Decolonising my Bookshelf

The first instance that I became aware of all things ‘Post-Colonial’ was in a university open day seminar. My family and I sat in a large lecture theatre; the bright screen presented the bold words ‘Post-Colonial Literature’ – leaning over the desk my sister whispered, “Sounds fancy!”. We sat through an hour lecture, my darling mother tapping her pen on the desk in a state of boredom. Despite a somewhat tame introduction, I have become fascinated with engaging in Decolonisation.

The power of the Global North is a concept that is touched on in every single module I come across. If I knew how much the idea of ‘Post-Colonialism’ would have informed and deepened my understanding of societal history– I would have made the effort to listen more intently into that first lecture! Both my literature and history modules have engaged with decolonisation, for example, a history module I am taking this year ‘Tools of the Empire’. What I have understood most significantly from this concept is the importance of listening to perspectives outside out Europe and the US – there is a wide branch of unacknowledged stories to digest.

"frog" by Mo Yan.

My current read is a book called ‘frog’ by Mo Yan; it is the first book translated fiction book that I have ever read – translated from contemporary Chinese to English. The story is narrated by the character of ‘Tadpole’, who describes the life of his aunt Gugu within Communist China – working as a chief midwife and health sector official within the times of China’s one child policy. For someone how has studied the period, this book is fascinating to understand the political turmoil and the plight of ordinary citizens in a Post Mao era.

I am only halfway through the book, but it is exceptional. The difference in narration is so familiar and yet refreshing at the same time. I was learning new facts from the very start of the novel: it was a custom in some parts of rural China that a new-born child is given the name of a body part or organ. One character is comically named Chen Bi, for his large and protruding nose. The simplicity of this fact is what draws me to reading more diversely. The author, Mo Yan, was the first citizen from Mainland China to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature in 2011. Looking at this in comparison to the countless awarded authors from the ‘West’ and how significance decolonisation should be. I want to challenge every reader today to look for literature that is out of their normal comfort zone…

-Hannah (Third Year, English and History)

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