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date: 22 May 2018

Continuity and Change in Postapartheid Fiction

Summary and Keywords

What language is adequate to describe the coming into being of the new South Africa? What literary forms does newness take? What promises does the new “postapartheid fiction” deliver (or fail to deliver)? For many observers, the May 10, 1994, inauguration of Nelson Mandela as the first democratically elected president of South Africa captured the optimism of the political settlement that ended apartheid. Writers finally seemed able to suspend the imperatives of a literary culture oriented primarily toward political struggle. Yet while regime change informs “postapartheid fiction” in the literal sense of the term, literary and political periodization do not wholly coincide. The divisive legacies of racism are not easily dismissed. This understanding informs a category of writing often called “transitional literature” that emerges in tandem with South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC, 1996–1998) as the site where the new nation comes into being. Often autobiographical or confessional in tone, it remains bound up with the country’s racist past. Transitional literature thus points toward the ambivalent nature of the “post” in “postapartheid fiction,” which scholars argue functions here much like it does in the term “postcolonial.” Both prioritize the continued unfolding of a long historical sequence rather than a punctual transition that abrogates the reckoning with the past.

“Post-transitional literature,” in turn, includes fiction dating from roughly the second decade after the beginning of the political transition. A layered engagement with earlier writing and with the immediate past preserves the porous negotiation of temporality already at work in transitional literature. However, black writers in particular have stressed that the continuities between the apartheid regime and its democratic successor pertain less to the intertwining of temporalities than to political economy—given the nature of inequality in South Africa where class remains tightly bound up with race.

Postapartheid fiction is not merely the preserve of continuity, however. In South Africa, the preoccupation with race has given way to other vectors of subjectivity involving gender, sexual orientation, class, ethnicity, youth culture, and autochthony or foreignness, as well as their intersections. New concerns focused on gay and lesbian subjectivities, HIV/AIDS, or on the possibilities of conflict and conviviality opened up by the desegregated and increasingly cosmopolitan character of urban spaces, have accompanied a changing literary market. Newness proliferates through the devices of creative nonfiction, eco-fiction, and genre fiction. Crime fiction has become more popular. Partly serving as the index of social disorder in South Africa and partly as the arena where this disorder is worked through in fictional form, crime fiction tacitly offers the prospect of redress—however remote. Speculative fiction similarly pits utopian aspirations against dystopian skepticism, in dialogue with Afrofuturism elsewhere on the continent. Intra-African lines of influence, and indeed of migration, announce new pathways for literary expression in English. Afrikaans literature has similarly come to assimilate transnational and diasporic motifs. Using the idea of “postapartheid fiction” to convey the exceptionalism—rather than distinctiveness—of contemporary South African writing may thus have run its course. This is itself a telling marker of how far South African literature has come since the fall of the apartheid regime.

Keywords: South African literature, race, apartheid, postapartheid fiction, transitional literature, post-transitional literature, national narrative, Nelson Mandela, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), exceptionalism

“History Waits Like a Big, Smart Car”: South African Fiction in Transition

“We all know where South Africa is, but we do not yet know what it is,” the exiled African National Congress activist Albie Sachs would announce on the very cusp of the political transition to democracy in South Africa in anticipation of a newness intuited rather than fully disclosed.1 Sachs argued that politically engaged South African cultural production was no longer adequately served by the “solemn formulas of commitment” that had formerly bound expressive culture to the priorities of the political struggle.2 His intervention captures the understanding that the valence attaching to the nation itself, its capacity to introduce new forms of solidarity and belonging, as well as to induce new registers of meaning and affect, needed to be created and not merely retrieved. Predictably, Sachs’s intervention unleashed vigorous debate among opponents and supporters alike.3 Leon de Kock and Ian Tromp’s 1996 poetry anthology The Heart in Exile: South African Poetry in English, 1990-1995, an early publication characteristic of the period, staged its editors’ reflections on the “freer, more capacious expressive environment” that Sachs’s piece seemed to initiate and that would shortly be manifested in a wave of magic realist texts in South African fiction. De Kock and Tromp’s intervention was attuned to poetry as the vehicle of precisely that capacity required to “speak through” the “shared experience of division” that they understood South Africans to hold in common as a consequence of apartheid.4 Together with much contemporary fiction, the compilation expressed a mood of confidence that Nelson Mandela’s release would configure new ways of belonging within the South African national narrative.

De Kock and Tromp preface their collection with two poems that speak directly to Mandela as the embodiment of political aspirations for a fully democratic South Africa. Bongani Sitole’s praise poem to Mandela “Hail, Dalibunga!” is juxtaposed with expatriate South African poet Denis Hirson’s autobiographical prose-poem “The Long-Distance South Africa.”5 Sithole’s isiXhosa performance in honor of Mandela indexes the cultural institutions of an indigenous orature at the same time as its remediation (as text) and translation (into English) together reference the decidedly uneven history of English-language print-culture that shapes the evolution of South African literature.6 Hirson, for his part, captures the moment of Mandela’s release particularly vividly: “There are only a few yards to go now, the ground widens/under his feet. It is February 11th, 1990. History waits for/him like a big smart car and he gets in.”7 The text offers an account of political commitment where suffering vies with redemption—for Mandela certainly but also for Hirson’s father Baruch, who was imprisoned by the apartheid regime and ultimately exiled.

The various photographic images and televised relays of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison on February 11, 1990, rapidly entered collective memory for both local and global constituencies. Mandela emerges into the visual frame in Hirson’s text as the very figure of metonymy: “One more news programme and Mandela comes walking, behind him the unsealed door of an entire country.”8 In its original context, this footage of Mandela’s release held out a vision of semiotic as well as of political reintegration since Mandela could finally be contemplated in person: his voice, image, and writing no longer banned for circulation by the apartheid regime.9 Fully alive to the potential of the moment, Hirson finds himself riveted to the relay of images emanating from South Africa: “One long ocean away I watch it happen. . . . I switch channels following the man/to the car again and again.”10 However, when these lines are re-read following Mandela’s death on December 5, 2013, the prose-poem seems retroactively to encode the possibility of loss. A spectral aura is made manifest insofar as the footage repeated across channels seems to anticipate its own reemergence in the global media following Mandela’s passing. The repetitions that loop and spool around the singular moment of Mandela’s release function in retrospect in a manner that is analogous to the photographic “punctum” in Roland Barthes’s sense: that which pierces the visual field bringing intimations of mortality in its wake.11 These two moments—Mandela ascendant, Mandela in death—provide partial coordinates for the social and political history that is refracted by postapartheid fiction. However, postapartheid fiction is also concerned with the erosion of some of the redemptive narratives that adhered to the figure of South Africa’s first democratically elected president. It is telling that Andrew van der Vlies structures his account of postapartheid writing around “stasis, banality, disappointment” as residues of those dimensions of the South African political transition that have betrayed rather than fulfilled its initial promise.12 Given the unstable nature of the term “postapartheid,” the present survey offers various points of entry into a corpus that is still very much in a process of unfolding—without for a moment mistaking the selection of fiction it offers for a canon.

