Francisco Fuentes Antrás graduated from the Autónoma University of Madrid with a Bachelors in English Studies and holds a Master’s degree in Hispanic and Comparative Literature from the University of Kent in England. Currently, he works as a Spanish language professor in the European University of Madrid and he has just concluded his PhD thesis in the field of comparative literary studies in the Autónoma University. More specifically, his research interests focus on the depiction of resistant alternative voices, such as refugees or political dissidents, in the global literary fiction and from a transnational perspective. Recently, the attainment of an Erasmus + scholarship has allowed him for a three months stay in Cape Town (South Africa), where he has collaborated with some departments at the University of Cape Town to explore the concepts of resistance, immigration, racial issues, borders, and the transcultural connections in the short narrative of the 21st century.


In recent years, many scholars have pointed at the power of fictional literature to shape individualities that aim at being independent from “the deadening forces of society, whether they come in the form of political ideologies, social pressures, or rampant consumerism” (Lewis 2008: 664). In this context, Rafael Rojas and Frederick W. Mayer also highlight the political role of literature .While the former claims that “literature produces subjectivities, cultural and political citizenships” (Rojas 2006: 420, my translation), the latter acknowledges that “fictional narratives can be as powerful as non-fiction in establishing ideological interests” and that “engrossed by a powerful fictional narrative we accept its premises and its meaning” (Mayer 2014: 92).

In this article, I look at how Carrazana’s “Grafomanía” and Adichie’ s “Jumping Monkey Hills” function as narrative spaces where both authors can project literary voices who, despite being inserted in a hostile context where the governmental and the imperialist powers exert ideological control, find their way to express themselves by using fictional writing. In this regard, they manage to construct their own subjectivities in relation to their places of origin (Cuba and Africa respectively), which are redefined according to their own personal perceptions. Their fictional writings provide them with the necessary self-confidence to speak up over external forces of control and lead them to an act of resistance against the unique political discourse that tries to spread its narration as the only “plausible” one and rejects the heterogeneity of insights that these two stories precisely enhance.

Narrating Their Paths: Fictional Writing as Political Resistance in Lien Carrazana’s “Grafomanía” and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Jumping Monkey Hill”

In recent years, scholars have pointed at the power of fiction in shaping individualities, that is, the internal expression of a human who aims at being independent from “the deadening forces of society, whether they come in the form of political ideologies, social pressures, or rampant consumerism” (Lewis 664).  Along these lines, Tess Lewis echoes Kundera’s words when claiming that fiction is “an essential shaper of our moral imagination” and “indispensable to our … defense of rights” (Lewis 655). He adds that for individuals to have rights, they need to construct their individuality first, mentioning the European arts (particularly literature) as the main promoters of the construction of the self. In fact, it is through them that the individual learns how to be inquisitive about their inner emotions and those truths that differ from their own (Lewis 655). In this context, Rafael Rojas and Frederick W. Mayer also explore the political role of literature. While the former claims that “literature produces subjectivities, cultural and political citizenships” (Rojas 420, my translation), the latter acknowledges that “fictional narratives can be as powerful as non-fiction in establishing ideological interests” and that “engrossed by a powerful fictional narrative we accept its premises and its meaning” (Mayer 92).

Even though some scholars have remarked that the potential of fictional literature cannot just be used in favor of the underprivileged individual, words and story-telling have also been understood as important devices for control and repression. In the TED talk “The Danger of a Single Story” (2009), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie asserts that “like our economic and political worlds, stories are defined by … how they are told, who tells them, when they are told, how many stories are told” (Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story”). According to her, their relevance lies in the fact that “they are very dependent on power” and defines power as “the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definite story of that person” (Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story”). More specifically, in the introduction to the online anthology where Lien Carrazana’s short story “Grafomanía” (2013) is included, the Cuban writer Pardo Lazo addresses the nation-state as “the Supreme Narrator” (Pardo Lazo 2013, my translation).

