University of Botswana
Eeben Hartzenberg, one of the Boer protagonists of W.P.B. Botha's A Duty of Memory, comments on the oppressive weight of the past his people carry: "the trouble with us Afrikaners isn't that we're living in the past but that we are so bloody frightened of it that we haven't got the time for anything else. The past scares the hell out of us" (45). Most obvious is of course the legacy of apartheid and the deep hostilities between racial groups it has sown, what Steve Jacobs in The Enemy Within calls a "genetic time-bomb, implanted deep within the body politic by the hatred of previous generations" (169). But for both Botha and Jacobs, and indeed virtually all authors of the period, the concern is much broader than the strictly political, for this obsessive fear mentioned by Eeben includes disquieting memories not only of racial discrimination and violence but also of the dark secrets that haunt families and individuals. The two are almost inextricably intertwined in Eeben's own family history, in which numerous characters show modern South Africa's struggle to escape from the grip of the past: Eeben's mother Caroline flees from a dreary life in post-war England by going to South Africa, only to be abused by an alcoholic husband; his sister Jo is sent to England as an adolescent to escape her sexually predatory father; Eeben himself works for a time on the railroad in order to avoid this home and his friends who pushed him into gaybashing. He explains: "only then for the first time did I feel free of the past" (8); yet it catches up with him when the same childhood friends bring him into a police counterinsurgency unit that murders political opponents. Kristien Muller, the narrator of André Brink's Imaginings of Sand, has a similar if less violent experience: having left South Africa years earlier, she also finds that the past "is catching up with" her (11), as her lover puts it, when her grandmother's imminent death forces her to return. Back in the land of her birth, despite her determination to separate herself from her past, she feels "split between today and yesterday" (75). Arriving on the eve of the 1994 elections, she is concerned with both political events and her family history, each of which contains unpleasant facts and memories that must be faced; her personal situation represents the burden carried by all South Africans during a time of change.
For Seamus Doyle, the Irish main character of Botha's first novel, The Reluctant Playwright, this burden has led to sullen anger and despair. The book's title refers to his attitude that life is a play in which everyone wants to direct the action but whose script is already unalterably written. He tells himself that he has only a minor role he cannot change, that makes him "merely an actor in the play; with History retaining its firm hold on the script" (108). Cynically rejecting commitment to anything because he believes his parents sold out to the dominant powers in both Ireland and South Africa, his stance is less a revolt seeking freedom than the resignation of one who considers freedom an impossibility. The most intimate parts of his life, he believes, are subject to an almost irresistible determinism. Achmat Dangor's Kafka's Curse, which deals primarily with the Indian community, goes further in the analysis of families haunted by shameful memories by positing hereditary insanity in the main characters' bloodline, thus giving a semi-scientific twist to the idea of a determining past. In the midst of the social, political, and ethical questions they face, overcoming the past remains the central problem, key to the others; one of the characters reflects: "God, all this obsession with sex. History is a much more distressing burden" (127). Brink shows the hidden, festering secrets that haunt South African life in Devil's Valley, in which the narrator, an investigative reporter, finds an isolated village to be a rat's nest of dirty secrets everyone knows but no one will admit openly, a hele gemors or "can of worms," as Eeben calls his situation in A Duty of Memory (14). Clearly, the past attains such oppressive weight because it is not truly past but continues into the present, a fact Brink demonstrates symbolically in the fantastic world of Devil's Valley, where the dead walk among the living; the narrator remarks of them: "In a sense they are more real than the living, because the living merely pursue their own lives, but we assume the dead" (252). Ending precisely where it began, its last sentence identical to its first, the novel suggests the dangers of history going in circles, repeating all the evils people hope to escape. The past, it seems in all these works, constantly threatens to return; a central question is therefore whether the characters as individuals, and through them South Africa as a nation, can break free from this heavy hand.
