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Aporia (Abdullah)

In David Lodge’s chapter on aporia, Lodge states that aporia is used to “denote real.. doubt about an issue, uncertainty as to how to proceed in a discourse.” (219)

In the novel, Maps by Nuruddin Farah, the events and actions of the main characters revolve around the doubt that is prevalent throughout the novel. The characters base their actions on doubt and so doubt in a way is a theme of the novel. The first significant occurrence of doubt in the novel that the reader encounters is of whether Askar’s mother breastfed Askar before her death. On page 9, the narrator states that “Misra is ‘obsessed’ with the thought that you were breast-fed by her. When pressed, she would insist, ‘I know, i know for sure that she did’”. The idea of whether Askar was breastfed or not later becomes a major factor of Askar’s life, as it is what determines whether Askar killed his mother or not. If his mother breastfed him then that would mean he did not kill her. Askar believes that he did kill his mother and Misra tries to persuade him otherwise by stating that his mother breastfed him. However, Misra herself is completely certain about that.

Later on the in the novel on page 59, Askar states that he will kill Misra in order to survive. Whether he meant the statement to be literal or metaphorical is not the issue, but the issue is the fact that he has decided to take a plan of action based on knowledge that is doubtful.

Lodge later on states that the discourse that is created due to the usage of aporia does not “proceed” but “accretes”.

The accumulation of discourse can be seen when Askar learns about Misra’s betrayal and her arrival at Mogadishu. Due to Misra’s betrayal which generates further aporia, Askar does not know what to believe about himself and does not know what to do: to seek out Misra or isolate her from his life.

Also, the entire plot of the story revolves around a Somali boy who does not have a full grasp on his identity and so in this sense aporia shapes the novel. It is possible that Farah uses aporia in the novel in order to create the same feeling of doubt and uncertainty in the reader that Askar is feeling (similar to the disorienting structure of the novel). The sense of uncertainty that the reader feels is similar to Askar’s sense of uncertainty in that both he and the reader cannot confirm or be sure of any events, such as Askar killing his mother, Misra being a traitor, whether to send letters to Misra, etc.

The way that Farah switches between second person point-of-view to first person point-of-view and vice-versa and the way some of the information given by Askar and the narrator contradict convey the doubt and uncertainty that Askar lives in (this can be seen as a type of aporia). Due to the switches between the different points-of-view, the reader is able to experience Askar’s uncertainty: what should the reader believe and what should the reader discard as false?

This method of utilizing aporia, I believe, makes the reader more sympathetic towards Askar and more understanding of his predicaments.

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