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Launch of Writing Home: Lweis Nkosi on South African Writing PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 29 May 2016 08:40

It has been some time coming but the day is finally almost upon us! Our Project leader, Prof. Lindy Stiebel, along with Prof. Michael Chapman, will be launching Writing Home: Lewis Nkosi on South African Writing.Nkosi's work has been out of print for many years and we are excited that his voice will be back in circulation.

Join us at Lewis' Shebeen (Ike's Books and Collectibles on Florida road) this coming Tuesday (31 May) at 5:30 to celebrate his legacy and the dedication of Prof. Stiebel and Prof. Chapman.

Jane Rosenthal Reviews JU Jacobs' Diaspora and Identity for Mail & Guardiian PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 28 May 2016 14:41

Mhudi, the baRolong woman who is the protagonist of Sol Plaatje’s novel Mhudi (written in 1917, published in 1930), is the first refugee, migrant and dispersed fictional person mentioned in JU Jacobs’s study, Diaspora and Identity in South African Fiction. The last fictional person to be examined is Winnie Mandela as a character in Njabulo Ndebele’s The Cry of Winnie Mandela (David Philip, 2003).

A century or so separates these diasporic characters and their displacement from home has more similarities than one would expect.

Although this is an academic text, it should appeal to anyone who has an interest in the complexities of who we are, the histories of how we got here and the expression of these in fiction and near-fictional biographies. Jacobs examines several such works to illuminate South African identities and to show how we, all of us, are the products of diaspora. It’s an exceptionally rich feast.

Jacobs, scholar and emeritus professor of English, takes the time to make clear the meanings of these words, identity and diaspora. Identity is expanded to include specifically post-colonial identities and he notes the formulations developed by South African academics to express the fluid, changing, marginal nature of post-colonial identity. These include “seam” and “mark of the suture” (Leon de Kock), “entanglement” (Sarah Nuttall), “complicity”(Mark Sanders) and “transitivity” (Steven Clingman).

We generally think of diaspora in its original meaning to refer to the dispersal of the Jews after Masada, and for African Americans and Caribbeans dispersed by slavery. Jacobs looks at the extended use of the term to include any mass migration and other displacements.

Read the rest of Rosenthal's detailed review over at the Mail & Guardian...


Review of The Dream House by Craig Higginson PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 14 April 2016 12:57

Review by Beverley Jane Cornelius

“This is a strange land we live in,” Looksmart says to Patricia in Craig Higginson’s novel, The Dream House.  The small farm in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands that they inhabit — a microcosm of the strange land in which they live — is particularly strange, especially on the night that Patricia and Looksmart reunite.

It is Patricia’s last night on the farm.  She has sold the land after decades of breeding ponies there and now, as an old woman, plans to relocate and to spend the remaining years of her life watching the ships in Durban’s bay from the verandah of the family home where her father used to drink his gin and tonic.  But on this final misty night, as she attempts to quietly pack up her memories, together with her belongings, Looksmart returns to unsettle everything Patricia thinks she remembers.

Patricia and Looksmart haven’t seen each other for twenty five years or more, not since he completed the private boarding school education that Patricia funded, and, although they have often thought of each over the years, the reunion is nothing that either would have expected.

Like the mist that is so prevalent in the KZN Midlands, the narrative reveals and hides, in turn, different aspects of their story.  The events of the night unfold from the perspective of five characters — Patricia, Richard, Beauty, Bheki, and Looksmart — who, also, each recount past events that gradually reveal the links and entanglements of their lives.

The novel has five parts and it is in this neat and overlapping narrative structure that Higginson’s ability as a playwright shines through.  The sections, or ‘acts’, are each rounded off so dramatically and skillfully that I imagined I could hear the stage curtain swish closed; while the authentic and plausible dialogue draws the focus in so tightly that it is as if a spotlight is shining on the characters.  Reading The Dream House, I was reminded of Chekhov’s play ‘The Cherry Orchard’.  I detected parallels in its depiction of Patricia as a woman reluctantly giving up a family farm in the midst of greater socio-political changes, and of all the characters grappling with their changing roles within society and their relationships with one other.

The dramatic qualities of the text are subtle, however, and serve as support for the interiority that the novel, as a literary form, allows, and which Higginson exploits with his multi-voiced approach.  These qualities, together with the poetic imagery and verisimilitude used to describe the surroundings, produce a novel that evokes an intense emotional response and raises questions about the wisdom of exploring the past.  Should we ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ or is it better to shoot them, as Patricia does, and bury them deep in the earth?  Can a trauma, experienced in the past, ever be resolved in the present?


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