Let Us Not Stand Too Silent: Novelistic Portrayals of a Post-Apartheid South Africa

Andrew Zaleski EN410 – English Honors Independent Study Dr. Brian Norman May 9, 2011


Andrew Zaleski | 1

Let Us Not Stand Too Silent: Novelistic Portrayals of a Post-Apartheid South Africa In 1948, the National Party under the leadership of D.F. Malan wins general elections in what was then the Union of South Africa.1 Malan’s Afrikaner National Party would soon begin implementing its policy of apartheid—which, in Afrikaans, means “apartness”—as a systematic, government-supported method to keeping white and black South Africans separated while simultaneously subjugating the black majority to inferior living spaces, working conditions, and social services, and virtually destroying any hopes harbored by black South Africans to share the same civil rights as their white counterparts. For forty-six years, until the first countrywide democratic elections in 1994 voted down apartheid and voted into power political prisoner, civil rights champion, and African National Congress president Nelson Mandela, black and coloured South Africans suffered under the oppressive white minority apartheid regime. During the first decade, this regime would resettle Africans living within the country to designated “Homelands,” or areas of South Africa that the white government set aside specifically for black South Africans (Thompson 201). The intent was mischievous, the thinking being that for blacks and coloureds to live full lives, they required living space in their original African lands. But if black South Africans wished to cross out of the Homelands and into white-ruled South Africa, they would need pass documents that legitimized their being out of their African home lands (Thompson 165-167). With “apartness” as an official policy, then, the idea of shared racial space was unimaginable as apartheid systems governed white spaces and black mobility. But imagination is as much, if not more, the province of novelists as policy makers and their functionaries.

                                                                                                                1  In 1948, South Africa was still the Union of South Africa, a protectorate of the British Empire and member of the
British Commonwealth. It would not become the Republic of South Africa until 1961. To avoid complicating this introduction, all references to the country, regardless of date, will be made under the name South Africa.  


Andrew Zaleski | 2 Writing about a nation steeped in racial tension from colonial contact through the

dismantling of apartheid, South African novelists demarcate literary worlds in which it is difficult—sometimes impossible—for whites and blacks to share physical, geographical space. The celebrated 1948 novel Cry, the Beloved Country, for instance, demonstrates that even when whites and blacks share space in South Africa, it is done on a white man’s terms, and fueled by paternalistic instincts. This paper will show, through several close readings of bellwether fictional texts, how that South African geographical space is racialized in literature, and therefore belongs to either whites or blacks, but not to both simultaneously. Indeed, the novels in question in this thesis, published during and after the apartheid period, seem to suggest that white and black South Africans will inevitably remain separated, with attempts at cross-racial reconciliation failing and falling short. And while historical events depict a present-day South Africa that maintains a modicum of interracial harmony and cooperation, the literature of apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa appears pessimistic about the possibility of whites and blacks sharing space harmoniously. Novels surveyed in this thesis include two by Nobel Prize-winning author J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians (1980) and Disgrace (1999); famed black novelist Bessie Head’s When Rain Clouds Gather (1969); one novel, July’s People (1981), by Nobel Prize-winning author Nadine Gordimer; and, as previously mentioned, Paton’s globally celebrated Cry, the Beloved Country (1948). These novels, in addition to being signal texts by celebrated South African writers, all approach the matter of racialized geographical space from various lenses; each novel tries to imagine, in different ways, how a South Africa that allows for whites and blacks to share space would look.


Andrew Zaleski | 3 Admittedly, in constructing such an argument based solely on the literature, this paper

will ignore, to a point, the present-day situation in South Africa, which depicts a nation with a growing black middle class and ever increasing intermingling of the races and cohabiting of geographical space, though townships still exist and are still exclusively the space of black and coloured South Africans. Also, this paper will only discuss gender issues insofar as they relate to the idea of shared geographical space between the races; what spaces women, black or white, are allowed to share in with men, black or white, is another matter entirely, and could even constitute a separate paper or thesis-length project. Of course, any argument that South African literature brings readers to a conclusion that space in South Africa is racialized and therefore unable to be shared must answer initially why such a separation between white and black originates and perpetuates. The historical record of South Africa—a white minority government introducing and implementing forced separation and segregation via apartheid—answers that question: Afrikaners, along with white South Africans of English descent, thought their skin color made them superior and entitled (Sparks 34-37); Afrikaners made the dubious claim that South Africa was their land, in large part because of the voortreks of the early and mid-1800s; and white South Africans, especially Afrikaners, in full recognition of their minority status, wanted a system in place to ensure their security and stability, thought to be in jeopardy from blacks (Sparks 88); as fifth-generation South African journalist Allister Sparks writes in The Mind of South Africa, “Segregation was essential for national survival. There could be no common South African society” (148). But in literature, a realm where, ostensibly, reconciliation between the races may occur, as well as a format in which onlookers of South Africa might find answers to how such a reconciliation might unfold, how is it possible that four storied South African novelists can


Andrew Zaleski | 4

portray but a glimpse of such a reconciliation? Moreover, even when the authors do experiment, literarily, with shared geographical space, why do those experiments fail? The answer lies in Melissa Steyn's concept of “whiteness” and “White Talk,” which she relays in her essay, “White Talk”: White South Africans and the Management of Diasporic Whiteness. Steyn, a professor of sociology at the University of Cape Town, identifies a vein of thinking, by whites in a post-apartheid South Africa, that attempts to keep in place white power and privilege. Whiteness, Steyn says, “is the shared social space in which the psychological, cultural, political, and economic dimensions of this privileged positionality are normalized, and rendered unremarkable” (121). Throughout the apartheid years, being white, in all its facets, was the South African convention; not being white was unusual. Defined as unusual, blackness and black South Africans—the not-whites—were therefore easily viewed as separate, and such separation was easily viewed as necessary. However, in this paper I make the case, through literature, that whiteness is threatened in today’s South Africa as whites slowly realize they might not have a defined place—they might not have a claim to any geographical space—in a post-apartheid society. Two pillars of Steyn’s thought illustrate whiteness’ threatened status: 1. In a post-apartheid South Africa, the pressure “is toward dismantling, and indeed deconstructing, old social relations. Whites need to find new narratives to explain who they are, what they are doing in Africa, and what their relationship is to the indigenous people and to the continent” (122). 2. In a post-apartheid South Africa, whites suddenly see their whiteness at risk. “White South Africans draw toward white people elsewhere: ‘home’ is where other whites are. . . . [W]hiteness in South Africa retains and nurtures a sense of its bonds with the centers of whiteness, such as Euro-America and Australasia” (126). During apartheid, whites were (thought to be) superior to blacks in every aspect; blacks were subjugated. In a post-apartheid society, whites and blacks are on equal footing and share the


Andrew Zaleski | 5

same civil rights. No longer can whites say, for example, that they are God’s chosen people in South Africa, as the Dutch Reformed Church argument goes (Sparks 32-35). Furthermore, in an equal society, whites become acutely aware of their minority status; they do not identify en masse as South Africans, but rather seek to identify in racial groups within racialized spaces. Steyn argues in her essay that without the political means to oppress the majority black population in the country, whites (the racial group) look for racialized spaces elsewhere (Australia, New Zealand, Britain, and so on) that are non-threatening. How, I ask, does Steyn’s interpretation of whiteness shape in retrospect what unfolds in the novels I survey in this paper as they attempt to imagine a shared racial space? From this vantage, I detect a trend, one predicated upon political power: whoever holds political power dictates the boundaries of racialized spaces, decides when and in what context those spaces can be breached, and decides which group, whites or blacks, are allowed to cross freely in and out of racialized geographical spaces in South Africa. So, whereas Steyn’s essay concerns itself mainly with examining how whites in today’s post-apartheid South Africa try to maintain and shore up their privilege and power, I’m interested in gleaning whether white and black South Africans could see themselves sharing power (and, in so doing, geographical space). Before getting to the nitty-gritty of the examples, insert one sentence about how this extends or, better yet, adds something, to Steyn’s work. In Cry, the Beloved Country, this is demonstrated when the white motorist allows Stephen Kumalo access into his car, but the collective population of Johannesburg demands that blacks remain in the outlying townships of Orlando and Sophiatown; in Waiting for the Barbarians, readers see this in the magistrate, who may freely leave his colonial settlement to travel into barbarian space, but barbarians only gain access to the settlement as prisoners or under the magistrate’s terms, such as the barbarian girl who stays with


