BLACK IN THE WHITE GAZE:
THE PRESENCE OF THE AFRICAN IN SOUTH AFRICAN
LITERARY TEXTS IN ENGLISH, 1883-1994
- 1. Evan Carton and Gerald Graff, "Criticism since 1940",
The Cambridge History of American Literature, general
editor Sacvan Bercovitch, vol. 8, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard
University Press, 1996, pp. 439 ff.
- 2. See Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture, London,
- 3. The question has been approached elsewhere; see
especially Emile Boonzaier, "L'eredità del razzismo: la
lezione dell'apartheid", cap.VII, pp. 231-266, in Itala Vivan,
ed., Il Nuovo Sudafrica dalle strettoie dell'apartheid alle
difficoltà della democrazia, Firenze, La Nuova Italia,
- 4. Rider Haggard, King Solomon's Mines, London
- 5. Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm,
London, Chapman Hall, 1883, under the pseudonym 'Ralph Iron'. The
Preface appeared in the second edition, and is quoted from the
Penguin edition, Harmondsworth, 1984, pp.27-28. All further
references are to this edition and are included in the
- 6. Nadine Gordimer, None to Accompany Me, London,
Bloomsbury, 1994. For a detailed analysis of the novel and its
significance in the career of the writer, see Itala Vivan,
Nadine Gordimer, Torino, Utet, 1995.
- 7. John M. Coetzee, White Writing. On the Culture of
Letters in South Africa, New Haven, Yale University Press, p.
65. For useful analyses of Schreiner's novel, see also Michael
Chapman, Southern African Literatures, London, Longman,
1996; and Itala Vivan, "The Treatment of Blacks in The Story of
an African Farm", in Itala Vivan, ed., The Flawed Diamond.
Essays on Olive Schreiner, Sydney/Aarhus/London,
Dangaroo Press, 1991, pp.95-106.
- 8. The word 'kaffir' (from the Arabic, = pagan, non
believer), which later took on a derogative value, at the time was
used to indicate black Africans in general; Bushmen and
Hottentots, terms that are now highly derogative, indicated
respectively the populations now defined as San and Khoikhoi,
following the rules of political correctness.
- 9. Olive was eighteen to twenty year old when she wrote the
novel, and twenty-eight when she published it.
- 10. A 'kopje' is a heap of stones, a little rocky hill in
the open karoo.
- 11. Her beloved dog.
- 12. See J. M.Coetzee, cit., "The Picturesque, the Sublime
and the South African Landscape", pp.36-63.
- 13. Jodocus Hondius, A Clear Description of the Cape of
Good Hope, translated by L. C. van Oordt, Cape Town, Van
Rieebeck Festival Book Exhibition Committee, 1952, pp. 26-28. The
hint at the strangeness of the language indicates that the people
observed here are Khoisan, whose non Bantu languages were based on
clicks. The description was originally compiled in 1652 for the
publishing house of Jodocus Hondius in Amsterdam, on the basis of
first hand reports by European travellers.
- 14. Christopher Fryke, visit to the Cape in 1685, reported
in R. Raven-Hart, Cape Good Hope 1652-1702: The First Fifty
Years of Dutch Colonisation as Seen by Callers, 2 vols, Cape
Town, Balkema, 1971, vol.2, p.259.
- 15. William Plomer, Turbott Wolfe, originally
published in 1926 by the Hogarth Press of Leonard and Virginia
Woolf in London. All future references to this book are from the
AD. Donker edition, Johannesburg 1980, ed. by Stephen Gray, which
also contains a useful survey of South African criticism to the
novel. Plomer, together with Laurens van der Post and Roy
Campbell, founded the literary journal Voorslag, which
shocked and upset the colonial society of the time. Also van der
Post and Campbell's writings would be interesting to analyse for
their perception of blacks.
- 16. Michael Chapman, op. cit., p.182.
- 17. In this context, one is reminded of the English
speaking South African poet Guy Butler who at a later time gave
voice to the difference felt by the colonial mind in Africa, not
yet 'absorbed' by a common language,
- "I have not found myself on Europe's maps
- I must go back to my five simple slaves
- To soil still savage, in a sense still pure:
- My loveless, shallow land of artless shapes
- Where no ghosts glamourize the recent graves
- And every thing in Space and Time just is:
- What similes can flash across those gaps
- Undramatized by sharp antithesis?" (from Home
- 18. Sarah Gertrude Millin, God's Step-Children,
London, Constable, 1924. The edition used here, from which all
future references are taken, appeared in Johannesburg with AD.
