The death and resurrection of Jon Snow (ops, spoiler alert) created quite a disarray in the Game of Thrones fandom, in both moments: some thought that he should not have died, but, once dead, should have stayed dead, while others wanted him dead but were satisfied with his comeback. Of course it is impossible to please so many different people, especially when dealing with fandoms, and reasoning with them is even harder, but let me just briefly mention why he should have stayed dead.
Some people say he is essential to the story, which walks in the exact opposite direction of what made the series so popular: the fact that anyone can die in the most ridiculous fashion for equally ridiculous motives. So, no, he is not essential. There should not be main characters, or, at least, that was the marketing. There is also the “this is based on a real story, so Martin cannot do as he please” argument and, anh, yes, he can. That is why the term used is “based on” and not “an accurate portrait of real history”. I am not even going to talk about the lack of accurate representation of anything in GoT. And there is the argument I wish I did not had to mention here, the “but he is so cute” one. Let’s just say that, if this were a thing, Tyrion Lannister should have at least appeared dead, right? While some other people should be basically immortal (and are now dead, by the way). So, yeah, there is a reason why Jon Snow is alive, and it is called “fan pressure”.
We, from Western societies in general, tend to take for granted a feeling of belonging, which is usually described as being “home”. Where the geographical coordinates of this home are is not really an issue: it can be our actual house or any place that makes us feel comfortable. A place where we feel that nothing wrong can happen, a personal sanctuary. We all have that, right?
Wrong. Recently, some researchers started to study something called the “feeling of not belonging” and how it affects people’s lives. You can feel like you don’t belong to a place even if you have lived there your whole life. It sounds insane, I know, but it is true. It is a psychological condition that makes you feel as if your “home” is a place out of reach, inaccessible to you. There are some events that may end up making this feeling surface, such as changes in your everyday life (moving to a new community when you go to the university, for example).
Now consider this: if a person who is willingly moving away can get this feeling, what happens to a person who is forced to move? What happens to a family or a tribe who is forced to leave? There is a term for that, “diaspora”, and, according to Mattis Kantor, it was first used to refer to “the scatter of people in an unwilling fashion through an unknown territory” in the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. After this, there are several diasporas in the history of the world, but few as brutal and long-lasting as the African one.
Throughout the four centuries of existence of the African diaspora, also known as the “Atlantic slave trade”, 12.5 million slaves were transported, mostly to the Americas, and only 10.7 million arrived. What did all these people have in common, besides the brutal treatment and absurd life conditions? They were all taken away from their homeland - their home - and they did not belong where they lived. Their home was literally inaccessible to them. They had to create a way to survive this, and they did.
Stuart Hall talks about matters of identity in his book about diaspora, and how it is important to belong somewhere, even if this “somewhere” is a place you never really went to. His focus is in the Caribbean communities and in how they created this almost mystical homeland to which they could return, this idealized version of Africa. The African that was “home”. The problem is that this ideal Africa did not exist and, even when the slave’s descendants managed to return to Africa, they were not home. They still did not belong.
So, where do you build your shelter? How do you cope with this inhospitable and even hostile environment?
Well, for some, the answer is literature. That is the main reason why you can find two movements on a considerable amount of the African Literature of the 20th and 21st centuries: the crisis of the belonging and the creation of a place to belong.
The crisis belonging is masterly exemplified by the following poem, “Homecoming”, by Lenrie Peter, where you can find the whole saga: from departure to coming back, where the homecoming turns into home-coming, the feeling of opposition between expectation and reality, past and present, is always present.
The golden times are gone, because the past where they had a place was taken from them, and even when they manage to come back, it is impossible to retrieve this glorious past because that is the place of the present now, and the present is not welcoming. It is the same place, but it is not home anymore.
The second movement, the creation of a place to belong, has a lot to do with the creation of an identity, and how people do that always varies. Lily Mabura's “Man in Ultramarine Pyjamas” provides an example. Leslie Kering, the main character, talks so naturally about what she is seeing, about her daily life and her job, and things like war and massacres do appear on her narrative, as well as her routine and her feelings, all mixed in her reality.
You can identify with her, and the notion of belonging to that place where she is ends up sinking inside of you because of the naturalness she is using to talk about her routine when she is telling a piece of her story. Her reality is a given, it is so smooth and natural that, when you notice, you are already there. It is home.
KANTOR, Mattis. The Jewish time line encyclopedia: a year-by-year history from Creation to the Present, (New updated edition), Jason Aronson, Northvale NJ, 1992.
MABURA, Lily. How Shall We Kill The Bishop. England: Pearson Education, 2012. p. 1.
