Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Centrifugal Force: Some Remarks on Vagrants in Three Texts by Lettie Viljoen/ Ingrid Winterbach

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Centrifugal Force: Some Remarks on Vagrants in Three Texts by Lettie Viljoen/ Ingrid Winterbach

Article excerpt


In her various novels, Afrikaans author Lettie Viljoen (pseudonym of Ingrid Winterbach) uses a large array of characters that could be described as marginal. These characters contrast strongly with the focaliser(s) in each text and in this way help to highlight the social differences caused by apartheid and the toll it took on both the haves and the have-nots. The struggle between the centre and those living at the margins--and particularly the manner in which the centre tries to co-opt or erase the margin--therefore becomes important. Viljoen/Winterbach also puts fewer and fewer words in the vagrant characters' mouths, paradoxically silencing them to prevent herself from becoming a spokesperson for the marginalised. All of the above will be demonstrated in an analysis of three texts by Viljoen/Winterbach: Klaaglied vir Koos ([1984]1987), Erf (1986) and Bullet se plan (1999).


Die Afrikaanse skrywer Lettie Viljoen (skuilnaam van Ingrid Winterbach) gebruik in haar romans 'n groot verskeidenheid karakters wat as randfigure beskryf sou kon word. Hierdie karakters vorm 'n skerp kontras met die fokaliseerder(s) in elke teks en help so om lig te werp op die maatskaplike verskille wat deur apartheid meegebring is en die tol wat dit van bevoorregtes sowel as benadeeldes geeis het. Die stryd tussen die kern en diegene op die kantlyn--en veral die wyse waarop die kern poog om die randfigure te koopteer of uit te wis--word dus belangrik. Viljoen/Winterbach laat die swerwendes al hoe minder en minder praat--sy maak hulle op 'n paradoksale wyse stil om te verhoed dat sy die randfigure se segsvrou word. 'n Ontleding van drie tekste deur Viljoen/Winterbach, naamlik Klaaglied vir Koos ([1984]1987), Erf (1986) en Buller se plan (1999), werp verder lig op die bogenoemde.

We can conceive of the margin/marginality in two ways: a) as subject position--the excluded other that must be coaxed into the centre through incorporation, inversion, hybridisation, revolution; or b) margin as irreducible other--the condition for the production of our discourse (and all positive knowledge) that must be acknowledged as incommensurable and irrecuperable. The former speaks the positive discourse of rights, while the latter speaks the negative discourse of limits.

(Kalpana Seshadri-Crooks, "At the Margins of Post-colonial Studies" 1995: 59)


The way in which the Afrikaans author Lettie Viljoen (pseudonym of Ingrid Winterbach) portrays social outcasts--particularly homeless people and those who are deemed insane or intellectually deficient by society--can be read as an appeal for positive integration into the centre of any given society of that which is deemed to be marginal. In the three texts to be discussed Klaaglied vir Koos ([1984]1987) [Lament for Koos], Erf (1986) [If deemed a noun: Residential Property, Yard or Inheritance; if deemed a verb: To Inherit) and Buller se plan (1999) [Buller's Plan; a translation entitled To Hell with Cronje appeared in 2007] (2)--the world of the various vagrants and the focalisers could be considered as analogous to what occurred in apartheid society as a whole. The (white) focaliser has a house and enough to eat, while none of the (brown (3) or black) vagrants have a house and possess very little of anything else. This article will focus on the way the focalisers try to negotiate their relations with the vagrant characters and on how Viljoen/Winterbach portrays these vagrant characters.

The differences in storyline between Klaaglied vir Koos and Erf on the one hand and Buller se plan on the other, are interesting. In Klaaglied vir Koos and Erf, the focaliser is alone on her property--her husband or lover has absconded. One or more vagrants periodically live on her property, occasionally doing odd jobs around her house; sometimes they knock on her door in search of food, money or clothing. The focaliser generally experiences these vagrants as threatening or intimidating. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.