coetzee apartheid

of 16/16
Journal of Southern African Studies Constructions of Apartheid in the International Reception of the Novels of J. M. Coetzee Author(s): J. M. Coetzee and Clive Barnett Source: Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 287-301 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2637604 . Accessed: 12/05/2011 08:23 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=taylorfrancis. . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected] Taylor & Francis, Ltd. and Journal of Southern African Studies are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of Southern African Studies. http://www.jstor.org

Post on 03-Jul-2015

204 views

Category:

Documents

6 download

Embed Size (px)

TRANSCRIPT

Journal of Southern African Studies

Constructions of Apartheid in the International Reception of the Novels of J. M. Coetzee Author(s): J. M. Coetzee and Clive Barnett Source: Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 287-301 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2637604 . Accessed: 12/05/2011 08:23Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=taylorfrancis. . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]

Taylor & Francis, Ltd. and Journal of Southern African Studies are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of Southern African Studies.

http://www.jstor.org

Journal of SouthernAfrican Studies, Volume 25, Number 2, June 1999, pp. 287-301

Constructions of Apartheid in the International Reception of the Novels of J. M. CoetzeeCLIVE BARNETT(Departmentof Geography, University of Reading)

This paper discusses the international reception of the fiction of South African novelist and critic, J. M. Coet.zee, in order to examine the institutional and rhetorical conventions which shaped the selection and circulation of particular forms of ivriting as exemplars of 'South African literature' from the 1970s through to the 1990s. The representation of Coetzee's novels in two reading-formations is critically addressed: in non-academic literary reviews; and in the emergent academic paradigm of post-colonial literary theory. It is argued that in both cases, South Affican literary writinig has often been re-inscribed into new contexts according to abstract and moralised understandings of the nature of apartheid. I sometimes wonder if it isn't simply that vast and wholly ideological superstructure constituted by publishing, reviewing and criticism that is forcing on me the fate of being a 'South African novelist'. J. M. Coetzeel

Literature and the Moralisation of ApartheidSouth Africa has been made available as an object of knowledge in particularways. The presentationof apartheidon an internationalstage was culturallymediatedthroughvarious discourses and institutions. This process of mediation solicited specific forms of political commitmentand moral approbationthat were crucial to the maintenanceof the anti-apartheid struggle at the internationalscale. LauraChrismanhas recently argued that the sense that South Africa is an immediatelyand transparently knowable society continues to support a particular relation of 'sanctioned ignorance' amongst commentators in the West.2 Remedying this situation requires that attentionibe paid to critically questioning the discourses which secure the representativenessof particularaccounts of South African culture and politics. In this paper I want to examine the cultural mediation of apartheid throughthe international reception of South African literaryfiction. The particularfocus of my discussion will be the different contexts of reception for the work of J. M. Coetzee. Rob Nixon argues that the mobilisation of opposition to apartheidin the West had to negotiate fundamental incompatibilities between the political radicalism of organised opposition in South Africa, where liberalism was at best a beleaguered tradition,and the need to mobilise an essentially liberal constituency in the West.3 Campaigns to mobilise1 T. Morphet,'Two Interviewswith J. M. Coetzee, 1983 and 1987', in D. Bunn and J. Taylor (eds), From South Africa: Writing,Photographyand Art (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1988). 2 L. Chrisnman, 'QuestioningRobertYoung's Post-ColonialCriticism', TextualPractice, 11, 1 (1997), pp. 39-45. 3 R. Nixon, Homelands,Harlemand HollywZood: SouthAfr-ican Cultureand the WorldBeyond(London,Routledge, 1994), p. 78.0305-7070/99/020287-15 $7.00 ? 1999 Journal of Southern African Studies

288 Journal of SouthernAfrican Studies

internationalopposition to apartheidtherefore required a certain degree of 'cross-cultural flexibility' in terms of what was politically serviceable.4The successful internationalisation of anti-apartheid movements was dependent on the discursive transformation apartheid of into an essentially moral issue: 'The successful conversion of the anti-apartheid cause into a world movement was in large part proportionate the Manicheanclarity of the issues at to stake, as a showdown between good and evil, victims and villains, black and white, oppressed and oppressors, the masses and a racist minority'. Literatureacquireda peculiar importancein shaping internationalunderstandings the of nature of apartheid.From the late 1940s through to the 1990s, South Africa acquired 'a notorious centrality in the contemporarypolitical and ethical imaginationwhich [gave] its writers a special claim on the world's attention'.6Literarywriting by white South Africans was inserted into a moralised frame through which apartheid was constructed as an internationalissue. White South African writers were received into an internationalcircuit of literaiy celebrity according to particularimperativeswhich determinedthe selection and evaluation of different texts and authors.7The work of white writers such as Alan Paton, Nadine Gordimer,Andre Brink, Breyten Breytenbachand J. M. Coetzee, came to hold a central place in defining an internationalcanon of respectable, morally robust and liberal oppositional literature.Writing by white South African authorswas grafted into particular circuits of internationalliteraryevaluation shaped by liberal humanist values. The regular identificationof apartheidwith EasternEuropeancommunism was based upon the fact that the success of anti-apartheid movements in the West rested on the constructionof a cause of apparently'epic moral clarity'.8 This paper aims to draw into focus the frames of reference into which literary works were translatedin the course of constructingliteratureitself as part of a struggle for liberal, non-racial values. Lewis Nkosi lhas developed the notion of the 'cross-borderreader' in order to understandthe ways in which South African literary writing has been shaped by the necessity to address dispersed, divided and fragmented audiences.9The cross-border readeris constitutiveof the very form of South African writing. The fracturedand multiple audiences for South African writing imposes limitationas both the condition and subject of much of that literature, and produces writing characterisedby an uncertain address to 'virtual audiences'.'0This is exemplified by the frequentrecourse to epistolary forms such as letters,journals or diaries, forms which make visible the act of writing for a fictionalised audience.1' Fiction by South African writers has, then, in no small part been constituted from the outside in, shaped by the internationalaudiences upon which it depended as the

4 Nixon, Homelands, p. 94. 5 Nixon, Homelands, p. 204. 6 D. Attridge, 'Oppressive Silence: J. M. Coetzee's Foe and the Politics of the Canon', in K. R. Lawrence (ed), Decolonising Tradition: New Viewsof Tventielh-Century'British'LileraryCanons(Urbana,Universityof Illinois Press, 1992), p. 216. 7 On the canonisation of 'third world' literary celebrities, see T. Brennan, 'Cosmopolitans and Celebrities', Race and Class, 31, 1 (1989), pp. 1-19. 8 Nixon, Homelands, p. 205. 9 L. Nkosi, 'A Countryof Borders', SouthernAfricanReview of Books (June/July1990), pp. 19-20; and L. Nkosi, 'Constructing "Cross-Border" the Reader',in E. Boehrner, Chrisman K. Parker L. and (eds), AlteredState?Writing and SouthAfrica(Sydney,DangarooPress, 1994), pp. 37-50. Forfurther considerations the centralityof borders of and boundariesas emblems of social differentiationin South African cultureand politics, see J. A. Stotesbury, 'The Functionof Bordersin the PopularNovel in South Africa', English In Africa, 17, 2 (1990), pp. 71-89, and R. Thornton,'The Potentials of Boundariesin South Africa: Steps Towards a Theory of the Social Edge', in R. Werbnerand T. Ranger (eds), Postcolonial Encounters in Africa (London, Zed Press, 1996), pp. 136-161. 10 S. Clingman, The Novels of Nadine Gordimer(London, Allen and Unwin, 1986). 11 W. Ong, 'The Writer'sAudience is Always a Fiction', Publications of the ModernLanguagesAssociation, 90,1 (1975), pp. 9-21.

