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Journal of Southern African Studies

Constructions of Apartheid in the International Reception of the Novels of J. M. Coetzee Author(s): J. M. Coetzee and Clive Barnett Source: Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 287-301 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2637604 . Accessed: 12/05/2011 08:23
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University of Chicago Press. Coet.and the need to mobilise an essentially liberal constituency in the West. pp. I sometimes wonder if it isn't simply that vast and wholly ideological superstructure constituted by publishing. J. South Affican literary writinig has often been re-inscribed into new contexts according to abstract and moralised understandings of the nature of apartheid. Taylor (eds). Chrisnman. Coetzee. This process of mediation solicited specific forms of political commitmentand moral approbationthat were crucial to the maintenanceof the anti-apartheid struggle at the internationalscale. 1988). 2 L. Coetzee. M. 1 (1997).Routledge. Rob Nixon argues that the mobilisation of opposition to apartheidin the West had to negotiate fundamental incompatibilities between the political radicalism of organised opposition in South Africa. It is argued that in both cases.Harlemand HollywZood: SouthAfr-ican Cultureand the WorldBeyond(London. 1983 and 1987'. and in the emergent academic paradigm of post-colonial literary theory. M. M. 1994). University of Reading) This paper discusses the international reception of the fiction of South African novelist and critic. J. M. In this paper I want to examine the cultural mediation of apartheid throughthe international reception of South African literaryfiction.'Two Interviewswith J. Homelands. June 1999. Coetzeel Literature and the Moralisation of Apartheid South Africa has been made available as an object of knowledge in particularways. Morphet. 78.Journal of SouthernAfrican Studies. p. Coetzee CLIVE BARNETT (Departmentof Geography. 11.00 ? 1999 Journal of Southern African Studies . 'QuestioningRobertYoung's Post-ColonialCriticism'. reviewing and criticism that is forcing on me the fate of being a 'South African novelist'. 39-45.3 Campaigns to mobilise 1 T.zee. in order to examine the institutional and rhetorical conventions which shaped the selection and circulation of particular forms of ivriting as exemplars of 'South African literature' from the 1970s through to the 1990s. Nixon. M. where liberalism was at best a beleaguered tradition. The representation of Coetzee's novels in two reading-formations is critically addressed: in non-academic literary reviews. From South Africa: Writing. LauraChrismanhas recently argued that the sense that South Africa is an immediatelyand transparently knowable society continues to support a particular relation of 'sanctioned ignorance' amongst commentators in the West. TextualPractice. Volume 25. pp. in D. Number 2. The presentationof apartheidon an internationalstage was culturallymediatedthroughvarious discourses and institutions. The particularfocus of my discussion will be the different contexts of reception for the work of J.Photographyand Art (Chicago. 0305-7070/99/020287-15 $7. 287-301 Constructions of Apartheid in the International Reception of the Novels of J. 3 R.2 Remedying this situation requires that attentionibe paid to critically questioning the discourses which secure the representativenessof particularaccounts of South African culture and politics. Bunn and J.

and L. White South African writers were received into an internationalcircuit of literaiy celebrity according to particularimperativeswhich determinedthe selection and evaluation of different texts and authors. forms which make visible the act of writing for a fictionalised audience. p. morally robust and liberal oppositional literature. R. 204. Parker L. 1994). 11 W. then. M. and produces writing characterisedby an uncertain address to 'virtual audiences'. Publications of the ModernLanguagesAssociation. Breyten Breytenbachand J. black and white. 37-50. pp. and R. oppressed and oppressors. 216. Nadine Gordimer. Stotesbury. in K. 2 (1990). Ong. pp.journals or diaries. 1-19.7The work of white writers such as Alan Paton. divided and fragmented audiences. The regular identificationof apartheidwith EasternEuropeancommunism was based upon the fact that the success of anti-apartheid movements in the West rested on the constructionof a cause of apparently'epic moral clarity'.288 Journal of SouthernAfrican Studies internationalopposition to apartheidtherefore required a certain degree of 'cross-cultural flexibility' in terms of what was politically serviceable. 1986). Homelands. 6 D.'The Potentials of Boundariesin South Africa: Steps Towards a Theory of the Social Edge'. 94. Race and Class. Brennan. 205. Coetzee's Foe and the Politics of the Canon'. Decolonising Tradition: New Viewsof Tventielh-Century'British'LileraryCanons(Urbana. pp. Attridge.DangarooPress. M. 'The Writer'sAudience is Always a Fiction'. pp. Lawrence (ed). 90. 31. English In Africa. 1996). Werbnerand T. A. shaped by the internationalaudiences upon which it depended as the 4 Nixon. p. the masses and a racist minority'. came to hold a central place in defining an internationalcanon of respectable. non-racial values. in R. victims and villains. Homelands.1' Fiction by South African writers has. 'A Countryof Borders'. p. p.Writing by white South African authorswas grafted into particular circuits of internationalliteraryevaluation shaped by liberal humanist values.From the late 1940s through to the 1990s. 1 (1989). Boehrner. and (eds).Universityof Illinois Press. pp. The Novels of Nadine Gordimer(London. Homelands. Nkosi. Postcolonial Encounters in Africa (London. Nkosi. 17. 9 L. The fracturedand multiple audiences for South African writing imposes limitationas both the condition and subject of much of that literature. 8 Nixon.1 (1975). Chrisman K. AlteredState?Writing and SouthAfrica(Sydney. 'The Functionof Bordersin the PopularNovel in South Africa'. Coetzee. Ranger (eds).9The cross-border readeris constitutiveof the very form of South African writing.in E. 1992). SouthernAfricanReview of Books (June/July1990). 9-21. 71-89. 136-161. Literatureacquireda peculiar importancein shaping internationalunderstandings the of nature of apartheid. Allen and Unwin. 10 S. 'Cosmopolitans and Celebrities'. South Africa acquired 'a notorious centrality in the contemporarypolitical and ethical imaginationwhich [gave] its writers a special claim on the world's attention'. . in no small part been constituted from the outside in.'0This is exemplified by the frequentrecourse to epistolary forms such as letters. 'Constructing "Cross-Border" the Reader'. 5 Nixon.Andre Brink. Zed Press. Thornton.8 This paper aims to draw into focus the frames of reference into which literary works were translatedin the course of constructingliteratureitself as part of a struggle for liberal.6Literarywriting by white South Africans was inserted into a moralised frame through which apartheid was constructed as an internationalissue. Lewis Nkosi lhas developed the notion of the 'cross-borderreader' in order to understandthe ways in which South African literary writing has been shaped by the necessity to address dispersed. Clingman. 19-20.4The successful internationalisation of anti-apartheid movements was dependent on the discursive transformation apartheid of into an essentially moral issue: 'The successful conversion of the anti-apartheid cause into a world movement was in large part proportionate the Manicheanclarity of the issues at to stake. 7 On the canonisation of 'third world' literary celebrities. Forfurther considerations the centralityof borders of and boundariesas emblems of social differentiationin South African cultureand politics. see J. see T. as a showdown between good and evil. 'Oppressive Silence: J. pp.

