Trauma Theory and Nigerian Civil War Literature: Speaking “Something That Was Never in Words” in Chris Abani’s Song for Night
Journal of Postcolonial Writing. Volume 49, Issue 4, Pages 445-457.
The application of trauma theory to postcolonial literature has provoked anxiety from critics concerned about its capacity to impose Eurocentric interpretations. This article evaluates the use of trauma as a paradigm for interpreting Nigerian civil war literature, examining the concept in relation to Chris Abani’s 2007 child-soldier narrative Song for Night. This novel’s formal qualities – temporal disjunction, repetition and communicative ambivalence – signify an intertextual engagement with trauma theory, reflecting the concept’s emergence as a generic framework mediating representations of history in various contexts. Far from effacing historicized detail as some claim, Abani’s engagement with trauma generates an allegory of the war’s significance in post-conflict Nigeria. Song for Night expresses the desire for a border-crossing perspective that would reconcile former antagonisms, while pointing to the obstacles that preclude this. Above all, the fractured subjectivity of the traumatized victim-perpetrator protagonist emerges as an emblem of the conflict’s refusal to be relegated to the completed past.
postcolonial literature, trauma, Nigerian literature, Chris Abani, child-soldier narratives, temporality
Dalley, H. (2013). Trauma Theory and Nigerian Civil War Literature: Speaking “Something That Was Never in Words” in Chris Abani’s Song for Night. Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 49(4), 445-457. https://doi.org/10.1080/17449855.2013.804000