Apartheidand the Novels of J. M. Coetzee 289

consequence of its own marginalisationfrom the everyday life and from the political and cultural struggles of the majority of South Africans. As a result of the need to negotiate multiple audiences and differentpolitical arenas,the meanings of South African literature were produced through a series of translationsor transcodings, as the same texts moved from one context into others characterised by alternativeideological, political, and aesthetic imperatives. As a consequence, differences in geographical location become crucial in shaping the readings made of South African literary fiction.'2 This process can be understoodwith reference to the notion of 'readingformation', understood as a set of material and discursive practices which 'connect texts and readers in specific relations to one another in constituting readers as reading subjects of particulartypes and texts as objects as objects-to-be-readin particularways'.'3 South African literaturehas been differently constructedby dispersed and divided readingformations.In the rest of this paper, I want to focus attentionupon the reading-formations through which the fiction of J. M. Coetzee has been read. Coetzee's novels have been constructed in different ways by different audiences, and have thus been subjected to alternativeand shifting aesthetic and political evaluations. These different audiences alight upon different features of Coetzee's texts, and in turn they construct the 'context' of his writings in differentways. And Coetzee is of interestnot least because his fiction is marked by a highly developed reflexivity regardingpractices of canonisation.'4For this reason, we might suppose that the reception of Coetzee's fiction would tend to make visible the norms of canonisation through which his work has been constructed as exemplary of a certain form of 'South African literature',and throughwhich certain moralised understandings of apartheidand the struggle against it were reproducedon an internationalstage.

Making Coetzee AvailableCoetzee's novels are intemationally acclaimed within the mainstream English-speaking literaryworld, having won major literaryawards in his native SoutlhAfrica, in Britain and Europe, and beyond. Amongst this audience, his fiction has been received as embodying a 'powerful moral critique of apartheid'.'5 Nkosi has suggested that the metropolitanjournalistic review has been constitutive of a particularnotion of 'South African literature'as the product of white writers working in the English language.16The arena of non-academic literary reviewing has considerable cultural authority in determining the selection and transmissionof particular texts and authors.17 This section traces the discursive dimensions of this non-academic reading-formation, into which Coetzee's novels have been inscribed and through which they have been made available for consumption by a more general internationalliterarypublic. I want to examine the specific terms of reference which have shaped the reception of Coetzee's fiction in this sphere in Britain and North America, and how in turn certain understandings South African society and of apartheidwere put into of circulationthroughthis process of 'translation'.Given the dominantnotion of literatureas12 L. Engle, 'Differences of Location', SouthernAfr-ican Review of Books (July/August 1995). 13 T. Bennett, 'Texts in History:the Determinationsof Readings and their Texts', in D. Attridge,G. Bennington and R. Young (eds), Post-structuralismand the Question of Histoty (Cambridge,CambridgeUniversity Press, 1987), p. 70. 14 Attridge, 'Oppressive Silence'. 15 B. Parry,'Speech and Silence in the Fiction of J. M. Coetzee', New Formations,21 (1993), p. 19. For a discussion of Coetzee's fiction with respect to British literaryawards, see R. Todd, ConsumingFictions: the Booker Prize and Fiction in Britain Today (London, Bloomsbury, 1996). 16 Nkosi, 'A Countryof Borders', p. 20. 17 M. Berube,Marginal Forces/CulturalCenters: Tolson, Pynchon, and the Politics of the Canon (Ithaca,Cornell University Press, 1992).

290 Journialof SouthernAfrican Studies

a repository of universal humanistic moral values that underwritesthis genre of criticism, we might expect literatureto be understoodas a privileged medium for the articulationof critiques of apartheidin a moral register. My argument,in tracing the moral constructionof apartheidas it is registered in the reception of Coetzee's novels, is that this moralisationis a way of negotiating the space between the West and South Africa during apartheid,renderingit intelligible in universal terms but simultaneouslykeeping it at a safe distance. This is dependentupon representations of the relations between a distant enclosed territory(South Africa) and its outside (the international arena).I shall discuss three recurringthemes: that of South African writers being trappedin a stifling and overly-politicised situation; the theme of allegory; and the specific burdenof representation imposed upon South African literatureand writersby this reading-formation.

The Political Saturation of South African Literature A recurringtheme in reviews of literarywriting by white South African authorsduringthe years of apartheidis that of South African writers being 'trapped' by their location into dealing repeatedly with the same themes of living in an oppressive society. This theme frames the commentaly on the first of Coetzee's novels to receive widespreadattentionin metropolitanliteraiy circles, In the Heart of the Country, 18 published in Britain and USA in 1977: 'One of the tragedies facing all serious SoutlhAfrican authors still living in that countryis that they are trappedinto dealing with humanbeings who are almost exclusively afflicted by racialism'.'9 South African society is presented here as a singularly and uniquely racist society, such that race is identifiedas the only axis of power of significance. In tum, racism is routinely understoodas an historical anachronism,the result of irrational belief systems. The figure of Magda in this novel is understoodas 'a powerful image of outdatedconventions and the struggle to erode them'.20This same theme of writers being constrainedto write about the politics of aparthleid, of this being an intrusionupon the and propertasks of the novelist's vocation, reappearin commentarieson Coetzee's Waitingfor the Barbarianis.One review describes South Africa as a culturally isolated society, and concludes that writers therefore find it difficult to 'address themselves to themes of any wider significance than those representedby the tragic dilemma of their country'.21 The political nature of South Afiican fiction is at one and the same time the source of its attractionfor internationalaudiences, yet also the source of disappointmentamongst reader-reviewers who prefer individual characterisations ratherthan typological characterisations. According to this perspective,then, South African writing suffers fiom being forced into being overtly political. The space for the propersubject-matter the novel, for private of inter-personalrelationships, is squeezed in a society understoodto be uniquely saturated with public, political significance.22 Coetzee's novels are often valued to the extent that they escape the received conventions of politically committed literature.This judgement is in turnoften made throughcomparisonwitlhother white South African writers,and most often with Nadine Gordirner.23 The sense that the politics of South African society is too18 Coetzee's first novel, Dusklands, was published in South Africa in 1974, but only published in Britainin 1982, and in the USA in 1985. 19 R. Harwood, 'An Astonishing First Novel', Sunday Times, 12 June 1977, p. 41. 20 B. Morrison,'Veldschmerz', Times Literary Supplement,22 July 1977, p. 900. 21 B. Levin, 'On the Edge of the Empire', SunidayTimes, 23 November 1980, p. 44. 22 P. J. Parrinder,'What his FatherGot up to', London Review of Books, 13 September 1990, pp. 17-18. 23 Gordimerand Coetzee are routinelycoupled in both academic and non-academiccriticism, often being taken as exemplarsfor differentmodels of principledliteraryoppositionto apartheid.On this patternof interpretation, see