and aesthetic imperatives. Young (eds). understood as a set of material and discursive practices which 'connect texts and readers in specific relations to one another in constituting readers as reading subjects of particulartypes and texts as objects as objects-to-be-readin particularways'.16The arena of non-academic literary reviewing has considerable cultural authority in determining the selection and transmissionof particular texts and authors.Cornell University Press. Post-structuralismand the Question of Histoty (Cambridge. 1996). M. Parry. SouthernAfr-ican Review of Books (July/August 1995). 13 T. differences in geographical location become crucial in shaping the readings made of South African literary fiction. Amongst this audience. 'Differences of Location'. These different audiences alight upon different features of Coetzee's texts. 1987). political.the meanings of South African literature were produced through a series of translationsor transcodings. having won major literaryawards in his native SoutlhAfrica. in Britain and Europe.Apartheidand the Novels of J.'2 This process can be understoodwith reference to the notion of 'readingformation'. his fiction has been received as embodying a 'powerful moral critique of apartheid'. Making Coetzee Available Coetzee's novels are intemationally acclaimed within the mainstream English-speaking literaryworld. 'Texts in History:the Determinationsof Readings and their Texts'. 17 M. and how in turn certain understandings South African society and of apartheidwere put into of circulationthroughthis process of 'translation'. p. .17 This section traces the discursive dimensions of this non-academic reading-formation.and throughwhich certain moralised understandings of apartheidand the struggle against it were reproducedon an internationalstage. 20. M.Marginal Forces/CulturalCenters: Tolson. Berube. Coetzee 289 consequence of its own marginalisationfrom the everyday life and from the political and cultural struggles of the majority of South Africans.Given the dominantnotion of literatureas 12 L. Bennington and R. and beyond. 1992).'3 South African literaturehas been differently constructedby dispersed and divided readingformations. 70. Bloomsbury.'5 Nkosi has suggested that the metropolitanjournalistic review has been constitutive of a particularnotion of 'South African literature'as the product of white writers working in the English language. in D. 'A Countryof Borders'. I want to focus attentionupon the reading-formations through which the fiction of J. Engle. New Formations.CambridgeUniversity Press. ConsumingFictions: the Booker Prize and Fiction in Britain Today (London. Todd. we might suppose that the reception of Coetzee's fiction would tend to make visible the norms of canonisation through which his work has been constructed as exemplary of a certain form of 'South African literature'. Bennett. as the same texts moved from one context into others characterised by alternativeideological. and the Politics of the Canon (Ithaca. M. p.21 (1993). p. 15 B. see R. As a result of the need to negotiate multiple audiences and differentpolitical arenas.'4For this reason. 14 Attridge. into which Coetzee's novels have been inscribed and through which they have been made available for consumption by a more general internationalliterarypublic. And Coetzee is of interestnot least because his fiction is marked by a highly developed reflexivity regardingpractices of canonisation.G. Pynchon. I want to examine the specific terms of reference which have shaped the reception of Coetzee's fiction in this sphere in Britain and North America. Coetzee'. and in turn they construct the 'context' of his writings in differentways. 19.In the rest of this paper. 16 Nkosi. For a discussion of Coetzee's fiction with respect to British literaryawards. Coetzee's novels have been constructed in different ways by different audiences. As a consequence. 'Oppressive Silence'. Coetzee has been read.'Speech and Silence in the Fiction of J. Attridge. and have thus been subjected to alternativeand shifting aesthetic and political evaluations.

