Academic journal article African Studies Review

Writing as Resistance: Life Stories of Imprisonment, Exile, and Homecoming from Apartheid South Africa

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Writing as Resistance: Life Stories of Imprisonment, Exile, and Homecoming from Apartheid South Africa

Article excerpt

Paul Gready. Writing as Resistance: Life Stories of Imprisonment, Exile, and Homecoming from Apartheid South Africa. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2003. 290 pp. List of Interviewees, Key Terms, Events, and Organizations. Primary Sources. Bibliography. Index. $75.00 Cloth.

In this much revised version of his doctoral dissertation, Paul Gready provides a sophisticated and detailed "study of the culture of violence, of oppression and resistance, in apartheid South Africa, and specifically the linked encounters of incarceration, exile, and homecoming, through the medium of the life story" (13). He generates a theory of the life story as a place of contestation where the teller attempts to reclaim a personal truth against the forcibly imposed contrary truths generated by the regime. As he develops that theory, Gready provides detailed examinations of life stories created by a wide range of South Africans about their experiences in prison, under torture, in exile, and upon return to the New South Africa. If not all of his subtopics fit his broad theme equally well, and if he is sometimes too inclined to fall into the fashionable shorthand of slashed words ("un/remake" being the most common here), what he has to say is always enlightening. Some of the material has been available for a decade in journal articles, but much in the book is new. The price will keep most scholars from hurrying to add this book to personal libraries, but research libraries and even some undergraduate libraries should own it. (I already have used part of it to support some undergraduate teaching about South African politics and literature.)

Some square pegs first. Gready's discussion of Dan Jacobson is carefully done and enlightening, but while Jacobson's South African origins are shown persuasively to have influenced his work, the analysis is at best a rough fit in a work about life stories as places of contestation. …

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