Habitations of Change: Home and Embodiment in Early Postapartheid Fiction

The established South African playwright Zakes Mda’s first novel, Ways of Dying (1995), represents a particularly flamboyant departure from those “solemn formulas of commitment” that bound oppositional South African fiction to realist fictional codes of representation over the course of the struggle against apartheid.13 The novel plays out against the backdrop of the massive violence that preceded the first democratic elections in South Africa: a violence typically elided in mainstream accounts of negotiated transition in the country.14 Mda uses his protagonist Toloki to mediate between the urban and the rural, the comic and the tragic, and life and death. For all that the homeless and itinerant Toloki is a figure of parody and of the grotesque, his self-ascribed status as professional mourner is crucial to Mda’s exploration of the political violence that etched manifold “ways of dying” into the South African social landscape. Yet the novel offers notes of consolation all the same. In one of its most memorable scenes, Mda describes how Toloki plasters the interior of his “home-girl” Noria’s shack with “pictures of ideal gardens and houses and swimming pools, all from the Home and Garden magazines.”15 This “wallpaper of sheer luxury” stands in for the couple’s aspirations: Toloki takes Noria’s hand and “strolls with her through this grandeur” in what is typically read as a gesture of magic realism on Mda’s part.16

The novel shares the turn to magic realism with other works that emerged at this time including Achmat Dangor’s parable Kafka’s Curse (1997) with its provocative exploration of racial passing; Anne Landsman’s The Devil’s Chimney (1998), Etienne van Heerden’s The Long Silence of Mario Salviati (Afrikaans, Die Swyve van Mario Salviati, 2002), and Mda’s slightly later work, The Heart of Redness (2000). These works deftly juxtapose earlier periods in South African history with the transitional moment. For the critic Rita Barnard, however, the importance of Mda’s sequence lies not with its magic realism but with the manner in which Mda’s protagonists imaginatively explore and lay claim to “places far beyond the confines of the tiny dwelling, which offers but fragile shelter in the unpredictable terrain of a South African shack settlement.”17

Dwellings, as well as the domesticity they are conventionally held to protect, are seen to be radically vulnerable across a range of emplacements in early postapartheid fiction in South Africa. This unsettling vulnerability extends well beyond the shack settlement. Four years into democracy, Nadine Gordimer’s tellingly titled novel The House Gun (1998) uses the representation of a crime of passion—an act of murder precipitated by a bisexual love triangle—to render white liberal privilege precarious.18 Two earlier novels originally published in Afrikaans deploy the tropes of a domesticity contaminated through incest, rape, or child rape to allegorize Afrikaner nationalism. Mark Behr’s Smell of Apples (1995) (Afrikaans, Reuk van Appels, 1993) interweaves the depiction of the childhood of Marnus, the son of a general in the South African army, with later fragments in which Marnus is depicted fighting on behalf of the apartheid state in Angola.19 Behr’s depiction of the Afrikaner father’s rape of his son’s friend finds parallels in Marlene van Niekerk’s Triomf (1999) (Afrikaans, Triomf, 1995). Her searing deconstruction of Afrikaner patriarchy similarly relies on a narrative rife with invocations of incest and rape. The Benade family represents the “inbred triumph of Afrikaner nationalism,” writer-critic Michiel Heyns has observed.20 The novel is set in Triomf—the suburb erected by the apartheid regime on the ruins of the black neighborhood of Sophiatown: the neighborhood’s residents were evicted at gunpoint in one of the founding interventions of the apartheid regime. Marlene van Niekerk’s use of motifs of sexual violence works in tandem with her depictions of a type of spatial “uncanny” in scenes where the material residues of Sophiatown’s former inhabitants refuse to stay buried.21

Rape figures prominently in fiction of the transition to democracy in South Africa, although the meaning of the link between gendered and political violence in a country that still manifests an inordinately high incidence of rape is deeply contested. Meg Samuelson points out that transitional fiction distorts understandings of rape in postapartheid society, “relentlessly [inserting] race into the scene of rape by focusing almost exclusively on interracial rape.”22 J. M. Coetzee’s 1999 Disgrace, a controversial postapartheid instance of what Peter McDonald terms “the colonial nightmare topos,” is paradigmatic of this tendency.23 The novel’s “diptych structure” juxtaposes two constellations of sexual relations, as Samuelson observes.24 David Lurie, its protagonist, is a white professor of literature. The novel opens with the depiction of his relations with Soraya, a sex worker of Asian descent, followed by an account of his liaisons with his colored student Melanie Isaacs: “not rape, not quite that, but undesired nevertheless, undesired to the core” says the novel of one of these encounters.25 David Lurie’s relationships are set against the gang rape of his lesbian daughter Lucy by three young black men on her farm in the Eastern Cape. This is where Lurie has sought refuge in the wake of the sexual harassment charges that have been brought against him.

The plot of Disgrace was immediately controversial. The novel’s inscription of sexual violence on the body of the white South African woman led to its being interpreted by some constituencies as advocating practices of white self-abasement in postapartheid South Africa.26 It is significant that Disgrace emerged into the South African public sphere against the backdrop of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Lucy Lurie’s refusal to disclose her rape to the police in Disgrace, the interpretative conundrum of the novel for many readers, stands in stark opposition to the culturally valorized practices of confession and disclosure that the commission promoted.27 There was more at stake than this, however. In April 2000, the ruling African National Congress submitted Disgrace to the South African Human Rights Commission’s Inquiry into Racism in the Media, imputing racism to Coetzee’s depiction of his black characters. The novel thus came to trail what Peter D. McDonald has called “disgrace effects” in its wake—powerful social reverberations that exceeded the purely literary sphere.28

The preoccupation with the violation of the white woman in Disgrace may be contrasted with critical responses to the rape of the colored woman in Zoë Wicomb’s David’s Story (2000) and Achmat Dangor’s Bitter Fruit (2001), respectively, both of which also engage with South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Yet another work dating from this period, K. Sello Duiker’s The Quiet Violence of Dreams (2001), depicts male rape within a narrative that explores masculinity and same-sex desire in postapartheid South Africa—without, however, succumbing to what Lucy Graham terms “homophobic hysteria” or the “myth that [male rape] is a crime perpetrated by gay men.”29 “I think they do rape,” says Coetzee’s Lucy Lurie of her assailants.30 Contemporary South African fiction continues to disaggregate our understanding of what it means to “do rape” in South Africa. Kopano Matlwa’s recent work Period Pain (2016) pivots on the lesbophobic gang rape of a woman doctor in a context that also engages with anti-foreigner violence. It is sobering to reflect on the continuing use of representations of rape as a device for articulating relations between the individual body and the body public in postapartheid fiction. “In a society that lives under constant threat to the sexed body,” Sarah Nuttall observed of postapartheid South Africa in her 2009 volume Entanglement: Literary and Cultural Reflections on Post-apartheid, “it is difficult to build a civil society.”31 That difficulty, Matlwa pointedly reminds us, persists.

