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Title:Geographies of the body: constructing memory through place in Shaun Johnson's 'The Native Commissioner' (2006) and Anne Landsman's 'The Rowing Lesson' (2007)
Author:Fincham, GailISNI
Periodical:The English Academy Review (ISSN 1753-5360)
Geographic term:South Africa
literary criticism
About persons:Shaun JohnsonISNI
Anne Landsman (1959-)ISNI
Abstract:This article investigates two recent South African novels which construct memory through narrative: Shaun Johnson's 'The Native Commissioner' (2006. Johannesburg: Penguin Books, South Africa) and Anne Landsman's 'The Rowing Lesson' (2007. Cape Town: Kwela Books). Both texts foreground the political contexts of culture and history, both see memory as belonging as much to the present and future as to the past, and both dramatize the role of imagination in addressing the trauma of loss. In both novels, place is crucially important, not as a simple geographical construct but as a reflection of biographical and cultural positioning. In Johnson's text the narrator's construction of his father's story is vividly coloured by George Jameson's empathetic identification with an Africa which apartheid will erase. Landsman's text offers Betsy Klein's imaginative projections of the Touw River in Wilderness, which are as much about her own childhood as about her domineering father. Memory, Johnson and Landsman show, cannot be confined to passive nostalgia for the past. It is centrally about the dynamics of knowing and learning from the past. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]