n English in Africa - 'Embodying Space' : the search for a nurturing environment in Marlene van Niekerk's and

Volume 38, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



Marlene van Niekerk's novels have been the subject of much lively critical discussion in the South African literary community. She has been praised for - among other features - her inventive use of the Afrikaans language, disregard for taboos and the breaching of stylistic and literary boundaries. The existing literature on Van Niekerk has examined her novels in isolation (with the exception of Van Niekerk [2008] and Burger [2009]), and has highlighted the means by which she challenges the conventions of the Afrikaans canon, particularly the genre of the . However, there has been no extended comparative critical discussion of her oeuvre, nor has the importance that Van Niekerk accords the body been elucidated. This paper attempts to correct this critical occlusion by providing an analysis of her three novels (1999), (2006) and (2006) with a specific focus on the role of corporeality. The visceral descriptions of the body and embodiment in her fiction challenge conventional understandings of the relationship between corporeality and spatiality. In fact, I will propose that Van Niekerk's fiction charts a new vision of this relationship that needs to be considered within the wider context of philosophical and literary studies, and which would be diminished by merely examining it from the narrow perspective of 'writing back' to the . This study begins by describing the features of the , and then introduces Elizabeth Grosz's explanation of the embodiment of space (2001). Subsequently, a chronological analysis of the novels illuminates their innovative treatment of the relationship between corporeality and spatiality. The conclusion sketches a tentative theory of what I consider to be common to Van Niekerk's treatment of space in these three novels.

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