“The Facets of our Diglossia”

Native Speakers as Multilingual Storytellers


  • Jonathon Repinecz George Mason University


storytelling, ethnography, legitimacy, style, Wangrin, Solibo


Can we read novels as language memoirs of particular characters? Beyond the issue of writing style or literary creativity, postcolonial literary texts can help us theorize different kinds of speaker-legitimacies, as they depict native or colonized subjects who use language to negotiate their own positions in relation to violently normative colonial bureaucracies—whether on the margins of these, in opposition to them, or by infiltrating them. This article compares the speaker-legitimacies entailed through practices of storytelling in Patrick Chamoiseau’s novel Solibo Magnifique (Martinique, 1988) and Amadou Hampâté Bâ’s semi-fictional narrative L’Etrange destin de Wangrin (Mali, 1973). The multilingual strategies and tactics of these texts’ characters exert symbolic power in order to displace or subvert colonial power relations. After examining speaker-positions within each text, the study turns to the speaker-positions entailed by the texts as whole utterances. Both entertain a complex relationship with the discipline of ethnography, in relation to whose authority their hybrid uses of storytelling, voice, and register constitute another form of alternative legitimacy. By juxtaposing two heroic but very different literary storytellers from francophone writing, we can compare how different speaker-legitimacies are forged and performed as norms, and as alternatives to these norms, within colonial contexts.

Author Biography

Jonathon Repinecz, George Mason University

Assistant Professor of French