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Coetzees Waiting for the Barbarians and Foe, and Gordimers My Sons Story and The Conservationist - Essay Example

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J.M. Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer, both of whom have received Nobel Prizes for their fictional accounts of life during apartheid, have come to be viewed through critical perspectives that often include political implications as well as literary…
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Coetzees Waiting for the Barbarians and Foe, and Gordimers My Sons Story and The Conservationist
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Download file to see previous pages Part of the reason Coetzee and Gordimer have received such acclaim, in fact, is found in the way that both writers have approached their craft as writers in the context of such political implications. Through employing literary techniques that allow for self-conscious analysis of culture from a critical sociopolitical stance, both Coetzee and Gordimer have achieved masterly balances of social commentary and artistic exposition concerning writing and its purposes.
In this paper, the proposition that both Coetzee and Gordimer are best viewed as self-aware writers who have written about the act of writing will be weighed against the difficulties they have faced while writing in such a turbulent political context. Through a consideration of four representative works written during the apartheid period, Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians and Foe, and Gordimer’s My Son’s Story and The Conservationist, the paper will detail the way the authors have spoken to and about their societies, even as they have written from a privileged position that postcolonial studies suggest tends toward linguistic and cultural marginalization. The paper will emphasize the use both writers make of certain metafictional and postmodern devices to self-consciously draw attention to their literary works while nevertheless speaking to truths about South African society. In order to do this, a brief introduction to postcolonial and postmodern literature is in order. Such an examination is critical, because it drives, in part, the choices made in developing literary structures. Postcolonial literary criticism is marked by an attempt to undercut dominant discourses of colonization to allow for expressions that portray political and cultural exclusions.2 Viewed in both the research literature and in the actual world of politics as a project of resistance, postcolonialism seeks to allow colonized societies to redefine for themselves their cultural identities. Because postcolonial literature is characterized by an attempt to develop authentic voices that are free of colonial ideology,3 it virtually requires a recapturing of traditional forms and expressions that are freed from the influence of empire.4 The act of writing is often viewed as a way to challenge the authority of residual colonial ideology as “a means of fulfilling a political agenda of retrieving identity.”5 In an important sense, therefore, the mere fact that both authors write in English can be questioned under the guise of postcolonial studies, as it implies a culturally dominant perspective that continues the oppression of colonialism. In fact, some critics have argued that the very act of social criticism implies a narrative that is “ironically, almost imperialistic in scope”6 When applied to the case of describing South Africa, these implications become even more complicated. Simply put, the fact both Coetzee and Gordimer wrote the books considered in this paper not as postcolonial writers, but during a time when colonialism was still very much in effect, raises questions about the legitimacy of representations made in the books, when viewed through a postcolonial lens. Such a consideration highlights the problem of representation that is inherent in the colonial relationship. Gordimer, especially, has been cognizant of the implications of this, as she writes the following in her book Telling Times: The creative act is not pure. History evidences it. Ideology demands ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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