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n Literator : Journal of Literary Criticism, Comparative Linguistics and Literary Studies - The many "faces" of history : Manly Pursuits and Op soek na generaal Mannetjies Mentz at the interface of confrontation and reconciliation
The many "faces" of history : Manly Pursuits and Op soek na generaal Mannetjies Mentz at the interface of confrontation and reconciliation
Several English and Afrikaans novels written during the nineties focus on confrontation with the past by exposing past injustices and undermining various myths and legends constructed in support of ideological beliefs. This commitment has gradually assumed the proportions of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A comparison of two recent novels dealing with events preceding and during the Anglo-Boer War, Manly Pursuits by Ann Harries and Op soek na generaal Mannetjies Mentz [In search of General Mannetjies Mentz] by Christoffel Coetzee provides an interesting angle to this debate. This article is an attempt to contextualise these novels within the larger framework of a contemporary South African reality; to acknowledge and reconcile, or assemble, disparate "faces" of a South African historical event at a specific moment in time. In Manly Pursuits, Ann Harries focuses on the arch imperialist, the "colossus of Africa", Cecil John Rhodes, to expose the machinations behind the scenes in the "take over" of southern Africa, while in the Afrikaans novel, Op soek na generaal Mannetjies Mentz, the General becomes the embodiment of collective guilt. Written within a postmodern paradigm, both texts problematize the relationship between history and fiction by revealing deviations from "historic data" suggesting alternate versions of such "documentation" and by juxtaposing the private lives of historical personages with their public images.
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