n Stilet : Tydskrif van die Afrikaanse Letterkundevereniging - “Die eensame buitevelde, ver van die magsentrums van die Afro-Nasionale Staat” : spanning tussen die lokale en globale in Marlene van Niekerk se Memorandum (2006)

Volume 29 Number 2
  • ISSN : 1013-4573


The figure of the heir, as conceptualised by Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida, is used to explore the tension between the global and the local in Marlene van Niekerk’s novel Memorandum (2006). It is argued that the figure of the heir is prominent throughout Van Niekerk’s oeuvre, but that Johannes Wiid, the main character in Memorandum, differs from his intertextual predecessors in substantial ways. He disregards the inheritance bequeathed to him by his father, and the intellectual and cultural traditions associated with his family inheritance. He prefers to see himself as the heir of a much broader community of artists and intellectuals, an alternative family which transcends linguistic and geographical boundaries and which is reminiscent of the Enlightenment ideal of a World Republic of Letters. However, even as the novel breaks with nation and family as frames of reference, questions are raised about cultural globalisation and the position of the Afrikaans writer in the transnational context of what has become known as World Literature. Memorandum is discussed as a novel in which the writer confronts and wrestles with her linguistic and cultural inheritance, but also reaffirms its value as source of creativity and meaning.

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