n English in Africa - Olive Schreiner, , and childhood reading

Volume 42, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



, Olive Schreiner's first completed novel, was only published after her death. It tells the story of a South African-born woman, who grows up on a Karoo farm but has relatives in England. After a succession of traumatic relationships, she returns as a young widow to South Africa, and goes to work as an ironing-woman on the Diamond Fields. Having learned of the death of her first love, settled at New Rush with his wife and son, Undine steals into the tent where his body is awaiting burial and kisses him farewell. Within a short time Undine too is dead. A brief review is offered here of some earlier accounts of Schreiner's novel and of its place in the context of her oeuvre. The novel alludes richly to Schreiner's childhood and youthful reading: this essay concentrates especially on the possibility that she knew the German (1811) of Fouqué and goes on to explore some of the parallels between the two stories.

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