Performing Race, Reconsidering History: Achmat Dangor's Recent Fiction

Frenkel, Ronit
January 2008
Research in African Literatures;Spring2008, Vol. 39 Issue 1, p149
Academic Journal
Literary Criticism
This article examines the relationship between race, memory and apartheid constructions in Achmat Dangor's novels Kafka's Curse (1997) and Bitter Fruit (2001). Questions of history, identity, sexual transgression, and transformation emerge in both texts' treatment of ambiguity. Kafka's Curse, dealing with the inconsistencies of identity during South Africa's transition to a democracy, highlights the janus-faced nature of race where representation, physicality, and history form a tenuous relationship. What occurs to this uncertainty in a postapartheid context is traced by Dangor in Bitter Fruit where history, memory, and the truth and Reconciliation Commission are of central concern. Dangor narrates a complex alternative to a bifurcated logic where South Africa is characterized by black and white, good and bad, past and present. in highlighting the intermixture and ambiguity of cultural formations, he reveals a radical heterogeneity that apartheid failed to destroy. I argue that racial identities in South Africa are complex cultural sites that lie at the interstices between apartheid taxonomies, nonracialism, Black Consciousness, and on-going poverty that is racially marked; this exists alongside postapartheid freedoms within a larger context of global resurgences of ethnic identification and increasingly recognized transnational connectivity.


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