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"This Was My Country-How Could It Not Be?": On the Significance of Travel in M. G. Vassanji's The In-Between World of Vikram Lall



M. G. Vassanji's The In-between World of Vikram Lall describes how the life of the eponymous protagonist, a third-generation Asian African, is affected by Kenya's independence struggle and its post-colonial aftermath. This essay analyses how this novel uses the motif of travel in order to explore the possibilities and difficulties for Asian Africans to make East Africa their true home. It is often through travel that the protagonist re-examines some facets of his "Kenyan" identity. This essay first explains how the novel reflects the historical particularities of Asian Africans in colonial East Africa, and how those particularities affect the protagonist's early life and his sense of belonging. It then discusses the significance of the trip his family takes when he is an eight-year-old boy, analysing how this journey allows him to bracket the instability of his identity and deepen his sense of geo-cultural belonging. Next, the journeys the adult protagonist undertakes in post-independent Kenya are examined. These trips function as occasions to reaffirm his sense of belonging to the country in spite of the deepening political corruption and his own involvement in it. Lastly, the essay explores the importance of Canada, where he hides himself after fleeing Kenya and writes the autobiography that constitutes most of the novel. The geo-cultural distance between Canada and Africa forces the protagonist to question his relationship with Kenya and ultimately makes him decide to go back to the country.

Parallel abstracts



Cosgrove, Denis E.(1998).Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape.Madison:U of Wisconsin P.
Dubey, Ajay(Ed.)(2010).Indian Diaspora in Africa: A Comparative Perspective.New Delhi:MD Publications.
Fanon, Frantz,Chevalier, Haakon(Trans.)(1989).Studies in a Dying Colonialism.London:Earthscan.
Fisher, Susan(2006).History, Memory, Home: An Exchange with M. G. Vassanji.Canadian Literature.190,49-61.
Gregory, Robert G.(1971).India and East Africa: A History of Race Relations within the British Empire, 1890-1939.Oxford:Clarendon.