A Critical Comparative Reading of Nationalism in Pramoedya A. Toer and Ngugi wa Thiong’o
AbstractThis article tries to explore how the conception, birth, and development of novel can become a tool to shed lights to our understanding of the conception, birth, and development of nationalism. The discussion departs from a powerful finding by Edward Said that prominent exiles he happened to know and befriend with had deliberately chosen to be novelists. According to Said, the choice to write novels was fueled by intense feeling of homelessness, which in turn took shape in dream of an imaginary homeland. Novel as a genre is in perpetual search for epic; and since that epic is elusive, what novel can offer is an imagined form. It is in this shared feeling, the same desire to imagine a perfect home, the constant fabrication of narratives of the epic past, the invention of quasi-sacred texts alongside with the heroes and enemies, the dynamics of including and excluding of people that novel and nationalism inform each other. As reader, we turn to postcolonial Kenyan Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat and Indonesian Toer’s This Earth of Mankind. By commenting on the main characters of these novels we make intellectual exploration into the idea of nationalism. The results are two tentative conclusions regarding the relationship between novel and nationalism, i.e. (1) the pretense of novel to be epic is comparable to the claim of nationalism as the historically overarching set of identity of modern society, and (2) the dynamics of the characters in novel is a metonymy of the dynamics of nationalism bildungsroman.
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