English in Africa - Volume 34, Issue 1, 2007
Volumes & issues
Volume 34, Issue 1, 2007
Author James CurreySource: English in Africa 34, pp 5 –20 (2007)More Less
James Currey was the editor in charge of the African Writers Series at Heinemann from 1967 to 1984. His colleagues were Aig Higo in Nigeria, Henry Chakava in Kenya and Keith Sambrook in London. Between them they published the first 270 titles in the Series. James Currey is working on a book to be called Africa Writes Back about the first quarter century of the African Writers Series. It will show how the Series attempted to reflect the way that writing was developing in different countries throughout the continent. He has been able to draw on the African Writers Series files which Heinemann has lodged with the University of Reading library in their renowned publishing archive. In his book he will also show the way that publishing relationships developed with certain authors. His book will include detailed accounts of working with the South African writers in exile Alex la Guma, Dennis Brutus and Mazisi Kunene. His account of the vivid correspondence with Bessie Head has recently been published in Wasafiri in London.
Author Mayte GomezSource: English in Africa 34, pp 21 –41 (2007)More Less
After Roy Campbell's death in Portugal in 1956, Alan Paton gave future students of the poet very sound advice: he warned us not to try to understand the man, not to look for consistency in his political statements or even in his outlook on life, for "[t]here was only one base to Campbell's philosophy and that was Campbell himself" (1984, 85). Campbell's work, life and politics are often so difficult to decipher in relation to one another that to follow Paton's advice seems to be the only sensible choice. For how can we possibly reconcile Campbell's liberal and anti-establishment views during the Voorslag years in South Africa with his political allegiances in Spain during the Civil War and into the 1940s and 1950s; his contempt for English society with his quasi-patriotic stand alongside Britain during World War II; his admiration for Franco and the Spanish National Movement with his active participation in the war against Hitler; or the latter with his defence of fascism as the most efficient of revolutions?
Author Michael GreenSource: English in Africa 34, pp 43 –57 (2007)More Less
"Sugar," writes Sidney W. Mintz in his marvellous anthropological archaeology, Sweetness and Power, "has been one of the massive demographic forces in world history" (1985, 71). This is because the system that proved the most effective means of producing cane sugar was the plantation. Although the plantation was dependent upon forced labour, the sites where this system best took root did not necessarily coincide with the best sources of labour. This was a major contributing factor to the massive demographic shifts propelled by the slave trade, but abolition only intensified the competition for labour in the world sugar market. Technological improvement took up some of the need for different means of production, but was only a limited alternative applicable primarily to the processing of sugar. What the planting and harvesting of the cane crop needed was more ingenious ways of recreating pre-emancipation labour conditions.
Source: English in Africa 34, pp 59 –77 (2007)More Less
As one whose research interests lie in the field of Romanticism, most specifically Wordsworth and Byron, I was obviously intrigued by J. M. Coetzee's use of these poets in Disgrace. Subsequent readings of the work have convinced me that more attention needs to be paid to the deeper implications of their presence in the text. Certainly many scholars have explored the significance of David Lurie's professional interest in the Romantic poets and the novel's imbeddedness in what Jane Taylor has referred to as "the European Enlightenment's legacy of the autonomy of the individual" as well as a specifically "eighteenth century model of philosophical sympathy" (1999, 25). Yet I feel that insufficient attention has been paid to the significance of Romanticism, the Wordsworthian and the Byronic in the novel. Generally, the commentary ranges from seeing Lurie's academic interests as symptomatic of his white colonialist mentality to a more nuanced but insufficiently developed focus on the possibilities lying behind Coetzee's startling juxtaposition of two of the most famed and yet most overtly antagonistic of the Romantic poets. Zoë Wicomb is representative of the first approach. In her estimation, Lurie may be rejected since he "looks to Europe as the centre of reference" and "our feelings and experiences of nature need not be structured by poetic discourses from the metropolis" (2000, 216).
Literature and salvation in Elizabeth Costello or how to refuse to be an author in eight or nine lessonsAuthor Michael S. KochinSource: English in Africa 34, pp 79 –95 (2007)More Less
What is an author? "The function of an author," Michel Foucault famously pronounced in 1969, "is to characterize the existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses within a society" (124). Foucault provides a template for inquiry into a certain period of literature, the age of the idealistic author. To understand that period, and whether or not we have moved on from it, we need to determine what social forms and institutions were necessary for the author-function to operate.
Author Gareth CornwellSource: English in Africa 34, pp 97 –114 (2007)More Less
The audience that turned out for Coetzee's Nobel Lecture in Stockholm in December 2003 must have wondered what on earth the new laureate thought he was doing. Instead of the customary distillation of a life lived for or through literature (in 1991 his countrywoman Nadine Gordimer had offered "Writing and Being"), Coetzee chose to read an odd little story ostensibly narrated by Robinson Crusoe - a character, as everyone knows, from a trilogy of novels published in the early eighteenth century. But those who had followed Coetzee's novelistic career might on reflection have recognized "He and His Man" as a reprise of some of the writer's most abiding concerns, most notably through its staging of a phenomenon that appears to be present - like a genetic defect, an original sin - in each and every act of writing and interpretation. Following Foucault and others, I have chosen to characterize this phenomenon as catachresis (Latin : abusio; English : "misuse"), although at times a variety of other terms - such as displacement, slippage, figuration, allegory - insist on their utility for accuracy's sake and will be employed. While it is true that this is by no means the first time that this aspect of language has been remarked, it is also true that, insofar as every instance of it is unique and not identical with any other, the term "catachresis" is itself a catachresis. Thus neither its staging in "He and His Man" nor the reader's response to it - although the latter is, in a sense to be elaborated below, essentially otiose - involve simple repetition.