In this article, I will be exploring the ways in which the short stories Carrazana’s “Grafomanía” (2013) and Adichie’s “Jumping Monkey Hills” (2009) focus on fiction and its potential to influence reality. More specifically, Following Rafael Rojas’ understanding of literature as a promoter of subjectivities and Lewis’ study of fiction as “an essential shaper of our moral imagination” and “indispensable to our conception and defense of rights” (Lewis 2008: 655), I argue that both authors project their subjectivities on the narrative voices that they create in order to foster their own point of view over that of the Revolutionary Cuban State in Carrazana’s story and the Imperialist ideology that Edward epitomizes in Adichie’s narrative. Therefore, while “Grafomanía” narrates the last days of a Cuban girl in La Habana previous to the attainment of the passport that will allow her to leave the country, Adichie’s story depicts the thoughts and feelings that a Nigerian woman, Ujunwa, experiences in the African Writers Conference held by an arrogant and sexist Englishman, Edward Campbell, who believes himself in the right to tell the African attendees what a real African story is. My analysis leads me to believe that both Ujunwa and the narrative voice in Carrazana’s story use fiction to build a territorial and identity-based subjectivity that represents them more faithfully over that imposed by the Revolutionary Cuban government and Western imperialism respectively. Based  on the idea that the negotiation of a subcultural and alternative identity within a hegemonic order requires winning “a space … to mark out and appropriate territory” (Clarke et al. 1976: 45),  that “identities themselves, our self-definitions, are inherently territorial” (Agnew 2008: 179), and that “the meanings given to a place … become a central part of the identity of the people experiencing them” (Rose 1995: 88), I argue that Ujunwa and the Cuban narrator construct their own fictional spaces from where they can trigger the re-thinking of their identity. Likewise, they can establish a counter-discourse that resists ideological entrapment and proves that the hegemonic narratives that oppress them are just one point of view among many others. For this purpose, both Carrazana and Adichie support themselves in the metafictional character of the narrative to provide their writings with a shocking and evocative realism, while breaking the borders between fiction and reality and alluding to some elements that they themselves and the narrators have in common. 

A relevant aspect is that fictional narrative constitutes a core theme in these stories, for both characters attend events where literature plays a central role. In “Grafomanía,” the narrator goes to a book fair celebrated in La Habana, and the author provides continuous reference to literature (specifically fiction) in sentences such as “I assault the pages with my grafomanía, I prostitute the sleep in wakefulness and I take it to those jailed letters”” (2013, my translation), or “seeing many Cubas through different eyes is just a subtle trap in this game of fictions” (Carrazana 2013, my translation[1]). At the same time, the narrative voice highlights the metafictional character of the story when uttering lines such as “but I know that to open the eyes and cry will be part of the process of imagining it all” (Carrazana 2013) and “you are right, writing is pointless, it is a repetition of what was already done with the mind” (2013).

In fact, in “Grafomanía”, the metafictional character of the narrative demolishes the line between fiction and reality, thus giving a strong relevance to fiction. When the female narrative voice claims that she “does not want to live a fictional life, or to buy fictional food with fictional money in a fictional shop” (Carrazana 2013) not only is the fictional character of the story highlighted, but she also alludes to the association between the Revolutionary Cuba and fiction itself. I argue that this connection reduces the Revolutionary ideology to a mere narrative product of the nation-state, “the Supreme narrator” (Pardo Lazo 2013, my translation) that, due to this fictional perspective, loses its totalitarian character and is consequently stripped of its authority.

The fictional character in Carrazana’s short story is equally and ironically reinforced by the following sentence at the end of the narrative: “the facts and the characters in this story are fictional, any similarity with reality is just pure coincidence” (Carrazana 2013). Following W. Mayer’s idea that “fictional narratives can be as powerful as non-fiction in establishing ideological interests” (Mayer 2014: 92), the inclusion of this final explanatory note at the end of the story stresses the story as fictional, which can be viewed as the author’s attempt to take distance from the political unique version in order to rewrite her own Cuba and gain authority.