22 P. South African writing suffers fiom being forced into being overtly political.22 Coetzee's novels are often valued to the extent that they escape the received conventions of politically committed literature. political significance. 21 B. 23 Gordimerand Coetzee are routinelycoupled in both academic and non-academiccriticism.22 July 1977. The Political Saturation of South African Literature A recurringtheme in reviews of literarywriting by white South African authorsduringthe years of apartheidis that of South African writers being 'trapped' by their location into dealing repeatedly with the same themes of living in an oppressive society. the theme of allegory. 44.in tracing the moral constructionof apartheidas it is registered in the reception of Coetzee's novels. 18 published in Britain and USA in 1977: 'One of the tragedies facing all serious SoutlhAfrican authors still living in that countryis that they are trappedinto dealing with humanbeings who are almost exclusively afflicted by racialism'. My argument. J. The figure of Magda in this novel is understoodas 'a powerful image of outdatedconventions and the struggle to erode them'. 17-18. 20 B. 13 September 1990. p.then. yet also the source of disappointmentamongst reader-reviewers who prefer individual characterisations ratherthan typological characterisations. and concludes that writers therefore find it difficult to 'address themselves to themes of any wider significance than those representedby the tragic dilemma of their country'.20This same theme of writers being constrainedto write about the politics of aparthleid. but only published in Britainin 1982. such that race is identifiedas the only axis of power of significance.One review describes South Africa as a culturally isolated society.290 Journialof SouthernAfrican Studies a repository of universal humanistic moral values that underwritesthis genre of criticism. for private of inter-personalrelationships. Harwood. often being taken as exemplarsfor differentmodels of principledliteraryoppositionto apartheid. 41. Dusklands. see . Sunday Times. In the Heart of the Country. 19 R. Parrinder.This judgement is in turnoften made throughcomparisonwitlhother white South African writers.'Veldschmerz'. is squeezed in a society understoodto be uniquely saturated with public. 'An Astonishing First Novel'. 12 June 1977. and the specific burdenof representation imposed upon South African literatureand writersby this reading-formation. Morrison. was published in South Africa in 1974. of this being an intrusionupon the and propertasks of the novelist's vocation.'What his FatherGot up to'. In tum.On this patternof interpretation. racism is routinely understoodas an historical anachronism.23 The sense that the politics of South African society is too 18 Coetzee's first novel. This theme frames the commentaly on the first of Coetzee's novels to receive widespreadattentionin metropolitanliteraiy circles. and in the USA in 1985. pp. The space for the propersubject-matter the novel. According to this perspective. SunidayTimes. This is dependentupon representations of the relations between a distant enclosed territory(South Africa) and its outside (the international arena). 900. Times Literary Supplement. 23 November 1980.'9 South African society is presented here as a singularly and uniquely racist society. we might expect literatureto be understoodas a privileged medium for the articulationof critiques of apartheidin a moral register. reappearin commentarieson Coetzee's Waitingfor the Barbarianis.21 The political nature of South Afiican fiction is at one and the same time the source of its attractionfor internationalaudiences. p.renderingit intelligible in universal terms but simultaneouslykeeping it at a safe distance. p. is that this moralisationis a way of negotiating the space between the West and South Africa during apartheid.I shall discuss three recurringthemes: that of South African writers being trappedin a stifling and overly-politicised situation.and most often with Nadine Gordirner. London Review of Books.the result of irrational belief systems. Levin. 'On the Edge of the Empire'.

25In reviews. This same economy of judgement is used to compare Coetzee's Waitintgfor the Barbarians with Andre Brink's A Chain of Voices. 'A StarkPolitical Fable of South Africa'. 4 (1988). it is argued. 11-32. in one review of Coetzee's Age of Iron and Gordimer's My Son's Story. This understanding allegory often allows writers like Coetzee or Gordimerto be salvaged for the humanist literary tradition. is infused with 'artistic purpose'. 'Making the "Revolutionary writer's responsibility'. one is of the effects of this sort of understanding the implication that the realities of apartheid society lay beyond a political solution. 8-10. TheNew Yor-k Levin. pp.by arguing that they do not write exclusively Nadine Gordimer. even destructive. and I. J.an indignationthat exhausts itself into depression. close. 8 November 1990. 35-36. Waiting for the Barbarians Coetzee escapes the 'trap' imposed upon South African literarywriting of having to deal with immediate political realities by literally 'dis-locating' his nairative. a distinction which. The Allegorical Imperative The notion of South Africa as an enclosed. there can be no relief. 'Love and Death in South Africa'. Gordimer's novel is judged to be too weighed down by its author's urge to write explicitly about politics in South Africa: 'it's a good read and good journalism.93. the fear that one's anger may overwhelm and destroy one's fiction. Politics of Interpretation'. M. 24 25 26 27 . Hewson. As he observes.26 Howe goes on to question whether the real significance of Coetzee's writing lies in an apparentmove beyond politics to universal themes of art or morality. Coetzee and Some Variationson the Gesture": K. Brink's merely with 'moral purpose'. And except for silence or emigrationi. The novel contains no specific reference to South Africa as such.It informs and explains. The New YorkReview of Books. the feeling that one's life is mortgagedto a society gone rotten with hatred. pp. I.J. Irving Howe's review of Life and Times of Michael K reiterates the theme of the dilemma facing South African writers trappedby their location: A great commanding subject haunts the South African imagination. pp. but also as a writerwhose work succeeds in escaping the conventions anti-apartheid of politically committed fiction and thus elevating itself to the status of 'art'. Coetzee's work. 2 December 1982.Ariel. M. For BernardLevin. Kramer. isolated society underwritesa very particular of understanding the allegorical qualities of Coetzee's fiction. and so Levin takes the Allegory is understoodhere narrativeto be 'timeless. meticulous deliberation.Apartheidand the Novels of J. G. nameless and universal'.' Gordimer'spolitical urges are seen to impinge upon the quality of the novel's writing. Coetzee is positioned both as part of a traditionof committed writing. YorkReview of Books. and the South Atlantic Quarterly. Coetzee 291 imposing a subject to make for truly great literatureis found. by significance. 18 April 1982. it is argued.24 the other hand.whereas Brink is condeirnned the judgement that he 'writes fast'. M. pp. condemned to a lesser aesthetic judgement. skilled. Howe. and novels which apparenitly this very token. between the novels which escape the murky traps of a society saturated with political succeed in renderingpolitical reality but are.27 as a trope that uses the particularsituation as a way of rendering general or universal of themes. 'On the Edge of the Empire'. oppressive. yet this subject can also turn into a kind of tyranniy. is reflected in the relative qualities of their respective writing styles. Coetzee. A dualism is set up in this sort of evaluation. 55-72. TimesBook Review. spaceless.'In the Garrison'. Glenn. 'Nadine Gordimer. for example. death and decay considered to be the qualities that 'raises it On above the level of a political novel or a roman a the'se'. Coetzee's writing is judged to be the productof by slow. Annan. Imagine what it must be like to live as a serious writer in South Afiica: an endless clamour of news about racial injustice.Newt. The allusive qualities of Coetzee's allegory of illness. 1 (1994).J. 19. pp. 8-12. But it's too banal and too explicit to be good art.

