Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Post-Colonial Literature is a term frequently used to talk about writers and writings that deal with issues of de-colonization or the political and cultural independence of people and countries formerly subjugated to colonial rule. These texts therefore often deal with racial as well as social and cultural issues: once independence is achieved, what is the new cultural identity of the country and its people? Who is really in power here? Which race? What is the writer’s identity and role in this context? What kind of language should they use? Frequently, post-colonial writers have mixed origins, live in different countries and have a complex Eastern-Western identity.

Given the size of the British Empire, the most important post-colonial writers write in English, although the term has also been used to talk about Latin American magical realism and literature written in other languages. The term “post-colonial literature” is then a useful term to talk about Literature in English written in places other than the United Kingdom or the United States of America (most of them belonging to the “Commonwealth”, a term also frequently used to talk about these writers),

We shouldn’t overlook the fact that there are very good examples of English writers who wrote about the colonies, often with a critical voice: Kipling (India), Orwell (Burma), Anthony Burgess (Malaysia), E. M. Forster (India), Graham Greene (The Quiet American, about Vietnam) and Joseph Conrad (Africa).

INDIA has produced some excellent writers in English, like Salman Rushdie (1947 -), whose Midnight’s Children (1981) tells the story of Indian independence with a style akin to Magical Realism. The Satanic Verses (1988) was the centre of Muslim protests. Arundhati Roy (1961-) wrote The God of Small Things (1997), a story of twins in Kerala. Michael Ondaatje (1943- ) was born in SRI LANKA and became a Canadian citizen. Author of The English Patient (1992). Hanif Kureishi (1954- ) was born in England in a family that had come from PAKISTAN, and he often deals with these origins (and is racial and social consequences) in his novels, like The Buddha of Suburbia (1990).

THE CARIBBEAN has also produced some excellent writers in English. V. S. Naipaul (1932- ) was born in Trinidad and Tobago in a family of Indian origins. He has written some excellent novels and received the Nobel Prize in 2001. Derek Walcott (1930- ) is a poet and playwright born in St. Lucia and also a Nobel Prize (1992). Jamaica Kincaid (1949- ) was born in Antigua and moved soon to the USA. She has written novels and short stories like “Girl”.

In AFRICA, we can also find three English-writing Nobel Prizes: Wole Soyinka (1934-) from Nigeria, used traditional African myths in his poems and plays; Nadine Gordimer (1923- ), is a white writer who criticized the apartheid system in South Africa in her novels and short stories; and J. M. Coetzee (1940), was born in South Africa, but lives in Australia now. Author of Disgrace (1999), among other novels.

Finally, the literature from predominantly Anglo countries like Canada or Australia stands somewhat apart from the rest of Post-Colonial Literature. Frequently, CANADIAN writers are concerned with more specific themes, like Canadian identity, the relationship with nature and the USA (what has been called the “Garrison mentality” referring to the open spaces and fear of other nations). Margaret Atwood (1939- ) is probably the most famous Canadian writer. She has written novels, poems and short stories. Alice Munro (1931- ) is one of the most prestigious contemporary short-story writers. Both Munro and Atwood have been included in a group called Southern Ontario Gothic, because of the theme and style (grotesque characters, evil in human soul). Margaret Laurence (1926-1987) wrote short stories and novels like The Stone Angel (1964). And, of course, we cannot forget AUSTRALIA, with excellent writers like Patrick White (Nobel Prize 1973), Peter Carey, David Malouf, Brian Castro or Tim Winton. 


  1. very short, simple n very helpful.

  2. What about Australia? Patrick White (Nobel Prize 1973), David Malouf, Brian Castro, Tim Winton, to name but a few: are they not post-colonial?