“Where Truth is Closest”: Depicting South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Coetzee’s Disgrace, Dangor’s Bitter Fruit, and Wicomb’s David’s Story all attest to the importance of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for postapartheid fiction. The TRC came into being to grant amnesty to politically motivated perpetrators of gross human rights violations across the political spectrum in South Africa in return for the full disclosure of their offenses.32 Since the TRC was mandated to afford victims of violation the opportunity to relate their suffering as part of the vision of national reconciliation, about 10 percent of approximately 21,000 survivors of human rights abuses who sought an audience before the TRC were called upon to testify in public hearings held throughout South Africa.33 Neither a court, nor a confessional (nor even theatrical stage), the public hearing appeared at times to combine elements of all three, accruing in the process its own distinctive forms of performativity.34 These repertoires of performativity quickly migrated beyond the institutional setting of the TRC, reemerging in the public sphere as powerful works of theater, for instance. Personal experience authorizes theatrical representation in the 1997 piece The Story I Am About to Tell by Duma Kumalo with the direct involvement of members of the Khulumani Support Group for victims of human rights abuses under apartheid, as well as in John Kani’s first solo-authored play Nothing but the Truth (2001) that responds in part to the death of his brother Xolile Kani at the hands of the apartheid police in 1985. Verbatim testimony, and thus the authority of the eyewitness, is also retained in Jane Taylor’s Ubu and the Truth Commission (1998) directed by artist William Kentridge and produced by the Handspring Puppet Theatre Company. Here the use of witness-puppets to give voice to traumatic personal experience defamiliarizes mimetic performance conventions in a manner that responds to the ethical complexity of reenacting or representing violation—a dominant preoccupation in literary scholarship on the representation of mass political violence or genocide across a range of contexts. The witness-puppet stands as the theatrical equivalent of the metafictional interrogation of traumatic representation that surfaces in a number of major literary works of the period.35

Antjie Krog’s Country of My Skull combined daybook, novel, poetry anthology, transcript of the TRC hearings, and memoir; it has been the object of both admiration and disapprobation in this context. Krog, a well-known Afrikaans poet, produced the volume after serving as a radio journalist covering the TRC. Krog’s text begins with the acknowledgement of personal complicity. Its dedication, “for every victim/who had an Afrikaner surname on her lips,” partakes of the confessional orientation that many critics see as the definitive characteristic of fiction unfolding against the backdrop of the TRC.36 At the same time, the generic stability of confession in the work is problematized by the multiplicity of genres that Krog incorporates within her text, including a fictive account of an adulterous liaison that disrupts the memoir’s fundamental commitment to veracity.37 For some commentators, the instability of authorship is itself cause for concern.38 Where Krog more consciously engages in metafictional or metalinguistic strategies, however, her writing recalls the disaggregation of “truth” performed by the TRC itself. The final report of the TRC complicates the notion of truth by differentiating between four kinds of truth.39 Krog, for her part, comments freely on its compromised status: “The word ‘Truth’ makes me uncomfortable. . . . Even when I type it, it ends up as either turth or trth. I have never bedded that word in a poem. I prefer the word ‘lie.’ The moment the lie raises its head, I smell blood. Because it is there where truth is closest.”40

What is at stake in much of the literature that emerges in response to the TRC is the signifying capacity of language itself in the aftermath of trauma. One of the entries in Ingrid de Kok’s poetic cycle dealing with the TRC begins by observing that “Some stories don’t want to be told./They walk away carrying their suitcases/held together with grey string.”41 While the possibility of redress—the possibility of a particularly poetic justice—animates de Kok’s corpus, she joins writers of fiction, as well as public intellectuals, in criticizing the TRC’s privileging of the healing capacity of truth. In a poem entitled simply “At the Commission,” de Kok asks skeptically: “Would it matter to know/the detail called truth/since, fast forwarded,/the ending is the same over and over?”42 A comparable skepticism emerges from a major fictional text of the period, Zoë Wicomb’s David Story. David’s deformation, and attempted declension, of the word “truth” (“trurt, oh trurt, of the trurt, to the trurt, trurt, by, with, from the trurt”) obliquely intersects Krog’s earlier text.43 The instability of the word is consonant with Wicomb’s refusal to provide narrative closure with respect to the enigmatic figure of Dulcie in her novel: a former African National Congress cadre who the text implies, has endured rape and torture at the hands of her comrades in Angola. Reflections on the forms of suffering endured by women during the apartheid regime, often prematurely condensed by the TRC under the sign of rape,44 are at the heart of Njabulo Ndebele’s meditation on political widowhood in The Cry of Winnie Mandela (2003). This audaciously metafictional work brings Homer’s Penelope into contact with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and the four black South African women who are Madikizela-Mandela’s interlocutors. Ndebele’s concern with the suffering of “ordinary” South African women—“ordinary” being a key word in his poetics and literary criticism45—is used differently in the creative nonfiction work There Was This Goat: Investigating the Truth Commission Testimony of Notrose Nobomvu Konile (2009) co-authored by Antjie Krog, linguist Nosisi Mpolweni, and psychologist Kopano Ratele. Their reconstruction of the seemingly “incomprehensible” testimony of the mother of a murdered ANC activist, Mrs. Notrose Nobomvu Konile, places her within a rural lifeworld and returns her testimony to the isiXhosa of its original enactment. In so doing, the collaboration stages questions concerning justice, the “accommodation of ‘strangeness,’” hospitality, and translation that resonate elsewhere in the critical corpus on literature of the TRC.46

The City in Postapartheid Fiction

It is not surprising that the bitter legacies of apartheid addressed by the TRC would imbue South African literature and culture more broadly speaking with “a collective sense of loss, mourning and elegy, as well as a sense of disorientation amid rapid changes in the physical and social landscape” as Shane Graham puts it.47 Graham’s volume South African Literature after the Truth Commission: Mapping Loss itself pivots on a literal sense of “mapping” or cartography given that the transition to democracy in South Africa is nowhere more palpable than in the transformation of its cities. Apartheid severely restricted black access to the white urban centers of South Africa. As urban segregation crumbled, writers began to reappraise the contours of city spaces that seemed at once both malleable and intractable. At times in this extensive body of writing, the city approaches the status of protagonist in its own right, as is the case with two works in the genre of creative nonfiction: Ivan Vladislavić’s Portrait with Keys: Joburg & What-What (2006) and Mark Gevisser’s Lost and Found in Johannesburg: A Memoir (2014). “There is always a corner of optimism in Johannesburg, the promise of vitality, the prospector’s dream,” says Gevisser.48 Vladislavić has mined Johannesburg’s optimism but also its ennui and despair in the postapartheid period in such notable interventions as The Restless Supermarket (2001), The Exploded View (2004), as well as in a collaboration with the acclaimed photographer David Goldblatt: this collaboration saw the joint publication of Vladislavić’s novel Double Negative (2010) together with Goldblatt’s compilation of photographs, TJ (2010).

