The Afrikaner grotesque: Mediating between colonial self and colonised other in three Post-Apartheid South African novels

21 Jul 2016

In this paper I will discuss a literary trope that exemplifies the Manichean clarity to which Nixon refers, namely the figure of the oppressive Afrikaner. The term ?Afrikaner? historically describes white Afrikaans-speaking people, and has in the past been used interchangeably with the term ?Boer.? This literally means farmer, but metonymically extends to Afrikaners, who thus valorise their pastoral history.1 I do not refer below to real Afrikaansspeaking people, but to a mode of literary representation. The same cautions apply to my use of ?civilised? and ?savage,? which need not be taken at face value. The trope of the oppressive Afrikaner, strongly associated with apartheid, boasts a certain longevity. A number of 21st Century novels that employ such figures have been well received. These include The Madonna of Excelsior (2002) by Zakes Mda, Achmat Dangor?s Bitter Fruit (2001), The Good Doctor (2003) by Damon Galgut, and Karoo Boy (2004) by Troy Blacklaws. The first three of these have enjoyed substantial critical and scholarly attention, while Bitter Fruit and The Good Doctor were shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Although Blacklaws has not achieved such distinction, according to his South African publisher Russell Martin (personal communication), rights to Karoo Boy were acquired by American, British, Dutch and French publishers, and a film option was taken by the South African producer Anant Singh.