Chris Abani

By Annalisa Oboe and Elisa Bordin

Chris Abani


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4720-2
  • Pages: 296
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: February 2022
  • BIC Category: Contemporary Literature, Literature, LITERARY CRITICISM / African, LITERARY CRITICISM / Modern / 21st Century, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: poetry & poets, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: post-colonial literature, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: from c 1900 -
  • Series: Contemporary World Writers


This is the first full-length book on the work of 'global Igbo' writer Chris Abani. The volume dedicates a chapter to each of Abani's fiction books, the two novellas Becoming Abigail (2006) and Song for Night (2007), the three novels GraceLand (2004), The Virgin of Flames (2007), and The Secret History of Las Vegas (2014), which are read against the grain of Abani's most important essays and poetical production. By combining close readings and more theoretical reflections, this volume provides a significant insight for both scholars and students interested in the literature produced by the emerging African voices in the twentieth-first century, in the debate about human rights, and in general in how aesthetics is deeply linked with ethics.


'In their subtle and spacious analyses Annalisa Oboe and Elisa Bordin guide us through Chris Abani's diasporic topographies, researching in the author's aesthetic and ethical mesh a language of redemptive love. Through harrowing, sometimes carnivalesque, often grotesque, even freakish, figures, language reaches into humanity's darkness to counter the world's violence. Across the boundaries, bodies and borders of Abani's charged landscapes the spectres of colonised and subaltern worlds poetically resonate and unwind. Oboe and Bordin urgently engage us in the unsuspected folds of a migratory and mongrelised modernity that queers regimes of identity. "a map fading in the harsh sun". Categories, concepts and labels are shaken free from the restrictions of geography. Against the odds, the global souths, the marginalised and oppressed, permeate our cities with the overlapping complexity of love seeded in the violence of extra-ordinary lives: from Lagos to London, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.'
Iain Chambers, author of Postcolonial Interruptions, Unauthorized Modernities (2017)

'This is a gorgeously written and deeply insightful exploration of Abani's life, writings and reception. It provides an invaluable overview of the complex circumstances of Abani's upbringing before launching into richly researched and empathetic readings of his major works. Oboe and Bordin are particularly persuasive in their readings of the role of grotesquerie and brutality in Abani's writing - linking these firmly to his restorative ethics of being in a damaged world. I learned from this study, and I admire the care with which it inhabits this enormously generative writer's world of images. This is the most comprehensive study of Abani's writing that I have ever encountered.'
Caren Irr, Professor of English at Brandeis University Cambridge, Massachusetts. Author of Toward the Geopolitical Novel: U.S. Fiction in the Twenty-First Century (2013)

'Chris Abani, a writer of remarkable moral strength and political courage, could not have found better readers of his work than Oboe and Bordin. Their argument is impeccable in its attention to the complex and poetic sensibility with which Abani explores his life and times - his travels, his travails, his testimonies - and extends his experiences to create a framework for representing the global violence that marks our times. How do we build resilience? What are the terms of reparation? How does personal memory and aesthetic beauty provide a vision of the ethics of history and community? Oboe and Bordin bring a rare power and an insightful poetic in this marvelous work of interpretation.'
Homi Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenburg Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University

'Framed by an excellent introduction, with its richly contextualised focus, and a nuanced and comprehensive concluding assessment, this monographic book is not only an indispensable guide to the complex and innovative work of Chris Abani but also offers, by way of a series of incisive and theoretically rigorous analyses of his fictional texts, new and distinctive ways of thinking about his writings. Some attention is paid to the poetry, but the main critical focus is on the fiction. Abani's texts, with their experimental, fluid and shape-shifting identities, and gender and genre-bending forms pose a number of challenges to critics and readers alike. The authors of this volume have met these challenges with their scholarly, close readings of the complex changes in style, the fragmented, non-linear structures, and the subversion of conventional narrative expectations. As a writer who defies labels and categories, Abani's fluid narratives and ever-evolving, visionary texts are treated with a range and depth of analysis in each of the book chapters. Profound and subversive, his fictions unsettle, disrupt and shock in the way they confront conventional ethical assumptions and fixed aesthetic criteria. Annalisa Oboe and Elisa Bordin have shown considerable subtlety in analysing the ways in which Abani displaces customary tropes of characterisation by focussing on the exploited, the deviant, the marginalised and overlooked: those who do not count.

Faced with a writer whose work is disruptive, nomadic and revolutionary, the authors of Chris Abani have succeeded in producing a comprehensive, coherent study in which chapters cross-refer to each other, and have generated extensive bibliographies. Surprisingly, Abani's work has not yet attracted the attention it merits but, given the strength of the authors' critical interventions, this book should go some way to remedying this with its recognition of a truly global writer.'
Roger Bromley, Emeritus Professor, University of Nottingham. Author of Narratives of Forced Mobility and Displacement in Contemporary Literature and Culture (2021).


1. Contexts and intertexts
2. Peripheral violence: GraceLand
3. Trafficking love, Becoming Abigail
4. No words for violence? Song for Night
5. For Los Angeles, with love: The Virgin of Flames
6. 'State' violence: The Secret History of Las Vegas
7. Critical overview and conclusion
Select bibliography


Annalisa Oboe is Full Professor of English Literature and Postcolonial studies at the University of Padua, Italy

Elisa Bordin is Assistant Professor of American Literature at Ca' Foscari University, Venice, Italy

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