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Below are the 13 most recent journal entries recorded in South African Literature and Literary Arts' LiveJournal:

Friday, January 25th, 2008
1:17 pm
Hi! Do you keep a Reading or Book Live Journal? Would you like to meet other people who do, in order to make new LJ Friends, and discuss literature, or share common interests? Check out addmy_readinglj in order to do so! (:
Wednesday, October 11th, 2006
10:46 am
Hi. I'm working on a family tree of the Goss family. I know there are a lot of them. I can trace mine back to Michael Goss in the late 1700s. So if you're a Goss and in SA, we're probably related in some way.

If you are a Goss, or you know any, please contact me by commenting here. Thanks!

x-posted to as many SA communities as i could find... ;) Sorry if you got it a bunch of times...
Thursday, September 14th, 2006
11:44 am
Hi there, I was wondering if anyone has read JM Coetzee's Slow Man. I'm probably going to write my thesis on it, so I'd like to know what you all think of it.

I'm reading it at the moment, so I'll post some of my views on it later.
Wednesday, June 7th, 2006
5:34 pm
Just wondering if there's anyone out there?
Saturday, February 18th, 2006
11:42 am
Hi folks!

I'm Katie and a drama studies student in Canada. I signed up for a course in Post-Colonial drama this fall and as it turned out, this year's focus is on South Africa. It is in part my professor's sheer enthusiasm for the subject (she is South-African born, but despite living here, she still has everything she can to do with their theatre), but I have really enjoyed the course and plan on continuing to muck about in the country's literature after the course ends in the spring. We have done only plays, but some are adaptations from famous books, like "Cry, the Beloved Country". I'd really love to get my hands on the novel and compare it to the stage adaptation one of these days.

I've also really enjoyed Athol Fugard's plays (Especially "The Road to Mecca"), Gcina Mhlope's "Have You Seen Zandile?" and Pamela Guin's "The Syringa Tree", among many others. They haven't all grabbed me by the throat, but they were all good, solid plays. "Woza, Africa!" was another good one! And "Ubu and the Truth Commision", though having put on "Ubu Roi", from which it drew a lot of inspiration, provides a certain bias ^^* At any rate, I'm hoping dramatic texts aren't too far off the intent of this community, otherwise, I'll restrict myself to novels, short stories and the like. I'm glad to have another potential place to discuss South African works and a place to help find good ones once the course is over!
Tuesday, July 12th, 2005
1:53 pm
I also read a 'few' more books by Coetzee, since I'm supposed to be writing my thesis on him (I'm afraid the thesis is going to be a fiasco though).

At the moment I am reading The Master of Petersburg. It's quite interesting, and a more pleasant read than the autobiographical works I read last week. It's about Dostoevsky, who goes to St Petersburg when he gets the message that his stepson Pavel is dead. There he finds out that his stepson was involved with a group of Nechaevites who tell him that Pavel admired him but felt abandoned by him. They also tell him that Pavel was murdered, though the police told him it was suicide. I don't really have any ideas on the novel yet, although the group of Nechaevites reminds me of Gordimer's Burger's Daughter because of the individual vs. group issue. And of course to Dusklands because the narrator mentions that the propaganda doesn't work in Vietnam, since the Vietnamese don't see themselves as individuals but as part of a group. It also reminds me of Disgrace because Dostoevsky cheats on his wife, and talks a lot about desire and disgrace, and Dostoevsky also thinks what David Lurie said: that men with old, ugly bodies shouldn't force themselves on young girls.

This brings me to the autobiographical work, because in Youth the narrator sleeps with a lot of women too. He isn't old yet, but he does force himself on women. On girls actually, and he even gets one of them pregnant. It's not really rape, but like with David Lurie and Melani in Disgrace it is unwanted.

I read Dusklands a few weeks ago, but I didn't like it at all. I don't really know what to do with it, partly I think because I don't know anything about Vietnam. The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee was easier to understand for me, but it was very odd. I just got annoyed with the story because of all the stereotypes of the bad animal-like Hottentot and the story is also very slow. I just dislike it so much that it's difficult to look at it from an academic point of view.