Andrew Zaleski | 6

the magistrate as a weird pseudo-concubine; in Disgrace, however, too far an encroachment into the post-apartheid, backcountry space of eastern South Africa results in a retaliatory attack by three black farmers. “White Talk,” then, is a convenient semantics game Steyn identifies as a way for whites to embrace their minority status as something suddenly in danger and in need of preserving. The preeminent example of such “White Talk” comes in Paton’s novel when John Harrison tries to explain to James Jarvis, the father of the murdered Arthur Jarvis, his fears regarding the “native question” (in other words, what to do with black South Africans): I try to treat a native decently, but he’s not my food and drink. And to tell you the truth, these crimes put me off. I tell you, Jarvis, we’re scared stiff at the moment in Johannesburg [of native crime]. . . . God knows what’s coming to the country, I don’t. I’m not a nigger-hater, Jarvis. I try to give ‘em a square deal, decent wages, and a clean room, and reasonable time off. Our servants stay with us for years. Harrison reframes black and white relations so that only two outcomes are possible: total separation is necessary to ensure that blacks do not commit crime (against whites, naturally); and blacks can enter into white space, but it is done on a white man’s terms, and blacks must abide by those terms. Steyn says that much in writing, “‘White Talk’ tends . . . to dwell on certain themes: crime and violence, corruption, dropping standards, affirmative action, and Africans’ ingratitude.” My argument that in the literature black and white South Africans cannot share physical space has a chronological component. In surveying these novels, I find that as political power shifts gradually from white South Africans to black South Africans in the historical context, the limits of geographical space are defined first by white South Africans, and then by black South Africans in the literary imagination. That is why I arrange the chapters by historical era— apartheid’s beginnings, its peak, then its dismantling in a post-apartheid era—with representative


Andrew Zaleski | 7

novels from each era. With this structure, it seems that this transfer of power follows along a continuum: whites in power keep space racialized to keep the races separate and their power intact; but in a post-apartheid South Africa, whites are faced with the choice of either reworking their relationship to black South Africa by accepting their minority status, or leaving black South Africa outright. Paton, Gordimer, and Coetzee, in their books published during apartheid, all illustrate that sharing space in South Africa is futile. Perhaps no image most clearly shows this than the final scene in July’s People, when Maureen Smales runs toward what appears to be a helicopter, eagerly seeking to be extracted out of the South African bush, and out of July’s tribal village. Bessie Head cannot even find shared space within South Africa in When Rain Clouds Gather— she is forced to attempt her failed experiment at shared, interracial space in Botswana. (And it is a failed experiment, since the physical space being shared isn’t even inside South Africa.) The final chapter focuses singlularly on Coetzee’s Disgrace, which was published one year after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission presented its report in 1998. What angers David Lurie toward the novel’s end isn’t so much that his daughter Lucy was raped, but rather that it was a black person who raped her. David, for all intents and purposes, rapes a student at the beginning of the book. What he can't reconcile in his own brain is the idea that a black South African would do that to his white daughter, since he thinks white space—in this case, his daughter’s vagina—isn't reserved for black South Africans. David, nor his daughter, have the power to define the geographical and physical limits of space, now that South Africa is governed by black majority rule, because the country is no longer theirs. Whiteness is now unusual, and white space must be carved out of a larger black space: South Africa.

  Works Cited Coetzee, J.M. Disgrace. London: Vintage Books, 2000. Coetzee, J.M. Waiting for the Barbarians. London: Penguin Books, 1982. Gordimer, Nadine. July’s People. London: Penguin Books, 1981.

Andrew Zaleski | 8

Head, Bessie. When Rain Clouds Gather. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann Educational Books, 1972. Paton, Alan. Cry, The Beloved Country. New York: Scribner, 2003. Steyn, Melissa. “ ‘White Talk’: White South Africans and the Management of Diasporic Whiteness.” Postcolonial Whiteness: A Critical Reader on Race and Empire. Ed. Alfred J. Lopez. Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 2005. 119-135. Sparks, Allister. The Mind of South Africa. New York: Ballantine Books, 1990. Thompson, Leonard. A History of South Africa. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

Andrew Zaleski | 1 Chapter 1: For the Cutting Up of South Africa: How Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country Demonstrates the Impracticability of Whites and Blacks Living Among Each Other Writing about a nation steeped in racial tension from colonial contact through the dismantling of apartheid, South African novelists demarcate literary worlds in which it is difficult—sometimes impossible—for whites and blacks to share physical, geographical space. The celebrated 1948 novel Cry, the Beloved Country, for instance, demonstrates that even when whites and blacks share space in South Africa, it is done on a white man’s terms, and fueled by paternalistic instincts. And while historical events present a present-day South Africa that maintains a modicum of inter-racial harmony and cooperation, this thesis paper will argue, using several novels written by South Africans before, during, and after the apartheid period, that white and black South Africans must inevitably remain separated. Much of the central story in Alan Paton’s novel, Cry, the Beloved Country, unfolds in the city of Johannesburg, where Pastor Stephen Kumalo’s son, Absalom, shoots and kills Arthur Jarvis, a white engineer and social welfare advocate crusading for justice on behalf of black South Africans. The shooting itself unfolds rather incidentally: Absalom and two companions enter Arthur’s presumably vacant Parkwold house looking to steal food and small items of little consequence. When they encounter Arthur’s black house servant, one of the companions dispatches him with a blow to the head; upon hearing the noise, Arthur heads downstairs. And upon seeing the white man in the house, a startled Absalom fires the revolver he carried into the house, before running off panic-stricken. This scene serves to outline and establish the crucial tension underlying Paton’s novel. Published in 1948, the same year that Afrikaner nationalist D.F. Malan and his Nationalist Party—the purveyors of the apartheid system—were voted into power in South Africa,1 the canonical Cry, the Beloved Country illuminates the difficulties black and white South Africans experience living among each other. Johannesburg (one of the main settings of the book, in addition to the tribal land of Ndotsheni) illustrates this experience well. Black South Africans                                                                                                                

In 1948, South Africa was still the Union of South Africa, a protectorate of the British Empire and member of the British Commonwealth. It would not become the Republic of South Africa until 1961. To avoid complicating this introduction, all references to the country, regardless of date, will be made under the name South Africa.

Andrew Zaleski | 2 flood the city, many of whom do so in an effort to secure work in the country’s gold and diamond mines. Overcrowding becomes a crisis for blacks, who must go to Orlando, or Sophiatown, or Alexandra, the townships dotting the outskirts of Johannesburg, to bribe or beg other blacks for rooms to let. Whites won’t have them inside the city. Indeed, for Absalom Kumalo to even be in Arthur Jarvis’ house—and not as house servant—is socially unacceptable beyond the mere crime of breaking-and-entering. Driving the tension is the question of space: the spaces in South Africa reserved for whites versus those spaces inside the country that are reserved for blacks. As black South Africans pour into Johannesburg’s surrounding suburbs, they are quite literally in need of space—plots of land for homes, and homes themselves. Dubula, a fiery black political figure championing equal rights and treatment, suggests to squatters in Orlando that they must build their own homes. Out of “sacks and planks and grass from the veld and poles from the plantations” (85) black South Africans build homes “on the open ground near the railway line,” as Dubula instructs. White men from Johannesburg take notice of the “Shanty Town,” and wonder what the “poor [black] devils” will do in the rain and in the winter. Then come the machines: Men come, and machines come, and they start building rough houses for us. . . . And no sooner do they begin to build for us, than there come in the night other black people, from Pimville and Alexandra and Sophiatown, and they too put up their houses. . . . And the white men come again, but this time it is anger, not pity. The police come and drive the people away. (91) Segregationist and paternalistic instincts weld together in the corrugated tin structures erected at Orlando. Whites do not want “natives”—what they’ve dubbed black South Africans—living among them in Johannesburg; but it is also the white man’s burden to take care of the native population. Hence the “rough houses,” which the white men are willing to build for only the

