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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Authority and invention in the fiction of Bessie Head
Author:Coundouriotis, EleniISNI
Periodical:Research in African Literatures
Geographic term:South Africa
About person:Bessie Amelia Head (1937-1986)ISNI
Abstract:In her fiction, the South African writer Bessie Head maps what the present author calls 'strategies of recuperation' where the sympathetic third-person narrator acts to counter the constricting and damaging effects of various authorities on the self. This article focuses primarily on 'A question of power' (1974) and 'Maru' (1991), two novels in which Head explicitly thematizes the relationship between authority and authorship. In 'A question of power', Head reinvents herself, an exiled coloured woman who has lived a marginal existence suffering from mental illness, as a narrator with sympathetic control over the subject of her story. Her explanation of the protagonist's (Elizabeth's) experience through the third-person narrator legitimize the activities of a creative self that invents in order to interpret and define experience. In 'Maru', Head pits the authority of a charismatic patriarch against the artist and her transcendent act of authorship. The protagonist's (Margaret's) paintings are more efficacious in facilitating social change because they help the characters in the novel imagine a future without discrimination. Bibliogr., notes, ref.