For several authors the answer depends on how one tries to escape. Simple denial of the the past will inevitably fail, for such ghosts cannot be exorcised by ignoring them: Leonard Gama, protagonist of the title story of Mandla Langa's The Naked Song, notes that the attempt to bring about reconciliation by simply forgetting the past is doomed to failure: "The past, which had dripped with blood and venom as mango dripped with juice, remained unacknowledged... what was not forgotten could not be forgiven" (77). Brink makes the same point allegorically in Imaginings of Sand, where, according to the old grandmother, obscene paintings in the basement have been whitewashed numerous times, but always return despite the efforts to cover them; similarly, an artist in Devil's Valley finds the portraits he has painted over always show through, their clarity increasing with time. In both cases, efforts to erase or ignore the past are fruitless; if its burden is to be lifted, these texts insist, another approach must be taken.
Altogether different is an effort to build a positive future based on frank recognition of what has gone before, and many works show guarded optimism toward the possibility of such a liberation. Several characters of Imaginings of Sand seem to have understood the critical difference between burying the past and acknowledging it; to the charge that they have come "to close the old books and write the new chapter," an ANC leader replies: "Write a new chapter, yes... Close the old books, no. We can't imagine the future by pretending to forget the past" (266). What the 1994 elections offer, Kristien insists, is quite the opposite: it is by acknowledging all the evil of the past that something new can be constructed: "It's precisely because we're getting a new government that we can start burying yesterday's wrongs" (171). Eeben in A Duty of Memory seems to have learned the same lesson; after trying for years to run away from his past and from the people who represent it, he finally chooses to face it by making a recorded confession to be placed in evidence before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after his death; even posthumously, the act constitutes a kind of catharsis. Similarly, the main character of Zakes Mda's Ways of Dying achieves a victory over his painful past as a victim of malicious neighbors in his village when his former tormentor apologizes for the suffering she causes him; reconciled, the two fall in love. If such strictly personal events seem at first glance trivial in comparison with the major issues facing the country that are addressed in other works, they show the kind of personal forgiveness and friendship between former enemies that must lie at the heart of any true liberation from the past. Doyle's abrupt change of attitude at the end of The Reluctant Playwright, joining personal and political concerns, demonstrates how knowledge of the past can be liberating: having learned that, contrary to what he believed, his father had helped both Irish resisters and the ANC, he drops his cynicism and plays an active role in smuggling arms for resistance against the Transkei government. Furthermore, his reconciliation with his dead father, shown in his visit to the latter's grave, exemplifies how coming to terms with the past enables one to construct a positive future: "Clearly this was not a land for looking back, for preserving memorials to the past. It was a land that promised fresh hope for the future... a land that had already set its sights on the next century" (225). The future, it seems, has taken over from the past as the focus of concerns; but this transformation, Botha shows, is only made possible by an honest recognition of what has gone before. If this optimistic attitude is immediately called into question by the next sentence, "But could it escape its past?" (225), Doyle's own example suggests that the answer is yes.
A special burden inherited from the past must be shouldered by women. Racial oppression was not-is not-the only form of inequality found in South Africa, and with the black-white conflict resolved, tentatively at least, many authors have turned their attention to the condition of women. In virtually all societies of the region, regardless of ethnicity, women have traditionally been kept in a subservient position, and many recent authors make this sexism a major theme of their works. Prejudice greets women at birth: in Imaginings of Sand Kristien recounts how her father, "seeing me born... without the distinguishing appendage of the right sex... retreated in disgust and pretended I hadn't happened" (3); her grandmother remarks in one of her stories of voortrekker days that bringing in a bride-price "was about all a female child could provide in