Andrew Zaleski | 3 blacks who originally settled near the railway line. When blacks from other townships come, they are kicked out by white policemen. Essentially, then, what Paton presents is a complicated vision of a country in which black and white South Africans cannot share space; blacks have their land, and whites, too, have their own land. And, at least in Paton’s novel, white South Africans dictate how the space is divided. Admittedly, there are moments in Cry, the Beloved Country when white and black South Africans do share space. When Stephen Kumalo first comes to Johannesburg, he shares his first meal at the priest’s mission, with both white and black priests in attendance (51). Later in the novel, at the funeral of Arthur Jarvis, “[w]hite people, black people, coloured people, [and] Indians” (181) all come together in one small church in Parkwold to mourn Jarvis. But these are exceptions—and it is presented as such. Historically, too, there are moments when different peoples in South Africa crossed the color line and came together for a unified goal. Such was the case in June 1955, when delegates from the African National Congress joined with Indians, coloureds, and whites to endorse the Freedom Charter. They met in Kliptown, a township outside of Johannesburg that would eventually be renamed Soweto. Journalist Allister Sparks describes the scene in his book The Mind of South Africa, saying, “Three thousand delegates turned up under the blue-gum trees, two-thirds of them black and the rest more or less evenly divided between whites, ‘coloureds,’ and Indians” (240). Indeed, attendees there adopted the Freedom Charter “as a vision of a future South Africa beyond apartheid, a democratic, nonracial South Africa in which black and white would live together in peace and harmony” (Sparks 239, 240). But overshadowing brief moments of harmony during the years when apartheid plagued the land are the egregious ways in which the white minority kept the black majority out of their

Andrew Zaleski | 4 white spaces. (Which, for all intents and purposes, meant giving black South Africans the smallest amount of space possible while still ensuring their labor for use in the gold and diamond mines.) With the election of Malan as prime minister in 1948, an Afrikaner nationalist was now representing an entire nation in which his own people composed no more than 12 percent of South Africa’s total population (Leonard Thompson, A History of South Africa, 186). Yet, in just 10 years time, Malan’s Afrikaner Nationalist Party passed a series of legislative acts that successfully cemented apartheid—legal separation of the races—as the law of the land. And apartheid was predicated upon four essential ideas, two of which are particularly noteworthy: four “racial groups”—those being White, coloured, Indian, and African (black)—made up South Africa; and white interests should prevail over black interests (Thompson 190). This fundamentally meant that the South African state was looking out for only white South Africans. The Homelands system instituted by the white minority government proved most detrimental to non-whites. Blacks and coloureds were grouped into 10 different “homelands” within the national boundaries of South Africa. Inside these tracts of land, (analogous perhaps to Native American reservations in the United States) non-white South Africans were denied rights to unionize, intentionally paid lower wages, and forced to procure pass documents to enter into cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town to work for those meager wages. “Apartheid society” produced an immediately dismal lifestyle for black and coloured South Africans: Possessing privileged access to high-level jobs and high wages, white South Africans were as prosperous as the middle and upper classes in Europe and North America. . . . The state provided them with excellent public services: schools and hospitals; parks and playing fields; buses and trains; roads, water, electricity, telephones, drainage, and sewerage. . . . Public services for Blacks were characteristically inadequate or nonexistent. In the Homelands, women still walked miles every day to fetch water and firewood; in the towns, people crowded into single-sex compounds, leaky houses, or improvised shacks. (Thompson 201)

Andrew Zaleski | 5 White spaces were pristine, economically advantageous, and strictly off-limits to black South Africans, as historians such as Thompson and Sparks demonstrate. But the question being asked here is whether white spaces, in a post-apartheid South Africa, will ultimately become communal spaces, shared by black and white South Africans. In Paton’s novel, moments spent in communal spaces—the shared, black-and-white dinner table at the mission, for instance—are overshadowed as well by the frequency of moments spent in distinct, segregated spaces. Harmony and equality are fleeting. More often, interactions between black and white South Africans are tempered by either a spirit of animosity or one of paternalistic hand-holding. Whites control the interactions, and their terms set the rules by which encroachment by blacks into white space is allowed. Whites, in constrast, do not encroach into black spaces, but rather move freely back and forth, since they set the rules. In Cry, paternalistic instincts guide the behavior of some whites during the Johannesburg bus boycott, for instance. Dububla dissuades Stephen Kumalo and Msimangu from using the bus to travel out to Alexandra—to do so would mean paying sixpence instead of fourpence for bus fare. Stephen and Msimangu, after some time walking toward their destination, stop when a white man pulls up next to them in his car and offers them a ride (Paton 74-75). Later in the day, Stephen and Msimangu observe other white drivers following suit, stopping to offer rides to black South Africans returning home after a day spent working in Johannesburg: Many of the white people stopped their cars, and took in the black people, to help them on their journey to Alexandra. Indeed, at one robot . . . a traffic officer was talking to one of these white men, and they heard the officer asking whether the white man had a license to carry black people. . . . [Y]ou are carrying passengers on a bus route, said the officer. Then take me to court, said the white man. (Paton 81) While the intention of the anonymous white man seems genuine, the conditions behind the action are fraught. His car becomes a shared space, a space available by invitation only, but the black

Andrew Zaleski | 6 man’s boycott is not a shared struggle. And it doesn’t have to be, because the destination of this particular car ride—out of Johannesburg, back to Alexandra—makes the white man comfortable with assisting a black South African and (temporarily) approving movement across spaces. After all, white South Africans don’t need to take the bus and venture into black space. So, ultimately, what Paton appears to argue is that whites can offer rides because they do not work or wish for equality in South African society; at best, some just want equivalence. Tolerating black South Africans becomes imaginable as long as blacks, literally, stay in their place. That is why white South Africans bring their machines to Orlando to build rough houses, offer rides to pedestrians, and approve of the shanty town at Alexandra. As Msimangu tells Stephen Kumalo: Our white friends . . . they said that the good things of Alexandra were more than the bad. That it was something to have a place of one’s own, and a house to bring up children in, and a place to have a voice in, so that a man is something in the land where he was born. (Paton 76, 77) On the one hand, providing space—actual allotments of land—for blacks lends them ownership over their own lives. But on the other hand, the thought here would appear noble on behalf of whites if it didn’t smack of paternalistic nanny-ing and do-goodery that merely exacerbates a problem white South Africans initially manufactured. Indeed, the paternalistic tendencies running through much of white South African literature, not to mention liberal politics, is why this issue of space is so contentious. Stephen Kumalo, a rustic, country African, is initially unaware of the problem. Msimangu introduces him to it: The tragedy is not that things are broken. The tragedy is that they are not mended again. The white man has broken the tribe. . . . But the house that is broken, and the man that falls apart when the house is broken, these are the tragic things. That is why children break the law, and old white people are robbed and beaten. . . . It

Andrew Zaleski | 7 suited the white man to break the tribe . . . [b]ut it has not suited him to build something in the place of what is broken. (Paton 56) Msimangu references the compound system, the system by which black men leave their wives and families for months at a time to work in the gold mines. “We come from the Transkei, and from Basutoland, and from Bechuanaland, and from Swaziland, and from Zululand,” says Stephen’s brother, John, who owns a business in Johannesburg (Paton 67). As white mine owners discover new gold, more black men leave their families, abandon their tribes, and forget their customs (Paton 52). Inevitably, though, the tribe breaks up, because white South Africans have left blacks with little means to generate economic and cultural stability. Stephen Kumalo sees it in Ndotsheni, his home: “Down in the valleys women scratch the soil that is left, and the maize hardly reaches the height of a man. They are valleys of old men and old women. . . . The men are away, the young men and the girls are away. The soil cannot keep them any more” (Paton 34). The space blacks have in South Africa is inadequate; to find opportunity, they must forsake their tribal lands and travel to the big, white-dominated cities, as Stephen’s son, Absalom, did. But once those young men and women get to Johannesburg, whites will not have them—black people belong in the mines, or in their tribal lands. The pressure of being unable to fend for oneself is overwhelming. Customs and traditions erode among youths who live “loose and idle lives” (Paton 52). Some, like John Kumalo, maintain a cautious optimism, aware that the tribal society is breaking apart, but conscious of the necessity for blacks to build a “new society” in Johannesburg (Paton 67). But Stephen Kumalo’s mission is one of extraction: to find Absalom and pull him out of Johannesburg, back to his proper place of Ndotsheni. Stephen recognizes no new society, but rather views a culture that corrupted, and ultimately doomed, his son.

