Ndebele

Njabulo Ndebele’s offers a most interesting account of black South African writers’ journey towards the rediscovery of what he calls the ‘ordinary.’ In other words, Ndebele engages with the evolution of black South African literature from a state in which attention to minute details, introspection and interiority was downplayed as somehow petty and irrelevant bourgeois preoccupations to black South African creative writing reconciling with such features.

Indeed, writers have been obviously heavily influenced by a social landscape where ‘everything is mind-bogglingly spectacular: the monstrous war machine developed over the years; the random massive pass-raids, the mass shootings and killings; mass economic exploitation ; (…) mass removal of people etc.’ (134). In such a social environment, in which the mind is constantly the object of violent and shocking stimuli – with a perfect dose of overwhelming social absurdity – it goes without saying that any creative production focusing on subtle concepts or ‘trivial’ daily life aspects might be perceived as numb or lacking conviction, or simply not perceived at all as if one were whispering in the midst of a chorus of political slogans at a mass demonstration.

The spectacular, the visual, the evident became the dominant characteristics in black South African creative writing in what would be dubbed “protest literature” as it primarily and evidently concerned itself with exposing the unjust system it was conceived in. Ndebele supports his argument with excerpts from authors including Laguma but also points to the fact that post 1970s writers have been gradually rediscovering normality and that ‘[c]learly, the culture of the spectacular, in not permitting itself the growth of complexity, has run its course.’ Such trend is epitomized by writings by authors including Michael Siluma, Joël Matlou, Bheki Maseko, even though those creative productions are still far from a Coetzee as there are still weaknesses in their writing Ndebele states in his conclusion.

 

 

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