Foe was also a bit of a disappointment. It's supposed to be one of the more important works by Coetzee, also because it's a turning point in his literary career: he shifts his attention to otherness outside South Africa, pays more attention to women and animals as Other. The most interesting issue in Foe I think is the relationship between women and writing: that men are visited by the Muse. The Muse is always female, there is no male Muse to visit women. I read a really interesting essay by Josephine Dodd "The South African Literary Establishment and the Textual Production of 'Woman'" (Critical Essays on J.M. Coetzee Ed. Sue Kossew, and contains at least four other essays to do with feminism) which ties in with this. I would certainly recommend it to people who are interested in this issue. I do think Dodd is a bit fanatical sometimes, and because of that makes some mistakes, but it's still quite useful.

So the list of SA lit I read:
Alan Paton: Cry, the Beloved Country
Bessie Head: A Question of Power
Nadine Gordimer: July's People and Burger's Daughter
Doris Lessing: The Grass is Singing
JM Coetzee: Dusklands, In the Heart of the Country, Life and Times of Michael K, Waiting for the Barbarians, Age of Iron, Boyhood, Youth, Foe, Disgrace and currently reading The Master of Petersburg.
1:51 pm
Hi, I wrote an essay on the position of Coetzee and Gordimer as white South Africans, which goes into the ways in which they resist complicity in their work and also discussing the role of feminism. Thought it might be interesting. If anyone wants to use part of my essay or wants a list of the sources I used, just email me. That goes for all the other things I've posted here, too.

White South Africans and ComplicityCollapse )
Thursday, March 3rd, 2005
10:15 pm
I finished July's People by Gordimer today, and it was a lot easier to read than Burger's Daughter. Less politics, more human interaction. I didn't really get the ending, though. Anyway, I think it's an interesting book. For people who don't know what it's about: it deals with the relationship between a family and their slave, July. The family has to flee Johannesburg because the blacks are killing the whites, and they go and live with July. They don't really think they were treating him as a slave, and although in some ways they have been taking really good care of him, they have not even bothered to ask his real name in all these years that he worked for them. Of course there are some problems when this rich white family has to live in a small village of mud huts, and July's wife and mother aren't too happy about them living there either.
Tuesday, March 1st, 2005
1:56 pm
I finally finished Burger's Daughter, and I can now confirm that I did not like it. The last part is very chaotic, I did not get why Rosa went back to South Africa, or why she ended up in prison. I don't really know what Gordimer's point is. Nothing really seems to happen. At first I thought Rosa was developing her personality, but then suddenly in the end the book only seems concerned with politics again.

I'll have to read July's People for class on friday. At least that's a lot shorter.
Sunday, February 27th, 2005
5:33 pm
I've started reading Burger's Daughter again, and I still think it's difficult to read. I'm now at page 187, so nearly at the end of part one. Dialogues are really confusing, sometimes you can't tell who's talking. I don't really know what to say on the novel. Don't really have any ideas on it. My teacher said something about Rosa wanting to go back to the imaginary order, and I found this passage where she is in bed with Baasie which also seems to illustrate this:
I was remembering a special, spreading warmth when Baasie had wet the bed in our sleep. In the morning the sheets were cold and smelly, I told tales to my mother -- Look what Baasie's done in his bed! -- but in the night I didn't know whether this warmth that took us back into the enveloping fluids of a host body came from him or me (137).

It seems like Rosa didn't develop a personality yet. She does what she was brought up to do, she does not rebel against her parents. "It was a contact visit? -- I fall back easily into the jargon of prison visiting. It will always come to me, the language I learnt as a child" (134). She also mentions that at some point she wanted to kill her father. She has relationships with men, but they are not really love affairs. She felt like Conrad was her brother and Conrad wanted to learn more about her father and her upbringing, she was Noel's contact person in prison, and the Swede wanted information about Lionel. Maybe she fell in love with Noel, but when he disappeared to Europe and got married she felt used.

