Crucial to the Victorian exploration of Africa were the books that travellers wrote on their return. The certifying publication, contributing to geographical knowledge, was integral to the claim to be an “explorer”. Yet as scholars have examined the literary culture of exploration, they have largely ignored the body of fiction written by various well-known travellers of sub-Saharan Africa. This article focuses on My Kalulu, Prince, King and Slave (1873), a romance by the most prominent Victorian explorer author, Henry Morton Stanley. It reads the novel as an ambivalent abolitionist Bildungsroman and as an imaginative cartography, which maps eastern Africa as spaces of violence requiring outside intervention. The essay also argues that explorer fiction should be regarded as a form of travel writing. My Kalulu is a document of cultural encounter emerging from the circumstances of expeditionary travel, which provides a striking disclosure of the Arab-African transregional caravan system. As an imaginative means of mediating the travel experience, moreover, Stanley’s fiction catered for sentiments and desires that had little place in the conventional travelogue.
- travel writing
- adventure fiction