As in “Grafomanía,” metafiction is significantly used as a literary weapon in Adichie’s “Jumping Monkey Hill,” presenting fiction as a central theme from the beginning of the story, when the readers are told that Ujunwa participates in the African Writers Conference and that the attendees “are expected to produce one story for possible publication in the Oratory” (Adichie 2009: 99). Ujunwa’s pieces of writing are included within the narrative, and it is through literature that other African attendees and Ujunwa share their personal experiences of Africa,  using literature to depict their own realities.  The Senagalese writes about her coming out as a lesbian, the Tanzanian about the killings in the Congo, and Ujunwa about the tough situation women go through in Nigeria due to a strong patriarchal society. However, in the eyes of the English organizer, only the Tanzanian’s story is really African, because he thinks that “homosexual stories of this sort weren’t reflective of Africa” (2009: 108) and that “women are never victims in that sort of crude way … in Nigeria” (2009: 113).

As in “Grafomanía” (2013), the oppressive authoritarian power in “Jumping Monkey Hills” (2009) is related to fiction, as both the Senegalese’s and Ujunwa’ stories, which are depicted as real experiences, are wrongly regarded as not truly African by Edward, epitomized by the English organizer. Ujunwa defies the imposition of Western beliefs when at the end of the story she reveals that her fictional story is true, thus contradicting the British organizer’s point of view. In this sense, it is noteworthy that Ujunwa does not only use fiction to shape her own voice as an African woman, but also as a humorous weapon to indirectly combat racism and Western prejudices about Africa. When Isabel, the organizer’s wife, tells her that due to her “exquisite bone structure” she had to come from Nigerian royal stock, Ujunwa wonders if “Isabel ever needed royal blood to explain the good looks of friends back in London” (Adichie 2009: 99), and instead of rejecting her royal origins she decides to humor her and make up a whole fictional story about her lineage.

The power of fiction plays a central role in the debate around the question both Ujunwa and the narrator in “Grafomanía” have to face all along throughout the story: does their writing work as an effective device for attacking political control? The narrative voice in Carrazana’s story addresses this question more explicitly through the sentence “you are right, writing is pointless, it is the repetition of what was done with the mind … Wouldn´t it be better to leave it all to imagination and to life?” (Carrazana 2013). Thus, by means of the narrative voice, Carrazana seems to echo the question that the famous Cuban writer Cabrera Infante presents in his work Mea Cuba (1994): “Is it worth it to write in exile?” (Cabrera Infante 1994: 480). Infante answers it positively when claiming “of course nothing so kills a writer than to stop writing” (1994: 480), and so does the narrator in “Grafomanía”, who although refers to the act of writing as “lettered jails” (Carrazana 2013), she also understands literature as a potential liberating tool for the self when claiming that “I am responsible of my own life, the life that no one wrote for me” (2013). 

Similarly, in Adichie’s story, fiction is depicted as a therapy when the Tanzanian tells the main character that “all fiction was therapy, some sort of therapy, no matter what anybody said” (Adichie 2009: 103).  In addition, Ujunwa writes in her story about how the main character, Chioma (who we eventually get to know that it is the literary version of Ujunwa, who at the same time is the literary version of the author), celebrates the fact that her father introduced her to literature. The understanding of fiction as necessary and important for the self-development of an individual cannot only be perceived in Ujunwa’s story. It is likewise proved in  the narrative, since the wrong reading that the British organizer tries to impose on Ujunwa’s piece of writing finally encourages her to speak up.

No less importantly, both stories can be approached as autobiographical pieces of writing. In “Grafomanía,” a strong connection between the female narrator and Carrazana can be established, as the author herself reveals in an interview[2]. This connection can be identified in the continuous allusion to Cuba, the reference to the narrator’s Chinese grandfather, her passion towards literature, depicted in sentences such as “I assault the pages with my grafomania” (Carrazana 2013) or “I buy a book. A book of sonnets” (2013), and her desire of leaving the country expressed at the very end of the story, when she says that “tomorrow I will achieve my freedom contained in a passport” (2013).