Andrew Zaleski | 8 When Absalom stands in Arthur Jarvis’s house, revolver loaded, he realizes he has encroached on white space. A black boy standing in the home of a white man—a liberal white man, one who thinks deeply on the “native question”—signals the tragic irony of Cry, the Beloved Country. For what is the black man to do when the maize hardly reaches the height of a man? How do black South Africans re-adjust when their only hope for economic survival is to move to a white-dominated city, and then realize that opportunities for advancement and security are scarce, if not formally unavailable? This question of space in South Africa is linked inextricably to the breakdown of tribal society, a breakdown prompted by economic necessity, catalyzed by the discoveries of gold in places like Odendaalsrust (Paton 200), exacerbated by whites’ refusal to share land, and perpetuated by a white minority culture that will give a man a ride, but not provide a man the means to purchase his own vehicle. And so it goes. Arthur Jarvis is shot and killed, and the political discourse in Johannesburg surrounding these events turns from advocating for benevolent and insightful reforms to clamoring for stubbornly exclusionary policies. While some white people argue openly for better funding for black schools to give “the native people of this country . . . worthy purposes to inspire them and worthy goals to work for” (Paton 107), others “cry for the cutting up of South Africa without delay into separate areas, where white can live without black, and black without white, where black can farm their own land and mine their own minerals and administer their own laws” (Paton 109). The solution is the separation of South Africa into distinct geographical tracts of land, and to dispatch blacks there soundly like a mother would send a tiresome child to a play room. This is why whites lock their doors, keep guard dogs, and barricade their houses (Paton 112, 173), and why blacks head to the open land near the railway line and construct their own homes.

Andrew Zaleski | 9 Arthur Jarvis recognizes the folly of white South Africans in his writings, and places the blame for the “native problem” squarely on the shoulders of South Africa’s white population: Our natives today produce criminals and prostitutes and drunkards, not because it is their nature to do so, but because their simple system of order and tradition and convention has been destroyed. It was destroyed by the impact of our own civilization. Our civilization has therefore an inescapable duty to set up another system of order and tradition and convention. . . . We set aside one-tenth of the land for four-fifths of the people. (Paton 179) Arthur Jarvis takes the matter of space head on, admitting that whites have hoarded the majority of land in South Africa, leaving a majority black population crammed and cramped and crippled, entirely unable to perform large-scale improvements of their own situations no matter how hard they try. The sentiments are perceptive. In effect, Arthur Jarvis provides the blueprint for what must be done in an apartheid-dominated society to maintain order, a semblance of harmony, and restore tribal society. Without action, however, the gravity of the sentiments is absent. Instead, what South Africa gets is a dead engineer and a black boy standing before a judge. Absalom Kumalo is sentenced to death; his counsel “draws attention to his youth and to the disastrous effect of a great and wicked city on the character of a simple tribal boy” (Paton 233), but the judge believes Absalom’s intention was to “inflict grievous bodily harm” (Paton 235). No thought is given to the political and material conditions of the altercation: the small room in Arthur’s house, where a black man who felt the need to encroach into white space found his white counterpart and shot him. No one asks why or how this could have happened— intention to inflict harm is cause enough. In a sense, the sentencing restores order. Shortly after, Stephen Kumalo returns to Ndotsheni, the umfundisi priest back in his space. Absalom’s conviction alleviates any confusion about the latitude a black man has in Johannesburg; fittingly he will be hanged in Pretoria, the white capital of a nation run by white South Africans (Paton 241). But the murder of Arthur

Andrew Zaleski | 10 shakes father James Jarvis to his core. James returns to High Place, his farm that stands high above Ndotsheni, the farm his son Arthur left behind when he chose a different life in Johannesburg, a life that would fatally intersect with the lives of Absalom and Stephen Kumalo. Because what James realizes upon returning to High Place is what Stephen has known about Ndotsheni prior to leaving Johannesburg: that the land yields hardly any crops; that tribal lands and chiefs are broken apart by white society, only to be replaced with viceroy chiefs who struggle to keep black communities together (Paton 264); that education in Ndotsheni is inadequate in that it doesn’t teach black sons and daughters how to farm the land and provide for themselves and their families (Paton 267). Arthur’s writings prompt James’s transformed perspective: It was permissible to allow the destruction of a tribal system that impeded the growth of the country. It was permissible to believe that its destruction was inevitable. But it is not permissible to watch its destruction, and to replace it by nothing, or by so little, that a whole people deteriorates, physically and morally. (Paton 179) Arthur’s argument is retrospective. In other words, it was understandable for whites to take what they needed from the land, to break apart tribal systems, in the process of advancing South Africa. Now, however, it is no longer all right to watch the destruction of black South Africa and not replace their broken system with something new. So that’s what James does. In what can be viewed as a last-ditch attempt to build space for both whites and blacks—the type of space that his son and Stephen’s son could not share—he sets out to fix a broken Ndotsheni. He delivers milk to Stephen, and instructs him that the milk “is for small children only” and that it will be delivered “till the grass comes and [you] have milk again” (Paton 271). He provides a salary and supplies to Napoleon Letsitsi, the African man who

Andrew Zaleski | 11 comes to teach farming to the people of Ndotsheni (Paton 285). He offers the funding to construct a new community church for Stephen to preach in (Paton 296). But as was the case with the white driver in Johannesburg, who can only temporarily loan space to weary black travelers (and not, perhaps, to a strong-willed Dubula, or a black man with his own business, like John Kumalo), James’s actions amount to liberal white paternalistic displays designed to alleviate guilt. Providing money and education for Stephen’s people at Ndotsheni is easy for James, because he lives in High Place, overlooking the valley; and, ultimately, James the widower retreats from Ndotsheni and moves to Johannesburg (Paton 307), the white man’s city, and the white man’s space. For Stephen Kumalo, the final lesson comes from Letsitsi, the young farming instructor from the Transkei, who eagerly works and waits for the dam in Ndotsheni to reach completion. “When the dam is made,” Letsitsi says, “there will be water for the pastures. I tell you, umfundisi . . . there will be milk in this valley. It will not be necessary to take the white man’s milk” (Paton 301). Stephen, shocked and hurt, questions Letsitsi’s statement, almost relegating it to the realm of insubordination: “Where would we be without the white man’s milk? Where would we be without all that this white man has done for us?” (Paton 301) Indeed, where would the black people of Ndotsheni be without all that James Jarvis has done for them? Predictably ever more somber, their lands ever more barren, and their children leaving in greater droves for the corrupting influences of Johannesburg. That point does not escape young Letsitsi; but the counterpoint does not register with the elder Stephen Kumalo until the farming instructor says: Umfundisi, it was the white man who gave us so little land, it was the white man who took us away from the land to go to work. . . . It is all these things together that have made this valley desolate. . . . We can restore this valley for those who

Andrew Zaleski | 12 are here, but when the children grow up, there will again be too many [living in Ndotsheni]. Some will have to go still. (Paton 302) Ndotsheni is desolate because the white man, as Arthur Jarvis said, placed four-fifths of South Africa’s people on one-tenth of the land. The white man created the compound system near the gold and diamond mines, and took Ndotsheni’s young sons away from the land. No amount of work—even by a conqueror like Napoleon Letsitsi—will ever restore the black man’s land to its original health. And as a result, more blacks will retreat from Ndotsheni and move to Johannesburg, the white man’s city, and the white man’s space. “Therefore,” as Letsitsi declares, “what this good white man [James Jarvis] does is only a repayment” (Paton 302). But how does white South Africa repay black South Africa? How do they accommodate four-fifths of the people whose skin color looks nothing like theirs? Under the current system, white people cannot, because there simply isn’t enough space for black South Africans. With this knowledge in tow, Stephen Kumalo recognizes the despondent lot he has lived in life, as a “white man’s dog” (Paton 304). And while Letsitsi seems to exit the conversation on a conciliatory, optimistic note—“We work for Africa. . . . Not for a white man or a black man, but for Africa” (Paton 303)—he is unable to say he works for South Africa. “We would if we could,” Letsitsi says soberly. For how could any black man work for a nation that does not want him, and unapologetically sends him to tiny, inadequate Homelands or underground mines? How could any black South Africans work for a South Africa that refuses them the space to thrive and advance? Paton’s is a country that cannot be shared; South Africa is a land where whites and blacks cannot live among each other. As Paton writes, “Some cry for the cutting up of South Africa without delay” (109) into two separate South Africas where white can live without black, and black can live without white.

