English in Africa - Volume 39, Issue 1, 2012
Volumes & issues
Volume 39, Issue 1, 2012
Author P.R. AndersonSource: English in Africa 39, pp 9 –20 (2012)More Less
Stephen Watson, who died in April last year, leaves an immediate impression on two generations of South African literary culture. His contributions as a poet and essayist cannot yet be disentangled from his force as a scholar, critic, teacher, mentor and arbiter. It is too soon to witness him in parts, in other words, and that, for as long as it lasts, is a happy thing. The reduction of a life into parts and reputations, into several, is one of the saddest of death's disintegrations.
Author Eckard SmutsSource: English in Africa 39, pp 21 –36 (2012)More Less
J. M. Coetzee's most recent publication in the field of autobiographical fiction, Summertime (2009), opens with a description of a politically motivated murder of South African citizens in Botswana. This murder, we are told, is one in a long chain of political crimes, reported "week after week" (4) by the press, along with denials by the apartheid government that it has anything to do with them. The effect of these reports on the protagonist, John, is to send him into helpless "fits of rage and despair" (5): they constitute a "moral dilemma" from which he can envision no escape (5).
Author Richard Alan NorthoverSource: English in Africa 39, pp 37 –55 (2012)More Less
The figure of Elizabeth Costello, Coetzee's fictional persona, has proven to be very controversial. Reviewers and critics of The Lives of Animals, Elizabeth Costello and Slow Man, and even characters within those works, have described her as irrational and confused, even mad. Both her audience in The Lives of Animals and reviewers of this work have found her attack on reason to be excessive and her Holocaust analogy offensive. Abraham Stern, a character in The Lives of Animals, an ageing Jewish poet and academic, is so offended that he withdraws in protest from the dinner in Costello's honour. Reviewers and critics like Douglas Cruikshank have considered her case for the sympathetic imagination to be inconclusive or unconvincing, with Cruikshank describing her as someone "who comes off as something of a pill, a piece of work, a monopolizer of oxygen and presumably no treat as a mother-in-law."
The public, the private and the power of love : decisive tensions in Michiel Heyns's The Children's DayAuthor Andries WesselsSource: English in Africa 39, pp 57 –72 (2012)More Less
In 1939, as Europe lay shadowed by the frightening reality of a militant Fascist totalitarianism and was about to enter a cataclysmic struggle for the survival of individual freedom, E. M. Forster published his famous essay "What I Believe," which opened with the significantly paradoxical statement: "I do not believe in Belief" (Forster 77). While, as David Medalie (38) has pointed out, Forster has often been hailed as a spokesman and defender of (the ideology of) liberal humanism, this striking opening statement in fact introduces not a defence of one ideology against another, but a scepticism towards ideology, a stand against any universalized public claim to social wisdom. Instead, Forster intimates, the individual practice of "[t]olerance, good temper and sympathy [...] are what really matters" (77). In 1941, as Britain girded itself with its own wartime propaganda, Forster would unapologetically reiterate (in a paper entitled "Tolerance"): "I have lost all faith in positive militant ideals; they can so seldom be carried out without thousands of human beings getting maimed or imprisoned" (57).
Sharing haunted spaces : the potential for change in Marlene van Niekerk's Agaat and There Was This Goat by Antjie Krog, Nosisi Mpolweni and Kopano RateleAuthor Eva HunterSource: English in Africa 39, pp 73 –90 (2012)More Less
In Entanglement: Literary and Cultural Reflections on Post-Apartheid (2009), Sarah Nuttall proposes a fresh way of approaching current South African cultural goods, including literature, a way that contains an element of healing for South Africa's damaged society. Nuttall argues for "a politics of the emergent in South Africa [that] looks [for] the potential, both latent and surfacing, for imminent change" (158). A key concept that Nuttall uses to control and sustain her argument is, as the title of her book announces, that of "entanglement."
Author Jessica MurraySource: English in Africa 39, pp 91 –107 (2012)More Less
This article explores the racial and gendered politics that shape contemporary understandings of beauty by considering how appearance features in the identity construction of Kopano Matlwa's characters in the novel Coconut. Feminist scholars have long argued that "physical appearance" carries more importance for women than for men (Hunter 188). This can be traced back to the familiar gendered dualism that associates women with their bodies and nature and men with the mind and culture. As in any binary opposition, one term is marginalized while the other is valorized. Women, with their bodies and assumed association with nature, are regarded with suspicion in a Western epistemological tradition that continues to assign disproportionate value to the mind, at the expense of the body. For a woman to be properly feminine, she must thus manipulate her appearance to conform to very specific ideals of beauty that flow from distrust of the female body in its natural state.
Author Sule EgyaSource: English in Africa 39, pp 109 –124 (2012)More Less
Emerging Nigerian writers, especially novelists, are inevitably saddled with the burden of history. Their engagements demonstrate the organic connection between art and history. History in this context is not the abstracted, academicized sphere that presents the problematic of historiography; it is a simple past, felt, lived, and shared by a people in a geographical mapping. It is the practical existence of a society peopled by, in Ngugi wa Thiong'o's words, "actual men and women and children, breathing, eating, crying, laughing, creating, dying, growing, struggling, organizing, [men and women and children] in history of which they are its products, its producers and its analysts" (477). The new Nigerian novel, as a body of responses to, or cultural struggles against, the diverse but interrelated situations of military oppression in Nigeria's recent past, is not, as Odia Ofeimun says of Invisible Chapters, "a historical novel [...] [but] a novel about history" (138).
Author Jack KearneySource: English in Africa 39, pp 125 –144 (2012)More Less
This discussion of the representation of child deprivation in contemporary African fiction involves the following three novels (in alphabetical order): Paradise (Abdulrazak Gurnah, Tanzania 1994), Purple Hibiscus (Chimamanda Adichie, Nigeria 2006), and The Rock Alphabet (Henrietta Rose-Innes, South Africa 2004). As the countries of origin of the selected writers indicate, I have sought to reflect the diversity of African cultures as far as possible.
Author Bridget GroganSource: English in Africa 39, pp 145 –149 (2012)More Less
David Whittaker's Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart is an edited collection commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Achebe's seminal postcolonial text. Arising from a conference held in London in October 2008, the book provides new discussions and interpretations of Achebe's famous novel; it is not a selection of criticism of the last fifty years, as the title may suggest.