The present paper analyzes a novel, Poor Mercy, by a Scottish novelist Jonathan Falla, in which an international aid agency struggles without success to save people in Sudan at a time of civil war and famine. Through a textual analysis of the novel, the paper demonstrates how the limitation of aid work for Africa is dramatized in its narrative.
The first part of the paper places the novel as a new version of the old "colonial novel," which writes about an often one-sided encounter between the colonizer and the colonized. In old colonial novels such as Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the European protagonist is fascinated with, ventures into, and imposes interpretation over, the unknown, while in a modern version like Poor Mercy, most often he, but sometimes she, sacrifices him/herself for an aid work in the land of war and conflict, and sickness and famine.
The second part analyzes the text of Poor Mercy, and shows how it represents the failure of aid work and how it fails to create a romance from aid. First, the paper focuses on a British field leader in charge of aid work in Darfur, Sudan, and considers how he fails to relate himself to the people and therefore save them. Then, the paper turns its focus on two Sudanese aid workers, one being a black minority male assistant, and the other being an elite Arab female agriculturalist, and shows how their unlikely romance fails as a story.
The paper concludes by arguing that through representing the failure of aid and failing to narrate a story of aid, the text warns us that we will not be able to relate ourselves to the people in Africa through channels of aid, and that the story of aid will end in re-appropriating Africa and its people in the same way as the old colonial novel did.