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Exile and Earthly Paradise: Counter-Critique and the Debts of Race in Lewis Nkosi

Institute for the Study of English in Africa
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  • Design
  • Medicine
  • Political Science


In Nkosi’s writing it is quite rare not to encounter a reference to one term or more in the triptych of exile, alienation and psychiatry; this is for reasons to do with his place, and that of his writing, in South African political and cultural history. The first two terms, namely exile and alienation, bring into relief the material and psychic situations of his protagonists (including, often, the figures of Nkosi and his peers). “Exile,” he writes in Home and Exile, “was a ‘complex fate’” (ix): cast adrift from the (dis)pleasures of “home.” Throughout his writing, Nkosi dramatises the ambiguity of these two terms at the same time that he holds them up for close scrutiny. For home and exile are as much spatial as they are psychical designators and the etymologies that they carry in their train form part of their mobility. The terms exile and alienation accumulate considerable, if constantly evolving, intellectual capital – and debt – in Nkosi’s conception and deployment of them.

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