Writing specifically of The Exploded View, Stefan Helgesson observes: “The urban landscape of these narratives is called ‘Johannesburg’ and the metropolis riven by these antinomies is not just ‘a’ metropolis, but . . . an African metropolis marked by the simultaneous reification and displacement of the signifier ‘African.’”49 Sarah Nuttall expands our understanding of this fraught urbanity through exploring the infrastructures of South African urban fiction. “These infrastrucures,” she writes, “include the street, the café, the suburb and the campus—assemblages of citiness in which fictional life worlds intersect with the actual, material rebuilding of the post-apartheid city.”50 The intersection of fictional life worlds with the materiality of the city is evident in Phaswane Mpe’s Welcome to Our Hillbrow (2001), set in Johannesburg’s inner-city quarter of Hillbrow after the transition to democracy. The novel is emblematic of what Neville Hoad calls “an insurgent and rooted, yet open cosmopolitanism” that is one index of the changed social fabric of Johannesburg. Yet the novel is also powerfully elegiac, Hoad emphasizes, in the face of the extensive HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa.51 “Underlying the melodrama of [Mpe’s] narrative,” Hoad observes “are the pressing preoccupations of contemporary South Africa—xenophobia, AIDS, witchcraft, crime, urbanization, democracy—all presented in the lives and stories of the denizens of our Hillbrow.”52

Like other protagonists across a range of city settings in K. Sello Duiker’s Thirteen Cents (2000) and The Quiet Violence of Dreams (2001), Niq Mhlongo’s Dog Eat Dog (2004) or Kgebetli Moele’s Room 207 (2006), Mpe’s characters restlessly interrogate the new possibilities of black urban life but also their glaring limitations. “Room 207,” Kerry Bystrom observes of Moele’s text, “is not a novel about success in overcoming the legacies of apartheid.”53 The book has been termed a “proletarian novel”—an appellation also well suited to Sifizo Mzobe’s Young Blood (2010), set largely in the township of Umlazi outside Durban.54 Mzobe’s depictions of violent practices of youth culture and of lawlessness offer no “palliatives” in the face of the economic divides that fracture postapartheid society.55 The oscillation between the aspirations of young black South Africans and the curbing of these aspirations similarly marks Masande Ntshanga’s The Reactive (2014), set in Cape Town in the second decade of the 21st century—a novel whose affinity with Phaswane Mpe’s text of over a decade earlier may be seen as a measure of the uneven, sluggish, or deferred transition that public intellectuals, political philosophers, economists, and literary critics alike have seen as characteristic of postapartheid South Africa. At the same time, Andrew van der Vlies sees the note of anger that the novel strikes as presaging “a turn in legible structures of feeling in South Africa . . . in tandem with ongoing activism against the failures of the ANC government.”56

A different cast of city subjects emerges from the writing of Lauren Beukes, whose playful mastery of speculative fiction is just one measure of the importance of genre fiction in a changing postapartheid literary marketplace. Her first two novels, the cyberpunk dystopia Moxyland (2008) and its noiresque counterpart Zoo City (2010), anchor their drama in the futuristic landscapes of Cape Town and Johannesburg—each city deeply fractured by class divisions that invite comparison with postapartheid South Africa. Where Moxyland gives us “an allegory of a corporate apartheid state” in its author’s assessment, Zoo City eventually holds out the promise of a conviviality that extends between the human and the animal, the autochthonous South African and the forced migrant or refugee.57 The novel’s protagonist, Zinzi, recalls other investigative female characters emerging from hardboiled or roman noir conventions in the work of Maggie Orford, Angela Makholwa, Jassy Mackenzie, and the Liberian-born H. J. Golakai—authors who are reshaping the masculinist orientations of crime fiction in its guise as one of postapartheid South Africa’s preferred genres.58

Coda: Beyond Exceptionalism

Beukes has noted that Zoo City was “inspired by the shame and horror” of the anti-foreigner violence that erupted in South Africa in 2008.59 The novel’s thematic embrace of African forced migrants and refugees, like the exuberant linguistic performativity of Golakai’s The Lazarus Effect (2011) and The Score (2015)—making Liberian pidgin English unexpectedly congruent with the Cape Town settings of Golakai’s texts—encodes new circuits of meaning within the local. Writers such as Golakai, Yewande Omotoso (daughter of Nigerian novelist Kole Omotoso), or Jonny Steinberg in his work of creative non-fiction A Man of Good Hope (2015), expand the diasporic component of contemporary South African writing beyond engagements with the country’s well-established diasporas whose often syncretic identities may themselves evade easy categorization, as Loren Kruger has argued.60 At the same time, postapartheid fiction is engaging in a new reckoning with South Africans who have left the country: a complementary current that reinforces the limitations of national rather than transnational framings of “postapartheid fiction.” Yet even as this body of writing shifts to accommodate diasporic, expatriate or otherwise “long-distance” subjects, including Eben Venter’s “Marlouw” in Venter’s Trencherman (2008) (Afrikaans, Horrelpoot, 2006), a powerfully dystopian reworking of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, as well as the protagonists of S. J. Naudé’s The Alphabet of Birds (2015) (Afrikaans, Alfabet van die voëls 2011) and Zoë Wicomb’s October (2014), postapartheid fiction never quite relinquishes Naudé’s sense that South Africa stubbornly remains “the strangest setting” of all.61

Discussion of the Literature

The adequacy of the category of postapartheid literature and its derivatives such as “transitional literature,” “post-transitional literature,” and “post-anti-apartheid fiction,” as well as their capacity to serve as periodizing markers, has fueled critical debate in South African literary studies since the early days of regime change.62 Although critics may differ regarding terminology, consensus exists that no radical break with the past is possible. Stefan Helgesson has recently drawn an analogy between Loren Kruger’s neologism “post-anti-apartheid fiction” and what he terms “post-anticolonialism,” articulating in the process a type of periodization wherein the present is predicated on a past from which it also diverges.63 This logic is nicely captured in Leon de Kock’s term “disjunctive continuity,” which complements de Kock’s comments on the status and consequences of the debate on periodization more broadly speaking.64

