Narrative Realism at the Interplay of Traditionality and Modernity in Ousmane Sembene’s God’s Bits of Woods and Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s The River Between

Moustapha Ndour


This paper articulates the interactions between a traditional and modern world as embodied by the colonizer and the colonized, focusing on Ousmane Sembène’s God’s Bits of Woods (1960) and Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s The River Between (1965). It argues that both narratives can be read as realist novels that counter the hegemonic power of the European empire. While Sembène engages in critiquing imperialism and its social and cultural effects in the West African community –Senegal, Mali and Niger – Ngugi concentrates on the internal problems of the Gikuyu as they respond to the contact with the Western culture. The essay claims that the sociopolitical agendas in these novels should be understood within the context of French and British colonial regimes concerned with finding a legitimizing basis and control in an era when social and political forces of the colonies were energetically asserting themselves.


Culture, Imperialism, African traditions, Resistance, Modernity, Realism

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