‘It Worked in a Different Way’: Male Same-Sex Desire in the Novels of Abdulrazak Gurnah

Houlden, Kate (2013) ‘It Worked in a Different Way’: Male Same-Sex Desire in the Novels of Abdulrazak Gurnah. English Studies in Africa, 56 (1). pp. 91-104. ISSN 1943-8117

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/00138398.2013.780684


Abdulrazak Gurnah's novels, Paradise (1994) and By the Sea (2001), make a number of references to male same-sex desire. Many of these propagate an image of older, more experienced men preying on innocent young boys, with negative consequences ensuing. This stereotypical portrayal of a predatory homosexuality is undercut, however, by a number of other thematic strands and, ultimately, Gurnah deploys sexual stereotypes in order to unpack and problematize them. He emphasizes the corrosive effects of trade and colonialism on the sexual economies of East Africa, implicating colonial powers in those same predatory behaviours that are held up for scrutiny in homosexual men. Racial as well as sexual stereotypes are endemic in the corrupt society Gurnah evokes and his subversive use of gossip raises questions about reader complicity in such reductive characterizations. There are also suggestions of a more loving and private enjoyment of male homosexual and homosocial behaviours occurring behind the scenes, which correspond to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's (1985) emphasis on male sexuality as a continuum. The seemingly negative portrayal of homosexuality offered in these novels is therefore mobilized precisely to illustrate those quieter forms of same-sex intimacy that it appears to occlude. Finally, just as Gurnah makes clear the losses resulting from the colonial experience, his depiction of same-sex desire can be understood in terms of failure and hidden histories. Accordingly, Heather Love's (2007) work on the pains of queer history can also be applied to these texts.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: gurnah, same-sex desire, homosexuality
Faculty: ARCHIVED Faculty of Arts, Law & Social Sciences (until September 2018)
Depositing User: Dr Kate Houlden
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2018 09:26
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 19:02
URI: https://arro.anglia.ac.uk/id/eprint/703433

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