Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Hospitality in Karel Schoeman's Promised Land and Antjie Krog's Country of My Skull

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Hospitality in Karel Schoeman's Promised Land and Antjie Krog's Country of My Skull

Article excerpt


This essay places Karel Schoeman's representation of an ethically stunted and uncompromising Afrikaner community in his novel, Promised Land (1978) in counterpoint to Antjie Krog's efforts, in Country of My Skull (1999), to inaugurate a new ethics of representation in response to the demands and opportunities of the post-apartheid dispensation. We relate the two texts by reading them through the lens of Derrida's seminar on the ethics of hospitality. First, we discuss Krog's version of hospitality as an implicit response to the dynamics of moral myopia captured so vividly in Schoeman's dystopian portrait of Afrikanerdom. Second, we address the purported plagiarism in Country of My Skull in the context of the protocols for hosting the voice of the other in those works defined as "creative non-fiction", in our concluding discussion we shift our attention to the ethical implications of various practices of citation.


In hierdie essay word Karel Schoeman se uitbeelding van 'n etnies agtergeblewe en onversetlike Afrikanergemeenskap in sy roman Promised Land (1978) gekontrasteer met Antjie Krog se poging in Country of My Skull (1999) om 'n nuwe etiek van verteenwoordiging uit reaksie op die eise en geleenthede van die postapartheidsbedeling in te wy. Ons bring die twee tekste met mekaar in verband deur hulle te lees deur die lens van Derrida se seminaar oor die etiek van gasvryheid. Eerstens bespreek ons Krog se weergawe van gasvryheid as 'n implisiete respons op die dinamiek van morele bysiendheid wat so helder vasgevang word in Schoeman se distopiese portret van die Afrikanerdom. Tweedens ondersoek ons die beweerde plagiaat in Country of My Skull in die konteks van die protokolle waarvolgens daar uiting gegee word aan die stem van die ander in werke wat as "skeppende niefiksie" gedefinieer word. In ons slotbespreking verskuif ons die aandag na die etiese implikasies van verskillende sitaatpraktyke.

1 "The Economy of the Circle" in Karel Schoeman's Promised Land

Karel Schoeman's Na die geliefde land (1972), translated by Marion V. Friedmann as Promised Land (1978), (1) tells of the return of an exile, George Neethling, to an imaginary post-revolutionary South Africa. At a practical level, his return is to put his parents' affairs in order following the death of his mother, Anna Neethling. In particular he intends to organise for the sale of the family farm, Rietvlei. The farm has figured centrally in his mother's nostalgic memories of her life in South Africa before "the troubles". At an emotional level, George is driven to confront the difference between a changed reality and his mother's memories, as well as to explore the combination of affiliation with, and alienation from, the country in which he was born and in terms of which his exilic situation is defined.

George's father served in the diplomatic service of the apartheid government. Their Swiss exile, which began when George was five years old, was facilitated by connections he had established abroad. The politically demoted Afrikaans community that remained in the country following "the troubles" is of a very different order from the privileged emigre circles in which George was raised. It is his discovery of the anachronism and paranoia of this claustrophobic community that Promised Land centrally concerns.

In the first scene of the novel, George, driving in a hired car from "town" towards Rietvlei, is stopped by a gun-wielding stranger.

"Who are you?" the man called out. Blinded by the sudden light, George shielded his eyes with his hand. "I'm looking for the road to Rietvlei", he answered.

There was no immediate response. Then, from where he was standing at the top of the steps leading to the house, the man moved forward a pace and the light of the torch he was gripping danced across the empty farmyard. "Who are you?" he asked again. "Where do you come from?"

(Schoeman 1978: 1)

Desperately searching for "a password or proof of identity [that] would satisfy the suspicious old farmer" (p. …

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