Andrew Zaleski | 1 Chapter 2: To Be Seen is Not Necessarily To Be Acknowledged: How Waiting for the Barbarians, When Rain Clouds Gather, and July’s People are failed experiments in interracial living situations, demonstrating the futility of shared geographical space between blacks and whites in South Africa. Near the end of J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians, after the Magistrate has been deposed from his official position at the Empire’s colonial outpost, scores of Empire troops led by Colonel Joll set off from the outpost and into the wilderness to find, capture, and kill the barbarian peoples inhabiting the outskirts. Joll returns to the outpost with only a few men, all of whom are disoriented, frenetic, and panicky; the Magistrate, who, in Joll’s absence, has taken up a de facto role as leader of the Empire citizenry still at the outpost, asks one of the soldiers what happened on the expedition, and why they are now so startled and frightened—“How could it be that the barbarians did this to you?” To which the soldier, struggling to break from the Magistrate’s grip, replies frantically: We froze in the mountains! We starved in the desert! Why did no one tell us it would be like that? We were not beaten—they led us into the desert and then vanished! . . . They—the barbarians! They lured us on and on, we could never catch them. They picked off the stragglers, they cut our horses loose in the night, they would not stand up to us! (Coetzee 147) In their zeal to conquer the barbarians and bring them under Empire control, Joll and his army, with arrogant swagger, seemingly strolled into the barbarian lands, thinking an easy campaign was ahead of them. They returned broken, beaten, and shocked. Published in 1980, Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians ushers in a decade during which South Africa’s white minority government would declare a national state of emergency, a response to the increased township violence, protests, and confrontations between black freedom fighters and white policemen. The decade represents the height of violence during the waning years of the apartheid system; black South Africans trade township bedrooms for jail cells in

Andrew Zaleski | 2 their quest for equality, while white South Africans, amid such turmoil and strife, jockey for position to ensure their quality of life when, one day, they no longer hold government power. South Africans in general expect a war of the races. July’s People, which Nadine Gordimer published in 1981, picks up on the zeitgeist, portraying a liberal white South African family fleeing from urban war zones and into the African “bush” with their house servant, July. What Coetzee and Gordimer—as well as Bessie Head in her 1969 novel, When Rain Clouds Gather—explore in the literary realm is whether, during the height of apartheid, black and white South Africans can discover a meaningful, harmonious way to share their country. Can black and white South Africans share geographical space? Can all South Africans share physical space within the borders of South Africa? And if there is physical, geographical space to be shared among black and white South Africans, which race establishes the boundaries and the parameters by which the space is shared? To a certain degree, all three novels surveyed in this chapter present contrary arguments to that made in relation to Cry, the Beloved Country. Within Coetzee’s, Gordimer’s, and Head’s novels, blacks and whites do share geographical space, more or less harmoniously, for extended periods of time. But like in Paton’s novel, white South Africans in these three novels still dictate how the space is to be shared—whites establish the geographical boundaries; whites say who may come into or go out of geographical spaces. And, white South Africans ultimately look for a way to leave the shared geographical spaces and return to whites-only areas. This is why Coetzee’s, Gordimer’s, and Head’s novels each are failed experiments in interracial geographical space sharing: while white and black South Africans share space for extended periods of time, such shared space is soon abandoned by whites in favor of locations secluded from black South Africans. In other words, the literature follows Melissa Steyn’s argument about whiteness: when

Andrew Zaleski | 3 whiteness is seen at risk—for instance, when whites must share what they perceive as their land with other non-whites—white people “draw toward white people elsewhere: ‘home’ is where other whites are” (126). Hence, why Waiting for the Barbarians ends with Empire forces frantically running from the barbarian lands and back into the colonial outpost. Of course, Coetzee’s novel is allegory, vicariously setting up the issue of space between white and black South Africans via the Magistrate and the outpost (and Joll’s forces, at the end) and the young barbarian girl, respectively. The overarching setting of the novel mimics South African history. The colonial outpost built by the Empire in barbarian lands serves the purpose of both protecting the Empire citizens now living there, as well as serving as a military buffer; in this sense, the outpost and colonial forces are not unlike the Dutch colonists who first touched down on South Africa’s shores beginning in 1652, or like the English colonists who began arriving in South Africa in earnest beginning in the 1800s. Viewed in this vein, the colonial outpost is more a settlement, a representation of Empire (white) incursion into barbarian (black) land. So geographical space is being shared, but it’s done so on a technicality—barbarians don’t live freely among the Empire colonials. Barbarians do, however, live as servants among the Empire colonials. Indeed, this is why the Magistrate even encounters the young barbarian girl. He pulls her off the streets of the outpost, where she had been begging (Coetzee 26), and then installs her in his kitchen working as a maid (Coetzee 32). At night, the Magistrate undresses her and bathes her, examining the scars near her eyes and her wounded ankles, both results of Colonel Joll’s interrogations (Coetzee 3031). He also rubs oil over her ankles, kneading them repeatedly to relieve pressure from her wounds; afterwards, each night, they sleep side by side in the Magistrate’s bed (Coetzee 44).

Andrew Zaleski | 4 Coetzee injects this sexual tension that develops between the Magistrate and the barbarian girl, a tension that serves as the allegorical manifestation of the complications of shared racial space. The Magistrate initiates the physical interaction with the barbarian girl, while she passively accepts (Coetzee 44). But when she makes a forward attempt, inviting the Magistrate to have sex with her, he refuses her advances (Coetzee 55). So while the Magistrate will share his bed and his living quarters with the barbarian girl—effectively bringing her into his own space—he will not enter barbarian land (as denoted by the barbarian girl’s vagina, through the act of sexual intercourse). What plays out, then, is a negotiation of geographical space similar to that in Paton’s novel; the Magistrate dictates the boundaries and limitations of space. After the awkward sexual advance from the barbarian girl, he resolves to take her back to her people, and sets out with a small band of colonials into the deserts and mountains northeast of the outpost (Coetzee 58-59). Under the barbarian girl’s terms—as put forward when she demands to know why the Magistrate will sleep with other, colonial women in the outpost, but not with her (Coetzee 55)—the Magistrate cannot keep her within the walls of the outpost. After twelve days, the Magistrate’s band finally reaches barbarian land: The barbarians stand outlined against the sky above us. There is the beating of my heart, the heaving of the horses, the moan of the wind, and no other sound. We have crossed the limits of the Empire. It is not a moment to take lightly. (Coetzee 70) Having finally entered barbarian territory, the Magistrate becomes acutely aware of his own limitations, as imposed by his being a colonial, a citizen of the Empire. The geography he now occupies is not intended for him.

Andrew Zaleski | 5 This is despite his prolonged cohabitation with the barbarian girl. Having lived with her for a period of some months (Coetzee 70), the Magistrate still feels uncomfortable being in barbarian territory, and says to the girl: ‘Tell them [the barbarians] what you like. Only, now that I have brought you back, as far as I can [emphasis added], I wish to ask you very clearly to return to the town with me. Of your own choice.’ I grip her arm. ‘Do you understand me? That is what I want.’ (Coetzee 71) The Magistrate knows he can travel no farther; doing so would mean rescinding his rights to his own place—his own space—at the colonial outpost. What he knows is permissible, however, is the barbarian girl returning with him to the outpost. (She chooses to go with the barbarians.) And while he insists her so doing would be of her own volition, his gripping her arm underscores a commanding tone. It seems that recognizing her ability to choose is a mere pleasantry, something the Magistrate appears willing to give because of his prior involvement with the barbarian girl; choice to be brought into the colonial outpost is not something afforded to all the barbarians. Magistrate returns to the outpost, and girl returns to the barbarians; they return to their rightful places. What this implies about the failure of shared geographical space is unveiled months later, when Empire citizens living at the colonial outpost receive news that Colonel Joll’s army is not coming back, that Empire troops are abandoning the outpost, and an outbreak of terror infects the people: The rumour that a horde of barbarians is camped a few miles away on the charred river-banks, that an assault on the town is imminent, flashes from street corner to street corner. . . . The withdrawal [of troops] is a ‘temporary measure.’ . . . There is expected to be a ‘general cessation of operations along the front for the duration of the winter.’ (Coetzee 141) After these soldiers slink family groups, all of whom are eager to desert the outpost before the barbarians overrun its walls (Coetzee 142). And when Colonel Joll reappears at the outpost with his retinue, it is just a brief stop to pillage what food they can before setting off, full-speed, away

