Editorial

South African Writing at the Crossroads

in Critical Survey
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  • 1 University of Hertfordshire nahem.yousaf@ntu.ac.uk
  • 2 University of Hertfordshire

The stranger’s words addressed to the hero in J.M. Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K bring home in a very concrete way the relentless binarism not only of the apartheid order (revealingly figured in its truth as the disorder of civil war), but also of many Western forms of life and thinking: a typically high-modern technology sums up an epistemology no less typical. The train abolishes the age-old institution of the crossroads, the three- or four-way junction which puts before the traveller two or more options besides the one of retracing his steps back along the way he came. Daredevils who ‘ride staff’ on township trains may be rebellious terms in a system, but terms of that system they remain. Yesterday’s staffrider on the train of progress is today’s builder of his own locomotive. This is the logic whereby we have seen in South Africa rival nationalisms arising out of the early transcultural flux of Empire and then, at length, imposing their different inflections of the modern project upon the rest of their compatriots.

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