Apartheidand the Novels of J. M. Coetzee 291

imposing a subject to make for truly great literatureis found, for example, in one review of Coetzee's Age of Iron and Gordimer's My Son's Story. The allusive qualities of Coetzee's allegory of illness, death and decay considered to be the qualities that 'raises it On above the level of a political novel or a roman a the'se'.24 the other hand, Gordimer's novel is judged to be too weighed down by its author's urge to write explicitly about politics in South Africa: 'it's a good read and good journalism.It informs and explains. But it's too banal and too explicit to be good art.' Gordimer'spolitical urges are seen to impinge upon the quality of the novel's writing. A dualism is set up in this sort of evaluation, between the novels which escape the murky traps of a society saturated with political succeed in renderingpolitical reality but are, by significance, and novels which apparenitly this very token, condemned to a lesser aesthetic judgement. This same economy of judgement is used to compare Coetzee's Waitintgfor the Barbarians with Andre Brink's A Chain of Voices. Coetzee's work, it is argued, is infused with 'artistic purpose', Brink's merely with 'moral purpose', a distinction which, it is argued, is reflected in the relative qualities of their respective writing styles. Coetzee's writing is judged to be the productof by slow, skilled, meticulous deliberation,whereas Brink is condeirnned the judgement that he 'writes fast'.25In reviews, Coetzee is positioned both as part of a traditionof committed writing, but also as a writerwhose work succeeds in escaping the conventions anti-apartheid of politically committed fiction and thus elevating itself to the status of 'art'. Irving Howe's review of Life and Times of Michael K reiterates the theme of the dilemma facing South African writers trappedby their location:A great commanding subject haunts the South African imagination, yet this subject can also turn into a kind of tyranniy, close, oppressive, even destructive. Imagine what it must be like to live as a serious writer in South Afiica: an endless clamour of news about racial injustice, the feeling that one's life is mortgagedto a society gone rotten with hatred,an indignationthat exhausts itself into depression, the fear that one's anger may overwhelm and destroy one's fiction. And except for silence or emigrationi, there can be no relief.26

Howe goes on to question whether the real significance of Coetzee's writing lies in an apparentmove beyond politics to universal themes of art or morality. As he observes, one is of the effects of this sort of understanding the implication that the realities of apartheid society lay beyond a political solution. The Allegorical Imperative The notion of South Africa as an enclosed, isolated society underwritesa very particular of understanding the allegorical qualities of Coetzee's fiction. For BernardLevin, Waiting for the Barbarians Coetzee escapes the 'trap' imposed upon South African literarywriting of having to deal with immediate political realities by literally 'dis-locating' his nairative. The novel contains no specific reference to South Africa as such, and so Levin takes the Allegory is understoodhere narrativeto be 'timeless, spaceless, nameless and universal'.27 as a trope that uses the particularsituation as a way of rendering general or universal of themes. This understanding allegory often allows writers like Coetzee or Gordimerto be salvaged for the humanist literary tradition,by arguing that they do not write exclusivelyNadine Gordimer,J. M. Coetzee and Some Variationson the Gesture": K. Hewson, 'Making the "Revolutionary writer's responsibility',Ariel, 19, 4 (1988), pp. 55-72; and I. Glenn, 'Nadine Gordimer,J. M. Coetzee, and the South Atlantic Quarterly,93, 1 (1994), pp. 11-32. Politics of Interpretation', G. Annan, 'Love and Death in South Africa', The New YorkReview of Books, 8 November 1990, pp. 8-10. YorkReview of Books, 2 December 1982, pp. 8-12. J. Kramer,'In the Garrison',Newt, TimesBook Review, 18 April 1982, pp. 35-36. I. Howe, 'A StarkPolitical Fable of South Africa', TheNew Yor-k Levin, 'On the Edge of the Empire'.

24 25 26 27

292 Journal of SouthernAfrican Studies

about a South African situationbut ratherabout the general humancondition: 'Mr. Coetzee sees the heart of darkness in all societies, and gradually it becomes clear that he is not dealing in politics at all, but inquiringinto the natureof the beast that lurks within each of us, and needs no collective stimulus to turn and rend us'.28Any significance beyond South Afiica is ascribed not to the realm of politics but to the realm of morality. For Levin, the universalqualities of this novel lie in this move beyond politics, a move that is taken to be the proper task of literature. The same sort of judgement is routinely made in those commentaries on Coetzee's fictions that alight upon their qualities as 'allegories' or 'parables' of essentially moral principles. Coetzee's novels 'have a suggestion of parable about them. Sometimes they imagine further forms of man's inhumanity to man ... and sometimes we are allowed to interpretthem more specifically, their moral brought nearer to home'.29This interpretation the allegorical qualities of Coetzee's novels allows any of referencethatthey containaboutcultureor politics in SouthAfrica to be re-written particular as simply another lesson of general moral significance. If universal moral significance is registered in and through a reading of 'South African literature'in this way, then in turn into just a particularexample of a more general, 'South Africa' is discursively transformed universal moralisedtheme of tyranny,suffering and individualartistic conscience. Coetzee has himself observed that there is a persistent tendency to approachliterature produced under conditions of state censorship as if it were necessarily allegorical. The observation is true for the reading of South Africa under apartheid. Conceptions of of 'allegory' are central to the readings undertaken Coetzee's writing. And as Parryargues, the self-reflexive theoreticalsoplhistication Coetzee's fiction suggests that readings of his of novels as simple political allegories are probablywide of the mark,and might be betterread as commentaries on the impossibility of this form.30The genre of non-academic literary review shares the same conception of allegory with much of the left-leaning academic criticism of Coetzee's novels. According to this conception, texts are approachedin order to measuretheir distance from a pre-existingconception of the dimensions of an essentially extra-textualreality. In non-academic reviews, Coetzee's allegorising is understoodeither as a politically duplicitous escape from historical reality, as in the case of Gordimer's discussion of Coetzee's early novels,31 or alternatively, as with Levin, as a successful elevation of the narrativeto a universal, moral level. In both cases, allegory is understood in terms of the relation of the text to a historical reality that is already intelligible. Amongst academic critics, Coetzee's writing becomes the ground for competing conceptions of allegory, different conceptions which sustain different political evaluations of that writing. Abdul JanMohammed,for whom allegory is understood mimetically in terms of the relation between text and reality, finds that Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians repeats the defining allegorical manoeuvres of classical colonial discourse.32 The recent re-evaluationof the political significance of Coetzee's fiction in no small part revolves around an alternative conceptualisation of allegory, one which follows the re-evaluationof allegory in post-modem and post-structuralist literarytheory. Accordingly, Slemon reads Waiting for the Barbarians as a post-colonial recuperation of allegory, understoodas a relation between texts, thematisingthe inextricableentwinementof history28 Ibid. 29 D. Donoghue, 'Her Man Friday', The New YorkTimesBook Review, 22 February1987, pp. 1 and 26-27. 30 See J. M. Coetzee, Giving Offense(Chicago, Universityof Chicago Press), p. 151; and B. Parry.'Thanatophany for South Africa: Death With/outTransfiguration', SouthernAfricanReview of Books (January/February 1991),pp. 10-11.

