n English in Africa - Rape and the foundation of nations in J. M. Coetzee's

Volume 41, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



When J. M. Coetzee's last South African novel, , was published in 1999 (he emigrated to Australia two years later), it drew some very sharp responses. Max du Preez wrote in the (21 Jan. 2000): "[The] message of , crudely put, is that black South Africans are revengeful of whites; that whites are not welcome in Africa unless they pay for it every day; that black and white attitudes and lifestyles are incompatible" (cited in Kannemeyer 528). Athol Fugard was notoriously quoted in the London as believing that the novel was about "the rape of a white woman as a gesture to all of the evil we did in the past," an idea that he dismissed as "a load of bullshit" (cited in Attridge 164). One could go on, but what quickly became evident in the critical feeding frenzy that soon followed was that Coetzee's utilization of a stark realism - a new mode for him, tried out in his major fiction only once before, in parts of (1990) - as well as his invocation of a trope as sensationally shocking and topical as farm rape, and his evident concern with racial retribution, had made it very difficult for most readers to see beyond the features of politics and plot in the novel.

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