Indeed, Carrazana claims that she finds it difficult to return to Cuba due to her political opinions. The Cuban author asserts that, although the reasons she left Cuba in 2007 were more experiential and visceral than political, she also moved abroad not to be punished by the Cuban government, since she felt that her intellectual development was leading her to an oppositional stance (Carrazana, Personal Interview 2015). Moreover, she claims that her decision of leaving Cuba turned out decisive in her career as a writer, as despite having arranged the publication of her book with an editor in Cuba, such editor contacted her while being already in Madrid and gave her a final reason why her literary project could not be eventually published: “you do not live in Cuba anymore” (Carrazana, Personal Interview 2015, my translation). At this moment, she knew that she was “a different type of Cuban,” subject to “the diaspora of identity, the abduction of the national spirit” (Rojas 2006: 32, my translation) and to the marginalization the Cuban government imposes on the opponents of Castroism since 1958, as well as on those who stay beyond the Cuban national limits (Rojas 2006; Staniland 2014). Nowadays, the reason that hinders her from returning to Cuba is her public and blunt opposition to the Castro’s Revolutionary regime in numerous writings included in her blog La China fuera de la Caja, and her participation in the oppositional journal to the Cuban government Diario de Cuba and in the online anthology Nuevarrativa cubana (2013). This literary initiative was led by the also political refugee Orlando Luís Pardo Lazo and contains a collection of short stories whose aim was the recognition and visibility of the literature from Cuban exile authors around the world.

In a similar fashion, “Jumping Monkey Hills” may also have a strong autobiographical character, as Adichie herself  has hinted in some interviews:

For me the story is about the larger question of who determines what an African story is. You have this workshop of African writers; it’s completely organized by the British, then this person (referring to the organizer) who has his own ideas… imposes them on these young impressionable people. I remember feeling helpless. (“The Interview: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie”)

The sentence “I remember feeling helpless” seems to reveal that the writer has experience a similar situation. Indeed, there are some interesting similarities between the author and the main character. As Ujunwa, Adichie is a Nigerian author who has attended workshops of African writers in South Africa and whose writings have always challenged the Western attempt to impose its own views on Africa. Therefore, both narratives invite an autobiographical interpretation, bringing fiction and reality closer by establishing bonds between the narrative voices and themselves. The two authors strengthen the connection of literature and reality, which contributes to the enhancement of their fiction as a democratic tool that challenges hegemonic political and social powers.

Building on the theories can conceive of fiction as a promoter of subjectivities and as a potential political device (Rojas 2006; Lewis 2008), I highlight the projection of fictional literary voices in these stories, in which individual developing selves build their own voice to show the power of fiction when it comes to questioning certain authorities. On the one hand, both the Nigerian character in “Jumping Monkey Hills” and the narrator in “Grafomanía” employ it to speak up and, on the other hand, to allude to the fictional characters’ sources of constraint and to remark that the oppressive hegemonic narratives are just one point of view among many other. Thus, the metafictional character of Carrazana’s and Adichie’s narratives allows them create a shocking and evocative realism that blurs the borders between fiction and reality, shedding light to those elements that the narrative voices and the authors have in common. 

Given that identities, in order to be strongly defined and empowered, need a spatiality that allows subjects to develop (Sack 1986; Rose 1995), I argue that in both stories fiction is used to create a territorial subjectivity from where the literary voices can express themselves freely, and the question of place acquires a relevant role in the characters’ quest for speaking up. Thus, both the narrator in Carrazana’s short story and Ujunwa use their fictional writing to describe the spaces that they occupy from their point of view. The former depicts a claustrophobic and melancholic Cuba through sentences such as “I go out. Behind these four walls I cannot breathe” (Carrazana 2013), “warm tears […] letting themselves drip with the vanished dreams” (2013), or “the Nation remained immobile as an asleep tortoise on the Caribbean sea” (2013). In a similar fashion, the narrative voice in Adichie’s story addresses Jumping Monkey Hill as “the kind of place where she imagined affluent foreign tourists would dart about taking pictures of lizards and then return home mostly unaware that there were more black people that red capped lizards in South Africa” (Adichie 2009: 95). In this respect, fictional literature allows both authors to project their subjectivities by means of the narrative voices that they construct and, thereby, they offer a personal perspective of La Habana and South Africa resort that differs from that which the Cuban government and Western imperialism impose on these places. 

