Foregrounding/Resolving boundaries between "self and other" in selected contemporary South African novels
This study aims to evaluate the original white colonisers‟ or settlers‟ position and experience in Africa and South Africa during the transitional period between 1998 and 2011, as represented by English white male protagonists who feature in The Lostness of Alice (1998) by John Conyngham, The Good Doctor (2003) by Damon Galgut, and Lost Ground (2011) by Michiel Heyns. The analysis of the selected novels illustrates that the legacy of colonisation and apartheid still influences the settler descendants‟ perception of self and the other. The analysis focuses specifically on the males‟ experience of space and place in the construction of identity, and the awareness that the expansion of space and place through the transgression of physical and psychological boundaries contributes towards a more balanced personality. After the dissolution of apartheid, contemporary white South African men, as exemplified by the three protagonists, have become aware of their minority status and tend to dissociate themselves from the country as home. As borderline figures, they contend with feelings of marginalisation and isolation. Increasingly conscious of their contradictory non-African identity, the protagonists undertake journeys during which they acquire insight into themselves as well as an altered perception of the other. Although the former settlers‟ experience of alienation and ambivalence about colonisation and apartheid has been depicted in various novels, the significance of this experience relating to white South African male identity has not yet been fully explored in a comparative study of Conyngham‟s, Galgut‟s and Heyns‟s works with reference to the authors‟ place within a postcolonial paradigm, their implementation of the detective narrative frame and the role of intertextuality and irony that can be seen to define the novels and suggest other interpretative possibilities. The novels are critically analysed in terms of the concepts of space and place, the presence, transgression and transcendence of boundaries, and the influence of these paradigms on the characters‟ sense of self and their relationship with others and society at large. The novels‟ narrative frame and strategies in relation to the myths of Africa are also investigated. The thesis argues that the apprehension articulated by representatives of European settlers regarding the consequences of colonisation and apartheid has become more prominent during the post-liberation dispensation. The acceptance of responsibility for the past and for others, as well as intense self-appraisal, should enable the three protagonists to achieve a more expansive sense of self and a meaningful existence.
- Humanities