'The Idea of Gardening'. and sometimes we are allowed to interpretthem more specifically. 30 See J. In non-academic reviews. a move that is taken to be the proper task of literature. pp. Gordimer. 12 (1985). understoodas a relation between texts.The New YorkReview of Books. Parry. 'Her Man Friday'. Slemon reads Waiting for the Barbarians as a post-colonial recuperation of allegory. and B.29This interpretation the allegorical qualities of Coetzee's novels allows any of referencethatthey containaboutcultureor politics in SouthAfrica to be re-written particular as simply another lesson of general moral significance. The observation is true for the reading of South Africa under apartheid. allegory is understood in terms of the relation of the text to a historical reality that is already intelligible. and needs no collective stimulus to turn and rend us'. Coetzee sees the heart of darkness in all societies.for whom allegory is understood mimetically in terms of the relation between text and reality. but inquiringinto the natureof the beast that lurks within each of us. 10-11. 151. p. their moral brought nearer to home'. moral level. as a successful elevation of the narrativeto a universal. 1 and 26-27. Giving Offense(Chicago.30The genre of non-academic literary review shares the same conception of allegory with much of the left-leaning academic criticism of Coetzee's novels. And as Parryargues. Abdul JanMohammed. Donoghue. as with Levin. Universityof Chicago Press).292 Journal of SouthernAfrican Studies about a South African situationbut ratherabout the general humancondition: 'Mr. pp. 29 D.. then in turn into just a particularexample of a more general. Coetzee has himself observed that there is a persistent tendency to approachliterature produced under conditions of state censorship as if it were necessarily allegorical. Amongst academic critics. 'South Africa' is discursively transformed universal moralisedtheme of tyranny. Coetzee's allegorising is understoodeither as a politically duplicitous escape from historical reality. as in the case of Gordimer's discussion of Coetzee's early novels.32 The recent re-evaluationof the political significance of Coetzee's fiction in no small part revolves around an alternative conceptualisation of allegory. SouthernAfricanReview of Books (January/February 1991).and might be betterread as commentaries on the impossibility of this form. and gradually it becomes clear that he is not dealing in politics at all. In both cases.'Thanatophany for South Africa: Death With/outTransfiguration'. Coetzee. JanMohamed. Coetzee's novels 'have a suggestion of parable about them. Conceptions of of 'allegory' are central to the readings undertaken Coetzee's writing. The New YorkTimesBook Review. 59-87. For Levin. thematisingthe inextricableentwinementof history 28 Ibid. one which follows the re-evaluationof allegory in post-modem and post-structuralist literarytheory. the universalqualities of this novel lie in this move beyond politics. the self-reflexive theoreticalsoplhistication Coetzee's fiction suggests that readings of his of novels as simple political allegories are probablywide of the mark. . pp. 3-6. If universal moral significance is registered in and through a reading of 'South African literature'in this way.31 or alternatively. M. The same sort of judgement is routinely made in those commentaries on Coetzee's fictions that alight upon their qualities as 'allegories' or 'parables' of essentially moral principles.'The Economy of ManicheanAllegory: the Function of Racial Difference in Colonialist Literature'. Coetzee's writing becomes the ground for competing conceptions of allegory. 32 A.Critical Inquiry.. R. 2 February1984. 31 N. Accordingly.suffering and individualartistic conscience. Sometimes they imagine further forms of man's inhumanity to man . texts are approachedin order to measuretheir distance from a pre-existingconception of the dimensions of an essentially extra-textualreality. finds that Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians repeats the defining allegorical manoeuvres of classical colonial discourse. pp. 22 February1987. different conceptions which sustain different political evaluations of that writing.28Any significance beyond South Afiica is ascribed not to the realm of politics but to the realm of morality. According to this conception.

