My term paper: “The decolonization of minds”

This article is also available in: Italiano

4 years ago I wrote my essay, so long after, I propose it to you again through the 5 books to which I entrusted. Unfortunately in Italy it is no longer part of the exam, but I think it can be a good starting point for every student.

The choice of the theme

From a very young age, I have always undergone the short and Italic-centric story that is proposed to us at school, developing an ever greater curiosity for the culture and the point of view of “the other”. Ever since I was allowed, I carried research of all kinds to school, ranging from the Japanese Empire, the Armenian genocide and the Arab-Israeli conflict; all this reached its peak during the last year of high school. It was a period of great changes on a personal level which, together with having finally begun to look towards extra-European literature, pushed me to lean towards this theme.


It was a period of great changes on a personal level which, together with having finally begun to look towards extra-European literature, pushed me to lean towards this theme. I had already convinced myself then that I should do something firsthand against this phenomenon, the Kenyan scholar, however, gave me a specific direction. Over the course of the year I realized that authors such as Mohsin Hamid and Tayeb Salih were also going in this direction, providing me with a skeleton which will then be completed by E.M. Forster and Derek Walcott, perhaps the greatest poet of the Caribbean world ever. In reality, once the exam was over, he discovered that in turn everyone was inspired by another incredible Caribbean man, Frantz Fanon, but we will discuss this later. Below you will find the list of books with a short comment, on the site there are already: “Season of migration to the North” by Tayeb Salih, “A passage to India” by E.M. Forster and the film “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”. The remaining books will be loaded during the week.

“Decolonising the mind” by Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Kenya)

Many of the ideas are familiar from Ngugi’s earlier critical books, and earlier lectures, elsewhere. But the material here has a new context and the ideas a new focus. This leading African writer presents the arguments for using African language and forms after successfully using an African language himself. – Anne Walmsley in THE GUARDIAN … after 25 years of independence, there is beginning to emerge a generation of writers for whom colonialism is a matter of history and not of direct personal experience. In retrospect that literature characterised by Ngugi as Afro-European – the literature written by Africans in European languages – will come to be seen as part and parcel of the uneasy period between colonialism and full independence, a period equally reflected in the continent’s political instability as it attempts to find its feet. Ngugi’s importance – and that of this book – lies in the courage with which he has confronted this most urgent of issues. – Adewale Maja-Pearce in THE NEW STATESMAN


Fundamental text if you want to fully understand the power of language in modern post-colonial society. The book will put the reader in contact on the value of the mother tongue and how it is fundamental for the mental health of the individual.

“Season of migration to the North” by Tayeb Salih (Sudan)

After years of study in Europe, the young narrator of Season of Migration to the North returns to his village along the Nile in the Sudan. It is the 1960s, and he is eager to make a contribution to the new postcolonial life of his country. Back home, he discovers a stranger among the familiar faces of childhood—the enigmatic Mustafa Sa’eed. Mustafa takes the young man into his confidence, telling him the story of his own years in London, of his brilliant career as an economist, and of the series of fraught and deadly relationships with European women that led to a terrible public reckoning and his return to his native land. But what is the meaning of Mustafa’s shocking confession? Mustafa disappears without explanation, leaving the young man—whom he has asked to look after his wife—in an unsettled and violent no-man’s-land between Europe and Africa, tradition and innovation, holiness and defilement, and man and woman, from which no one will escape unaltered or unharmed.

The unobtainable masterpiece

It is considered the best book of contemporary Arabic literature, but this is not enough to pay tribute to Salih’s masterpiece. Many years later, it remains the best text ever to understand the most subtle aspects of European colonization, highlighting them with the finest sagacity. In Italy, its rarity also makes it one of the most desirable books for any novelist.

“The reluctant fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan)

At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful encounter . . . Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by an elite valuation firm. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his budding romance with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore. But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his relationship with Erica shifting. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.


To be honest it was one of the very few cases in which the film is more enjoyable than the book, however Mohsin Hamid‘s work remains one of my absolute favorite novels, the only one capable of making the most of the transformation of the world post 11 September. Hamid‘s text confronts us with the minds of millions of men and women around the world who suddenly found themselves having to choose their path, rejecting any fundamentalism imposed on them, both Taliban and American. Probably the story that I have reviewed and listened to several times ever. In part it is the biography of Hamid himself.

“A passage in India” by E.M. Forster (England)

Dr Aziz is a young Muslim physician in the British Indian town of Chandrapore. One evening he comes across an English woman, Mrs Moore, in the courtyard of a local mosque; she and her younger travelling companion Adela are disappointed by claustrophobic British colonial culture and wish to see something of the ‘real’ India. But when Aziz kindly offers to take them on a tour of the Marabar caves with his close friend Cyril Fielding, the trip results in a shocking accusation that throws Chandrapore into a fever of racial tension.


Actually, I only read the Black Cat school edition of this book, but those few ideas were enough to understand the value of this work, a truly complete text if you want to understand what British India was.

“Map of the New World” by Derek Walcott (Saint Lucia)

“I am nobody or I am a nation”: this verse can be used as an epigraph for all of Walcott’s work. Of which it can be said, first of all, that it offers us the highest form, today, of the English language – perhaps also because it comes from those places where “the sun, tired of the empire, sets”, from an immense marine periphery, the Caribbean , where that sun, setting, «brings a melting pot of races and cultures to incandescence. Walcott is neither a traditionalist nor a “modernist”. None of the available “isms” and the “hysts” that follow from them fit. It does not belong to any “school”: there are not many in the Caribbean, except for those of fish. It would be tempting to call him a metaphysical realist, but realism is by definition metaphysical, just as the reverse is true. Besides, it’s a label that would taste too prose. Walcott can be naturalist, expressionist, surrealist, imagist, hermetic, confessional – by choice. He simply absorbed all the stylistic idioms that the North could offer the way whales absorb plankton or a brush absorbs the palette: now he walks with his legs, and with great strides “. (Brodskij)


The Caribbean has always been a place where a thousand thousand cultures collide, creating offspring with a relationship that is always complicated with their past. Derek Walcott stages all this with an incredibly well-made poetics, literally impossible not to include in such a thesis.

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