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BERNANDINE EVARISTO post-colonial literature

She was born in 1959 in London. Her father was Nigerian and her mother was English -> her mixed background is important for her writing.
She published the poem Island of Abraham and 2 novels in verse in 1994.
She published a semi-biographic novel Lara in 1997. It’s the story of a mixed race girl growing up in the 70s in Britain. The novel traces the family history of the protagonist Lara but also of Evaristo herself across 3 continents from Brazil to London. Her father had Brazilian origins and descends from slaves who lived in Brazil and relocated to South America. He grew up in an intolerant British society. Her mother’s ancestors are German and Irish. They married in spite of the opposition from her mother’s family. Lara wants to know more about her origins. Only when she accepts her African roots, she becomes true English.
She doesn’t want to be labeled as a Black writer.
It’s a novel in verse. It’s accessible but it’s complex too. It’s set in Roman London. Evaristo in 1999 was a writer in residence at the Museum of London. She was inspired by the classical antiquity and was fascinated by the fact that Black people lived in London during the roman period.
Initially she wrote a poem imagining Zuleika’s life, then she turned it into a novel in verse. It’s a hybrid novel: fantasy + history, past + present, prose + verse, foreign + domestic.
It’s set in 211 AD in Londinium, which was outpost of the Roman Empire.
The protagonist is Zuleika, a young black girl of Sudanese descents, married to Felix, a rich Roman executive, older than her. She lives in a villa alone because he’s always away. She has 2 Scottish slaves and 2 friends Alba and Venus.
Alba, her name comes from Latin = white. She’s the counterpart of Zuleika. She’s young and married to a Welshman, but he’s not as rich as Felix. Throughout the novel, she maintains a façade of conventionality, while she subverts morality by engaging in extramarital affairs.
Venus was born as a man and was expelled by her upper class family because of his homosexuality. Her name was Rufus. She makes her way to Londinium. She’s older and she’s like a teacher to Alba and Zuleika. Venus subverts Englishness by refusing to submit to its compulsory heterosexuality.
These stories are told us through poetry because Evaristo wanted to demonstrate that poetry can be accessible.
Epigraph taken from Oscar Wilde to emphasize the role of history. NB: she played with history. The novel has historical evidence but it’s full of anachronisms which contribute to creating the humor and to drawing attention to the present society.
The language is hybrid: different languages (Latin, Spanish, Italian, and Scots), different registers and slang.

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