31 N. Gordimer,'The Idea of Gardening',The New YorkReview of Books, 2 February1984, pp. 3-6. 32 A. R. JanMohamed,'The Economy of ManicheanAllegory: the Function of Racial Difference in Colonialist Literature',Critical Inquiry, 12 (1985), pp. 59-87.

Apartheidand the Novels of J. M. Coetzee 293

reading, allegory is not a means of escaping history, and fiction.33 this post-structuralist On but ratherthe trope where the place of language in history becomes the subject of narration itself. This alternativeconception of allegory does not enter into considerationin the genre of the literaryreview, in which Coetzee's inter-textualinscriptionsof other canonical works is met with suspicion. Each of Coetzee's novels can be read as a meta-fictionalcommentary on particularsub-genres of 'white writing', whether fiction or non-fiction - the pastoral novel, colonial travel writing, historiography or various canonical novels. This intertextuality is recognised by reviewers, who locate Coetzee on the margins of a traditionof Europeanand North American avant-gardemodernism through frequent references to the similarities of his work and that of writers such as Kafka, Conrad or Nabakov. And yet the challenge that his fiction presents to this traditionis barely registered in this genre of reviewing. Rather,when his fiction presents the conventions of the Western novel with its formal, ethical or political limits, one sees the emergence of an impatiencewith formalistic licence. In particular, Coetzee's re-writingof classic, canonical works (of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe in Foe, and Dostoevsky's The Devils in The Master of Petersburg) is met with a certain degree of unease. One reviewer regrets that Coetzee chooses to sexualise the Robinson Crusoe story in Foe,34 anotherconsideredhis revision 'a static and anaemic affair, despite the elegance of the writing'.35Likewise, The Master of Petersburg is considered a mere 'literarypastiche' of Dostoevsky's novel, is called to task for juggling with the known historical facts, and is finally dismissed as an 'act of literary terrorism'.36 The mimetic conception of allegory at work in the non-academic review allows Coetzee's novels to be located as 'South African' in relation to a stable, extra-textual referent synonymous with racism. 'Allegorical' readings, in this reading formation, re-anchorthe novels to a familiar model of South Africa as an enclosed teirain, but at the same time, and conversely, once so located they can be read as having a universal moral significance, rather than a specific political one either with reference to alternative understandingsof South Africa or to the politics of writing. This double movement is recognisable in commentarieson those novels in which South Africa is an indirectreferent, such as Life and Times of Michael K, where 'there is a certain fictional haze between the events and their local reference',37but also on those novels in which the narrativeis not located in any specific time or place, or in a non-South African location, such as Foe, Waiting for the Barbarians, and most recently The Master of Petersburg. In reviews of his latest novel, Coetzee's re-writing of Dostoevsky's The Devils is routinely re-attachedto 'South Africa', a re-attachmentthat allows the incorporationof apartheidinto a general paradigm of tyrannical regimes in decline: 'The relevance of this political allegory to South Africa, and the increasingly vicious response of a doomed regime to apartheid-era what it perceives as the enemy at its gates, is clear at once'.38South Africa underapartheid and nineteenth-centuryRussia are both taken to be emblematic of a general form of 'historical tyranny'.39 Apartheidis constructedas simply a variant of an a historical form of totalitarianism.Waiting for the Barbarians, for example, is inserted into a sub-genre of An 'the political allegory or fable dealing with modern totalitarianism'.40 'allegorical'33 S. Slemon, 'Post-ColonialAllegory and the Transformation History', Journal of Commonwealth of Literature, 22,1 (1988), pp. 157-168; see also T. Dovey, 'Allegory vs Allegory:the Divorce of DifferentModes of Allegorical Perceptionin Coetzee's "Waitingfor the Barbarians"', Journal of Literary Studies, 4, 2, (1988), pp. 133-143. 34 P. N. Furbank,'Mistress, Muse and Begetter', Times Literary Supplement,12 September 1986, p. 995. 35 D. J. Enright, 'Visions and Revisions', The New YorkReview of Books, 28 May 1987, pp. 18-20. 36 Z. Zinik, 'The Master of Petersburg',Times Literary Supplement,4 March 1994, p. 19. 37 Donoghue, 'Her Man Friday'. 38 P. McGrath,'To be Conscious is to Suffer', The New YorkTimesBook Review, 20 November 1994, p. 9. 39 J. Bayley, 'Doubles', The New YorkReview of Books, 17 November 1994, pp. 35-36. 40 P. Lewis, 'Types of Tyranny', Times Literary Supplement,7 November 1980, p. 1270.

294 Journal of SouthernAfrican Studies

reading enables South Africa to be understood as the refeIent of the novel, but a South Africa which is alreadyconstructedin terms of tyrannyand totalitarianism, allowing a more general and de-politicised significance to be drawn from the novel. In the discourse of the general literaryreview, South Africa is concretised and named as the context and referent of Coetzee's novels, but at the same time and in the same move, it is idealised as a stage for more general moral dramas of human suffering and violence. Burdens of Representation The 'allegorical' re-anchoring of Coetzee's novels enables them to be assimilated to familiar paradigmsfor understandingapartheid.One of the features of reception of South African fiction amongst metropolitanreading publics has been the routine treatment of literatureas a source of knowledge about South Afiican reality. South African writers have been expected, and in turn were read, to provide informationabout a particularreality atspecificconjuinctures.

