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Title:'Tales of ordinary murder': intersections of 'whiteness', violence and belonging in Rian Malan's 'My Traitor's Heart' and Kevin Bloom's 'Ways of Staying'
Author:Scott, Claire
Periodical:The English Academy Review (ISSN 1753-5360)
Geographic term:South Africa
About persons:Kevin Bloom
Rian Malan (1954-)ISNI
Abstract:As part of a broader project that examines the construction and performance of 'whiteness' in literary narratives by South African journalists, this article explores the deployment of 'tales of ordinary murder' as a strategy to envision and contest ways of staying and ways of living in 'this strange place' South Africa. Both Rian Malan's 'My Traitor's Heart' (1991, London: Vintage) and Kevin Bloom's 'Ways of Staying' (2009, Johannesburg: Picador Africa) document a catalogue of murders as the authors engage with the broader themes of white South African identity and belonging. The article seeks to unpack the ways in which white identity is both constructed and performed in these moments of violence and, using Homi Bhabha's notion of the 'unhomely' (1992), suggest what these representations of whiteness might offer to an understanding of white South African narratives of identity. Mary West suggests that the concept of 'Be-longing' (2009), with its implied nostalgia and sense of lack, characterizes a white South African literary engagement that is self-consciously obsessed with the perceived threats to white South Africans and the apparently precarious position they occupy within the 'dark heart' of Africa. The article concludes by exploring whether Malan and Bloom are able to negotiate productive 'ways of staying' for white South Africans or whether their engagement with 'tales of ordinary murder' simply reinforces the notion of the 'un-belonging' of whiteness in Africa. Bibliogr., sum. [Journal abstract]