Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Nadine Gordimer's the House Gun: A Postmodern Text

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Nadine Gordimer's the House Gun: A Postmodern Text

Article excerpt

            'It is from the moment when I shall no longer be more than a               writer that I shall cease to write'. Albert Camus, Carnets 


South African writer Nadine Gordimer has been one of the most outstanding advocators of interracial and "inter-gender" tolerance and harmony. Like fellow writers Andre Brink, John Maxwell Coetzee, and Beyten Beytenbarch, she has been engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle and delved into the historical evolution of her country, in the hope of finding an explanation to violence, after apartheid days. Over more than forty years, Gordimer, through an acute and sustained observation of the society she inhabits, has provided us with, what Stephen Clingman called history from the inside - from inside the land and its people. She began to write "looking for explanations for life," (Gordimer qted. in Bazin and Dallman 573-4) but more, through her prose writing and short stories, she looks for explanations for the bone-deep animosity in South Africa, "the politically charged atmosphere and milieu" where she happened to have lived. Although Gordimer declared in interviews that she was not a political person, politics hovers on the edge of her novels, from The Lying Days, Burger's Daughter to July's People. While her early-published novels explore the edgy and tensed relationships between individuals and society, society and history, her post-apartheid stories put on stage the hectic and violence-ridden South Africa, in the democratic phase.

The House Gun, more than other novels of the transition, gives an image, honed to perfection, of the legacy of apartheid. The novel harps back on burning issues as racism, homophobia and the redefinition of gender relationships. As the title rightly suggests, The House Gun is an allegory of domestic and political violence, so ingrained in South African culture, but also of anti-normative human relationships. Thus, reading The House Gun from the constellation of postmodern esthetics could help reflect, in the framework of our analysis, on the fraught relationships, on transgressive attitude of the youth towards socio-cultural "normality." To better dig out the causes and manifestations of the socio-political and cultural crisis in post-apartheid South Africa, we'll resort to the ground-breaking principles of postmodernism. More precisely, that approach will help decipher the environment of contradictions represented in the novel.

An attempt to grasp postmodern ideology is like defining the un-definable, for the term covers a variety of domains. Characterized by skepticism, subjectivism, and relativism, postmodernism distrusts any entity or agency that defines what people can or cannot do. Postmodernists thwart any attempt to fixate the meaning that something possesses, (or can ultimately possess), because meanings "are never fully "present" to the speaker or hearer but are endlessly "deferred." (Duignan) This attitude of postmodernists goes against the ideas and beliefs of modernism, which are the division of society between low and high culture, the "view of humanity as an entity that is perpetually improving and progressing, among others." (Matos) The movement is a broad reaction against the philosophical tenets and values of the modern period of Western history: the rejection of science and technology as ways to human progress, and of objective natural reality that would be independent of human beings, etc.

As "fictional philosophers", writers, concerned with the violence and absurdity of life in the late 20th century era, resorted to postmodern postulates to debunk the modern vision of the world, which they considered as the root cause of a socio-political malaise. Through what was branded postmodern literature, or postmodern esthetics, writers conceived works which "simultaneously create and destabilize meaning and conventions in their ironic or critical use of the works from the past. …

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