In paiticular,

Soutlh

African literature is regularly

read in terms of a

pre-existing set of understandingsof a society polarised along stark lines of racialised division. Being able to place charactersillto a racialised drama is essential to the reading of South African fiction in this genre of criticism. Reviews of Life and Times of Michael K and Age of Iron aIe characterisedby a desire to be able to place both Michael K and Vercueil into a manageableframe of radicalisedreference. Thus, Vercueil is reportedto be a 'white down-and-out'4'or 'a white vagrant'.42 Alternatively,anotherreviewer admits that 'I thought he was meant to be a Coloured',43admittingthat Coetzee might be engaging in an intentional ruse in this respect. If characters are expected to accord to a racialised of understandinig South African society, then in tum this racialised lens is understoodin strictly polarised, binary terms. Accordingly, Age of Iron is understood to be a novel treating 'the effects of apartheidon the psyches of both the oppressorand the oppressed'.44 Such an understandinig fails to register the ways in which the protagonists of Coetzee's novels rarelybelong to this sort of easy binaty division. Rather, they tend to be figures oIn the marginof the defining axis of racialisedconflict whiclhdefined apartheidin the Western imagination.This explorationof the multiplicity of positioIls and identities in South Africa is one of the features that recommends Coetzee's novels as distinctively 'post-apartheid'naiTatives.4

The inscription of literary writing by white South Africans into an internationalframework involved the imposition of a peculiar 'burden of represenltation'uponl those

writers. They are positioned on the margins of Western literary canons as representatives who can speak of and against a racist system, in the name of universalvalues of justice and equality. They are asked to represent life under apartheid, and present a principled resistance or refusal to it, yet they do not and cannot represent its principal targets and victims, the majorityof black South Africans. Black South African writerswere much more effectively silenced or severed from their main audience, and have never been accordedthe same degree of critical acclaim amongst the mainstreamliterary establishment in North America or Europe. On an intemationalstage, white South African writers were invited to serve as proxies for the black South African majority. Yet, at the same time as South African literarywriting was inserted into this regime of value, white novelists increasingly41 42 43 44 45 P. Parrinder'What his FatherGets up to', London Review of Books, 13 September 1990, pp. 17-18. S. French, 'Writingand Action', New Statesman,21 September 1990, p. 40. Annan, 'Love and Death in South Africa'. L. Thornton,'Apartheid'sLast Vicious Gasps', The New YorkReview of Books, September 1990, p. 7. See T. Kai NorrisEaston, 'Text and Hinterland: M. Coetzee and the Soutlh J. African Novel', Journal of Southern African Studies, 21, 4 (1995), pp. 585-599.

Apartheidanidthe Novels of J. M. Coetzee 295

come to focus upon, in the content and form of their writing, their own marginalisation from the main sites of conflict and struggle in South African society. In so doing, writers such as Coetzee and Gordimer inteirogated in their novels the representativestatus that continued to be unproblematicallyascribed to them on an intemational stage. From the late 1970s onwards, the culturalwork that such fiction is made to do on this international stage is thereforeincreasinglyat odds with the domestic concems whiclhshape it. The emergence of black consciousness movements and the upsurge of all forms of resistance from black communities after 1976, precipitateda terminal crisis of liberalism as both political ideology and literary aesthetic. This accounts for the characteristic introspectionof white South African writing in the 1980s: It is an obsessionalliterature, haunted and introspective, urgentand compulsive.It tracks relentlessly moreor less pitilesslyoverthe evermorerestricted and terrain whlich,by virtue to of its situation, is condemned. is a literature parsimony narrow it It of and in depiction, which the motions generosity expansiveness of and havehadto be stilled,as unaffordable luxuries.46 Forced to concede the limits that bound their writing and its relevance, white South African writerstook on the task of imagining the contoursof post-apartheid identities.The resulting deconstructionof white subjectivityin the novels of Gordimner Coetzee has been hailed and as a 'post-liberal' project that parallels the 'post-nationalist'writings of Njabulo Ndebele.47 As white South African writing becomes acutely self-reflexive about its own marginalisation and the problem of its own authority during the 1980s, one might expect that it becomes more difficult to contain within the frame of reference through which it was mediated for mainstreaminternationalliterary publics. Tllis is likely to be particularlythe case with Coetzee's texts, in whiclh this inteiTogationof white authority is articulated through a rigorous textual experimentationwith generic and nairative forms. This formal radicalism is met with increasing impatience in literaryjournalism. We can see this tension emerging in responses to Life and Times of Michael K. This novel makes visible the specific horizon of meaning through whiclhSouth African writing is made intelligible. Michael K's social position is carefully delineated in the course of the narrative,but without recourse to the signifiers of race that are a standardfeature of most South African writing. Michael K remains unclassified by racialised signifiers throughout the novel. The only occasions when the routine vocabularyof racial classification appears is when Michael K is addressed by figures of authority.Racialisation is presented in the novel as a process of interpellationinto institutionallysupporteddiscourses of hierarchical differentiation. Furthermore,not only is race the absent signifier in the novel, but the eponymous 'hero' of this novel is a singularly passive figure. One commentatorsuggested that, if the theme of Coetzee's novel was passive suffering, then this was an inadequate theme for a novel.48Comparedboth to standardfigures of black resistance in South African literature,and to the heroes in the work of Kafka, with whom Coetzee is routinely related in literaryreviews, Michael K is thought to be simply not heroic enough. The charge that Coetzee fails to adequatelyrepresentblack South African political struggle is most forcibly articulatedin Gordimer'sreview of the novel. For her, Coetzee's novel representsa retreat from a commitmentto political solutions and is markedby a refusal to see an active black presence in South African society. The oppositional thrust of the novel is diluted by46 N. Lazarus, 'Modernism and Modernity:T. W. Adorno and ContemporaryWhite South African Literature', Cultural Critique,5 (1987), p. 131. 47 G. Pechey, 'Introduction',in N. Ndebele, South African Literatureand Culture:Rediscovery of the Ordinary (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1994), pp. 1-16; and G.Pechey, 'Post-ApartheidNarratives', in F. Barker,P. Hulme and M. Iverson (eds), Colonial DiscourselPostcolonial Theory (Manchester,Manchester University Press, 1994), pp. 151-171. 48 D. J. Enright, 'The Thing Itself', Times Literary Supplement,30 September 1983, p. 1037.