Skepticism regarding the capacity of the event of regime change to inaugurate a properly postapartheid literature, does not prevent the “time of a Truth Commission” from organizing two influential critical studies: Mark Sanders’s Ambiguities of Witness: Law and Literature in the Time of a Truth Commission (2007) and Shane Graham’s South African Literature after the Truth Commission: Mapping Loss (2009). Sanders investigates the constitutive interdependence of law and literature, generating some exemplary readings of works by Coetzee, Krog, Ndebele, and Wicomb in the process.65 Shane Graham’s volume includes theater and poetry in its remit. He also emphasizes the status of women’s testimony, which is a powerful concern in Mark Sanders’s writing.66 Graham’s concern with “spaces of truth telling” sits alongside a consideration of postapartheid urban spaces.67 Like Graham, Rita Barnard’s reading of postapartheid texts in Apartheid and Beyond: South African Writers and the Politics of Place (2007) uses space as a core analytic, documenting the “dream topographies” of South African writing as well as their dystopian counterparts.68 The dystopian detritus of postapartheid “reality” informs Leon de Kock’s Losing the Plot: Crime, Reality and Fiction in Postapartheid Writing (2016) which posits postapartheid writing as “an investigation into, and a search for, the ‘true’ locus of civil virtue in decidedly disconcerting social conditions, in an overall context of transition.”69

Literary criticism informed by feminism, gender theory, and queer studies has lent crucial impetus to the exploration of postapartheid fiction. Meg Samuelson’s monograph Remembering the Nation, Dismembering Women? Stories of the South African Transition (2007) treats the role of female subjectivity in “[constructing] and [troubling] the nation under construction.”70 “‘Woman’ is the symbolic figurehead of the vehicle of remembrance employed to ferry the nation across the temporal divide” of transition, she writes.71 Lucy Graham’s diachronic analysis of representations of rape in South African literature extending into the postapartheid corpus intersects Samuelson’s concerns through its investigation of the “hold that interracial rape had on the national imaginary.”72 However, violation is by no means the only imaginary structuring interventions animated by gender or queer theory in postapartheid literary criticism. The question of gay rights is placed at the epicenter of the new political order in Brenna M. Munro’s South Africa and the Dream of Love to Come: Queer Sexuality and the Struggle for Freedom (2012). Munro’s volume powerfully illuminates discursive constructs located at the interface between “rainbow nationalism,” and what she terms “the coming-out narrative as national allegory.”73 While Munro’s work celebrates the transformative agency of the quest for gay rights in South Africa, she is also attuned to undercurrents of misogyny and homophobia that mar public discourse in the country. Munro’s work resonates with that of Neville Hoad, whose African Intimacies: Race, Homosexuality, and Globalization (2007) contains valuable discussions of postapartheid South African fiction.74

Where Munro rightly observes that “The deployment of the figure of the gay person as a symbol of South Africa’s democratic modernity is . . . a radical departure from the traditional, heteronormative familial iconography of nationhood,” the family across its range of instantiations in South Africa is by no means a simple construct.75 Kerry Bystrom’s Democracy at Home in South Africa: Family Fictions and Transitional Culture (2016) attests to this, revisiting the first decade and a half of democracy in South Africa from the perspective of domestic settings, domestic lives, and family histories.76 Andrew van der Vlies’s Present Imperfect (2017) articulates a different kind of negotiation between private and public life with particular emphasis on disappointment as a structuring device. He deploys queer theory and affect theory in order to “allow us to understand those feelings—and especially bad feelings—that might otherwise seem merely personal or private.”77

Disappointment, van der Vlies argues, is a distinctive structure of feeling (drawing on Raymond Williams’s well-known term) of postapartheid South Africa, but it is also a temporal condition. The temporality of disappointment arises as a consequence of South Africans’ pervasive sense of a missed appointment with a better future despite claims that the appointment had been kept through the inauguration of the “new” South Africa. Van der Vlies pits traditions of “educated hopefulness” in the spirit of Ernst Bloch against evidence of disaffection in order to retain some sense of the unrealized revolutionary potential of the political transition in South Africa. Such potential arises for van der Vlies from the intertextual conversations that postapartheid writers maintain with texts that are “frequently not South African in origin”—an insight crucial to his methodology78. Intertextual interconnectedness offers one variant on Sarah Nuttall’s notion of “entanglement.” In Entanglement: Literary and Cultural Reflections on Post-apartheid (2009), Nuttall generatively contests what is arguably still the most legible imprint of apartheid ideology on postapartheid literary criticism: its fetishization of difference. “So often the story of post-apartheid has been told within the register of difference—frequently for good reason, but often, too, ignoring the intricate overlaps that mark the present and, at times, in important ways, the past, as well,” she writes.79 In an important antidote to the fetishization of difference, Nuttall draws on intellectual traditions of anti-racism in the work of Paul Gilroy and others to elaborate entanglement across six rubrics, including that of temporality. In Nuttall’s hands, entanglement is bound up with the imperatives of counter-racism and “the work of desegregation.”80 The imperative to desegregate and to “decolonise,” a demand repeatedly voiced by young black radical constituencies in South Africa in the wake of the #FeesMustFall student protests that began in October 2015, continues to orient literary critical discussion of postapartheid fiction as the second decade of the 21st century draws to a close.

Further Reading

The following books and articles, in part or in full, make significant contributions to the unfolding debate on postapartheid literature. Given the instability of the boundary between apartheid and its aftermath, between South Africa and the continent beyond, or between literary and cultural analysis, some of the entries range beyond postapartheid fiction. The selection attempts to give a sense of the diachronic unfolding of postapartheid literary criticism, however incomplete.

