.07.2017, 10.30 Uhr - 12.00 Uhr, 23.03.01.22

Imagining the European periphery: Aminatta Forna’s 'The Hired Man'

Contemporary imaginations of European cityscapes in Black British writing often evoke and reflect on the metropolis as a cosmopolitan space. Some literary voices, however, have deliberately set their fictions in provincial cities, rural areas and other European spaces that come across as peripheral and non-cosmopolitan from a (post/colonial) metropolitan perspective. Examples of such an engagement with the European periphery are Jamal Mahjoub’s portrayal of 17th-century and present-day rural Denmark in The Carrier as well as Evaristo’s fictional travelogue Soul Tourists, in which historical figures of colour appear to the novel’s protagonist as ghosts on his journey across Europe. As these examples show, Black British writers tend to link their explorations of non-urban European spaces to notions of trauma and to different forms of traveling and/or tourism.

The lecture will focus on Aminatta Forna’s The Hired Man (2013) as a way to further explore the representation of non-urban spaces in Black British writing. Set in the imaginary and remote Croatian mountain village of Gost, Forna’s novel explores the atrocities committed by (and mass complicity of) this village community during the civil war that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. My close reading of the novel will have a threefold focus: Firstly, the novel’s conceptualisation of space will be explored. Secondly, Forna’s recourse to national stereotypes, and to Balkanist discourses in particular, will be analysed in more detail. Thirdly, the peculiar nexus of trauma and tourism in the depiction of provincial European spaces in The Hired Man will be scrutinized. The conclusion will relate these findings and the novel’s traction of reader complicity to its imagination of Europe as a space of entanglement.

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