296 Journal of SouthernAfrican Studies

fashioning an account aroundsuch an ambivalentcentralcharacter,and Gordimerconcludes that Coetzee fails to acknowledge the agency of black South Africans in resisting apartheid, the novel being markedby a 'revulsion against all political and revolutionarysolutions'.49 This same charge is echoed in other reviews of the novel. As soon as Michael K is read as a figure for black South Africa, a reading that effaces the ambiguous non-inscriptionof race in the narrative,then he appears as a model of passive suffering rather than active struggle and resistance, a representationthat causes a certain degree of bewilderment: 'Surely he does not representthe spirit of Africa? I see no point in this prolonged tale of woe'. 50 In failing to accord to the 'burdenof representation'imposed upon South African literaty writing, the novel brings in to the open the conventions which framed the reading of such writing around an expectation of clear, binary protagonists who fell into simple categories of good and evil. If the burden of representationimposed upon white South African writers by international audiences is more and more at odds with their own self-conscious reflection on questions of marginalityand authority,then this accounts for the frustrationand impatience felt towards the formal experiments undertakenin Coetzee's novels. While the reading of Coetzee's novels as allegories and parables allows a particularmoral utniversalisation of South Africa, nonetheless for many reviewers the allegorical qualities of Coetzee's writing do not accord with notions of what good literary writing should be and of what South African writing in particularshould deliver. The notion that Coetzee's persistent allegorising gets in the way of what should be clearly identifiable realities is a recurringtheme: 'Coetzee's urge to allegorise intrudesupon his narrativegifts'.51 This genre of criticism is somewhat intolerantof Coetzee's stylistic and narrativeexperimentation,ascribing these to a certain 'academicism' that intrudesinto his writing. Age of Iron, with 'its didactic urges everywhere apparent', is found to be 'formulaic' and 'obvious' in its allegorising about death and illness.52What is most importantin this arena of judgement is, above all, the and quality of the naTrative, Coetzee's fiction is often found to be too 'contrived' to support what are often considered to be thin stories. The aversion to Coetzee's formal radicalism is a recurrenttheme - one reviewer invoking the same remarkin two separatereviews to express his discomfort: 'We are repelled by any sort of writing that, in Keats' phrase, "has a palpable design on us"'.53 The same discomfort and impatience with the formal features of Coetzee's novels is evidenit in Cynthia Ozick's commentary on Life and Times of Michael K. Hers is just one review which is unhappywith the intrusioninto the nalTative of Michael K's adventuresof the reflections of the Doctor, who provides a second-order commentaryon the difficulty of placing Michael K in any system of meaning. This section of the novel serves as the point at which the novel stages the necessity of its own (imis)reading.The temptation to make Michael K speak, to read him as symbolic of something, even as a figure of non-meaning, is made explicit within the narrativethrough the Doctor's account. This section of the novel is regardedby Ozick as an unnecessaryand 'self-indulgent' intrusion into Michael K's otherwise 'authentic' inner dialogue: 'the doctor's commentaryis superfluous;he thickens the clear tongue of the novel by naming its "message"and thumpingout ironies'.54This intoleranceof a stylistic 'flaw' succeeds in neutralisingthat part of the novel in which the question of interpretative authorityis made most explicit. For Ozick, this self-reflexivity is judged 'redundant',a judgement which49 50 51 52 53 54 Gordimer,'The Idea of Gardening'. D. A. N. Jones, 'Saint Jane', London Review of Books, 20 October 1983, pp. 17-18. N. Shrimpton,Sunday Times, 25 September 1983, p. 43. D. J. Taylor, 'Death of a Nation', Sunday Times, 16 September 1990. Enright, 'The Thing Itself', and 'Visions and Revisions'. C. Ozick, 'A Tale of Heroic Anonymity', The New YorkTimesBook Review, 11 December 1983, pp. 1, 26, 28.

Apar-theid and the Novels of J. M. Coetzee 297

neatly enables her to place the rest of the novel, understood simply as the rendition of Michael K's story, within an established system of moral interpretations apartheid. of

Reading Coetzee PoliticallyIn addition to general literaryjournalism,there is anotherreading-formation throughwhich South African literaturehas circulated.This is the realm of professional academic literary criticism. In this reading-formation,it is the political value of literary fiction that is emphasised. Within the dominant frameworks for assessing the political credentials of South African fiction during the 1970s and much of the 1980s, radical academic critics found it difficult to ascribe an unambiguously positive political evaluation to Coetzee's work.55His novels have been the subject of charges that they do not deal adequatelywith the urgent demands of representingthe reality of life under apartheidand articulatingan appropriate political response to it. Coetzee's novels de-familiarisecommon representations of South Africa by re-inscribingthis 'place' into diffuse networksof overlappinggeographical linkages and historical layers. As a consequence, they do not easily fit into the dominant realist aesthetic characteristicof much post-war South Africa literature. This difficulty in pinning down the political perspective of Coetzee's novels is in no small part a deliberateeffect. Political and ethical ambivalenceis a theme of all of his fiction. Coetzee steadfastly refuses to provide authoritativeinterpretations his novels or to reduce them of to political statements. In interviews, he cultivates a careful resistance to the standard gestures of the writer's political responsibility. In his critical essays he has explicitly marked his distance from instrumentalist conceptions of writing, and from understandings of the subordinaterelation of fiction to history which have shaped the realist aesthetics of mainstream oppositional South African literature.56 And in his most recent collection of essays, Coetzee directly affirms the responsibilityof writers to try and push beyond the aesthetic constraintsimposed by existing political antagonisms.57 If Coetzee's novels have in the past been met with some suspicion amongst South Afiican critics, then it is nonetheless importantto emphasise that there is no simple division to be drawn between the reception of his fiction inside and outside of South Africa. The evaluations of Coetzee's work have been significantly revised within South Africa more recently.58His fiction has been re-evaluated by academic critics in large part because of their interrogationof the dominant realist aesthetic previously characteristicof so much South African literature.Novels previously found to be lacking in an appropriate political agenda are now found to indeed have political significance. This positive re-evaluation coincides with the ascendancy of post-structuralist theories of inteipretation.In particular, it rests on a recognition of the value of formal radicalism, which had previously been overlooked or disdained by critics of his early work. There is now an increasing acknowledgement of the value of formal pluralism in current cultural debates in South Africa.59 this Furthermore, process of re-evaluationis not merely a feature of Europeanand North American discussions, but has been pioneered in South Africa. David Atwell identifies Teresa Dovey's The Novels of J. M. Coetzee, published in 1988, as marking a55 For example, M. Vaughan, 'Literatureand Politics: Currents in South African Writing in the Seventies', Journal of South African Studies, 9 (1982), pp. 18-138. 56 J. M. Coetzee, 'A Note on Writing',in Doubling thePoint, pp. 94-95; and 'The Novel Today', Upstream,6(1988), pp. 2-5. 57 Coetzee, GivinigOffense. 58 See D. Atwell, J. M. Coetzee: SouthAfrica and the Politics of Writing(Berkeley, Universityof CaliforniaPress, 1993); and M. Chapman, 1996, South Af-ican Literatures(London, Longman, 1996), pp. 385-391. 59 B. Parry,'Some ProvisionalSpeculationson the Critiqueof "Resistance" Literature',in Boehmer, Chrismanand Parker(eds), Altered State?, pp. 11-24.