Andrew Zaleski | 6 from the outpost. “I don’t want to be left behind, that is all!” shouts the soldier whom the Magistrate corners, demanding an explanation. If the Empire cannot retain its hold on its lands in the frontier, then the solution is a swift retreat to the lands where the Empire—where whiteness—maintains control. In essence, the hard lesson learned by Joll’s army is that this frontier land will be owned either by the Empire, or by the barbarians—it cannot be cohabited. But while Waiting for the Barbarians starkly declares that a mixing of people and sharing of geographical space is nigh impossible, When Rain Clouds Gather seems to argue that a type of interracial utopia can exist, one in which whites and blacks are content learning from each other, inhabiting the same geographical location, and working toward common goals. Such is the perception when Dinorego, an inhabitant of the village Golema Mmidi, talks glowingly of Gilbert Balfour, the native Englishman come to Botswana to teach agricultural and farming methods to the villagers (Head 23): . . . I take Gilbert as my own son, which fact surprises me, since he is a white man and we Batswanas do not know any white people, though some have lived here for many years. He can eat goat meat and sour-milk porridge, which I have not known a white man to eat before. Also, whenever there is trouble he comes to me and says, ‘Dinorego, should I stay here?’ which fills my heart with fire. . . . (Head 27) Indeed, Balfour came to Golema Mmidi not in the role of colonial conqueror, but rather in the role of agricultural expert. Head writes that Balfour had visited the country [Botswana] three years previously on a student’s travel grant, and that to this visit he owed his choice of career—to assist in agricultural development and improved techniques of food production. The country presented overwhelming challenges, he said, not only because the rainfall was poor but because the majority of the people engaged in subsistence farming were using primitive techniques that ruined the land. (Head 23) In effect, Balfour is Paton’s Napoleon Letsisi (the man who teaches the people of Ndotsheni how to properly farm in Cry, the Beloved Country).

Andrew Zaleski | 7 Enlisted by Balfour to assist in training the villagers of Golema Mmidi is Makhaya, a native South African who emigrates from his country to escape the oppression of the white minority government; Makhaya refuses to remain in a place “where black men were called ‘boy’ and ‘dog’ and kaffir’” (Head 16). He brings with him psychological baggage, remnants of his political awareness and dissatisfaction of being a black man in white-controlled South Africa: He had been accustomed to reacting in only one way to a white man and that was with a feeling of great unease. Most southern Africans reacted in this way, and few black men in their sane mind envied or cared to penetrate the barrier of icy no-man’s-land which was the white man and his world. The black man preferred to retreat to his own world among all the garbage and filth and noise, where a lot of people would be real and familiar and to whom your reactions would be such as to fill you with a sudden flood of relaxed warmth. (Head 123-124) Makhaya seeks geographical space that is his own. He prefers the retreat of the black man’s world, a space where no white people are; a space that is “familiar”; and a space in which the black man holds autonomy. Indeed, these impulses prompt his fleeing South Africa, a space in which Makhaya knows he holds no autonomy because the white minority government does not recognize his rights, or yield any authority to him. When asked by some of the village women learning farming techniques from Balfour whether he knows of water or electricity, Makhaya cynically replies, “It belongs to the white man at present. He’ll tell you so, if you go there. I think the country [South Africa] even belongs to him” (Head 110). (Fittingly, at the time when Makhaya crosses into Botswana, the country is preparing its transition from British colonial rule to self-government (Head 19).) In Golema Mmidi, Makhaya has the autonomy he seeks. Balfour entrusts him with plowing the fields where the experimental Turkish tobacco plots, and teaches him how to run a tractor so he can get the job done (Head 105); he consults his map of farming fields with Makhaya present (Head 59); and while Balfour knows Makhaya is a refuge, he assesses him on

Andrew Zaleski | 8 the basis of his talents and potential contributions, and not according to an arbitrary marker like skin color (Head 30). As Makhaya eventually realizes, “. . . the world would not rid itself of African men. He would always be there, but not any longer as the white man’s joke, or his ‘mundt’ or his ‘kaffir’ or his ‘boy’ (Head 171). However, what dooms Head’s interpretation of an interracial utopia—the word used by Balfour (Head 31)—is the fact that her novel takes place outside South Africa. In Botswana, the colonial government (the rule of the white man) is on its way out. In order to reach some semblance of interracial geographical space, the one South African in the novel, Makhaya, must emigrate from South Africa; for a black South African to have his own space, he is forced to leave his white-minority-ruled homeland. Indeed, what perhaps comes closest to white and black South Africans sharing geographical space inside South Africa is depicted in July’s People, which mixes the political veins of Steyn’s writings on whiteness with the seeming impracticability that South African whites would ever purposefully move from the white-dominated cities out to the blackdominated townships and villages. Gordimer sets the scene as 1980 South Africa, during which time strikes by black workers “dragged on”; “Riots, arson, occupation of the headquarters of international corporations, bombs in public buildings—the censorship of newspapers, radio and television left rumour and word-of-mouth as the only sources of information about this chronic state of uprising all over the country” (Gordimer 7-8). In the midst of the turmoil and chaos quickly engulfing South Africa’s white enclaves— its major cities—Bamford and Maureen Smales choose to remain behind as other white families flee to Jan Smuts Airport and book flights out of the country (Gordimer 7). The Smales are selfproclaimed liberal whites; their actions in white-dominated South Africa amount to as much:

Andrew Zaleski | 9 They sickened at the appalling thought that they might find they had lived out their whole lives as they were, born white pariah dogs in a black continent. They joined political parties and ‘contact’ groups in willingness to slough privilege it was supposed to be their white dog nature to guard with Mirages and tanks; they were not believed. They had thought of leaving, then, while they were young enough to cast off the blacks’ rejection as well as white privilege, to make a life in another country. They had stayed; and told each other and everyone else that this and nowhere else was home. . . . (Gordimer 8) What the Smales have already done, even prior to escaping the fighting of the cities—by accepting their house servant July’s offer to travel to the “habitation of mud houses occupied only by members of his extended family” (Gordimer 12)—is simultaneously follow and disprove, respectively, the two pillars of Steyn’s thoughts on whiteness first discussed in this paper’s introduction. In recognizing their status as “white pariah dogs in a black continent,” the Smales have begun redesigning the narrative of white people in South Africa; they recognize it is their white privilege, implemented by the white minority government and guarded with “Mirages and tanks,” that allowed their placing themselves in superior positions to black South Africans, as well as placing themselves in locations segregated from blacks. (July, their house servant, is allowed to live with the Smales, in the city, on their property, precisely because he is a house servant, and not the neighbor next door.) Furthermore, they realize that such white privilege garners the “blacks’ rejection,” and therefore they work to “slough privilege” as one would slough off dead skin. In staying in South Africa, in telling themselves that “this and nowhere else was home,” the Smales make their bond with South Africa and not other “centers of whiteness” like Australia and Great Britain (Steyn 126). They do so even while recognizing that their whiteness—their status as privileged people—is at extreme risk, as the cities of their self-professed home erupt into all-out race war.

Andrew Zaleski | 10 So the interesting question posed to the Smales, then, is whether their abstractions of South African society—one in which whites surrender privilege to an annoyed and angered black majority—will lead to a country in which all spaces can be co-inhabited harmoniously by both black and white South Africans. Initially, the arrangement works, although not without significant recalibration by the Smales. Having thrown off, by the necessity of needing a swift escape, most of the trappings of their white city lives, the Smales find themselves in a drastic reversal of roles: they are now white refugees in an all-black space, dependent upon July for survival, and forced to adopt the lifestyle of bush living: having their entire family crammed into a one-room hut with a thatch roof that leaks whenever there is rain (Gordimer 47-49); learning to make porridge, “the little community’s own meal” and the Smales’ new staple in their diet (Gordimer 55); “calves and feet . . . dirty as a hobo’s” (Gordimer 78); making love “in the presence of their children breathing close round them and the nightly intimacy of cockroaches, crickets and mice feeling-out the darkness of the hut; of the sleeping settlement; of the bush” (Gordimer 80). And indeed, the blacks of July’s village live peacefully, even at ease, around the Smales, and to mutual benefit. Maureen works in the field with July’s wife and the other village women, rolling up her jeans to her thighs and exposing her “yellow bruises and fine, purple-red ruptured blood-vessels of her thighs . . . weaknesses, blemishes” as the black women exposed their own surface imperfections (Gordimer 91-92). Bamford rigs up a water tank for collecting rain water so that the women of the village need not travel to the river to collect water for washing and cooking, and so that everyone has a cleaner supply of drinking water (Gordimer 63). July continues to help out the Smales, even remembering to bring them batteries for the radio they carried with them into the bush (Gordimer 55).