recompense for the unforgiveable lapse of not being a son" (306). Children must face the different attitudes depending on their sex: when Jo takes refuge from an abusive father in the servants' quarters in A Duty of Memory, the black maid tells her that she cannot stay there as the maid's own son does, but the reason given is not one of race but rather of gender, as though the latter is more important even in the apartheid state: "For boys and girls everything is different" (118). In the allegorical traditional Afrikaner village of Devil's Valley, one woman states simply: "God made most women to suffer" (98), and a man declares with no shame, only surprise at the narrator's ignorance, that the commandment against adultery applies only to women. Like so many other aspects of South African life, this too has its dark underside, for violence against women lurks just below the surface; the parts of Imaginings of Sand set in contemporary South Africa show the emotional and physical abuse to which Kristien's sister Anna is subjected by a boorish husband, just as Andries inflicts severe brain damage on his wife in A Duty of Memory. Some Afrikaner women even defend sexist attitudes: Caroline, the English woman living in her husband's Afrikaner community in A Duty of Memory, gets no sympathy but only rebuke from Afrikaner women when she comments on the generally cold nature of their husbands. But such attitudes are not limited to those of European descent; many authors insist that the lot of African women is if anything even worse. In the opening pages of The Reluctant Playwright, Doyle uses his analogy of life as a play to observe the limited role of women in his Tanskei village: "He senses their laughter is self-mocking, hiding the hurt, the injustice they feel. For as extras -- as women -- African women -- they have mastered all the roles handed out to them. Only to find that the show has moved on, leaving them behind" (5). Ironically, it is the leader of the ANC in the village who provides the best example of traditional gender roles, sternly giving orders to his sister even as he insists on the need to do away with subservience to whites, as though to show that liberation from white domination is only one of the struggles to be waged. Indeed, a female ANC leader in Imaginings of Sand comments: "It's always been expected of us black women to honour our men more than ourselves, to regard their sacrifices as more important than our own" (267). With this example set by the leadership, the rank and file are slow to overcome old attitudes. Blade, the returned freedom fighter of Langa's "Proud Flesh," is dominated by traditional gender roles even as he trains with female soldiers, feeling that in his own case "whatever relationship he had with women was burdened by the baggage of tradition and custom" (38). Similarly, the multiple generations of an Indian family in South Africa recounted in Kafka's Curse show numerous examples of women controlled or mistreated by men; years later the girl Rabia reflects: "Usually the root of all problems is men... Mama has a whole family of women who were abandoned by their men" (102).
Perhaps the most frightful aspect of this abuse that women and girls suffer is the sexual abuse they undergo. Coetzee's Disgrace centers around the rape of the protagonist's daughter, an event that even the victim's friend seems to consider one of the natural burdens of being female, like menstruation and childbirth. The father perceives the misogynist nature of the act, motivated not by sexual desire but by hatred, as they "put her in her place... showed her what a woman is for" (115). Yet even more disturbing is the widespread occurrence of incest. The subject returns with alarming frequency in many works: in A Duty of Memory, Andries molests his daughter Jo repeatedly until she leaves for England; in Kafka's Curse, young Anna is raped by her brother Martin, who later molests both his own daughters; the old lady Kulsum remembers an incestuous father; Amina is abused by her half-brother Sarlie. The mythical world of Devil's Valley and of the grandmother's tales in Imaginings of Sand present repeated acts of girls raped by their fathers in traditional Afrikaner society. The insistence with which the sexual violence recurs seems to indicate that it has a symbolic value, representing all the indignities to which women are subjected by a patriarchal order. The protagonist of Disgrace senses this, speculating that his daughter views her own rape as an example "Of what women undergo at the hands of men" (111); though the daughter denies any such thoughts, the symbolism seems valid. Amina draws the general conclusion in Kafka's Curse: "Fucking fucks us up, women that is. Love desecrates a woman's womb" (116).