Attwell, David, and Barbara Harlow, eds. “South African Fiction after Apartheid.” Special Issue: Modern Fiction Studies 46, no.1 (2000).Find this resource:

Barnard, Rita. Apartheid and Beyond: South African Writers and the Politics of Place. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Barnard, Rita. “Rewriting the Nation.” In The Cambridge History of South African Literature. Edited by David Attwell and Derek Attridge, 652–675. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Barnard, Rita, and Grant Farred, eds. “After the Thrill is Gone: A Decade of Post-Apartheid South Africa.” Special Issue: South Atlantic Quarterly, 103, no. 4 (2004).Find this resource:

Boehmer, Elleke. “Endings and New Beginning: South African Fiction in Transition.” In Writing South Africa: Literature, Apartheid, and Democracy, 1970–1995, edited by Derek Attridge and Rosemary Jolly, 43–56. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998.Find this resource:

Bystrom, Kerry. “Johannesburg Interiors.” Cultural Studies 27, no. 3 (2013): 333–356.Find this resource:

Bystrom, Kerry. Democracy at Home in South Africa: Family Fictions and Transitional Culture. Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.Find this resource:

Chapman, Michael. “Introduction: Conjectures on South African Literature.” Current Writing: Text and Reception in Southern Africa 21, nos. 1–2 (2009): 1–23.Find this resource:

Chapman, Michael, and Margaret Lenta, eds. SA Lit Beyond 2000. Scottsville, South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Davis, Emily S. “New Directions in Post-Apartheid South African Fiction and Scholarship.” Literature Compass 10, no. 10 (2013): 797–804.Find this resource:

de Kock, Leon. Losing the Plot: Crime, Reality and Fiction in Postapartheid Writing. Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Frenkel, Ronit, and Craig MacKenzie. “Conceptualizing ‘Posttransitional’ South African Literature in English.” English Studies in Africa, 53, no. 1 (2010): 1–10.Find this resource:

Graham, Lucy Valerie. State of Peril: Race and Rape in South African Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Graham, Shane. South African Literature after the Truth Commission: Mapping Loss. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.Find this resource:

Hoad, Neville. African Intimacies: Race, Homosexuality, and Globalization. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Kruger, Loren. “‘Black Atlantics’, ‘White Indians’, and ‘Jews’: Locations, Locutions, and Syncretic Identities in the Fiction of Achmat Dangor and Others.” Scrutiny2: Issues in English Studies in Southern Africa 7, no. 2 (2002): 34–50.Find this resource:

Munro, Brenna M. South Africa and the Dream of Love to Come: Queer Sexuality and the Struggle for Freedom. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Nuttall, Sarah. Entanglement: Literary and Cultural Reflections on Post-Apartheid. Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Samuelson, Meg. Remembering the Nation, Dismembering Women? Stories of the South African Transition. Pietermaritzburg, South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Samuelson, Meg. “Scripting Connections: Reflections on the ‘Post-Transitional.’” English Studies in Africa 51, no. 1 (2008): 130–137.Find this resource:

Sanders, Mark. Ambiguities of Witnessing: Law and Literature in the Time of a Truth Commission. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Stobie, Cheryl. Somewhere in the Double Rainbow: Representations of Bisexuality in Post-<I Apartheid Novels. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2007Find this resource:

Titlestad, Michael. “Writing the City after Apartheid.” In The Cambridge History of South African Literature. Edited by David Attwell and Derek Attridge, 676–694. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

van der Vlies, Andrew. Present Imperfect: Contemporary South African Writing. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.Find this resource:


(1.) Albie Sachs, “Preparing Ourselves for Freedom,” in Spring is Rebellious: Arguments about Cultural Freedom by Albie Sachs and Respondents, eds. Ingrid de Kok and Karen Press (Cape Town: Buchu, 1990), 19.

(2.) Sachs, “Preparing Ourselves for Freedom,” 21.

(3.) See Ingrid de Kok and Karen Press, eds., Spring is Rebellious: Arguments about Cultural Freedom by Albie Sachs and Respondents (Cape Town: Buchu, 1990).

(4.) Leon de Kock and Ian Tromp, “Introduction,” in The Heart in Exile: South African Poetry in English, 1990–1995, eds. Leon de Kock and Ian Tromp (London: Penguin, 1996) xvii, emphasis in original.

(5.) Bongani Sithole, “Hail, Dalibunga,” in The Heart in Exile: South African Poetry in English, 1990–1995, eds. Leon de Kock and Ian Tromp (London: Penguin, 1996), 1–3; and Denis Hirson, “The Long-Distance South African,” in The Heart in Exile: South African Poetry in English, 1990–1995, eds. Leon de Kock and Ian Tromp (London: Penguin, 1996), 4–12.

(6.) “The orthodoxy of English as a dominant medium of educational discourse in South Africa, and the institutionalisation of this discourse (by which English “literature” is privileged as an area of study), de Kock reminds us elsewhere, “was won by blood.” Leon de Kock, Civilising Barbarians: Missionary Narrative and African Textual Response in Nineteenth-Century South Africa (Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press; Lovedale, South Africa: Lovedale, 1996), 29–30. Regretfully, this survey will not cover African-language fiction post-1994, but see Christiaan Swanepoel, “Writing and Publishing in African Languages since 1948” in The Cambridge History of South African Literature, eds. David Attwell and Derek Attridge (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 607–632. I want to thank Uhuru Phalafala for drawing my attention to the work of Sabatha-mpho Mokae (in Setswana); Zanele Ndlovu (in isiXhosa) and to Vonani Bila (in Tsonga) (personal communication, e-mail, 28 June 2017). Bila has initiated the Timbila Poetry Project to promote new writing in South Africa, particularly in indigenous African languages. See Vonani Bila, “Building Socially Committed Writers through the Timbila Writing Model,” Current Writing: Text and Reception in Southern Africa 27, no. 2 (2015): 95–102.

(7.) Hirson, “The Long-Distance South African,” 11.

(8.) Hirson, “The Long-Distance South African,”, 12.

(9.) See Louise Bethlehem, “11 February 1990, South Africa: Apartheid and After” in The Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth Century Literature in English, eds. Brian McHale and Randall Stevenson (Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, 2006), 240.

(10.) Hirson, “The Long-Distance South African,” 11.

(11.) See Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, translated by Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981), 26–27. On the subject of Mandela’s mortality, see Sarah Nuttall and Achille Mbembe, “Mandela’s Mortality,” in The Cambridge Companion to Nelson Mandela, ed. Rita Barnard (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 267–290.

(12.) Andrew van der Vlies, Present Imperfect: Contemporary South African Writing (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 28.

(13.) For the “realist dominant” of struggle-era writing, see Louise Bethlehem, “‘A Primary Need as Strong as Hunger’: The Rhetoric of Urgency in South African Literary Culture under Apartheid,” Poetics Today 22, no. 1 (2002): 365–389.

(14.) Received accounts of South Africa’s negotiated settlement frequently overlook the mass political violence that preceded it. An estimated fourteen thousand South Africans died in conflicts between the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party at this time. Scholars have pointed out that more fatalities were incurred during the period between 1990 and the 1994 election than in the mass insurrections and state repression of the entire preceding decade. Richard A. Wilson, The Politics of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Legitimising the Postapartheid State (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 63.

(15.) Zakes Mda, Ways of Dying (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 111.

(16.) Mda, Ways of Dying, 111, 122.