'Allegory vs Allegory:the Divorce of DifferentModes of Allegorical Perceptionin Coetzee's "Waitingfor the Barbarians"'. 18-20. is clear at once'. 37 Donoghue. M.38South Africa underapartheid and nineteenth-centuryRussia are both taken to be emblematic of a general form of 'historical tyranny'. one sees the emergence of an impatiencewith formalistic licence. And yet the challenge that his fiction presents to this traditionis barely registered in this genre of reviewing. re-anchorthe novels to a familiar model of South Africa as an enclosed teirain.34 anotherconsideredhis revision 'a static and anaemic affair. is called to task for juggling with the known historical facts.40 'allegorical' 33 S.37but also on those novels in which the narrativeis not located in any specific time or place. 995.Waiting for the Barbarians. once so located they can be read as having a universal moral significance. The New YorkTimesBook Review.when his fiction presents the conventions of the Western novel with its formal. Furbank. 'Post-ColonialAllegory and the Transformation History'.Apartheidand the Novels of J. and conversely. This intertextuality is recognised by reviewers. Coetzee's re-writing of Dostoevsky's The Devils is routinely re-attachedto 'South Africa'. rather than a specific political one either with reference to alternative understandingsof South Africa or to the politics of writing. Bayley. 'Visions and Revisions'.'Mistress. a re-attachmentthat allows the incorporationof apartheidinto a general paradigm of tyrannical regimes in decline: 'The relevance of this political allegory to South Africa. 'Types of Tyranny'. despite the elegance of the writing'. 133-143. The New YorkReview of Books. such as Life and Times of Michael K. Conrad or Nabakov. 'Her Man Friday'. Enright. This double movement is recognisable in commentarieson those novels in which South Africa is an indirectreferent.35Likewise. colonial travel writing. p. such as Foe. . In particular. Times Literary Supplement. 28 May 1987. whether fiction or non-fiction . The Master of Petersburg is considered a mere 'literarypastiche' of Dostoevsky's novel. 157-168. Muse and Begetter'. pp. and fiction. The New YorkReview of Books. p.'To be Conscious is to Suffer'. This alternativeconception of allegory does not enter into considerationin the genre of the literaryreview. 1270. 22. McGrath. in this reading formation. and most recently The Master of Petersburg. and the increasingly vicious response of a doomed regime to apartheid-era what it perceives as the enemy at its gates. 34 P. 35-36. (1988).1 (1988). and Dostoevsky's The Devils in The Master of Petersburg) is met with a certain degree of unease. extra-textual referent synonymous with racism. Lewis. 17 November 1994.7 November 1980.33 this post-structuralist On but ratherthe trope where the place of language in history becomes the subject of narration itself. pp. Each of Coetzee's novels can be read as a meta-fictionalcommentary on particularsub-genres of 'white writing'. N. pp. J. is inserted into a sub-genre of An 'the political allegory or fable dealing with modern totalitarianism'. 'Doubles'. 4. Zinik. 35 D.4 March 1994. 38 P.Times Literary Supplement. for example.39 Apartheidis constructedas simply a variant of an a historical form of totalitarianism. Journal of Literary Studies.12 September 1986. In reviews of his latest novel. Waiting for the Barbarians. Journal of Commonwealth of Literature. ethical or political limits. in which Coetzee's inter-textualinscriptionsof other canonical works is met with suspicion. where 'there is a certain fictional haze between the events and their local reference'. Rather. Coetzee's re-writingof classic.the pastoral novel. who locate Coetzee on the margins of a traditionof Europeanand North American avant-gardemodernism through frequent references to the similarities of his work and that of writers such as Kafka. Slemon. p. 'Allegorical' readings.36 The mimetic conception of allegory at work in the non-academic review allows Coetzee's novels to be located as 'South African' in relation to a stable. Times Literary Supplement. 9. allegory is not a means of escaping history. historiography or various canonical novels. 2. One reviewer regrets that Coetzee chooses to sexualise the Robinson Crusoe story in Foe. 19. or in a non-South African location. pp. Coetzee 293 reading. 40 P. p. 20 November 1994. 39 J. 36 Z. but at the same time. Dovey. see also T. and is finally dismissed as an 'act of literary terrorism'. canonical works (of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe in Foe. 'The Master of Petersburg'.

Thornton. New Statesman.21 September 1990. If characters are expected to accord to a racialised of understandinig South African society. 'Writingand Action'. In the discourse of the general literaryreview.294 Journal of SouthernAfrican Studies reading enables South Africa to be understood as the refeIent of the novel. the majorityof black South Africans. 4 (1995). On an intemationalstage. The New YorkReview of Books. Parrinder'What his FatherGets up to'. at the same time as South African literarywriting was inserted into this regime of value. September 1990. They are positioned on the margins of Western literary canons as representatives who can speak of and against a racist system. Journal of Southern African Studies. white novelists increasingly 41 42 43 44 45 P.43admittingthat Coetzee might be engaging in an intentional ruse in this respect. L. Age of Iron is understood to be a novel treating 'the effects of apartheidon the psyches of both the oppressorand the oppressed'. yet they do not and cannot represent its principal targets and victims. See T. and present a principled resistance or refusal to it. Burdens of Representation The 'allegorical' re-anchoring of Coetzee's novels enables them to be assimilated to familiar paradigmsfor understandingapartheid. binary terms. In paiticular. Vercueil is reportedto be a 'white down-and-out'4'or 'a white vagrant'. Annan. They are asked to represent life under apartheid. Accordingly. Being able to place charactersillto a racialised drama is essential to the reading of South African fiction in this genre of criticism.anotherreviewer admits that 'I thought he was meant to be a Coloured'. 40. allowing a more general and de-politicised significance to be drawn from the novel. Yet. S. Black South African writerswere much more effectively silenced or severed from their main audience. Thus.One of the features of reception of South African fiction amongst metropolitanreading publics has been the routine treatment of literatureas a source of knowledge about South Afiican reality.'Apartheid'sLast Vicious Gasps'.44 Such an understandinig fails to register the ways in which the protagonists of Coetzee's novels rarelybelong to this sort of easy binaty division. South African writers have been expected. p. African Novel'. London Review of Books. 13 September 1990. in the name of universalvalues of justice and equality. but a South Africa which is alreadyconstructedin terms of tyrannyand totalitarianism. . they tend to be figures oIn the marginof the defining axis of racialisedconflict whiclhdefined apartheidin the Western imagination.4 The inscription of literary writing by white South Africans into an international framework involved the imposition of a peculiar 'burden of represenltation' uponl those writers. 'Text and Hinterland: M. then in tum this racialised lens is understoodin strictly polarised. Rather. 7. Reviews of Life and Times of Michael K and Age of Iron aIe characterisedby a desire to be able to place both Michael K and Vercueil into a manageableframe of radicalisedreference. Soutlh African literature is regularly read in terms of a pre-existing set of understandingsof a society polarised along stark lines of racialised division. and have never been accordedthe same degree of critical acclaim amongst the mainstreamliterary establishment in North America or Europe. 585-599. 'Love and Death in South Africa'. Kai NorrisEaston. Coetzee and the Soutlh J. pp.This explorationof the multiplicity of positioIls and identities in South Africa is one of the features that recommends Coetzee's novels as distinctively 'post-apartheid' naiTatives. white South African writers were invited to serve as proxies for the black South African majority. 17-18. French.42 Alternatively. to provide informationabout a particularreality at specific conjuinctures. p. and in turn were read. 21. pp. South Africa is concretised and named as the context and referent of Coetzee's novels. but at the same time and in the same move. it is idealised as a stage for more general moral dramas of human suffering and violence.