Having shown the problems women face, many of these works go on to show the emergence of a new paradigm for gender relations. In The House Gun Gordimer observes the broad changes occurring in South African society: female business executives are starting to appear on billboards, Indian and Afrikaner girls are working in the "male domain" of the courthouse (239). But the new realities run much deeper than such superficial changes, for what the country is witnessing is not simply the token admission of a few women to areas largely controlled by men but rather a fundamental change in the philosophy underpinning interaction between the sexes, a rejection of the whole elaborate structure of inequality. This transformation is shown as taking places on several levels simultaneously. In the political arena, even if men continue to hold most leadership positions, the vital role of women in the struggle is at least acknowledged: Langa presents female MK soldiers in "The Naked Song" and ANC women who turn back an Inkatha attack in "Proud Flesh"; similarly, in Mda's Ways of Dying, the male protagonist realizes that it is women who do most of the work for political meekly in the townships. Furthermore, instead of meeking accepting criticism, they stand up to the men who fault them for serving bread and cabbage to visiting leaders, just as a black man in A Duty of Memory comments: "the women of today, they have their own way of doing things and are not afraid of speaking their minds" (145). Perhaps the greatest transformation is occurring in the terms that govern intimate relationships: one of the main characters of The House Gun notes "the contemporary ethic that men don't own women" (31). Key to this change is the refusal of the sexual abuse that has plagued so many female characters in the past. In Kafka's Curse Anna makes sure the family history of child molestation will not continue any further, letting her brother's daughter live with her and carefully monitoring his contact with the child. Moreover, throughout the story traditional roles are reversed, and despite Rabia's observation about abandoned women it is wives leaving their husbands, not the reverse, that dominates the plot: the first sentence tells of Anna leaving Oscar; later, Oscar's brother Malik is abandoned by his wife Fatgiyah; Amina seems to neglect and then kill her husband; in the final pages, Martin's wife Helena goes away without him. In this new world of self-confident and assertive women, even long habits of submissive endurance can be overcome: the obedient Afrikaner mother of Imaginings of Sand votes against her husband when he runs for office near the end of his life; in A Duty of Memory, Eeben's old institutionalized mother, mistaking him for the husband who abused her for so long, lashes out with unexpected energy and tries to strangle him.
But it is above all the younger generation that shows such courage. If the stories of strong and independent women told by Dalena in Devil's Valley and the grandmother in Imaginings of Sand constitute a reclaiming of history by women, a declaration of their central role that has been hitherto denied in the histories written by men, such bold self-assertion moves from legend to reality with the granddaughter Kristien, who fearlessly confronts both the sexism of authority figures and the unwanted advances of her brother-in-law. Perhaps inspired by this example, Kristien's sister Anna, long abused both mentally and physically by her brutish husband, eventually decides to leave him. A subtler generational shift appears in Coetzee's Disgrace, in which the main character's daughter shows no deference to any paternal authority; she underlines the point by calling him by his first name, thus abolishing the parent-child relationship between them. The African community shows similar examples of women's new determination to reject inferior status: in stark contrast to the submissive village women of The Reluctant Playwright, young Alexia refuses to accept abuse, even from armed soldiers; she dreams of a better life, criticizes Desdemona for her humble obedience to Othello, and pointedly tells her lover Doyle: "I'm not just a shell you picked up on the beach" (35). Similarly, it is the black lawyer's daughter in The House Gun demonstrates by her manner "a rejection of everything that would have determined her life in the past" (168). Noria, the beautiful squatter camp dweller of Ways of Dying, has undergone an analogous transformation since Toloki knew her in the village: once mistreated by her husband, she eventually learned to stand up to him; formerly selling herself for favors, she now refuses to accept anything from men. She is not the first woman to stand up for herself, of course; her mother was known for a sharp tongue that cowed men. But in Noria this aggressiveness has changed: instead of being loud and malicious, she is calmer, self-possessed, only demanding justice, and inspiring respect rather than fear and loathing; her companion Toloki notes that she exudes strength. This transformation shows the constructive maturing process that underlies the new attitude of South African women. The change is presented as doing good not just for women but for all South Africans; having observed the role played by women in the squatter camp, Toloki tells Noria: "I believe the salvation of the settlement lies in the hands of women" (165). If there is, or is to be, a new South Africa, women will play a leading role in it.
