Novels of flight and arrival: Abu Bakr Khaal, African Titanics (2014 [2008]) and Sunjeev Sahota, The Year of the Runaways (2014)

Janet Mary Wilson, University of Northampton


This paper focuses on the issues of reading narratives by, on, or about refugees, which stem from their emotive, affective content, especially in the climate of the current refugee crisis, and the problems in defining such narratives generically. Building on Jago Morrison’s comment (2012) that readers need to become aware of and reassess the frames of perception which they use in interpreting such stories, it compares a refugee novel of flight by Arab writer, Abu Bakr Khaal, African Titanics (2014 [2008]), with one about illegal migration by British Asian writer, Sunjeev Sahota, The Year of the Runaways (2015). The article is framed by Judith Butler’s theories of precarity and the “grievability of life” and it examines the frames used to mobilise readers’ affective and ethical responses. Khaal’s novel responds to the trauma of the refugee crisis in its memorialising function. Sahota’s narrative, set in the 1970s, resembles a novel of migration, but its images of precarity and uncertainty within the Indian diaspora in the UK are suggestive of wider precaritization following the recent global financial crisis.

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