Interrogations of guilt and amnesia in Mike Nicol?s The Ibis Tapestry, and Wall of Days by Alastair Bruce

05 Sep 2016

This article considers how The Ibis Tapestry by Mike Nicol (1998. New York: Alfred A. Knopf), and Alastair Bruce's Wall of Days (2010. Cape Town: Umuzi) explore the complex and possibly irresolvable relationship between individual and collective guilt, and associated tensions between public memory and denial. The discussion is theorised through Samantha Vice's treatment of the concept of ?whiteliness?, and the challenge it presents for moral being in the post-apartheid state (?How Do I Live in This Strange Place?? Journal of Social Philosophy, 41 (3): 323?342). Vice argues that instruments of reconciliation such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) have not resolved the moral problem of being a white person in post-apartheid South Africa as historic asymmetries of power or wealth remain in place. In The Ibis Tapestry, Nicol stages a mise en abyme of the (white) writer as a figure necessarily complicit in apartheid guilt, by virtue of his/her identity. In Wall of Days, Bruce describes the need of a former dictator to inscribe his misdeeds into the public memory of the society that, under duress of scarce resources, he once led into committing atrocities. The central crisis of the novel is the refusal of his society to admit that he ever existed; the narrative thereby becomes an allegory of public denial and political amnesia.