Ezekiel Mphahlele's Afrika My Music as Autobiography-- Fact, Fiction, or Both?

F-K Omoregie, English Department University of Botswana

Autobiography can be presented as fact or fiction. Afrika My Music is a combination of both:

Autobiography as a form of literature has a structure and narrative technique that takes much from the traditional novel, since its (a) raw material is chronological and (b) it is structured into dramatic episodes which are controlled to make moral, social and political or psychological comments:

You black men spend so much time dreaming about the old days you left behind that you can't do what's got to be done here and now. That's what chokes me so about your friends. You sit here and count the political peanuts you picked up in your big rallies which you took for victories. You keep raking up dead fires and hurting yourselves to make believe you're still suffering when you know damn well you're free to loaf or work. (p. 116)

The autobiography may be seen as:

1. An instance of deep psychological self-analysis

2. A chronicle of development of awareness:

a. I made one decision that survived my vanity: I was never again going to fight other people's cultural battles. (p. 100)

b. The isolation of exile is a gutted warehouse at the back of pleasure streets. (p. 126)

c. There's the rub. I must stay with the South African reality. A reality so deeply rooted in thirty-seven years of my life that I can never lose it. That is the tyranny and its value as the root of my kind of commitment to human justice in a place called South Africa. (p. 133)

d. Exile. From innocence to experience to the acceptance and resentment of placelessness, of the memory of the cries and sirens. (p. 133)

3. A summary account of growth and personal development:

There is an inner mystery about growth in the personality that resists analysis and isolation. (p. 118)

4. An account colored by temperament, experience, and intellectual development:

a. I had allowed myself to be deceived by the surface quality of Nairobi: taken the surface activity to be an expression of a soul in conscious search for itself. This was not an African town, and I should have understood that. (pp. 88-89)

b. Encounter with the two white men on the Tzaneen road. (pp. 200-202)/P>


Postcolonial Web Rupublic of South Africa OV Africa OV Mphahlele

Last modied May 2000