PETERS, L. Homecoming. in MOORE, G.; BEIER, U. The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry. England: Penguin Books, 1998. p. 88.
HALL, S. Da Diáspora: Identidades e Mediações Culturais. Translation RESENDE, Adelaine la Guardia. Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG, 2013.
First things first: I know Africa is not a country. By the way, Africa is the second-largest continent in the world, and the second-most-populous one too, so you can try to imagine the diversity people are dealing with when they talk about "Africa", even without considering its ancient history. Talking about it does not get any easier when you mix "literature" into the discussion, and I am quite aware of that. Think of this post as a very brief scratching of the surface of this vast universe that can be found under the umbrella of "African Literature".
1 – It is way older than the Colonial period.
We tend to ignore Africa when it is not about poverty, hunger or epidemics, so, for most people, it is quite a shock to discover that Africa has a very rich and diverse literature, and that the literary production has been there for a very long time, a time that preceded by a lot the arrival of the Colonialism. The Epic of Sundiata, for example, dates back to the 14th century, telling the story of the Mali Empire founder, Sundiata Keita. There is also the University of Timbuktu – an institution that existed around the 12th century and only started to decline at the end of the 16th – accounted for the production of 300,000 or more manuscripts in a huge spectrum of subjects and several different languages. Oh, just so you know, Timbuktu really exists, you can find it on Google Maps.
2 - The list of notable novelists includes 120 writers.
Yes, it is a Wikipedia list and that is not exactly the most academic and critically acclaimed place, but that may be the main reason why we should look at it to begin with, since the academy and the critics have been going out of their way to ignore Africa for a very long while. This list includes more than 200 novels, from several different African countries. On poetry, the list covers 55 names, also from all over Africa.
3 – It is a multilingual universe
According to Edmund Epstein, African languages may be over 3,000. Can you imagine that? Most African countries are officially multilingual and most Africans can speak at least two tongues. Of course this influences their literature, giving it an amazing foreign feeling, but there is more to it than that: a great deal of the books is published in the European languages that exist in Africa – English, French, Portuguese, etc. – which make it very accessible to the West, so there are no excuses for you not to read them.
4 – The other side of the story
Adichie’s TED Talk about the danger of a single story raised awareness for this topic in 2009, but this point is something we can never mention too much: the popular image of Africa is one that was built by the Europeans, with all their pre-conceptions and prejudices, mostly during the Colonial reality. How Africa tells its own story is a completely different matter, which should be taken into high consideration. Literature is the bridge that allows people to visit this other side and let them escape the one-sided versions of stories that they know. Literature is that bridge that can bring us closer to Africa’s history, identity, culture and, more importantly, to Africa’s point of view.
5 – Diaspora
One of the most relevant emotional crises of the 21st century is the “feeling of not belonging” that the globalized reality gives to some of us. This is one of the problems of the western society and it is wonderfully portrayed in a generous part of the African literary production. The diaspora – the scattering of people across a foreign territory – and its consequences represents this “not belonging” feeling beautifully, so you may find where you belong with the ones that belong nowhere, and find shelter in literature.
People’s beliefs about the relation between money and happiness has always been all over the place throught history, and it may be impossible to determine for sure if money does bring happiness or not, but a study recently published in the Journal of Marketing Research shines some new light in the matter. Hilke Plassmann and Bernd Weber show, in their research, how the price of wines affects its appreciation: wine experts are invited to taste two samples of wine, both of them with price tags of different values. The wine experts have a very strong tendency to enjoy the expansive wine, even though the only difference between the samples is the price tag, and not its content. Additionally, accordingly to another study, when the prices are hidden there is not much differentiation between the appreciation of cheap and expansive wines, and the cheaper bottles even got a slightly higher rate. Plassmann and Weber tried to find and explanation to that issue that bypassed the problem of wine tasting being a science or not, and they managed to do it by using MRI brain scans to analyze how the brain behaves during the tasting. Their results? “Expectation truly influences neurobiological responses”, meaning: if you think the expansive wine is better than the cheap wine, your brain will make it better. This is called the placebo effect, when your brain changes your perception of reality accordingly to your expectations.
What does this have to do with happiness? Everything. People’s beliefs influence their brain chemistry in a level that scientists are not able to completely explain yet, but the conclusion is undeniable: if you believe that money does bring happiness, then it will bring happiness. Based on studies such as Plassmann and Weber, it is possible to go even further and infer that, for most people, more expensive things do make them happy, either because of the way their brain is structured or because of their cultural conditioning.
So, if you didn't notice by the giant image and the impactating quote, I am a huge fan of Patrick Rothfuss. Other than that, I am 23, brazilian, with a normal life full of dreams that are never going to come true. So, you know, the usual.
Final Papel *u*