Thus, the resort and La Habana are equally depicted as isolated and tedious spaces: the former is described as “a dull and known Habana” (Carrazana 2013), while the latter is described as a flippant place that is not representative of the real South Africa. From the first lines of the narratives, the narrators stress both settings, and their reference is continuous: “…as now that you look at me sitting in this armchair […] the window is open to a dull and known Habana” (Carrazana 2013), “the chandelier of the main dining room of Jumping Monkey Hill hung so low” (Adichie 2009: 101), “how other guests at Jumping Monkey Hill (…) looked at the participant suspiciously” (2009: 108), and the eighteen direct allusions to Cuba and its capital throughout “Grafomanía”, such as “La Habana”, “this island”, “the embankment”, or “the Nation asleep on the Caribbean sea.”

Therefore, both authors give relevance to the settings of the stories through the narrative voices. They highlight the importance of space in identity formation and imply the existence of “many Cubas and Africas” to distance themselves from the unique version imposed by the Cuban State and Western imperialism. In this regard, the narrative voice in “Grafomanía” claims that “many Cubas exist” (Carrazana 2013), and when in “Jumping Monkey Hills” Edward says that homosexual stories are not representative of Africa, Ujunwa answers back by asking “which Africa?” (2009: 108).  Following Rafael Rojas’ understanding of literature as a promoter of a subjectivity (2006: 420),I believe that both Ujunwa and the Cuban narrator, respectively, deploy their fictional writing as a device for the construction of their own subjectivities in relation to their places of origin, which oppose the Imperialist and Cuban Revolutionary hegemonic ideologies and enhance the redefinition of theses settings according to their own personal perspectives.

As previously mentioned, the narratives invite the postulation of an autobiographical subject who I believe leads the reader to the direct association of both authors with Cuba and Africa. Given that, as Rojas puts it, “the exile[d] Cubans are spatial exiles” and subject to “the diaspora of identity and the kidnapping of their national spirit” by the Cuban Revolutionary government (Rojas 2006: 32, my translation), I claim that the narrator’s inclusion in the Cuba that the author creates challenges the Cuban government and reaffirms her identity as Cuban despite her political opposition to it. In other words, Carrazana’s fictional narrative allows her to establish an association between herself (a diasporic author) and the female narrator located in La Habana through the continuous demolition of the border that divides fiction and reality in her writing. This literary technique leads to the destruction of the Cuban / exile dichotomy that, according to Emma Staniland and Rafael Rojas, has been supported by the Cuban government since 1958 (Rojas 2006; Staniland 2014).

By doing so, the Cuban author echoes other Cuban writers in exile, such as Cabrera Infante or Herberto Padilla, who already fed the Martinian myth of a “portable homeland” (Rojas 2006: 42, my translation) by means of the “appropriation” of the island in their fiction to contradict the totalitarian belief that only one Cuba exists and it is located within the national borders. In the case of Alberto Padilla, he demolishes the line that separates Cuba from the exile in the verses “I live in Cuba /I have always lived in Cuba. Those years of wandering/ around the world everyone has talked so much about / are just lies and falsifications” (Padilla, my translation). These verses underline the nexus between the author and his country while reaffirming his Cuban nationality in spite of being an antirevolucionario exiled in the United States. Rojas also underlines Cabrera Infante’s opposition to the imposition of a unique version of the Cuban history in favor of the revolucionarios, and points at the personal descriptions of the Habana of the fifties in Tres Tristes Tigres (1965) and La Habana para un infante difunto (1979) as an act of resistance to that only version (Rojas 2006). In the same way, Carrazana gives shape to a territorial subjectivity by means of her literature. “Grafomanía” can be approached as a piece of writing that reflects upon the power of fiction (and imagination) to highlight a certain vision of a place, in this case, of La Habana, and to remark the existence of many (subjective) Cubas.

