Colonization, Violence, and Narration in White South African Writing: André Brink, Breyten Breytenbach, and J.M. Coetzee

Colonization, Violence, and Narration in White South African Writing: André Brink, Breyten Breytenbach, and J.M. Coetzee

Colonization, Violence, and Narration in White South African Writing: André Brink, Breyten Breytenbach, and J.M. Coetzee

Colonization, Violence, and Narration in White South African Writing: André Brink, Breyten Breytenbach, and J.M. Coetzee

Synopsis

Can violence be represented without sensationalistic effects, or, alternatively, without effects that tend to be conservative because they place the reader in a position of superiority over the victim or the perpetrator? This title discusses the violence attendant upon the act of narration in the broader context of critiques.

Excerpt

The soldier and the condemned man had
found some acquaintances in the teahouse,
who detained them. But they must have soon
shaken them off, for the explorer was only
halfway down the long flight of steps leading
to the boats when they came rushing after
him. Probably they wanted to force him at
the last minute to take them with him. While
he was bargaining below with a ferryman to
row him to the steamer, the two of them
came headlong down the steps, in silence, for
they did not dare to shout. But by the time
they reached the foot of the steps the
explorer was already in the boat, and the
ferryman was just casting off from the shore.
They could have jumped into the boat, but
the explorer lifted a heavy knotted rope from
the floor boards, threatened them with it and
so kept them from attempting the leap.

--Franz Kafka, In the Penal Colony

Kafka In the Penal Colony has suffered from numerous readings characterized by facile allegorization; that is, attempts to redeem the events of the story by placing them within a moral sphere whose very absence is one of the crucial points--if not the crucial point--of Kafka's tale. This phenomenon demonstrates one of the primary difficulties that writers of literary representations of violence and critics of those representations confront: the desire to use the rhetoric of such writings to establish the author, and sometimes her or his readers, at a distance from the violations that constitute her or his subject. This is the function of the moralistic rhetoric of Kafka's less sophisticated commentators; yet criticism of violence that posits the critic as "innocent," or even as victim, in or by its representation of a scene of violence, is not always so easy to spot. Perhaps Yeats was recognizing this difficulty when he wrote of . . .

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