But despite women's refusal to accept victimhood, South Africa is awash in violence, and virtually all these texts show the suffering of a country in danger of drowning in its own blood. Zakes Mda's Ways of Dying presents an unending stream of funerals, during which one speaker states: "Normal deaths are those deaths that we have become accustomed to, deaths that happen every day. They are deaths of the gun, and the knife, and torture and gore. We don't normally see people who die of illness or of old age" (146-47). Anna's description in Imaginings of Sandof life in South Africa just before the 1994 elections captures the situation succinctly: "The whole country is a madhouse... Everybody is killing everybody else" (13), a conclusion that the narrator of Devil's Valley, a crime reporter, confirms with statistics (15). There is, of course, the continuation of political violence, especially in works set in the transitional period between Mandela's release in 1990 and the 1994 elections: Eeben and his colleagues in the security police murder black African leaders in A Duty of Memory; Mandela is quoted as threatening retaliation against "right-wing terror" in Kafka's Curse (15). Ways of Dying, The House Gun, and Langa's "Proud Flesh" all show how factional fighting has broken out within the black community, depicting graphically the carnage between ANC followers and Zulu hostel dwellers. But what is more alarming than the long tradition of violence in the service of political goals is a more recent tendency to view murder and mayhem as a normal part of life, acceptable in its own right even without justification from any higher purpose. Eeben comments on how the Afrikaner government's use of violence against its enemies has led to a situation no one can control: "now the genie's out of the bottle, who's going to put it back in?" (106-07); the narrator of The House Gun observes: "State violence under the old, past regime had habituated its victims to it. People had forgotten there was any other way" (50). Acts of violence are increasingly perpetrated for insignificant reasons or virtually none at all. While some murders are performed by armed robbers or by taxi drivers fighting over territory, others lack even this narrowly selfish motivation. Another funeral speaker in Ways of Dying announces that the deceased were killed in a dispute over a tin of beef; Shadrack, a township taxi driver, is kidnapped and beaten by police officers who view it simply as a form of entertainment, while Transkei soldiers in The Reluctant Playwright amuse themselves by bullying civilians at roadblocks. As Eeben observed, violence has become a way of life that threatens everyone; the very fact that Toloki can earn a living as a professional mourner in Ways of Dying underlines how prevalent death has become. This culture feeds on itself and grows with no end in sight, prompting Toloki to observe: "Funerals acquire a life of their own, and give birth to other funerals" (149). David Tshabalala, the poor African worker of The Enemy Within, symbolizes the nearly irresistible cycle of violence: struck on the head when he was young, he suffers from a trauma-induced psychological disorder that makes him violent. His personal situation represents that of South African society in general, in which everyone suffers, as though to prove Gordimer's assertion: "violence is the common hell of all who are associated with it" (143).
Even more chilling than the cold fact of this violence is its choice of victims. Several authors show a steady inward turn in which violence is increasingly turned against those closest to the perpetrator. Such events can occur in the framework of political struggle, as when Noria's son Vuthi is necklaced by the young militants of his own squatter camp in Ways of Dying; other incidents within communities have no political motive but are simply the result of the conditions in which people live, "born in squalor and poverty, marauding gangs, drunken squabbles, domestic disputes sorted out with knives," as the Jewish protagonist of The Enemy Within reflects. But many of these acts involve not just members of the same settlement but close personal friends: Eeben's schoolmates in A Duty of Memory force him to beat his own friend and sometime male lover with a cricket bat, which he does, if only to save himself. The House Gun centers around Duncan Lindgard's murder of his friend and former lover whom he finds having sex with his girlfriend; the fact that both are or have been intimate with him emphasizes that violence is finding its victims among those closest to the killer.
Yet such events are only the outer ring of a Dantean circle of increasing intimacy between attacker and victim. As Eeben notes: "It isn't only your friends who turn against you. Who treat you like you're the enemy. It's your own family. Your own flesh and blood" (203). The opening pages of The Enemy Within graphically illustrate this tendency, when David Tshabalala's mental disorder leads him to murder his wife and attack his father-in-law in a moment of drunken fear. If domestic violence already has a long history in these texts, recent acts go further. The abusive parents of the past, whatever else they do, stop short of outright murder; but Jurg Water kills his own son in Devil's valley, and an old man is beaten to death by his sons for failing to follow proper funeral ritual in Ways of Dying. Amina reportedly murders both her invalid husband and her lover by the end of Kafka's Curse, while Martin, found dead, seems to have been killed by a relative. Two characters -- Eeben in A Duty of Memory and Anna in Imaginings of Sand -- eventually succomb to desperation and do what Eeben lamented, turning against their own family, when they despairingly kill their spouses, their children, and themselves.