Similarly, the narrator in “Jumping Monkey Hill” has to face Edwards’ attempt to impose his own version of Africa on her and the rest of the attendees. This battle takes place in fiction at a metafictional level, since these conflicting relations of power are exposed by the pieces of literature that the African attendees write. When the Senegalese woman reads her homosexual story, she is told that “homosexual stories of this sort weren´t reflective of Africa” (2009: 108). Influenced by this comment, Ujunwa doubts about writing her story according to Edward’s parameters or according to what she has experienced and felt as an African: “she sat there for a long time, moving the mouse from side to side, trying to decide whether to name her character something common, like Chioma, or something exotic, like Ibari” (Adichie 2009: 100). Indeed, this sentence shows to what extent the attendees feel the pressure of pleasing Edward’s prejudices about the African continent. Ujunwa knows that, by including exotic names, her story will be more successful in the eyes of the organizer. Sometimes some of the African attendees, in their desire to be liked by Edward, behave according to how the Imperialist vision of Africa dictates they should behave, both in their writings and outside of them. For instance, only Ujunwa refuses to eat ostrich when Edward urges everyone to do it as it is “an African staple” (101), and the only story that achieves the organizer’s approval is the Tanzanian’s, because its plot fits with Edwards’ expectations:  the killings in the Congo from the point of view of a “man full of prurient violence” (Adichie 2009: 109).

Adichie also reflects upon the existence of “many Africas” through Ujunwa’s questions and thoughts. She mocks Edwards’ stereotypical and fictional idea of the continent along the narrative, and she finally decides to write about her own personal experience in Nigeria, despite lacking those elements that are believed to be truly African. As in “Grafomanía”, here too there is an explicit parallelism between Ujunwa (the character) and Adichie (the author) that leads the reader to believe that the Africa represented in Ujunwa’s story, although presumably fictional, has a huge component of realism, and thus constitutes a valid version of Africa in detriment of Edwards’ statements. As a consequence, this fiction reveals a Cuba and an Africa that are portrayed as the products of an individual literary voice that allows Carrazana and Adichie to create their own “portable homelands” (Rojas 2006: 42, my translation), a fictional universe from where geographical borders are weakened, as shown in the sentences “we go out dressed as if we were in Europe and these ones were not our only elegant coats” (Carrazana 2013), and “the white South African woman was from Durban, while the black man came from Johannesburg. The Tanzanian man came from Arusha…” (Adichie 2009: 97). When it comes to “Grafomanía” (2013), this globalism undermines the line that separates Cuba from the exile, and the narrator’s vision of the city as dull and poor is imposed over the State apparatus’ positive vision. In regards to “Jumping Monkey Hill”, the enhancement of the African heterogeneity is achieved through the depiction of different accents, races, and points of view in the story. 

Nevertheless, the relation between the literary voices and fiction is ambivalent since, although it is employed to give relevance to their thoughts and ideologies, it also serves their source of oppression, for it is presented as a tool that authoritarian powers use to impose “a unique narration.” When the narrative voice in “Grafomanía” claims that “the embankment draws lines around her ideas” (Carrazana 2013), she addresses her lack of freedom in the island and the feeling of imprisonment that she experiences. She compares herself with “an unbreakable doll” and adds “pick me, do what you want with me, indoctrinate me, provide me with a destiny, with a death, with an ideology…that was written on my forehead from the beginning” (2013). Thus, to denounce the Cuban regime, Carrazana uses a powerful metaphor in which the narrative voice acts as a tenor, the doll as a vehicle, and the ground constitutes their lack of free will, since both are puppets of the State. The verb “written” alludes to fiction and connects it to the Cuban government, while the words “indoctrinate me” and “provide me” point at the political elite as the cause of her affliction.

The parallelism between Edward and the Cuban Revolutionary Regime finds its basis in the fact that both use fiction to impose their own subjectivity, which translates itself into an attempt to maintain the immutability and subordination of the main characters. Edward can be approached as the epitome of the Western imperialist thinking, in the sense that he represents the narrow-minded and tyrannical nature of it. In fact, he dictates what is good and bad and acts as a critic all along the story. For instance, he decides what piece of writing is going to be published and is constantly giving feedback according to his own beliefs and parameters. It is by adopting the position of the publisher that he represses his guests and exerts his power:

Then Edward spoke. The writing was certainly ambitious, but the story itself begged the question “so what?” There was something terribly passé about it when one considered all the other things happening in Zimbabwe under the horrible Mugabe. Ujunwa stared at Edward. What did he mean by “passé”? How could a story so true be passé? But she did not ask what Edward meant and the Kenyan did not ask and the Ugandan did not ask and all the Zimbabwean did was shove her dreadlocks away from her face, cowries thinking. Everyone else remained silent (Adichie 107).