Andrew Zaleski | 11 But what’s happening in the microcosmic confines of July’s village is not replicated nationwide. What the Smales are hearing about secondhand, mainly during brief moments when they manage radio reception, is a political realignment in South Africa; whites’ power is eroding as blacks’ resistance grows stronger. They relate as much to the chief of July’s village, with the help of July, who translates: July: Who is it who is blowing up the government in Pretoria? It’s those people from Soweto? Smales: Not only Soweto. Everywhere. Everyone is in it this time. Explain to him—there’s fighting in all the towns. July: He’s know. And he’s ask you, why the police doesn’t arrest those people like in 1976. Like in ’80. Why the police doesn’t shoot. Smales: The blacks in the police have joined the fighting. They won’t arrest their own people any more. That was the beginning . . . It’s a war. . . . The blacks have also got guns. Bombs. All kinds of things. All kinds of things. Same as the white army, everything that kills. People have come back from Botswana and Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia, from Mocambique, with guns. (Gordimer 116117) The relative harmony with which the blacks of July’s village and the white Smales family can live in while sharing the same sliver of land in South Africa is atypical of the nationwide situation. Whites and blacks are waging war, with whites fighting for survival and blacks fighting for control of the government. Gordimer’s narrative makes no fools of black South Africans; in other words, they are not so naive as to not understand that control of land—power to dictate what spaces in South Africa are allowed to be traveled to and live in by blacks—is predicated upon political power and control of the government. (Even the chief asks, “[W]hat it is that has taken place at last, after three-hundred-and-fifty years, between black people and white people” (Gordimer 116).) What black South Africans now have is a feeling of palpability—they are on the cusp of ownership of their country. Maureen synthesizes the sentiment: “Us and them. What he’s [the chief] really asking about: an explosion of roles, that’s what the blowing up of the Union

Andrew Zaleski | 12 Buildings and the burning of master bedrooms is” (Gordimer 117). Indeed, that’s what calling July by his African name, Mwawate, is; “July,” says Maureen, “was a name for whites to use” (Gordimer 120). Conversely, what has become palpable for the Smales is recognizing that their African narrative—their “relationship to the indigenous people,” as Steyn puts it (122)—will alter fundamentally. They, as whites remaining in South Africa, will now be critically aware of their minority status. They will have to share geographical space with black South Africans, and they don’t know if sharing the same land with dominant black majority will yield favorable political outcomes for them. Maureen Smales makes predictions. While listening to their portable radio one rainy night in July’s village, they hear of a repulsed attack against the SABC (South African Broadcast Corporation) television and radio studios. Maureen comments, “Must have been a near thing,” implying to husband Bamford that the blacks fighting in the streets nearly took control of South Africa’s communications network (Gordimer 51). “What were you expecting to hear?” he asks. Maureen answers, “‘This is Radio Azania.’” (Gordimer 51)—Azania being the general term of identification for sub-Saharan Africa, with a noted South African context. In other words, Maureen has already pondered how she and her entire family would adjust to new political realities, ones which would make the Smales potentially vulnerable. Just after Maureen tests out the sound of “This is Radio Azania,” she thinks: . . . [W]ould we go back? They had fled the fighting in the streets, the danger for their children, the necessity to defend their lives in the name of ideals they didn’t share in a destroyed white society they didn’t believe in. Go back, at once? How to be received? [emphasis added] Things would quieten down—in a new way. . . . In the Congo, Belgians went back; some of Smith’s Rhodesians stayed on in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe; some Portuguese friends returned to Maputo when Lourenco Marques no longer existed, they were prepared to live in a new way. (Gordimer 51-52)

Andrew Zaleski | 13

Internally, Maureen confronts an existential crisis that will temper her thoughts and decisions moving forward and determine what her most appropriate course of action will be should blacks seize power in South Africa. She pointedly wonders how she would be received by a new political majority of black South Africans—whether they would absolve her, or even acknowledge her sloughing of white privilege; she runs down a shortlist of other African countries in which white minority governments were overthrown by nationwide, black majority protests and revolution, and notes in which countries white people stayed, and in which countries white people left for other “centers of whiteness” (Steyn 126). The unasked question she references at the end is whether she would be prepared to live in a new way. The overarching question as it relates to the other texts discussed in this chapter is whether Maureen would be willing to permanently share space with black South Africans; if she would find it all right for July—Mwawate, actually—to be the neighbor next door as opposed to the house servant living in her backyard. Maureen provides an answer by novel’s end. Alone in her hut one day sewing a shirt, Maureen hears “a distant chuddering as of air being packed in waves of resistance against its down density. Up in the sky, yes” (Gordimer 157). She notes that the sound being produced “is not the fairly familiar one of a troop-carrier or reconnaissance plane passing” (Gordimer 158) and rushes outside to investigate: A high ringing is produced in her ears, her body in its rib-cage is thudded with deafening vibration, invaded by a force pumping, jigging in its monstrous orgasm—the helicopter has sprung through the hot brilliant cloud just above them all, its landing gear like spread legs, battling the air with whirling scythes. (Gordimer 158) Maureen sees a helicopter in the sky and pursues it through the bush, “following now with a sense made up of all senses” (Gordimer 159). She runs toward through elephant grass, through a

Andrew Zaleski | 14 river, and ignores the voices of her husband and two children “somewhere to the left.” She runs “like a solitary animal at the season when animals neither seek a mate nor take care of young, existing only for their lone survival” (Gordimer 160) straight toward the sound of the helicopter, which she believes is now idling nearby in the bush (Gordimer 159). At a moment when Maureen seems presented with the choice to slough privilege and coexist in a South African society dominated politically by the black majority—one in which she will be forced to share geographical space with the former oppressed—or rush headlong from that impending reality and back to a center of whiteness—back to a narrative and relationship to the African continent that appears safe and stable, one of white power and privilege—she picks the latter. Maureen Smales chooses extraction, desperately seeking a way out of the black space of July’s village, of the bush. She runs toward the helicopter, now her one means of racial survival, and in so doing implicitly and emphatically declares her refusal to live among black South Africans; the helicopter, and wherever it is headed, is white space, and that is what Maureen seeks.

Andrew Zaleski | 1 Chapter 3: In J.M. Coetzee’s 1999 Booker Prize-winning novel, Disgrace, what angers David Lurie toward the novel’s end isn’t so much that his daughter Lucy was raped, but rather that it was a black person who raped her. Lurie, for all intents and purposes, rapes a student at the beginning of the book. But what he can't reconcile in his own brain is the idea that a black South African would do that to his white daughter, since he thinks white space—in this case, his daughter’s vagina—isn't reserved for black South Africans. Lurie, nor his daughter, have the power to define the geographical and physical limits of space, now that South Africa is governed by black majority rule, because the country is no longer theirs. Two black men, claiming they need to use a telephone, follow Lucy Lurie into her home. Her father, David Lurie, waits outside with another black man. After brief moments pass, a sinking suspicion creeps over David; he calls for Lucy with no answer, and just as he is about to enter in the back door of the house, he hears the door latch click shut. Suddenly, the third man— a teenage boy—runs for the front door. When David finally enters the home by kicking down the back, kitchen door, he receives a blow to the head, blacks out, and is dragged to the bathroom. By the time the entire ordeal is over, Lucy’s house has been ransacked, David’s car has been stolen, Lucy’s dogs have been shot, David himself has been lit on fire—the hair on his head is completely gone—and beaten, and Lucy has been raped (Coetzee 93-99). When two police officers visit Lucy’s house to gather details about the robbery, she controls the conversation as David listens to her not even discuss her rape. She catalogues the items stolen, the damage done to her home and the kennel dogs she was watching, but of her sexual assault she says nothing. David presses her on this after the officers leave, but Lucy insists she has told the whole story, and his thoughts soon focus on the three black men: [T]he three invaders, men he will probably never lay eyes on again, yet forever part of his life now, and of his daughter’s. They will read that they are being sought for robbery and assault and nothing else. It will dawn on them that over the body of the woman silence is being drawn like a blanket. Too ashamed, they will say to each other, too ashamed to tell, and they will chuckle luxuriously, recollecting their exploit. Is Lucy prepared to concede them that victory? (Coetzee 110)

