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Title:Anne Landsman's 'The Devil's Chimney': a magical realist narrative for a new nation?
Author:Nudelman, Jill
Periodical:The English Academy Review
Geographic term:South Africa
race relations
About person:Anne Landsman (1959-)ISNI
Abstract:In her novel, 'The Devil's Chimney' (1997), Anne Landsman deploys the genre of magical realism to rewrite the exclusive narratives of colonial and apartheid South Africa and present a more inclusive national narrative. She achieves this via Connie, the unreliable narrator, who imagines the story of Beatrice, a colonial Englishwoman living on a farm in the Karoo. Beatrice disrupts familial narratives through improper private acts that breach the bounds of her society. As characteristic of the genre, her identity is rendered fluid and ambiguous as she trespasses into the domains of empirebuilding, interracial sex and miscegenation. Beatrice's story is dependent on Nomsa, her domestic worker, whose representation as the extreme other is subverted when she reclaims what she believes is hers and gains restitution from the text. The denouement is unhappy for both characters, arguably reflecting a truth about the present - that socially constructed difference lives on. However, Connie's engagement with the past and its truths are valuable for the future and for nation-building. In imagining a past, Connie finds out truths about her own life. These equip her with the courage needed to survive in the new nation, which Connie tentatively rewrites as one that celebrates difference and accommodates diversity. Bibliogr., note, sum. [Journal abstract]