298 Journal of Southerni African Studies

clear break with previous readings. Dovey reads Coetzee's early novels as allegories of psychoanalytic processes of identity formation.60Her work also calls into question the frames of evaluation tlhrough which Coetzee's writing has been ascribed political value by South African critics. She has gone so far as to argue that Coetzee's novels effectively cut the ground from under those critics who have found his fiction lacking sufficient signs of appropriatepolitical commitment. Dovey's interventionand responses to it have fostered increasingly divergent evaluations of Coetzee's novels amongst South African critics.61 These increasingly contested evaluations of the 'political' significance of Coetzee's fiction in South Africa are wrapped up in a more widespread transformationduring the 1990s which has destabilised anti-apartheid discourses which were previously hegemonic. In the field of cultural politics, a thorough-goingrevision of previous paradigmswas first triggeredby the controversialinterventionof ANC activist Albie Sachs.62Sachs called for the revision of received notions of the relationshipbetween culture and the struggle against apartheidthat had become normalised during the 1970s and 1980s. The ensuing debates about the relation between culture and politics must be considered as one of the main 'contexts' from which Coetzee's fiction departs.63South African cultural debates in the 1990s are characterisedby an attempt to find a new 'settlement' between domestic and internationaldiscourses.64 The re-thinking of the relationships between South African cultural production and international theoretical and aesthetic paradigms has opened a space for the positive re-evaluation of Coetzee's fiction in political terms. This process of revision is shared between metropolitan and local academic critics who orient themselves towards poststructuralist theoreticalperspectives.In particular,the most recent phase of the international of reception of Coetzee's fiction is intimately connected to the emnergence post-coloniial theories of culture, difference and identity. Like all literary theory, post-colonial theory is characterisedby a tendency to select certain texts, genres, authors, and formalistic or stylistic features and elevate these to the status of defining featuresof a singular 'tradition' of 'post-colonial writing'.65 For example, Slemnon'sdiscussion of the inscription of resistance in post-colonial literatureexplicitly privileges writings from what he calls the 'second world', by predominantlywhite writers from former settler colonies like Australia, In New Zealand and Canada.66 tum, the textual inscription of ambivalence and ambiguity is identifiedas the exemplaryfeatureof post-colonial literature.It is this soIt of construction of literary 'post-coloniality' which elevates the writing of Coetzee, characterisedas it is by its overt inter-textualreferencesto canonical novels, by tropes of allegoiy and mimicry, and into the canon of post-colonial literature. by a studied ambivalence of narTation,

60 T. Dovey, The Novels of J. M. Coetzee: Lacanian Allegories (Johannesburg, Donker, 1998). Ad 61 See T. Dovey, 'Coetzee and his Critics:the case of Dusklands', English in Africa, 14, 2 (1987), pp. 15-30. For responsesto Dovey's readingof Coetzee, see B. Parry,'TlheHiolein the Narrative:Coetzee's Fiction', Southern AfricanReview of Books, April/May 1989, pp. 18-20; M. Chapman'The Writingof Politics and the Politics of Writing:on ReadingDovey on ReadingLacanon ReadingCoetzee on Reading ....(?)', Journalof LiteraryStudies, 4, 3 (1988), pp. 327-341. 62 See I. de Kok and K. Press (eds), Spring is Rebellious: Argulments about CulturalFreedom (Cape Town, Buchu Books, 1990). 63 Atwell, J. M. Coetzee; and Atwell, 'The Problemof History in the Fiction of J. M. Coetzee', in M. Trump(ed), Rendering Things Visible: Essays on Sout/hAftican Literary Culture (Johannesburg,Ravan Press, 1990), pp. 94-132. 64 T. Morphet,'CulturalImaginationand CulturalSettlement:Albie Sachs and Njabulo Ndebele', in de Kok and Press (eds), Spring is Rebellious, pp. 131-144. 65 For furtherdiscussion of the structureof exemplarity character-istic all literary theory, see J. H. Miller, of Topog-aphies (Stanford,StanfordUniversity Press, 1995), pp. 316-337. 66 S. Slemon, 'Unsettlingthe Empire:ResistanceTheoryfor the Second World', Wor Liter-ature ld Writtenin English, 30, 2 (1990), pp. 30-41.

