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This is the first book-length critical reading of the prose works of the Nigerian, America-settled, ‘global Igbo’ writer Chris Abani. Addressing his three novels – GraceLand (2004), The Virgin of Flames (2007), and The Secret History of Las Vegas (2014) – and the two novellas Becoming Abigail (2006) and Song for Night (2007), the book Chris Abani combines an original overview of the author’s career and new insights into his works. It provides a full picture of the oeuvre of a writer who is more and more asserting his worth in the international arena, and whose work stands out for the richness of its poetic language, its complex investigation of the contemporary human experience in a variety of extreme and surprising situations, and its probing ethical gaze. Building on the notions of biopolitics, necropolitics, mediascape imagination, and the performative quality of subjectivity, this volume highlights Abani’s ability to represent the tragedies and horrors of our times while also signalling the possibility of redemption. His characters’ attempts to find ways of becoming themselves, together with a poetical writing that clashes against the violence of history and humankind, make Abani’s work a significant contribution to the contemporary debate about human rights and literature.

Annalisa Oboe and Elisa Bordin

The work is larger than the writer, larger than the critic and, in many ways, if we are lucky, larger than the historical moment. Abani in interview with Goyal Critical responses to Chris Abani’s prose works are an index of how deeply and innovatively they speak to our unsettled times, and of how far they push for a revision of both the aesthetics and ethics of literature. Our study moves from and builds on the voices of reviewers and scholars from various disciplinary

in Chris Abani
Annalisa Oboe and Elisa Bordin

GraceLand , what type of novel? GraceLand is Chris Abani’s first acclaimed novel, winner of the 2004 Barnes and Noble Discover New Writers Award, the 2005 Hemingway Foundation / PEN Award, and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction, among others. 1 A syncretic narration that mixes European literature and Caribbean music, the Holy Quran and American comics, Western movies and Bollywood films, Nigerian food and Igbo recipes, GraceLand has as its protagonist Elvis Oke, a Nigerian boy who leaves

in Chris Abani
Annalisa Oboe and Elisa Bordin

://politicsandculture.org/issue/2003-issue-3/ , and Human Rights, Inc.: The World Novel, Narrative Form, and International Law (New York: Fordham University Press, 2007) . 5 J. Vening, ‘Fiction: Song for Night by Chris Abani’, M/C Journal (28 June 2008) . 6 F. Giommi, ‘Negotiating freedom on scarred bodies: Chris Abani’s novellas’, in A. Oboe and S. Bassi (eds), Experiences of Freedom in Postcolonial Literatures and Cultures (Abingdon and New York: Routledge

in Chris Abani
Annalisa Oboe and Elisa Bordin

The Secret History of Las Vegas . 2 Abani in interview with C. Tóibín, ‘Chris Abani by Colm Tóibín’, BOMB Magazine , 96 (1 July 2006) . https://bombmagazine.org/articles/chris-abani/ . All websites last accessed 7 April 2011. 3 See Abani’s slightly divergent accounts in ‘Abigail and my becoming’, Truthdig (19 April 2006) . www.truthdig.com/articles/chris-abani-abigail-and-my-becoming/ ; and in Z. Kaufman, ‘In conversation with author Chris Abani

in Chris Abani
Annalisa Oboe and Elisa Bordin

This study of Chris Abani’s writing – the remarkable narrative range of his production and the compelling quality of his stories, in which love and violence compete, mingle, lose, and win – proposes that its power and beauty greatly hinge on the writer’s ability to face life in all its manifestations and to represent extreme forms of brutality and cruelty alongside unforeseen gestures of kindness. This, in a nutshell, is what drives his writing: an exploration of violence (against other human beings, against the

in Chris Abani
The Virgin of Flames
Annalisa Oboe and Elisa Bordin

honour of the Catholic angel, one of the characters of The Virgin of Flames . 3 See A. Aycock, ‘Becoming black and Elvis: transnational and performative identity in the novels of Chris Abani’, Safundi , 10:1 (2009) , 11–25, and C. Stobie, ‘Indecent theology, trans-theology, and the transgendered Madonna in Chris Abani’s The Virgin of Flames ’, Research in African Literatures , 42:2 (2011), 170–83 . 4 Stobie, ‘Indecent theology’, p. 171; C. Duboin

in Chris Abani
The Secret History of Las Vegas
Annalisa Oboe and Elisa Bordin

by Obi Nwakanma with reference to GraceLand and The Virgin of Flames , but also pointed out here in Chapter 3 on Becoming Abigail . See O. Nwakanma, ‘O, Polyphemus: on poetry and alienation’, ARIEL , 39:4 (2008), 136–49 . 2 Y. Goyal, ‘A deep humanness, a deep grace: interview with Chris Abani’, Research in African Literatures , 45:3 (2014), p. 237 . 3 Goyal, ‘A deep humanness’, pp. 237–8. 4 See C. Ross

in Chris Abani
Dinaw Mengestu’s The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears (2007) and Teju Cole’s Open City (2011)

relationships are difficult to parse or sentimentalise, they bring to light traumatic realities of globalisation: statelessness, rootlessness, and psychic dislocation. A crucial continuity with previous chapters is that Mengestu and Cole privilege male friendship as a figure through which to mediate and imagine the possibilities for, and limits of, cross-cultural connection and transnational belonging. African, American With Chris Abani, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Ike Oguine, among others, Mengestu and Cole belong to a cohort of authors that Louis Chude-Sokei describes

in The politics of male friendship in contemporary American fiction