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n English in Africa - Recognition: An Anthology of South African Short Stories, David Medalie (Ed.) - review

Volume 45 Number 2
  • ISSN : 0376-8902
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Abstract

It is often asserted that the short story has been the genre in which South African writers have demonstrated their prowess more consistently than in any other. It is also the genre in which black writers were first able to exercise their creativity and stake their claims for literary validation. This has long since ceased to be a predominant concern and several collections and anthologies of short stories published over the years have resulted in what could be termed a ‘re-canonisation’ of short fiction. This is no less true of Medalie’s latest anthology which includes a selection of twenty-two stories ranging from relatively ubiquitous ones, such as Pauline Smith’s “The Schoolmaster” and Can Themba’s “Kwashiorkor”, to more contemporary stories such as Kobus Moolman’s “Like Father, Like Son” and Nadia Davids’ “The Visit”. In his comprehensive “Introduction”, Medalie sets out the rationale for the title and how the idea of “recognition” or acknowledgment of the other is a discernible trace which is embedded within all the stories in the anthology. It is also the title of Medalie’s own story which, in summary, involves the narrative of the wife of a former Prime Minister who is invited to a special event hosted by the country’s new President. The allusions to recent political developments in the country are relatively transparent, as the woman reflects upon her place in a society undergoing a significant degree of change. In an interaction with a figure she views as resistant to any form of approach, she suggests that the event they have both been invited to attend was meant as a way of making “peace with the past” and of recognising “our common humanity” (190). In expounding upon this appreciation of the human other as the recurring refrain or motif in this selection of stories, Medalie states that such interactions involve the “acknowledgement of commonality, of mutuality, but also the respectful awareness of difference and ‘otherness’” (3). These are certainly significant aspects of several if not all of the stories in this anthology but it is probably not a remarkably original insight if the suggestion is that the short story as genre, by the nature of its distinct form, encourages an examination of the singular and intimate encounter as a stock plot arrangement.

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/content/journal/10520/EJC-1061e51a27
2018-08-01
2019-07-21

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