'The Thing Itself'. Iverson (eds).not only is race the absent signifier in the novel. white South African writerstook on the task of imagining the contoursof post-apartheid identities. with whom Coetzee is routinely related in literaryreviews.as unaffordable luxuries. if the theme of Coetzee's novel was passive suffering. This formal radicalism is met with increasing impatience in literaryjournalism.Apartheidanidthe Novels of J. p. Ndebele.48Comparedboth to standardfigures of black resistance in South African literature. One commentatorsuggested that. The only occasions when the routine vocabularyof racial classification appears is when Michael K is addressed by figures of authority. The oppositional thrust of the novel is diluted by 46 N. writers such as Coetzee and Gordimer inteirogated in their novels the representativestatus that continued to be unproblematicallyascribed to them on an intemational stage. 'Introduction'. urgentand compulsive. 'Post-ApartheidNarratives'.Racialisation is presented in the novel as a process of interpellationinto institutionallysupporteddiscourses of hierarchical differentiation. in whiclh this inteiTogationof white authority is articulated through a rigorous textual experimentationwith generic and nairative forms. then this was an inadequate theme for a novel.in N. South African Literatureand Culture:Rediscovery of the Ordinary (Manchester. W. which the motions generosity expansiveness of and havehadto be stilled. In so doing.5 (1987). We can see this tension emerging in responses to Life and Times of Michael K.but without recourse to the signifiers of race that are a standardfeature of most South African writing. 1994). The emergence of black consciousness movements and the upsurge of all forms of resistance from black communities after 1976.46 Forced to concede the limits that bound their writing and its relevance.Manchester University Press. haunted and introspective.47 As white South African writing becomes acutely self-reflexive about its own marginalisation and the problem of its own authority during the 1980s. Colonial DiscourselPostcolonial Theory (Manchester. in F. but the eponymous 'hero' of this novel is a singularly passive figure. p. Furthermore. Pechey.30 September 1983. 'Modernism and Modernity:T.It tracks relentlessly moreor less pitilesslyoverthe evermorerestricted and terrain whlich. Lazarus. Barker. Michael K remains unclassified by racialised signifiers throughout the novel. one might expect that it becomes more difficult to contain within the frame of reference through which it was mediated for mainstreaminternationalliterary publics. Coetzee 295 come to focus upon. pp. and G. 48 D. J. The charge that Coetzee fails to adequatelyrepresentblack South African political struggle is most forcibly articulatedin Gordimer'sreview of the novel. the culturalwork that such fiction is made to do on this international stage is thereforeincreasinglyat odds with the domestic concems whiclhshape it. Cultural Critique. For her. This novel makes visible the specific horizon of meaning through whiclhSouth African writing is made intelligible. This accounts for the characteristic introspectionof white South African writing in the 1980s: It is an obsessionalliterature. is condemned. 151-171. in the content and form of their writing. 47 G. Tllis is likely to be particularlythe case with Coetzee's texts. Times Literary Supplement. 1994). 1037. From the late 1970s onwards. their own marginalisation from the main sites of conflict and struggle in South African society. Enright. . is a literature parsimony narrow it It of and in depiction.and to the heroes in the work of Kafka. 131.P. Hulme and M. Michael K is thought to be simply not heroic enough. precipitateda terminal crisis of liberalism as both political ideology and literary aesthetic. 1-16. Michael K's social position is carefully delineated in the course of the narrative.Pechey. Adorno and ContemporaryWhite South African Literature'. M.The resulting deconstructionof white subjectivityin the novels of Gordimner Coetzee has been hailed and as a 'post-liberal' project that parallels the 'post-nationalist'writings of Njabulo Ndebele. pp. Manchester University Press. Coetzee's novel representsa retreat from a commitmentto political solutions and is markedby a refusal to see an active black presence in South African society.by virtue to of its situation.