Donker in 1986, with an Introduction by Tony Voss,
- 19. John M. Coetzee, op. cit., 'Blood, Taint, Flaw,
Degeneration', p. 138.
- 20. Ibidem, p. 144.
- 21. Valentin Y. Mudimbe, The Invention of Africa.
Gnosis, Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge, Bloomington,
Indiana University Press, 1988, p. 17.
- 22. I was once told a story by the novelist Richard Rive,
who, being introduced to Millin as a young and promising writer ,
saw her frown and look puzzled (Richard was Coloured, but looked
rather like a very dark-skinned Indian), and heard her ask: 'And
you, my dear
, what are you?' 'I am one of your
step-children, Madam', Richard promptly replied.
- 23. Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country, London,
Jonathan Cape, 1948; all references here are to the Penguin
edition, Harmondsworth, 1977. The book has been fiercely attacked
by South African critics for its sentimentality, paternalism and
political naiveté: see Lewis Nkosi, Home, Exile, and
Other Selections, London, Longmans, 1965, and Stephen Watson,
"Cry, the Beloved Country and the Failure of the Liberal
Vision", English in Africa, 9, 1, May 1982. Of course by
1948 there were not a few works of fiction by black writers where
the presentation of blacks counteracted difference and
marginalization, by speaking out of a 'true' context: there were,
besides the works in African languages, those written in English
by Sol T. Plaatje (Mhudi, 1930), Peter Abrahams (Dark
Testament, 1942; Song of the City, 1945; Mine
- 24. If he were still alive, Paton would certainly be a
prominent figure within the Commission for Truth and
Reconciliation which is presently at work in South Africa, and
probably would transform it into a Commission for Downright
- 25. See the perceptive analysis of Paton's "phantom Zulu"
language in John M. Coetzee, op. cit., 'Simple Language,
Simple People: Smith, Paton, Mikro', pp. 115-136.
- 26. Ibidem, p. 128.
- 27. Nadine Gordimer, Face to Face, Johannesburg,
Silver Leaf, 1949; The Lying Days, London: Gollancz, 1953:
all future references to this novel are from the Virago edition,
London 1983. From the comparatively wide range of critical work on
this writer, I have used mainly I.Vivan, Nadine Gordimer,
cit., and Stephen Clingman, The Novels of Nadine Gordimer:
History from the Inside, Johannesburg, Ravan, 1986. I owe
Stephen Clingman the title I gave this section of my paper, from
S. Clingman, "Writing from a Fractured Society. The Case of Nadine
Gordimer", in Landeg White and Tim Couzens, eds., Literature
and Society in South Africa, Cape Town, Maskew Miller Longman,
1984, pp. 161-175.
- 28. Nadine Gordimer, A World of Strangers, London,
Gollancz, 1958. All future references to this novel are from the
Penguin edition, Harmondsworth, 1984.
- 29. Nadine Gordimer, The Late Bourgeois World,
London, Jonathan Cape, 1966. All future references to this novel
are from the Penguin edition, Harmondsworth, 1985.
- 30. Nadine Gordimer, "Living in the Interregnum", lecture
given in 1982 and included in The Essential Gesture: Writing,
Politics and Places, ed. S. Clingman, London, Jonathan Cape,
- 31. John M. Coetzee, Dusklands, Johannesburg, Ravan,
1974; all future references are from the edition London, Martin
Secker and Warburg, 1982.
- 32. John M. Coetzee, ed. by David Atwell, Introduction
to Doubling the Point: Essays and Interviews/John M. Coetzee,
Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1994; see also David
Atwell, John M. Coetzee: South Africa and The Politics
of Writing, Berkeley,The University of California Press, 1993,
and Rosemary Jane Jolly, Colonization, Violence and Narration
in White South African Writing: André Brink, Breyten
Breytenbach, and J. M. Coetzee, Athens, Ohio, Ohio University
- 33. Nadine Gordimer, None to Accompany Me, London,
- 34. William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale, II, i,
- 35. Mongane Wally Serote, "Dor Don M. - Banned", from
Tsetlo (1974), in Selected Poems, AD. Donker,
Johannesburg, 1982, p. 52.
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