Paul Lomami Tchibamba, Jules Verne and Postcolonial Dialogue: Twenty Thousand Leagues under the River Congo

Yvonne Reddick


Paul Lomami Tchibamba (1914-85) is often described as the Congo’s first novelist. Previous research in French and English has depicted Tchibamba’s work as a straightforward example of ‘writing back’ to the colonial canon. Many earlier scholars who examine Tchibamba’s references to European culture follow a simplistic model of counter-discourse, without acknowledging the complex, ambiguous and sometimes positive way in which Tchibamba interacts with his European intertexts. For the first time, this article shows how Tchibamba’s novellas contain examples of intertextual dialogue with Jules Verne, while vigorously criticising colonial practices. This article also contains the first English translations of excerpts from Tchibamba’s novella Légende de Londema. This article advances scholarship on Tchibamba’s work by demonstrating how his writing responds to Verne, one of his favourite European authors, by blending Verne’s science fiction vocabulary and fantastical voyages with traditional tales from Congolese orature.


Postcolonial; intertextual; Central Africa; Jules Verne; Paul Lomami Tchibamba

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