the novel brings in to the open the conventions which framed the reading of such writing around an expectation of clear. C. 17-18. 11 December 1983. While the reading of Coetzee's novels as allegories and parables allows a particularmoral utniversalisation of South Africa. 'A Tale of Heroic Anonymity'.51 This genre of criticism is somewhat intolerantof Coetzee's stylistic and narrativeexperimentation.he thickens the clear tongue of the novel by naming its "message"and thumpingout ironies'.then this accounts for the frustrationand impatience felt towards the formal experiments undertakenin Coetzee's novels. Sunday Times. D. 'Saint Jane'.ascribing these to a certain 'academicism' that intrudesinto his writing. The New YorkTimesBook Review.53 The same discomfort and impatience with the formal features of Coetzee's novels is evidenit in Cynthia Ozick's commentary on Life and Times of Michael K. 25 September 1983. Coetzee's fiction is often found to be too 'contrived' to support what are often considered to be thin stories.54This intoleranceof a stylistic 'flaw' succeeds in neutralisingthat part of the novel in which the question of interpretative authorityis made most explicit.The temptation to make Michael K speak. Jones.one reviewer invoking the same remarkin two separatereviews to express his discomfort: 'We are repelled by any sort of writing that. above all. pp. p. The notion that Coetzee's persistent allegorising gets in the way of what should be clearly identifiable realities is a recurringtheme: 'Coetzee's urge to allegorise intrudesupon his narrativegifts'. and 'Visions and Revisions'. If the burden of representationimposed upon white South African writers by international audiences is more and more at odds with their own self-conscious reflection on questions of marginalityand authority.a judgement which 49 50 51 52 53 54 Gordimer. a reading that effaces the ambiguous non-inscriptionof race in the narrative. a representationthat causes a certain degree of bewilderment: 'Surely he does not representthe spirit of Africa? I see no point in this prolonged tale of woe'. Shrimpton. in Keats' phrase. this self-reflexivity is judged 'redundant'.49 This same charge is echoed in other reviews of the novel. Hers is just one review which is unhappywith the intrusioninto the nalTative of Michael K's adventuresof the reflections of the Doctor. is made explicit within the narrativethrough the Doctor's account. 1. 16 September 1990. Ozick. This section of the novel is regardedby Ozick as an unnecessaryand 'self-indulgent' intrusion into Michael K's otherwise 'authentic' inner dialogue: 'the doctor's commentaryis superfluous.and Gordimerconcludes that Coetzee fails to acknowledge the agency of black South Africans in resisting apartheid. the and quality of the naTrative. N.'The Idea of Gardening'. This section of the novel serves as the point at which the novel stages the necessity of its own (imis)reading. even as a figure of non-meaning. to read him as symbolic of something. Age of Iron. 26. London Review of Books.52What is most importantin this arena of judgement is. who provides a second-order commentaryon the difficulty of placing Michael K in any system of meaning. is found to be 'formulaic' and 'obvious' in its allegorising about death and illness. D. the novel being markedby a 'revulsion against all political and revolutionarysolutions'. J. As soon as Michael K is read as a figure for black South Africa.Sunday Times. The aversion to Coetzee's formal radicalism is a recurrenttheme . nonetheless for many reviewers the allegorical qualities of Coetzee's writing do not accord with notions of what good literary writing should be and of what South African writing in particularshould deliver. pp. 50 In failing to accord to the 'burdenof representation'imposed upon South African literaty writing. 'The Thing Itself'. 43. with 'its didactic urges everywhere apparent'. 'Death of a Nation'. 28. N. For Ozick.296 Journal of SouthernAfrican Studies fashioning an account aroundsuch an ambivalentcentralcharacter. binary protagonists who fell into simple categories of good and evil. 20 October 1983. A. Enright. . Taylor.then he appears as a model of passive suffering rather than active struggle and resistance. "has a palpable design on us"'.

56 J.59 this Furthermore. There is now an increasing acknowledgement of the value of formal pluralism in current cultural debates in South Africa. of Reading Coetzee Politically In addition to general literaryjournalism. J. M. 18-138.there is anotherreading-formation throughwhich South African literaturehas circulated. 385-391. he cultivates a careful resistance to the standard gestures of the writer's political responsibility.in Doubling thePoint. . Coetzee steadfastly refuses to provide authoritativeinterpretations his novels or to reduce them of to political statements. M. Coetzee directly affirms the responsibilityof writers to try and push beyond the aesthetic constraintsimposed by existing political antagonisms. 11-24. 57 Coetzee.'Some ProvisionalSpeculationson the Critiqueof "Resistance" Literature'. 1993). process of re-evaluationis not merely a feature of Europeanand North American discussions. Journal of South African Studies. understood simply as the rendition of Michael K's story. GivinigOffense. and 'The Novel Today'.Apar-theid and the Novels of J. Political and ethical ambivalenceis a theme of all of his fiction. Upstream. M. within an established system of moral interpretations apartheid. Coetzee 297 neatly enables her to place the rest of the novel. Parry. In this reading-formation. David Atwell identifies Teresa Dovey's The Novels of J. but has been pioneered in South Africa. 1996). published in 1988. Coetzee: SouthAfrica and the Politics of Writing(Berkeley. pp.55His novels have been the subject of charges that they do not deal adequatelywith the urgent demands of representingthe reality of life under apartheidand articulatingan appropriate political response to it. M. pp. 9 (1982). then it is nonetheless importantto emphasise that there is no simple division to be drawn between the reception of his fiction inside and outside of South Africa. 'Literatureand Politics: Currents in South African Writing in the Seventies'.58His fiction has been re-evaluated by academic critics in large part because of their interrogationof the dominant realist aesthetic previously characteristicof so much South African literature. as marking a 55 For example. This positive re-evaluation coincides with the ascendancy of post-structuralist theories of inteipretation.in Boehmer.In particular. Within the dominant frameworks for assessing the political credentials of South African fiction during the 1970s and much of the 1980s. In his critical essays he has explicitly marked his distance from instrumentalist conceptions of writing. and from understandings of the subordinaterelation of fiction to history which have shaped the realist aesthetics of mainstream oppositional South African literature. 1996. 2-5.Novels previously found to be lacking in an appropriate political agenda are now found to indeed have political significance.57 If Coetzee's novels have in the past been met with some suspicion amongst South Afiican critics. Chrismanand Parker(eds).6(1988). pp. This difficulty in pinning down the political perspective of Coetzee's novels is in no small part a deliberateeffect. 'A Note on Writing'. Longman. M. 58 See D. Chapman. which had previously been overlooked or disdained by critics of his early work.56 And in his most recent collection of essays. The evaluations of Coetzee's work have been significantly revised within South Africa more recently. As a consequence. Coetzee. In interviews.it is the political value of literary fiction that is emphasised. pp. pp. Altered State?. Coetzee's novels de-familiarisecommon representations of South Africa by re-inscribingthis 'place' into diffuse networksof overlappinggeographical linkages and historical layers. 59 B. Vaughan. they do not easily fit into the dominant realist aesthetic characteristicof much post-war South Africa literature.This is the realm of professional academic literary criticism. South Af-ican Literatures(London. radical academic critics found it difficult to ascribe an unambiguously positive political evaluation to Coetzee's work. Coetzee. it rests on a recognition of the value of formal radicalism. Atwell. and M. Universityof CaliforniaPress. 94-95.

