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Title:Worn like an amulet: black exorcisms of whiteness in recent South African fiction
Author:Maithufi, Sope
Periodical:The English Academy Review (ISSN 1753-5360)
Geographic term:South Africa
literary criticism
About persons:Julian de Wette
ZoŽ Wicomb (1948-)ISNI
Abstract:This article considers black reflections on whiteness in some recent South African fiction, Julian de Wette's novel 'A Case of Knives' (2010. Cape Town: Umuzi) and ZoŽ Wicomb's 'Playing in the Light' (2006. Johannesburg: Umuzi). Central to these texts are elaborations on the idea of the quotidian. In these novels, everyday life appears through focalizing agents, which suggest how to intellectualize black people's dealings with the ethical dilemmas created by whiteness as a concept generated by apartheid's social engineering. The selected novels archive these accounts within the act of storytelling, especially as this is foregrounded in fantasy as a confidential 'return' to and an exorcizing of episodes of black depersonalization. Commenting on this type of reversion to the history of humiliation, the article relies on the image of the 'return to the harbour' - drawn from A Case of Knives.The suggestion is also that each relapse highlights 'fantasy' as ritual which manifests itself in those discourses in which black people are heard or seen, in private, revealing claims about how they outmanoeuvred whiteness. A Case of Knives depicts these tactics in tragi-comic tones inclining towards satirical representations of apartheid's delineation of whiteness. By contrast, Playing in the Light, which also reflects upon these machinations, explores in a nuanced way the sense of devastation that afflicts black people upon discovering the long-term consequences of European colonialism on black women and their nuclear families. Throughout this article, emphasis is placed on showing that, as seen through the ideas of the 'return' and of 'fantasy', the concept of ritual is fragile and paradoxical. This is because the selected novels intimate that ritual is destined to be retold in the terms that present blackness as a quintessential nervous condition. Bibliogr., sum. [Journal abstract]