(17.) Rita Barnard, Apartheid and Beyond: South African Writers and the Politics of Place (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 149.

(18.) For an innovative work of criticism centered on how individual South Africans negotiate the transition to democracy in their home spaces and kinship relations, see Kerry Bystrom, Democracy at Home in South Africa: Family Fictions and Transitional Culture (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).

(19.) The novel’s evocation of the apartheid regime’s secret war in Namibia and Angola intersects the corpus of grensliteratuur (“border literature”) in Afrikaans, a genre that emerged from the experiences of young conscripts during the 1970s and 1980s. By the 1990s, this corpus would come to include the writings of English-speaking conscripts: Damon Galgut’s The Beautiful Screaming of Pigs (1991) and Tony Eprile’s The Persistence of Memory: A Novel (2005) come to mind here. The experiences of black recruits in the liberation movements in Angola are depicted in Mandla Langa’s The Memory of Stones (2000) and Mongane Wally Serote’s Scatter the Ashes and Go (2002). Behr’s novel was controversial thanks to its author’s disclosure that he had served as an informant for the apartheid security apparatus. See Andrew van der Vlies, “An Interview with Mark Behr,” Safundi 12, no.1 (2011).

(20.) Michiel Heyns, “The Whole Country’s Truth: Confession and Narrative in Recent White South African Writing,” Modern Fiction Studies 46, no.1 (2000), 61.

(21.) For an exposition of the Freudian notion of the uncanny and its application to transitional literature, albeit with reference to a different corpus of works than the ones I treat here, see Meg Samuelson, Remembering the Nation, Dismembering Women? Stories of the South African Transition (Scottsville, South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2007), 10–12.

(22.) Meg Samuelson, “The Rainbow Womb: Rape and Race in South African Fiction of the Transition” Kunapipi 24, nos.1–2 (2002), 88, and Samuelson’s monograph, Remembering the Nation.

(23.) See Peter D. McDonald, “Disgrace Effects,” Interventions 4, no.3 (2002): 326. It should be noted that the novel has generated massive critical response in local South African as well as international literary scholarship. See also Andrew van der Vlies, J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace (London and New York: Continuum, 2010) and Laura Wright, Jane Poyner, and Elleke Boehmer, eds., Approaches to Teaching Coetzee’s Disgrace and Other Works (New York: Modern Language Association, 2014).

(24.) Samuelson, “The Rainbow Womb,” 90.

(25.) J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace (London: Secker and Warburg, 1999), 25.

(26.) See Michael Marais, “Very Morbid Phenomena: ‘Liberal Funk,’ the ‘Lucy-Syndrome’ and J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace,” Scrutiny2 6, no. 1(2001): 32–38.

(27.) I have made this claim elsewhere: Louise Bethlehem, “Refusing Adamastor: Lucy Lurie and ‘White Writing’ in Disgrace” in Approaches to Teaching Coetzee’s Disgrace and Other Works, eds. Laura Wright, Jane Poyner, and Elleke Boehmer (New York: Modern Language Association, 2014), 105–106.

(28.) See Peter D. McDonald, “Disgrace Effects,” 321–330.

(29.) See Graham, States of Peril: Race and Rape in South African Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 181.

(30.) J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace, 158, emphasis in original.

(31.) Sarah Nuttall, Entanglement: Literary and Cultural Reflections on Post-Apartheid (Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2009), 146.

(33.) Loren Kruger, “Beyond the TRC: Truth, Power, and Representation in South Africa after Transition,” Research in African Literatures 42, no. 2 (2011), 185.

(34.) I draw here on Catherine Cole, Performing South Africa’s Truth Commission: Stages of Transition (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010), 27. See also Loren Kruger, “Beyond the TRC,” 185.

(35.) Kentridge comments on this aspect of the performance: “There seemed to be an awkwardness in getting an actor to play the witnesses—the audience being caught halfway between having to believe in the actor for the sake of the story, and also not believe in the actor for the sake of the actual witness who existed out there.” William Kentridge, “Director’s Note,” in Jane Taylor, Ubu and the Truth Commission (Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press), xi.

(36.) See, for example, Michiel Heyns, “The Whole Country’s Truth,” 42–66.

(37.) For Krog’s reflections on this episode, see Antjie Krog, “Fact Bordering Fiction and the Honesty of ‘I,’” River Teeth 8, no. 2 (2007), 40.

(38.) The controversies surrounding Krog’s volume are surveyed in Kate Highman, “Forging a New South Africa: Plagiarism, Ventriloquism and the ‘Black Voice’ in Antjie Krog’s Country of My Skull,” Journal of Southern African Studies 41, no. 1 (2015), 188. I wish to thank the anonymous reviewer of this article for the reference to Highman’s important article.

(39.) See the distinctions between factual or forensic truth, personal or narrative truth, social or dialogical truth, and restorative truth elaborated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report, Vol. 1. (Cape Town: Juta Press, 1998), 110–114.

(40.) Antjie Krog, Country of My Skull (Johannesburg: Random House, 1998), 36.

(41.) Ingrid de Kok, “Parts of Speech,” in Seasonal Fires: New and Selected Poems (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006), 96.

(42.) Ingrid de Kok, “At the Commission” in Seasonal Fires: New and Selected Poems (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006), 70.

(43.) Zoë Wicomb, David’s Story (Cape Town, Kwela Press, 2000), 136.

(44.) See Fiona Ross, Bearing Witness: Women and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa (London: Pluto, 2003), 24–25.

(45.) See Njabulo S. Ndebele, Rediscovery of the Ordinary: Essays on South African Literature and Culture (Johannesburg: Cosaw [Congress of South African Writers], 1991).

(46.) Krog, Antjie, Nosisi Mpolweni, and Kopano Ratele, There Was This Goat: Investigating the Truth Commission Testimony of Notrose Nobomvu Konile (Scottsville, South Africa: University of Kwazulu-Natal Press, 2009), 100.

(47.) Shane Graham, South African Literature after the Truth Commission, 1. For an incisive critique of the Truth Commission’s mandate, see Mahmood Mamdani, “Amnesty or Impunity: A Preliminary Critique of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa (TRC),” diacritics 32, no. 3 (2002): 33–59.

(48.) Mark Gevisser, Lost and Found in Johannesburg: A Memoir (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014), 171.

(49.) See Stefan Helgesson “Johannesburg as Africa: A Postcolonial Reading of The Exploded View by Ivan Vladislavić,” Scrutiny2, 11, no. 2 (2006), 28, emphasis in original. 2

(50.) Nuttall, Entanglement, 13.

