oa Alternation - Response and Responsibility in Phaswane Mpe's Welcome to Our Hillbrow

Volume 11, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1023-1757



Welcome to Our Hillbrow by Phaswane Mpe is a novel faced with the difficult task of both telling a specific story, and simultaneously making that a story of 'Our All' (Mpe 2001:104). Similarly the novel must register the loss of traditional notions of what constitutes a community, while engaging a new, humane community characterised by both hybridity and similarity. Moreover the many self-reflexive remarks within the novel have the unusual effect of implicating the reader in the story being told. In the following essay I will show that all of these supposed paradoxes' can be explained in terms of the complex use of the word 'our' and the second-person narration of the novel. I hope to argue that the consistent use of the pronouns 'our' and 'you' forms a quite unique response to Mikhail Bakhtin's linguistic and literary theories. To that end, it will be necessary to discuss certain key concepts in Bakhtin's work and finally, through close analysis of the text, to show that Welcome to Our Hillbrow is a novel that anticipates, from its readers, a responsible response.

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