A Struggle Between Literary and Self-Cannibalisation
The Brontës’ Reversal in V.S. Naipaul’s Guerrillas
This article discusses the after-lives of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) as they have been rendered in V.S. Naipaul’s tenth novel Guerrillas (1975). Following the concept of ‘literary anthropophagy’ theorised by Oswald de Andrade in 1928 and then adopted by several postcolonial writers as a metaphor of reverse appropriation, this article argues that Naipaul’s novel can be read as an extreme form of literary cannibalism. Naipaul’s violent appropriation and ‘digestion’ of the Brontëan works are exemplified by the ironic interconnections among the characters of the novels, their gender role reversals, the peculiar reshaping of the colonial subtext, and the trope of rape. In particular, by means of these strategies, the author subverts the Victorian assumptions of order and creates a chaotic world in which the Brontëan references become the tools for a postcolonial ‘cannibalisation’ of 19th century fiction. In this light, literary cannibalism is not a mere rewriting of English literature, but Naipaul’s personal way of interrogating and ‘cannibalising’ himself through the reversal of the English canon.