Blame Me On History*
TO WRITE AN INTRODUCTION to this book is an act not only of homage but also of conversion. When I first read Bloke Modisane's memoir of his life in South Africa some twenty-seven years ago I was frankly appalled, not so much by what at times seemed to be the author's incessant compulsive need to confess on every other page to some act of indiscretion, moral baseness or deceit – after all, among its many other pleasures, one of the most dependable lures to the reader of modern autobiography is the promise of disclosure of human vice and folly – but what in my young age astonished me about Modisane's book was the author's apparent lack of self-consciousness, his unbelievable insouciance, which permitted him not only to tell all but to presume on the sympathy and understanding of the reader concerning his own failures and shortcomings. I must hasten to add that though it can be read as a straightforward attempt by the author to blame every personal inadequacy on the circumstances of his birth and upbringing in racist South Africa, the title of this book alludes to a passage of elaborate irony in which Modisane not only mocks at such 'rationalizations' but is also celebrating his inability to fill the sterotyped role required of him by racist white South Africa. As he explained it, "If I am a freak, it should not be interpreted as a failure of their education for a Caliban, but a miscalculation of history."
However, to go back to that first reading of Blame Me On History some twenty-seven years ago: as I recall, it was occasioned by a review which I had been asked to write for one of the British newpapers; and though I do not
*Southern African Review of Books 13–14 (1990): 11–13.