This paper explores the multiple ways in which a range of novels published in the late 90s and early 2000s, by, for example, Patrick François, José Tshisungu wa Tshisungu, and Pie Tshibanda engage with global Black politics and the legacy of the anti-colonial politics of Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, and the wider Négritude movement. Their novels describe their role as ‘engaged writers’ and intellectuals in the public sphere of Brussels and engage with the complexity of the situation of the authors and their protagonists, which requires them to constantly re-negotiate their social privilege, acquired by having benefitted from a successful integration into the educational system of the former coloniser. Moreover, this paper engages with the aesthetic experimentations and formal innovations of these texts and thus responds to the ‘aesthetic turn’ in Postcolonial Studies, which Deepika Bahri describes as the need to address ‘the aesthetic dimension of postcolonial literature’ (2013) and thus the multifaceted ways in which these texts move beyond their status as socio-political documents of a ‘minority’ experience. These complex amalgamations of literary genres and themes, the role of colonial sciences and historiography, political resistance and responsibility, further draw attention to the intellectual protagonist as writer. The texts represent Brussels as a space of literary production and this paper analyses how their discussions of (trans)national identity and (trans-)national literature are inextricably linked to the urban space of the Belgian capital.
Bio: Sarah Arens is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow and, as of December next year, a Lecturer in French at the University of Liverpool. Sarah's research focuses on fictional and scientific texts, and visual culture, produced during and in the aftermath of Belgian colonialism, as well as science and speculative fiction in French. She is currently finishing a monograph on representations of the city of Brussels in Francophone postcolonial fiction for Liverpool University Press.