(51.) Neville Hoad, “An Elegy for African Cosmopolitanism: Phaswane Mpe’s Welcome to Our Hillbrow” in African Intimacies: Race, Homosexuality, and Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 113. For a powerful piece on HIV/AIDS denialism during the regime of South Africa’s second democratic president Thabo Mbeki, see Adam Sitze, “Denialism,” The South Atlantic Quarterly, 103, no. 4 (2004): 769–811, and for an incisive later exploration of the impact of HIV/AIDS on black life worlds in South Africa, see Jonny Steinberg’s work of creative non-fiction Three Letter Plague: A Young Man’s Journey through a Great Epidemic (Johannesburg and Cape Town: Jonathan Ball, 2008).

(52.) Hoad, “Elegy for African Cosmopolitanism,” 115.

(53.) Kerry Bystrom, “Johannesburg Interiors,” Cultural Studies, 27, no. 3 (2013): 342, emphasis in original.

(54.) Sam Raditlhalo, “A Proletarian Novel of the City Streets,” Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 44, no. 1 (2008): 93–96.

(55.) Raditlhalo uses this term with specific reference to Moele’s Room 207. Raditlhalo, “A Proletarian Novel of the City Streets,” 95.

(56.) See Van der Vlies, Present Imperfect, 24. Ntshanga’s title alludes to blood samples that test “reactive” that is to say HIV positive: Masande Ntshanga, The Reactive (Cape Town: Umuzi, 2014), 144. However, Ntshanga’s novel departs from narratives concerning sexual transmission of the virus that feature elsewhere in postapartheid fiction. See Lara Buxbaum, “Risking Intimacy in Contemporary South African Fiction,” Textual Practice 31, no. 3 (2017): 523–536.

(57.) Sarah Lotz, “Interview with Lauren Beukes,” in Zoo City (Johannesburg: Jacana, 2010) n.p. The exploration of urban malaise through the device of the animal or the non-human in the more self-consciously literary fiction of Henrietta Rose-Innes forms an interesting counterpart to the use of animals in Zoo City. In Nineveh (2011), Rose-Innes explores the infestation by insects of a proposed housing development outside Cape Town to examine the tension between the surface and that which lies beneath as well as fear of contamination and invasion—themes shared with Zoo City, as Shane Graham points out. See Shane Graham, “The Entropy of Built Things: Postapartheid Anxiety and the Production of Space in Henrietta Rose-Innes’ Nineveh and Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City,” Safundi 16, no. 1 (2015), 64–77. In Green Lion (2015), the materiality of the animal world and its capture through cultural representations are interwoven. Through this interweaving, the city is opened out onto the wilderness, and coordinates of personal identity become porous to templates of unconscious desire and to the claims of a barely repressed past.

(58.) In a recent study, Leon de Kock relates the “remarkable efflorescence of crime writing in the post-liberation period, in both fictional detective stories and nonfiction works of ‘true crime’” to the “criminal” derailing of the promise of transition. Leon de Kock, Losing the Plot: Crime, Reality and Fiction in Postapartheid Writing (Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2016), 4.

(59.) Sarah Lotz, “Interview with Lauren Beukes,” n.p.

(60.) Loren Kruger, “‘Black Atlantics’, ‘White Indians’, and ‘Jews’: Locations, Locutions, and Syncretic Identities in the Fiction of Achmat Dangor and Others,” Scrutiny2: Issues in English Studies in Southern Africa, 7, no. 2 (2002): 34–50.

(61.) S. J. Naudé and Ivan Vladislavić, “S. J. Naudé and Ivan Vladislavić in Conversation,” Granta 129 (2014). Online edition. I am grateful to Jeanne-Marie Jackson for our conversations regarding the transnational dimensions of postapartheid fiction.

(62.) See Meg Samuelson, Remembering the Nation, 1; see also Meg Samuelson “Scripting Connections: Reflections on the ‘Post-Transitional.” English Studies in Africa 51, no. 1 (2008): 130–137; Ronit Frenkel and Craig MacKenzie, “Conceptualizing ‘Posttransitional’ South African Literature in English,” English Studies in Africa 53, no. 1 (2010) 1–10; Aghogho Akpome, “Towards a Reconceptualization of ‘(Post)Transitional’ South African Cultural Expression,” English in Africa 43, no. 2 (2016): 39–62; and Loren Kruger, “‘Black Atlantics’, ‘White Indians’, and ‘Jews,’” 35.

(63.) Stefan Helgesson, “Post-anticolonialism,” PMLA 132.1 (2017): 164–170. For the provenance of the term “post anti-apartheid fiction,” see Kruger, “‘Black Atlantics’, ‘White Indians’, and ‘Jews,’” 35.

(64.) Leon de Kock, “Freedom on a Frontier? The Double Bind of (White) Postapartheid South African Literature,” Ariel 46, no. 3 (2015): 55–89, reprinted in Leon de Kock, Losing the Plot: Crime, Reality and Fiction in Postapartheid Writing (Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2016), 57–85.

(65.) Sanders, Mark. Ambiguities of Witnessing: Law and Literature in the Time of a Truth Commission (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007).

(66.) Shane Graham, South African Literature after the Truth Commission, 76–85.

(67.) Graham, South African Literature after the Truth Commission, 23.

(68.) Barnard, Apartheid and Beyond, 15–40.

(69.) de Kock, Losing the Plot, 6.

(70.) Samuelson, Remembering the Nation, 1. For Samuelson’s work on urban space, see “The City Beyond the Border: The Urban Worlds of Duiker, Mpe and Vera,” African Identities 5, no. 2 (2007): 247–260 and “The Urban Palimpsest: Re‐Presenting Sophiatown.” Journal of Postcolonial Writing 441 (2008): 63–75.

(71.) Samuelson, Remembering the Nation, 3–4.

(72.) Lucy Valerie Graham, State of Peril: Race and Rape in South African Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

(73.) Brenna M. Munro’s South Africa and the Dream of Love to Come: Queer Sexuality and the Struggle for Freedom (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), xxxi. For a reading of how the black lesbian is simultaneously an abject as well as idealized figure mobilized in debates over the politics of citizenship in South Africa, see Benita de Robillard, “The Question of ‘The Black Lesbian’: Monstrous, Ideal and Fictitious Postapartheid Citizen,” Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies 17, no. 1 (2016): 20–39.

(74.) Hoad, African Intimacies.

(75.) Munro, South Africa and the Dream of Love, viii.

(76.) Kerry Bystrom, Democracy at Home,.

(77.) Van der Vlies, Present Imperfect, ix.

(78.) Van der Vlies, Present Imperfect, 23.

(79.) Sarah Nuttall, Entanglement: Literary and Cultural Reflections on Post-apartheid (Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2009), 1.

(80.) Nuttall, Entanglement, 12.