Book Chapter

Spillover: Writing Ruin in the Wake of Ebola



Grayson H (2023) Spillover: Writing Ruin in the Wake of Ebola. In: Ekorong A, Premat C & Jovensel Ngamaleu A (eds.) Poétiques et politiques du témoignage dans la fiction contemporaine. Comparatisme et Société / Comparatism and Society, 45. Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang Verlag.

As Véronique Tadjo writes, in 2014 « une épidémie d’Ebola se déclara soudainement et traversa la région de part en part, devenant la plus importante jamais documentée dans l’histoire du virus. » For Paule Constant (2016), « l’épidémie est aussi implacable qu’un tsunami, un volcan en éruption ou un tremblement de terre, elle emporte tout sur son passage et n’épargne personne. » Following Ann Stoler’s call in Imperial Debris (2013), this article examines how two francophone texts on Ebola spotlight ruin as they carve out a testimonial space for the epidemic in novel form. Their writing counters the rhetorics of urgency and containment that dominate crisis discourse to show the slow workings of inequality. With En compagnie des hommes (2017) and Des chauve-souris, des singes et des hommes (2016) Véronique Tadjo and Paule Constant shift attention away from concrete, privileged sites of reflection to show the spread of the epidemic as part of the ongoing processes of ruination and decay sustained by what Stoler (2013) terms ‘imperial formations’. This comes in part through the polyvocal and itinerant approach of both texts, which demonstrate how widespread the damage is, both in kind (social, physical, environmental) and in time. Here I suggest the notion of ‘spillover’ as particularly relevant for the way writing epidemic points to this synchronic and diachronic process of ruin. Tadjo appeals to a global humanity through the voices of those giving testimony; Constant is less optimistic in her anti-colonial critique. In this way the texts lay bare the temporal and ethical implications of those writing and living in the aftermath of Ebola, in the aftermath of colonialism

Ebola; epidemic; spillover; ruination; postcolonial

FundersThe Royal Society of Edinburgh
Title of seriesComparatisme et Société / Comparatism and Society
Number in series45
Publication date31/12/2023
PublisherPeter Lang Verlag
Place of publicationBern, Switzerland

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Dr Hannah Grayson

Dr Hannah Grayson

Senior Lecturer, French

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