Accordingly, the narrative voice offers a negative portrayal of the relationship between the British organizer and Ujunwa. Firstly, the former patronizes the latter with sexist comments and attitudes that are explicitly addressed at several points in the narrative: “at first, Ujunwa tried not to notice that Edward often stared at her body” (106), “his eyes were never on his face but lower” (106), “‘would you like me to stand up for you, Edward?’ ‘I’d rather like you to lie down for me’, he said” (106). Secondly, Ujunwa does not feel comfortable with the organizer’s tendency towards an authoritarian attitude, metaphorically portrayed through the smoke coming from Edward’s pipe in sentences such as “the smoke from Edward’s pipe hung over the room” (107), and its disturbing effect on some of the attendees, as shown in “the smell of his pipe was nauseating and he had to decide which he liked to smoke…” (112), which symbolizes how his influence reaches everyone’s mind.

However, even though fiction serves the Cuban State and Edward (epitomizing the Empire) when it comes to imposing their ideological dogmas, both the narrative voice in “Grafomanía” and Ujunwa eventually find the way to use it for their own benefit. Thus,  at the end of Carrazana’s story, the narrative voice inclines herself towards Cabrera Infante’s notion of literature as necessary since, through the sentence “I sit with the laptop: there is no better place than yourself” (Carrazana 2013), she seems to suggest that literature is her refuge, and that it functions as a liberating tool to create a place for herself away from the territorial exclusion that the Cuban government imposes on the Cuban diaspora (Rojas 2006). In this regard, the end of the story constitutes an ode in favor of the individual:

My eyes stare at my mirror’s self for a moment. I look at myself wanting to go deeper, to penetrate my own center. Going back to my own self. I leave the bathroom. I sat in front of my computer: “there is no better place than yourself” (Carrazana 2013).

In the last paragraph, she continues describing her triumph over “the fiction of the State” and advances the attainment of a passport that will allow her to leave Cuba and pursue her freedom:

Tomorrow the umbilical cord that ties me to this armchair, and to this fiction, my words’ death, will be cut. Tomorrow I will have my freedom in a passport and my grandfather’s smile drawn on my mouth. Because tomorrow, my love, today’s time will be finished. (Carrazana 2013, my translation).

In the same way, Ujunwa’s victory over Edward and what he represents results from her decision of raising her voice. When at the end of the story, Edward, after listening to her piece of writing, claims that “the whole thing is implausible” (114) and that her story is “not a story for real people” (114) since “Nigeria has women in high positions” (113), she blurts out and contradicts the organizer, revealing that it is her own story and she herself has suffered from sexism:

He was watching her, and it was the victory in his eyes that made her stand up and start to laugh (…) “A real story for real people?” she said, with her eyes on Edward’s face. “The only thing I didn´t add in the story is that after I left my coworker and walked out of the alaji’s house, I got into the Jeep and insisted that the driver take me home because I knew it was the last time I would be riding in it” (Adichie 114).

To conclude, I have argued that the two narratives allow Carrazana and Adichie to the construction of literary voices who, despite being inserted in a hostile context where the governmental and the imperialist powers exert control and set ideological boundaries, find their way to express themselves by using fictional writing. In this regard, they manage to construct their own subjectivities in relation to their places of origin, which are redefined according to their own personal perceptions. Their fictional writings provide them with the necessary self-confidence to speak up over external forces of control and lead them to an act of resistance against the unique political discourse that tries to spread its narration as the only “plausible” one and rejects the heterogeneity of insights that these two stories precisely enhance.

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[1] My translation. All subsequent quotes from Lien Carrazana’s “Grafomanía” are my own translation.

[2] I conducted an interview with her in Madrid in 2015.