The bull's eye at the center of these concentric circles is the point where violence turns against itself, pushing the individual to take his own life, "This turning in of the self upon the self," as the narrator calls it in Imaginings of Sand. Eeben and Anna's murder-suicides are only the most spectacular cases of a long series of comparable acts. Some acts of self-destruction, admittedly, may be unintended, or at least unconscious, as when Malik continues a long tradition of suicide in the Indian family of Kafka's Curse by diving to his death in a delusion he can fly, or when an exiled painter in Langa's story "The Resurrection of the River Artist" is reported to be "single-mindedly killing himself via cocaine and alcohol" (125). Several other characters, however, clearly intend to harm themselves: Duncan's lover Natalie in The House Gun attempts to kill herself several times, and stays with him only as a means of punishing herself; Duncan himself seems determined to risk the death penalty by his confession to murder, and meditates on suicide as the logical conclusion of his act at the end of the book;. The deliberate choice to act on this urge for self-destruction by Eeben and Anna thus stands as the ultimate point of a long degradation. Occurring in response to their own past and the present circumstances in South Africa, it takes on a metaphorical value, suggesting that the country as a whole is committing suicide through its blind violence. The Enemy Within ends with the protagonist's meditation on what is admittedly a general human problem but seems to have special urgency in contemporary South Africa:
The suggestion that acts of shocking violence are not the province of extremists and the mentally unbalanced but can be perpetrated by everyone is profoundly disturbing. But perhaps even more chilling is the inevitable link between all acts of murder: suicide is only the concluding point of a long and unbreakable chain that links all acts of violence, such that killing others is not only a prelude to but in essence a form of killing oneself. Indeed, violence against others may be only an exterior manifestation of violence against the self, as Duncan reflects in his prison cell at the end of The House Gun: "When you kill the other you are trying to kill the self that plagues your existence" (292). Such, it seems, is the danger of self-destruction that menaces all of South Africa.
The temptation to see this as in any way positive is rejected explicitly by several authors. The police sergeant who reports on Eeben's murder-suicide in A Duty of memory, an Afrikaner himself, suggests once that the entire Afrikaner volk should in fact kill themselves, but quickly adds: "Except when you think about it, suicide doesn't solve anything" (200). Langa's story "A Gathering of Bald Men" makes the same point on a humorous note; by ridiculing the main character's resolve to kill himself because he is losing his hair, it shows the absurdity of suicide as a response to anything. Reflecting on her sister's murder-suicide at the end of Imaginings of Sand, the narrator refuses to consider similar acts, choosing to build a positive future instead. Clearly another solution must be sought; just as Eeben's and Anna's personal acts accomplish nothing, so South Africa's drawn out suicide will accomplish nothing, not even clearing the ground for something new to blossom. Violence is rather a curse that must be cured if anything good is to be built in the new South Africa.
These three themes serve as points of reference in the development of a new South African literature. Rather than attempting to answer a simplistic dichotomy -- is the new South Africa fundamentally different from the old or not? -- they suggest topics that have grown in importance as the struggle against apartheid has reached completion. The articulation of these subjects-the burden of the past, the role of women, and the danger of violence turning inward upon itself-will determine to a considerable extent the future not only of South African literature but of the country itself in the twenty-first century.
Many writers and critics have discussed the problems faced by South African writers at this historical crossroads. In South African Literature and Culture: Rediscovery of the Ordinary, Njabulo Ndebele asks succinctly: "with the demise of grand apartheid now certain, what are South African writers now going to write about?" (vii; quoted in Schulze-Engler p.21). Dennis Brutus examines the question in "Literature and Change in South Africa," while Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane even suggests that South African writers are suffering from "writer's block" and "paralysis of the imagination" (p.13). In response to these questions, Ndebele suggests that the future of South African literature lies with works that demonstrate "that the problems of the South African social formation are complex and all-embracing; that they cannot be reduced to a single, simple formulation" (Ndebele p.55). Similarly, A. E. Voss remarks: "Writers and writing in South Africa will be facing the same questions as face the polis as a whole" (p.3).
