Bessie Head: The Road of Peace of Mind - A Critical Appreciation

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1st Edition

240 x 160 mm. 224pp ... [In stock in Australia, for immediate delivery]

This book directs attention to Bessie Head's literary preoccupations. It reviews the context in which she wrote in relation to her ideas about the creative imagination, the art of fiction, and the situation of the writer in modern Africa. It notes, in particular, her views on reading as a source of inspiration for the writer, her uses of local oral tradition, and the blending of heterogeneous materials that she valued in her fiction. The discussion also includes references to Head's encoding of meaning, her texturing of language, and the techniques by which she develops complexity and concision in her writing. The works examined include The Cardinals, When Rain Clouds Gather, Maru, A Question of Power, The Collector of Treasures, and A Bewitched Crossroad.

The tendency in critical writing on Head, so far, has been to interpret her works as they highlight issues in the socio-political and cultural environment in which she wrote, and her construction of female identity. Head, however, repeatedly expressed concerns about the responsibilities of the creative writer in contemporary Africa, and the issue of political commitment. The dilemmas of her central characters who must choose between the path to 'fame and fortune' and 'the road of peace of mind' also reflect her situation as a writer who must either choose to adopt the prevailing orthodoxy or be judged to be irrelevant. Head's fiction shows her attempting to find a middle way. Reading helped her to fashion a response to her own situation.

Reading, Head asserted, was a necessary preliminary to writing. A career in writing, she observed, 'first begins with a love of reading and a love of books' (A Woman Alone). Head's reading caused her to develop an 'international outlook' and to discover correspondences between herself and her literary predecessors. She saw these correspondences both in their thematic preoccupations and in their efforts to resist various forms of control. Head's reading enabled her to reconcile socio-cultural and artistic concerns and to deal with an often demoralizing environment while following her own 'elegant pathway of private thought' (A Question of Power). It kept her in touch with traditions of fiction that had been forced 'underground' in the highly charged political climate in which she wrote.

The influence of prior texts is apparent not only in her mediation of themes but also in her construction of meaning. Her use of points of reference in scribal tradition may be compared with the practice of the storyteller in oral tradition whose audience is familiar with a matrix of stories to which she refers.

Joyce Johnson has recently retired from the Department of English at Delaware State University.
^ Literary Criticism ^


SKU 9780874130096
Barcode # 9780874130096
Brand AUP
Artist / Author Joyce JOHNSON

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