That Loose Canon: Rumours of South African Writing

12 Apr 2016

The case has been made that through the post-apartheid transition, notions such as ?South African literature? have come to outlive their usefulness. Transnationality, the global knowledge economy, and the influence of poststructural and postcolonial theory are cited as factors which have diminished the analytic worth of a nationally defined canon. Critics have also pointed to an emergent cultural heteroglossia associated with the loss of the anti-apartheid project. Since 1994, many literary and popular texts written within or about South Africa, or by South African authors, have explored a wide range of themes and genres, lending support to this view. I argue, however, that growing instability around matters of social justice will continue to impose itself on the attention of writers, and that the conventions of South African writing will be modified rather than abandoned. I argue further that a case can be made for a criticism that is cognisant of the conversation between local and global, but is equally cognisant of how the national space itself both concentrates and splinters the material with which it engages by more cross-cutting forms of theory. The argument is related to ?post-transition? narratives that show elements of continuity and rupture: Rumours (2013. Auckland Park: Jacana Media) by Mongane Wally Serote, Wall of Days (2012. Cape Town: Umuzi) by Alastair Bruce, The Smell of Apples (1995. London: Abacus) by Mark Behr and Bad Sex (2011. Johannesburg: Umuzi) by Leon de Kock.