Study Guide

Postcolonial Literature Texts

Postcolonial Literature Resources

Primary Resources

Raja Rao, Kanthapura (1938)
A story about heroic Indian villagers fighting the British in pre-Independence India. It's considered to be the first major Indian novel in English. Good stuff.

Aimé Césaire, Notebook of a Return to the Native Land (1947)
A classic text (it's a poem) of the Négritude movement, which took pride in black culture and identity, written by the Martinican poet Césaire.

Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (1958)
The story of Okonkwo's fight against the British in Nigeria. This novel is a foundational text of postcolonial literature, so don't miss it.

Chinua Achebe, No Longer At Ease (1960)
Things keep falling apart after independence for a young Nigerian man in Achebe's second novel.

Chinua Achebe, Arrow of God (1964)
The events of this novel are set a few decades after the events of Things Fall Apart. And guess what? Things are still falling apart in Igbo land.

Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)
The prequel to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. It takes place (mostly) in Jamaica, and it tells us things from the perspective of a colonized woman who later becomes the madwoman in the attic in Brontë's novel.

Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)
This is the big novel of South American literature, and it tells us all about the postcolonial condition there... with lots of magic thrown in.

Derek Walcott, Dream on Monkey Mountain (1970)
This is all about one trippy dream... oh yeah, and Caribbean identity.

Wole Soyinka, Death and the King's Horseman (1975)
A play about the clash between British colonial values and indigenous Yoruba values in Nigeria.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Petals of Blood (1977)
Kenyan colonial and postcolonial history make us this massive novel by Ngũgĩ. It's sad stuff (can't you tell by the title?), but it's eye-opening.

Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children (1980)
Indian history with crazy twists and turns? Look no further than the novel that made Salman Rushdie a star.

J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians (1980)
A gripping novel about a colonial official in an unnamed country who's implicated in the torture of natives.

Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits (1982)
Love multigenerational family sagas? Check out this one about a family from Chile.

Salman Rushdie, Shame (1983)
Rushdie's novel is all about how and why things go wrong in Pakistan after partition from India.

Jean Rhys, Tales of the Wide Caribbean (1985)
Short stories. We get a panorama of Caribbean life and culture, with lots of gender issues thrown in.

J.M. Coetzee, Foe (1986)
Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe retold from the perspective of a woman.

Derek Walcott, Omeros (1990)
Walcott's epic poem immortalizes the tiny Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia.

Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy (1990)
An autobiographical novel about of a young woman from the Caribbean who comes to the U.S. to work as a nanny.

J.M. Coetzee, Age of Iron (1990)
A dying woman in South Africa becomes aware of the violence of apartheid.

Patrick Chamoiseau, School Days (1994)
A short but gripping book about the destructiveness of colonial education.

Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things (1997)
It's a novel about caste, family and nation. It deals with a love affair between an Indian woman and a man from a Dalit (untouchable) caste.

Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang (2000)
In this novel, follow Ned Kelly's adventures as a bandit fighting British authorities in Australia.

Andrea Levy, Small Island (2004)
This novel tells us all about the colonial relationship between two Small Islands: Great Britain and Jamaica. That's right: Great Britain as a small island.

Marlon James, The Book of Night Women (2009)
The story of Lilith, a slave girl growing up on a Jamaican slave plantation. It's a whole novel told in Jamaican dialect.

Secondary Resources

Edward Said, Orientalism (1978)
This is the book that got the whole field of postcolonial literary theory going. Said shows how colonial authors justified colonialism through their literature and writing.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (1987)
You'll need to roll up your sleeves for this one, because the essays in this book are deep and difficult. They deal with culture, colonialism, and politics.

Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Postcolonial Literatures (1989)
Want a good introduction to postcolonial literature? Look no further.

Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (1991)
We'll be real with you here: this is a really jargony book of essays on colonialism and culture. Like, if there were an impenetrable jargon prize, this might win (we award Spivak the runner-up prize). But Homi Bhabha's a totally important postcolonial literary theorist, though, so don't give up.

Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (1993)
Because Said is that important in the field of postcolonial theory, here's a second book by him. The title sums it up: it's all about culture and imperialism.