Apartheidand the Novels of J. M. Coetzee 299

The relevance of post-colonialism to South African society and culturehas been widely discussed.67These discussions are of interest here not least because of the place that Coetzee's fiction has come to hold in the working up of an international canon of post-colonial literary writing.68Coetzee's writing exemplifies the increasing convergence between post-structuralist theories of language and post-colonial literary genres,69and his fiction has been easily fitted into academic discussions of post-colonialism, not least because of his position as both a novelist as well as a professional theorist and critic. Coetzee's novels are frequentlyapproachedas if they were essentially allegories of certain theoretical principles drawn from post-structuralismor deconstruction.70 The clearest is example of this sort of appropriation in the work of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, one of the centraltheoristsof contemporary post-colonialism.Spivak has used Coetzee's re-writing of Robinson Crusoe in Foe as an exemplarof her theoreticalconcerns. For her, in the figure of the tongue-less Friday who resists all attempts to make him tell his story, the novel thematisesprocesses of colonial inscriptionand silencing.71Benita Parry'scommentarieson Coetzee's novels can be read in turn as an oblique response to Spivak's position. From Parry's more sceptical perspective, Coetzee's fiction tends to reproduceeffects of silencing by refusing to represent the voices of resistance. Coetzee's novels have thus become the ground for theoretical exposition in colonial discourse and post-colonial theory, and not least the basis for a continuationof debates sparkedby Spivak's much contested statement that 'the subalterncannot speak'.72 Atwell suggests that Coetzee's concentrationon issues of race and colonialism to the exclusion of other themes is the markof his being primarily'a regional writer within South Africa'.73Coetzee's novels are therefore particularlyaccommodating to incorporationby contemporarytheories of colonial discourse, in so far as they addressthe colonial traces not so much of South Africa as a whole, but of the Cape in particular.74 Furthermore,in the post-colonial reading of Coetzee's novels, a quite distinctive undeistandingof colonialism is privileged as the frameworkfor understandingcontemporarySouth African society. In readings of Coetzee's work framed by contemporarytheories of colonial discourse and variantof colonialism, post-colonialism, South Africa is not only constructedas a particular but of colonialism theorised primarilyas a set of discursive practices for the construction67 A. Carusi,'Post, Post and Post: Or, Whereis SouthAfricanLiterature All This?' Ariel, 20, 4 (1989), pp. 79-95; in K. Parker,'J. M. Coetzee: "WhileWriting"', New Formation7s, (1993), pp. 21-34; C. Clayton, 'White Writing 21 and Postcolonial Politics', Ariel, 25, 4 (1994), pp. 153-167; R. Jolly, 'Rehearsalsof Liberation:Conitemporary Postcolonial Discourse and the New South Africa', Publications of the Modern Language Association, 110, 1 in (1995), pp. 17-29; N. Visser, 'Postcolonialityof a Special Type: Theory and its Appropriation South Africa', The Yearbookof English Studies, Vol. 27 (1997), pp. 79-94. 68 For example, see J. Thieme (ed), TheArnoldAnthologyofPost-Colonial Literaturesin English (London,Arnold, 1996); and E. Benson and L. W. Connolly (eds), The Encyclopaedia of Post-Colonial Literaturesin English (London, Routledge, 1994). For the use of Coetzee's work in theorising post-colonial literature,see H. Tiffin, 'Post-ColonialLiteratures Counter-Discourse', and Kunapipi,9, 3 (1987), pp. 17-33; and B. Ashcroft,G. Griffiths and H. Tiffin, The Empire WritesBack: TheoryanidPractice in Post-Colonial Literature(London, Routledge, 1989). 69 E. Boehmer, Colonial and Postcolonial Literature(Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 223. 70 See Atwell's comments in Coetzee, Doubling the Point, p. 245. 71 G. C. Spivak, 'Theoryin the Margin:Coetzee's Foe ReadingDefoe's CrusoelRoxana',in J. Arac and B. Johnson (eds), Consequences of Theoty (Baltimore,Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 154-180. 72 G. C. Spivak, 'Can the SubalternSpeak?', in C. Nelson and L. Grossberg(eds), Marxismand the Interpretation of Culture(London,Macmillan,1988), pp. 271-313; Parry,'Speech and Silence in the Fictionsof J. M. Coetzee'. For furtherdiscussion of theoreticalissues at stake in the differing positions of Spivak and Parrywith respect to Coetzee's fiction, see C. Bamett, 'Sing Along with the Common People: Politics, Postcolonialism and Other Figures', Environmentand Planning D: Society and Space, 15 (1997), pp. 137-154. 73 Atwell, J. M. Coetzee, p. 25. 74 For examples, see S. Watson, 'Colonialism and the Novels of J. M. Coetzee', Research in African Literatures, 17 (1986), pp. 370-392; and S. Roberts, 'Post-Colonialism,or the House of Friday', WorldLiteratureWritten in English, 31, 1 (1991), pp. 87-92.

300 Journal of SouthernAfrican Studies of colonial subjectivities. The coloniser/colonised dyad, which is central to contemporary theories of colonial discourse and post-colonialism, easily reproduces a representationof South African society in terms of a Manicheanstrugglebetween the forces of good and evil. South Africa thus becomes just one example of a generic colonialism, one which 'cannot be historicised modally, and that ends up tilted towards a descriptionof all kinds of social oppression and discursive control'.75The historical specificity of apartheidas a regime of governance and accumulationis thus elided, as apartheidis assimilated to an essentially de-historicised model of oppression.76

ConclusionI have tried to identify some of the ways in which the meaning and referent of 'South African literature' has been dependent upon the cultural mediation of texts through institutionaliseddiscourses of criticism and theory. I have done so by looking in detail at the contexts of reception for the work of J.M. Coetzee. I lhavearguedthat Coetzee's fiction has been inserted into dominant moral representationsof apartheid, but also that the receptionof such a rigorouslyself-reflexive body of fiction makes visible the norms of these mediating discourses. In the genre of the journalistic literary review, the context of Coetzee's novels is understoodaccordingto a particular,stabilised model of South African reality under apartheid.On the other hand, within the emergent post-colonial paradigmof academic literary criticism and theory, the contexts of the novels is understood to be an array of other texts and discourses. In this reading-formation,the formal dimensions of Coetzee's fiction have been acknowledged and accorded more positive value as the locus of the political significance of the novels. Focussing upon the mediating channels of discourse through which 'South African literature'has been worked-up on an internationalstage enables the reformulationof the as of problemof the 'politics of representation' it applies to the interpretation South African cultural production.On the one hand, I have suggested that there is no simple distinction between a domestic inside and an internationaloutside which might allow appeals to an enclosed South African context as the basis for providing final judgement on the value of Coetzee's fiction. The entanglement of inside and outside thus renders problematic any judgement that appeals to the 'authenticity' of acts of representationunderstood either mimetically or as the act of speaking on behalf of others. On the other hand, nor do I want to suggest that questions of political judgement can simply be dissolved into an indeterminate mass of individual acts of endlessly creative reception. Rather, attention should be directed towards evaluating the relative influence and force of different interests and institutions in shaping the discourses of mediation through which cultural products are produced,circulatedand made available for consumption.The review, as a form of literary journalism, is distinct from academic literary criticism: the two practices are regulated by different imperativesand have a differentrelationshipto their object of analysis, even when this is the same work.77Metropolitanliterary journalism has been highly influential, not only in pre-selecting authorsand texts who are subsequentlymade the subject of academic canonisation,but also as part of an arrayof discourses where the persistent representation75 S. Slemon, 'The Scramble for Post-Colonialism', in C. Tiffin and A. Lawson (eds), De-Scribing Empire: Post-colonialism and Textuality(London, Routledge, 1994), pp. 15-32. 76 For a critiqueof the 'colonialist paradigm'of oppressionin culturaltheory, see H. L. Gates, Jr., 'Tradingon the Margin: Notes on the Culture of Criticism', in Loose Canons (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 173-194. 77 On the distinctive qualities of reviewing and criticism, see M. Morris, 'Indigestion:a Rhetoric of Reviewing', in The Pirate's Fianc&e(London, Verso, 1988), pp. 105-121.

Apartheidand the Novels of J. M. Coetzee 301

of South African society as a racial allegory is worked-up and maintained. The moral framing of literaryfiction succeeded in keeping South Africa at a distance by assimilating apartheidinto a stark moral dramaof good and evil which made it readily available as an object of clear cut moral judgement. And, since this moralised staging of apartheid continues in accounts of the transformationof post-apartheidSouth Africa, which focus upon the activities of select individuals acting out an epic moral drama of reconciliation, it remains an importanttask to critically question the channels of discourse throughwhich particularrepresentationsof South African society are reproduced.CLIVE BARNETT

Department of Geography, Berkshire, RG6 6AB, UK

The

University

of

Reading,

Whiteknights,

Reading,