Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Shadowing Afrikaner Nationalism: Jungian Archetypes, Incest, and the Uncanny in Marlene Van Niekerk's Triomf

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Shadowing Afrikaner Nationalism: Jungian Archetypes, Incest, and the Uncanny in Marlene Van Niekerk's Triomf

Article excerpt


Marlene van Niekerk's novel Triomf dramatises a political and psychological crisis in Afrikaner nationalism at the time leading up to the 1994 elections. Taking a psychoanalytic approach to this postcolonial narrative, one may construct a theoretical understanding of how internal violence induced by a nationalist Afrikaner culture is projected outward. Reading van Niekerk's novel as a psychological allegory, one may interpret her characters to be representative of components of an imaginary Afrikaner consciousness--a psyche struggling to come to terms with the history of apartheid and a utopian nationalist identity. By mapping Jungian archetypes onto the novel's characters, we can theorise about the relationality of particular psychic components of a nationalistically oriented consciousness, and turning to Freud's theory of the uncanny, we can come to understand the struggle between these components. Van Niekerk leads her readers away from the mythologised past of Afrikaner nationalism, and toward a grim confrontation with a repressed, violent history.


Marlene van Niekerk se roman Triomf dramatiseer 'n politieke en psigologiese krisis in Afrikanernasionalisme in die tyd voor die 1994-verkiesing. Indien 'n mens 'n psigoanalitiese benadering tot hierdie postkoloniale vertelling sou volg, sou jy 'n teoretiese begrip kon vorm van hoe die interne geweld wat deur die nasionalistiese Afrikanerkultuur voortgebring is, uitwaarts geprojekteer word. Indien 'n mens Van Niekerk se roman as 'n psigologiese allegorie sou lees, sou jy haar karakters kon interpreteer

as verteenwoordigend van komponente van 'n denkbeeldige Afrikaner-bewussyn--'n psige wat worstel om die geskiedenis van apartheid en 'n utopiese nasionalistiese identiteit te verwerk. Deur Jungiaanse argetipes op die roman se karakters oor te ent, kan ons oor die verwantskap van bepaalde psigiese komponente van 'n nasionalisties georienteerde bewussyn teoretiseer, en indien ons ons tot Freud se teorie van die onheilspellende wend, kan ons die stryd tussen hierdie komponente begin verstaan. Van Niekerk lei haar lesers weg van die gemitologi-seerde verlede van Afrikanernasionalisme in die rigting van 'n meedoenlose konfrontasie met 'n onderdrukte, gewelddadige geskiedenis.

Marlene van Niekerk's novel Triomf dramatises the crisis in Afrikaner nationalism occasioned by the impending loss of power of the Afrikaner National Party during the time leading up to the 1994 elections. The narrative takes the form of a psychological allegory in which the Afrikaner psyche, after a long history of repression, is forced to confront its shadow. At the heart of this allegory, Van Niekerk places the incestuous Benades, collectively emblematic of Afrikaner consciousness and individually representative of Jungian archetypes. One can trace the violence of the Benades back to the overdetermination of the animus (Pop), and the subsequent devaluation of the anima (Mol) as a result of the Calvinist roots of Afrikaner nationalism. This anxiety about the anima is projected onto black South Africans, resulting in a deeply irrational fear of miscegenation, and precipitating the paranoia which is at the heart of apartheid. The pathological compulsion for insularity brought on by this paranoia results in the grotesque antithesis of miscegenation: incest. The product of the incest "crime" is manifested in the character Lambert, the Jungian shadow of the Afrikaner psyche. Despite Pop's and Mol's motivation to repress Lambert, the sheer force of the shadow to will itself into consciousness (dramatised by Lambert's confrontations with Treppie) is irrepressible. This emergence of the shadow can be understood in terms of Freud's theory of the uncanny, in which what was once familiar (the incestuous origin of Lambert and the destructive origin of Triomf), and was subsequently forced into repression, ultimately re-emerges into consciousness with devastating results. …

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