Gordimer, Nadine. Burger's Daughter. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2000.
Sunday, February 20th, 2005
7:43 pm
I read In the Heart of the Country by J.M. Coetzee this week, and I thought it was pretty confusing. Initially I thought it was too confusing, but at a certain point it got a bit better and actually became really interesting. The book can be interpreted in many ways because it is so confusing. One cannot really tell what is 'fact' and what is fiction. The main character gives several versions of the same event and shows that she is an unreliable narrator by interpreting things incorrectly and contradicting herself.

It is unclear whether or not the main character, Magda, killed her father. She says she shot him, and buried him, but in the end she is feeding him. I got the impression that she did kill him, although my teacher did not think so.

It is also difficult to say what the story is about. My theory on that is that it is an allegory of colonialism, and a lot of critics seem to agree with that. Magda shoots her father because he has an affair with Anna, a servant, or at least that is what is suggested. She seems to be jealous, this is suggested in a scene where she thinks Anna and her father are having dinner when she is up in her room having a migraine (although there is no real evidence that this is the case, since she can only hear her father talking). There are two servants, Hendrik and Anna, who are married.

Magda feels very useless, she sees herself as a cleaning device or something. She is lonely. Her mother is dead, she does not have any brothers or sisters (she believes that they died, although there is no evidence for that). She hears voices, she imagines things. Her interpretations and the various accounts she gives of certain events seem to be a way to give meaning to her life: "I make it all up in order that it shall make me up" (79).

She tries to write her own story and calls herself "[a] woman determined to be the author of her own life" (68). My idea on this is that she does not succeed in this and that reality keeps pervading her narrative, that there is a case of trauma. There are several references to abuse and rape, Magda pays a lot of attention to her father's genitals when she has to wash his dead body, she also describes the penis of Hendrik, and pages 3-4 seem to point to incest: "Wooed when we were little by our masterful fathers, we are bitter vestals, spoiled for life. The childhood rape: someone should study the kernel of truth in this fancy." In the end she is also raped by Hendrik, and they end up having sex every night when Anna is sleeping. Magda has always felt like a hole that needed filling up, and she is looking for that in Hendrik, she is looking for someone to make her into a whole being, but it does not work. She does not like having sex with him.

Magda is trying to make peace with Hendrik but it does not work. This I think can be seen as a reference to colonialism. Magda cannot just ignore her position, cannot ignore the position of blacks in South Africa and just make everything alright because in the end Hendrik can not be equals with her. Hendrik has to flee for the police because he is afraid they will accuse him of the murder of Magda's father and thinks Magda betrayed him. Hendrik raping Magda can be seen as an attempt to attack the colonizer. Rape has always been important in colonisation because on a metaphorical level colonisation is more or less like rape, but women were also often raped by the colonisers so they would produce slaves. Magda also thinks it is not clear what her relationship to Anna and Hendrik is, she invites them into the house and tries to become friends with Anna.

The novel is concerned with language. Magda talks about meaning, about différance (although she does not use the word), there is a lot of self-reference, and there are some references to Lacan, e.g. "It is a world of words that creates a world of things" which is a quote from Lacan's Ecrits.
Wednesday, November 10th, 2004
2:14 pm
I've started reading Burger's Daughter by Nadine Gordimer. It looks interesting, but I think the dialogues are confusing. Gordimer introduces about thirty people in 40 pages, which makes it hard to remember who's who.
Wednesday, September 15th, 2004
3:33 pm
Hi, I'm Carmen, I'm 20 and I'm an MA student of Western Literature and Culture in The Netherlands (I have a BA in English). I'm planning on writing a thesis on South African literature. I don't know a lot about it yet, and I haven't read a lot of South African novels, but so far I find it interesting. So I joined this group to learn more basically.

Books I read up till now:

Alan Paton - Cry, the beloved country
Doris Lessing - The Grass is Singing
Coetzee - The Life and Times of Michael K
Coetzee - Disgrace
Bessie Head - A Question of Power

In a few months I'm going to do a course called Gordimer and Coetzee and I hope I'll enjoy it (I probably will).
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