Drawing general conclusions about national literature as a whole from prose fiction seems justifiable in the case of South African writing. Commenting on the relationship between history and literature, Voss asserts: "in South Africa today prose fiction occupies a special place in this contested terrain" (p.7).
Driver discusses the "culture of amnesia" and the need for another solution in her introduction to the annual bibliography of South African literature in the Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Vol. XXXII, No. 3 (1997): p.101.
Some critics see reconciliation as the concept that is replacing resistance to apartheid as the new central theme of South African literature; see Driver p.101, Mzamane p.13.
Dietche remarks that African women were traditionally "[t]aught to believe that as blacks they were inferior to all whites and that as black women they were inferior to all black males" (p.61).
The woman novelist Lauretta Ncgobo has commented on how women have been kept out of leadership roles in political organizations (Brutus p.102).
Dietche notes that of three women who wrote autobiographies in the 1980s, the youngest, Caesarina Kona Makhoere, "speaks with the voice of a new generation" about her struggles against oppression (p.61).
Schulze-Engler notes the "unprecendented levels of violence that marked the sudden transition from apartheid authoritarianism to a new democratic dispensation" (p.27).
Schulze-Engler comments on "the deeply disturbing fact that the struggle for democracy claimed many more lives among the black population than the struggle against apartheid" (p.27).
David Medalie gives an interesting analysis of the problem of violence in South African society and its role in The House Gun in "The Context of the Awful Event": Nadine Gordimer's 'The House Gun'." He rightly notes that: "The title of the novel suggests the extent to which violence remains insidiously habitual in South Africa," an environment in which a firearm is considered simply another household object, not worthy of any special attention (p.638).
Botha, W.P.B. The Reluctant Playwright. Oxford: Heinemann, 1993.
Botha, W.P.B. A Duty of Memory. Oxford: Heinemann, 1997.
Brink ,André. Imaginings of Sand. London: Vintage, 1996.
Brink ,André. Devil's Valley. London: Secker & Warburg, 1998.
Coetzee, J.M. Disgrace. London: Secker & Warburg, 1999.
Dangor, Achmat. Kafka's Curse. Cape Town: Kwela Books, 1997.
Gordimer, Nadine. The House Gun. London: Bloomsbury, 1998.
Jacobs, Steve. The Enemy Within. Oxford: Heinemann, 1995.
Langa, Mandla. The Naked Song and other stories. Cape Town: David Philip, 1996.
Mda, Zakes. Ways of Dying. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Brutus, Dennis. "Literature and Change in South Africa" Research in African Literatures 24: 3. Fall 1993, pp.101-04.
Dietche, Julie Phelps. "Voyaging Toward Freedom: New Voices From South Africa" Research in African Literatures 26: 1. Spring 1995, pp.61-74.
Driver, Dorothy. "South Africa - Introduction" Journal of Commonwealth Literature XXXII, No. 3. 1997, pp.99-113.
Medalie, David. "The Context of the Awful Event: Nadine Gordimer's 'The House Gun'" Journal of Southern African Studies 25, No. 4. December 1999, pp.633-44.
Mzamane, Mbulelo Vizikhungo. "From Resistance to Reconstruction: Culture And the New South Africa" ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 27: 1. January 1996, pp.11-18.
Ndebele, Njabulo S. Rediscovery of the Ordinary: Essays on South African Literature and Culture. Johannesburg: Congress of South African Writers, 1991.
Schulze-Engler, Frank. "Literature and Civil Society in South Africa" ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 27: 1. January 1996, pp.21-40.
Voss, A.E. "Reading and Writing in the New South Africa" Current Writing 4. 1992, pp.1-9.
Kristof Haavik is a Lecturer of French at the University of Botswana. He is the author of In Mortal Combat: The Conflict of Life and Death in Zola's Rougon-Macquart and Voix africaines: Introduction au français, a textbook that teaches French in the context of Francophone Africa. His present research is concerned with nineteenth-century French literature and African literature in both French and English.
|Paper presented at the African Studies Association of Australasia & the Pacific 22nd Annual & International Conference (Perth, 1999)|
New African Perspectives: Africa, Australasia, & the Wider World at the end of the twentieth century