'Translating' the Great Trek to the twentieth century : re-interpretations of the Afrikaner myth in three South African novelsAuthor Jochen PetzoldSource: English in Africa 34, pp 115 –131 (2007)More Less
The events that later became known as the Great Trek stand for a decisive phase in the colonial history of southern Africa, a phase that led to a substantial increase of the white presence in areas that were formerly controlled by blacks. Furthermore, the Trek has been presented as one of the cornerstones on which the Afrikaner 'nation' was erected, and it features prominently in the literature of South Africa, both in Afrikaans and English. In the following, I examine three English novels by South African authors which are - at least in part - concerned with 'translating' the Great Trek in two senses : they "interpret the significance of" the events, and they "move or carry [them] from one place or position to another" by recontextualizing them in the political situation that prevailed when they were written ("Translate"). As Edward Said has pointed out, literary texts are always "worldly" because they are influenced by the "circumstantial reality" of the time of their production (34). The three novels I discuss, Solomon Plaatje's Mhudi (1930), Peter Abrahams's Wild Conquest (1951) and André Brink's Imaginings of Sand (1996), translate the events of the 1830s into the temporal contexts of their production, that is, the early, middle and late twentieth century respectively. This act of translation results in statements about the relationships of 'white' and 'black' people of South Africa that gain in importance when related to the political debates current when the novels were written.
Source: English in Africa 34, pp 133 –153 (2007)More Less
Douglas Livingstone's poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Snake" is an artwork which addresses precisely these questions, seeking a manner of portraying the snake which is neither grossly appropriative nor wholly detached, neither ethically empty nor preachy. In its multi-angled structure, Livingstone attempts aesthetically "to establish and embellish ... a contact zone with the nonhuman animals who share our world with us, but accepting also that there exist considerable venues on either side of this contact zone that are, on the one hand, only human, and on the other hand, only nonhuman" (Malamud 2003, 45). Even in his more formally scientific work, Livingstone argues for the inevitability of such limits to knowledge, and for the value of the imagination in addressing them.
"What fashion of loving was she ever going to consider adequate?" Subverting the 'Love Story' in Ama Ata Aidoo's ChangesAuthor Waleska Saltori SimpsonSource: English in Africa 34, pp 155 –171 (2007)More Less
Ama Ata Aidoo is a celebrated writer and critic, as well as an African nationalist and feminist. This is a position she has defended in various articles and interviews, arguing that African feminism is an indigenous body of theory specific to the realities of African life. She has focused much of her work on the portrayal of African female identity in literature. Her writing has involved the reworking of previous, usually male-authored, literary stereotypes into believable characters, as well as an exploration of new, more complex roles for her female characters. Since this examination of gender roles moves beyond the traditional roles of 'mother' and 'wife,' it has a special bearing on modern African women faced with new questions of gender, power and identity.
Author Mike KissackSource: English in Africa 34, pp 173 –176 (2007)More Less
Edited by Guy Butler and N. W. Visser, and published for the first time in 1983 to commemorate the centenary of the publication of Olive Schreiner's The Story of an African Farm, these excerpts from the diaries of Olive Schreiner's husband, Samuel Cronwright, entitled Olive Schreiner : Her Reinterment on Buffelskop, were republished in 2005 to mark the 150th anniversary of Schreiner's death. The selection covers the brief, but momentous, days between 7 and 15 June 1921, when Cronwright travelled from Cape Town, where Olive had been buried in the Maitland cemetery on 12 December 1920, to Cradock to prepare for her reinterment on Buffelskop, a hill near Cradock on the top of which the two of them had stood shortly after their marriage in February 1894, and on which they had decided that they should be buried together. The collection includes Cronwright's diary entries for the period 8 - 29 August, during which time Olive's body was exhumed from the Maitland cemetery, and she, together with their baby, who had lived for only one day, and one of her favourite dogs, Nita, who had been killed in an accident, was transported by train to Cradock. All three were buried in a sarcophagus on the peak of Buffelskop on 13 August 1921.
Source: English in Africa 34, pp 177 –179 (2007)More Less
I have only seen one earlier collection of Morrissey's - his slim volume Seasons (1999). Therein he revealed his enjoyment and interest in haiku. Even the two longer poems in that volume were haiku-like, being brief self-contained stanzas grouped under a single title. His new volume, Dog Latin, consists of sixty short poems primarily concerned with man and nature. A number of these are haiku-like in their brevity ("Edgar on Inclusive Fitness," "Setting Ratbane," "Adam Again"), although they too often do not amount to more than post-it like notes. ("This habit / of holding habits to the wind / -me" is the sum total of the poem "Adam Again.") The epigraph to the whole collection is the final stanza of Robert Frost's "The Need of Being Versed in Country Things," which suggests both Morrissey's interest in the apparently unconsidered minutiae of natural objects and beings, and, it would seem, an admiration of Frost's deceptively plain, unmannered style.