n Journal for Language Teaching = Ijenali Yekufundzisa Lulwimi = Tydskrif vir Taalonderrig - Deur 'n spieël in 'n raaisel : kennis van die self en die ander in deur Marlene van Niekerk

Volume 40, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0259-9570



<b>"But a poor reflection as in a mirror" : knowledge of the self and the other in Marlene van Niekerk's <i>Agaat</i></b> <br>The possibility to know the other (death as the ultimate other, others and the self as other) through language, is one of the central themes in Marlene van Niekerk's <I>Agaat</I> (2004). Milla's loss of speech, Agaat's initial inability to speak and the focus throughout the novel on narration, on the accounts given in language, as well as the very specific way in which language is used in the novel, indicate that language and the possibilities of knowing others through language, is important in the novel. It seems as if <i>Agaat</i> is permeated by the thought associated with the "linguistic turn", but the pure abstraction often associated with the linguistic turn is averted by the prominence of the embodied experience of disease and care for the sick, dying body. <br>The difficulty for one human to know another, to even argue with another seems to point at the impossibility of knowledge of the other. It seems as if it is impossible for one subject to know another as the other is always taken up in the subject's language. The only way in which another can be known, is as a character in the subject's narrative, but this implies that the other's otherness is lost - it is translated into the language of the self. In this article the possibilities of finding the other as other as suggested by the novel is examined. The central position of the mirror as a recurring metaphor in the novel invites a Lacanian approach.

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