Andrew Zaleski | 2 David wants justice to be done; Lucy appears to only want the memory of what happened to fade away. But what angers David Lurie in Disgrace isn’t so much that his daughter was raped, but rather that it was a black person who raped her. David, for all intents and purposes, rapes a student at the beginning of the book. A professor of Romantic poetry at Cape Technical University in Cape Town, David courts a student in one of his classes, and, eventually, has sex with her. But the sex is undesired: “She does not resist. All she does is revert herself. . . . Not rape, not quite that,” thinks David, “but undesired nevertheless, undesired to the core. As though she had decided to go slack, die within herself for the duration . . . [s]o that everything done to her might be done . . . far away” (Coetzee 25). After admitting to this affair before a committee of inquiry, David resigns his position at the university and heads for the Eastern Cape, to Lucy’s home, the site of her own—much more violent—rape. In the aftermath of the attack, David’s anger is derivative not of the act of rape itself, but of the perpetrators of the act; he is angry that a black man raped his daughter. What he cannot reconcile in his own brain is the idea that a black South African would do that to his white daughter, since he thinks white space—in this case, his daughter’s vagina—isn’t reserved for black South Africans. Written in 1999, Disgrace portrays South Africa in its post-apartheid state; with the democratic election of Nelson Mandela in 1994 as the country’s first black president, black South Africans—the majority within the overall population—have taken the reins of political power. David, nor his daughter, no longer have the power to define the geographical and physical limits of space, now that South Africa is governed by black majority rule, because the country is no longer theirs. Whiteness is now unusual—not the predominating narrative, as

Andrew Zaleski | 3 Melissa Steyn would put it—and white space must be carved out of a larger black space: South Africa. What establishes this realignment of who sets the boundaries of geographical space within Coetzee’s novel is Lucy’s rather taciturn approach to seeking punitive measures in the aftermath of her raping. She does not eagerly seek police justice, as David urges her to do. Because it appears to David that Lucy is too frightened to seek proper retribution, as he sees it, for the crimes of the three black men, he offers the only alternative he can think of to protect his daughter—helping her run away from her home and farm in the Eastern Cape: Lucy, it could be so simple. Close down the kennels. Do it at once. Lock up the house, pay Petrus [the black farmer who owns the land Lucy works] to guard it. Take a break for six months or a year, until things have improved in this country. Go overseas. Go to Holland. I’ll pay. When you come back you can take stock, make a fresh start. (Coetzee 157) By insisting that Lucy not only leave the Eastern Cape, but leave South Africa entirely, he has implicitly acknowledged the new paradigm—that of a black South Africa, where whites are now the underclass, susceptible to subjugation. David identifies another country—Holland, in this case—as safe space for Lucy; as the geographical location suitable for her; as a place where her whiteness will be protected. Lucy refuses to go (Coetzee 159), just as she refused to report the rape in addition to the burglary. Shockingly so, perhaps, to a reader, since she makes no pretenses about what the three men did, saying to David, “I think they have done it before. At least the two older ones have. I think they are rapists first and foremost. Stealing things is just incidental. A side-line. I think they do rape” (Coetzee 158). Beyond that admission, though, Lucy explicitly juxtaposes her rape with her being in space that is not her own: “I think I am in their territory [emphasis added]. They have marked me. They will come back for me” (Coetzee 158). She openly recognizes that

Andrew Zaleski | 4 she placed herself in the farmlands of the Eastern Cape, in space that has been reserved for black South Africans. She openly recognizes the emotional pain of her rape; she doesn’t challenge David when he says that she was “afraid that after you had been used you would be killed. Disposed of. Because you were nothing to them” (Coetzee 157). And while Lucy recognizes that danger of being in a space not her own—a black South Africa where those three men “will come back for me”—she places her rape in a context different from that of her father’s: Lucy: They spur each other on. That’s probably why they do it together. Like dogs in a pack. David: If they had been white you wouldn’t talk about them in this way. If they had been white thugs from Despatch, for instance. Lucy: Wouldn’t I? David: No, you wouldn’t. I am not blaming you, that is not the point. But it is something new you are talking about. Slavery. They want you for their slave. Lucy: Not slavery. Subjection. Subjugation. (Coetzee 159) The three black men subverted the “natural” order of things, natural being the way white South Africa worked. They struck down the white woman’s means of protection by shooting her dogs. They, in metaphorical irony, turned that means of protection on Lucy by gang-raping her in her bedroom. And instead of viewing the ordeal as men using women—instead of placing the sexual attack in the context of gender, seeing it as male sexual lust enslaving female sexual organs— Lucy subtly places her rape in a racial context. The black men wanted to subject her; make her their own; assert their power over her. Herein lies the rub of Coetzee’s entire novel. What David sees as slavery Lucy views as a form of penance—an atonement disgustingly exacted but rightfully claimed by a black majority population formerly subjugated by an oppressive white minority government. Lucy becomes the race woman, taking it upon herself to forego seeking punishment for her attackers because it is

Andrew Zaleski | 5 no longer her place, as a white South African, to do so. Lucy, now acutely aware of being a minority in a country no longer her own, has accepted her place. What’s more, she accepts her place as a white South African marked as belonging to someone else. When David discovers that Lucy intends to deliver the child she conceived as a result of the rape, he is shaken (Coetzee 199). Ashamed, even: The gang of three. Three fathers in one. . . . Lucy was wrong. They were not raping, they were mating. It was not the pleasure principle that ran the show but the testicles, sacs bulging with seed aching to perfect itself. And now, lo and behold, the child! . . . What kind of child can seed like that give life to, seed driven into the woman not in love but in hatred, mixed chaotically, meant to soil her, to mark her [emphasis added], like a dog’s urine? (Coetzee 199) For David, the shame comes as a result of Lucy’s inability to determine her own autonomy. As he puts it, the semen of the men has marked her, like dog’s urine. But it is Lucy who draws the connection between being marked in rape, like a dog would mark its territory with urine, and being marked because she is white in a black man’s land; indeed, this is what she does in saying, “I think I am in their territory. They have marked me” (Coetzee 158). And this is what she does by throwing off the trappings of white society and assimilating into the black South African culture of the Eastern Cape. She proposes to marry Petrus, the black landowner, a move she declares necessary because she is a woman needing protection. Police are irrelevant; she cannot seek out their help because they are a symbol of how justice was done in white South Africa. According to Petrus, where Lucy now is, “it is dangerous, too dangerous. A woman must be marry” (Coetzee 202). When the marriage has happened, Lucy will become part of “my family, my people,” as Petrus says (Coetzee 201). Of course, this news stirs David’s anger yet again, though he knows the matter no longer rests in his hands. “This is not something I want to hear,” he says to Petrus. “This is not how we do things,” he continues, and then catches himself, plainly aware of what he is on the verge of

Andrew Zaleski | 6 saying. “We: he is on the point of saying, We Westerners” (Coetzee 202). We white people—that is what David means. _ What Coetzee ultimately presents with Disgrace is one vision of how a post-apartheid South Africa will recalibrate itself to deal with the paradigm shift in political—and racial— power. Like the other novels surveyed in this paper, Disgrace presents a vision of a country that cannot be shared. White and black South Africans require their own autonomy, as defined by their own geographical spaces. Harmonious living in a post-apartheid world seems far-fetched. Subjugation, as Lucy calls it, is the mantra, since the boundaries of geographical space are set by the group in control of the political power. Disgrace, therefore, presents a vision of South Africa starkly different from Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country. Lucy, in admitting to David how “humiliating” her situation in the Eastern Cape has become, outlines that new vision: Yes, I agree, it is humiliating. But perhaps that is a good point to start from again. Perhaps that is what I must learn to accept. To start at ground level. With nothing. Not with nothing but. With nothing. No cards, no weapons, no property, no rights, no dignity. (Coetzee 205) “Like a dog,” sneers David when Lucy says she will start anew with no dignity, that she will live her life in a fashion that, historically, fit the narrative for black South Africans throughout the apartheid years. “Yes,” replies Lucy. “Like a dog.” This is the post-apartheid South Africa for white South Africans. This is the new society, in which the black majority establishes the boundaries of space and autonomy for all South Africans. It is a country that is not white territory; it is a country that is marked. And it is a country in which space cannot be shared.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful