Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

"Accused by the Place and Face of the Other": Negotiations with Complicity in the Work of Antjie Kog and Yvonne Vera/"Beskuldig Deur Die Plek En Aangesig Van Die Ander': Onderhandelings Met Medepligtigheid in Die Work Van Antjie Krog En Yvonne Vera

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

"Accused by the Place and Face of the Other": Negotiations with Complicity in the Work of Antjie Kog and Yvonne Vera/"Beskuldig Deur Die Plek En Aangesig Van Die Ander': Onderhandelings Met Medepligtigheid in Die Work Van Antjie Krog En Yvonne Vera

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article examines how Antjie Krog and Yvonne Vera use literature to explore the issue of complicity in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Both societies have histories that are characterised by violence and trauma and neither society has engaged with these past abuses in a comprehensive way. Krog and Vera's work reveal their awareness that a failure to deal with the pain of others in a responsible manner renders societies vulnerable to a repetition of past abuses. Any responsible engagement with the pain of others must involve acknowledging one's own complicity in those abuses, regardless of how indirect one's involvement may have been. By reading selected extracts of Krog and Vera's work in terms of Mark Sanders' theory of complicity, I illustrate how these authors facilitate a responsible engagement with the pain of their characters. The article will pay particular attention to how these authors expose broad complicity in the pain of individuals--individuals who are located at the intersections between racial and gender oppression.

Opsomming

Hierdie artikel ondersoek die wyse waarop Antjie Krog en Yvonne Vera literatuur gebruik vir 'n verkenning van die kwessie van medepligtigheid in Suid-Afrika en Zimbabwe. Die geskiedenis van albei samelewings word gekenmerk deur geweld en trauma en nie een van hierdie samelewings het op 'n omvattende wyse met historiese misbruike gehandel nie. Die werk van sowel Krog as Vera bewys dat hulle daarvan bewus is dat die versuim om die pyn van ander te hanteer samelewings kwesbaar kan maak vir 'n herhaling van die misbruike van die verlede. Enige verantwoordelike omgaan met die pyn van ander behoort ook 'n erkenning in te sluit dat 'n mens self medepligtig aan daardie misbruike was, ongeag hoe indirek sulke betrokkenheid ook al was. Deur geselekteerde uittreksels van Krog en Vera se werk te lees in die lig van Mark Sanders se teorie van medepligtigheid, demonstreer ek hoe hierdie skrywers 'n verantwoordelike omgaan met die pyn van hulle karakters moontlik maak. Die artikel sal in besonder aandag skenk aan die wyse waarop hierdie outeurs medepligtigheid aan die pyn van individue blootle--individue wat hulself by die snypunte van ras--en genderonderdrukking bevind.

As a generator of otherness in language and of the self, the literary work, understood broadly, emerged as the place where intellectuals grappled imaginatively with complicity. Autobiographical and testimonial narrative of various kinds formed a hinge between history and fiction as its authors figured the greater complicity or foldedness in human being that stands as the condition of possibility for any opposition to a system that constantly denies it. (Sanders, 2002:x.)

I. Introduction

In this article I explore how Antjie Krog and Yvonne Vera engage with the issue of complicity in traumatic abuses that were perpetrated in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Both authors deal with responsibility and complicity and the rhetorical strategies they use in their literary engagement with these issues are shaped by the specificities of their South African and Zimbabwean socio-political contexts as well as by their racial, cultural, gender and linguistic identity. Krog (2005:103) has stated that the "whole point of writing is to interact with the 'you'" and that she regards it as "imperative that we imagine ourselves the other" (Krog, 2005:104). Though both authors create work that "calls upon a reader to assume responsibility for an other in the name of a generalized foldedness in human-being" (Sanders, 2002:17), they do so from very different positions. This article will show how, in an apparently paradoxical manoeuvre, Krog and Vera go about interrogating or unfolding rigidly constructed notions of racial, cultural and gender identity in their attempt to assert the broader foldedness that complicity implies.

Sanders (2002:215) conceptualises complicity as more than a mere "acting together" in that he extends the term to include that which "establishes the horizon of judgment for that acting". …

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