This article explores the articulations of (un)belonging in Bernardine Evaristo’s novel-in-verse Lara (1997) and novel-with-verse Soul Tourists (2005). It closely examines the precarious nature of belonging for the “second” generations of black British and their (un)belonging to the national, “originary” racial and generational lines of belonging, and to wider unresolved histories of loss that can be broadly defined as postcolonial and post-imperial. The article presents a case against reading Evaristo’s work, and black British literature more generally, as Bildungsromane. Locating Evaristo’s novels within recent interpretations of melancholia by Anne Anlin Cheng, by David L. Eng and Shinhee Han, and by Paul Gilroy, it calls into question the idea of the journey, in both Lara and Soul Tourists, as a process of self-formation and resolution of social conflicts. Revealing instead the moments of tension and non-resolution, it addresses the way in which Evaristo’s narratives challenge and haunt the very foundations on which the hegemonic discourses of belonging and history still rest.
- Bernardine Evaristo