Dovey reads Coetzee's early novels as allegories of psychoanalytic processes of identity formation. M. 30-41.StanfordUniversity Press. and into the canon of post-colonial literature. Like all literary theory. genres. 64 T. Ad 61 See T. Journalof LiteraryStudies. Wor Liter-ature ld Writtenin English. She has gone so far as to argue that Coetzee's novels effectively cut the ground from under those critics who have found his fiction lacking sufficient signs of appropriatepolitical commitment. pp. and Atwell. Slemon. Miller. pp. Parry. de Kok and K. 327-341. 14. 1990). post-colonial theory is characterisedby a tendency to select certain texts. Spring is Rebellious. see J. 'The Problemof History in the Fiction of J. pp. of Topog-aphies (Stanford.. 1990). 1998). characterisedas it is by its overt inter-textualreferencesto canonical novels. In the field of cultural politics.65 For example. 'Coetzee and his Critics:the case of Dusklands'. English in Africa. Southern AfricanReview of Books. 3 (1988).61 These increasingly contested evaluations of the 'political' significance of Coetzee's fiction in South Africa are wrapped up in a more widespread transformationduring the 1990s which has destabilised anti-apartheid discourses which were previously hegemonic. by a studied ambivalence of narTation. April/May 1989. pp. Spring is Rebellious: Argulments about CulturalFreedom (Cape Town. Donker.the most recent phase of the international of reception of Coetzee's fiction is intimately connected to the emnergence post-coloniial theories of culture. by predominantlywhite writers from former settler colonies like Australia. pp. 'Unsettlingthe Empire:ResistanceTheoryfor the Second World'. Trump(ed).63South African cultural debates in the 1990s are characterisedby an attempt to find a new 'settlement' between domestic and internationaldiscourses. in M. Coetzee.'CulturalImaginationand CulturalSettlement:Albie Sachs and Njabulo Ndebele'. Coetzee'. The Novels of J.'TlheHiolein the Narrative:Coetzee's Fiction'. 94-132.It is this soIt of construction of literary 'post-coloniality' which elevates the writing of Coetzee. a thorough-goingrevision of previous paradigmswas first triggeredby the controversialinterventionof ANC activist Albie Sachs. 66 S. M. 63 Atwell.. 18-20. . Dovey's interventionand responses to it have fostered increasingly divergent evaluations of Coetzee's novels amongst South African critics. pp. authors.60Her work also calls into question the frames of evaluation tlhrough which Coetzee's writing has been ascribed political value by South African critics. This process of revision is shared between metropolitan and local academic critics who orient themselves towards poststructuralist theoreticalperspectives. 4. Slemnon'sdiscussion of the inscription of resistance in post-colonial literatureexplicitly privileges writings from what he calls the 'second world'. Dovey. in de Kok and Press (eds). by tropes of allegoiy and mimicry. 60 T.66 tum. 62 See I.(?)'. M.In particular.Ravan Press. 65 For furtherdiscussion of the structureof exemplarity character-istic all literary theory. In New Zealand and Canada. Morphet.. and formalistic or stylistic features and elevate these to the status of defining featuresof a singular 'tradition' of 'post-colonial writing'. H.298 Journal of Southerni African Studies clear break with previous readings. 30. Coetzee: Lacanian Allegories (Johannesburg. Press (eds). 15-30. 316-337. M. difference and identity. The ensuing debates about the relation between culture and politics must be considered as one of the main 'contexts' from which Coetzee's fiction departs. For responsesto Dovey's readingof Coetzee. the textual inscription of ambivalence and ambiguity is identifiedas the exemplaryfeatureof post-colonial literature. 131-144. pp. Dovey. Buchu Books. 2 (1987).62Sachs called for the revision of received notions of the relationshipbetween culture and the struggle against apartheidthat had become normalised during the 1970s and 1980s. Chapman'The Writingof Politics and the Politics of Writing:on ReadingDovey on ReadingLacanon ReadingCoetzee on Reading . see B. 2 (1990). 1995). Rendering Things Visible: Essays on Sout/hAftican Literary Culture (Johannesburg. J.64 The re-thinking of the relationships between South African cultural production and international theoretical and aesthetic paradigms has opened a space for the positive re-evaluation of Coetzee's fiction in political terms.

Coetzee'. 20. Postcolonialism and Other Figures'. and Kunapipi. 68 For example. 25. .70 The clearest is example of this sort of appropriation in the work of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Visser. 1 in (1995). pp. Parker. Oxford University Press. 'Postcolonialityof a Special Type: Theory and its Appropriation South Africa'.see H. 79-94. 245. 'Post-ColonialLiteratures Counter-Discourse'. see J. 'Theoryin the Margin:Coetzee's Foe ReadingDefoe's CrusoelRoxana'.or the House of Friday'. pp. Whereis SouthAfricanLiterature All This?' Ariel. W. Arac and B. pp.'Post.72 Atwell suggests that Coetzee's concentrationon issues of race and colonialism to the exclusion of other themes is the markof his being primarily'a regional writer within South Africa'. For her. WorldLiteratureWritten in English. Spivak. 17 (1986). Tiffin.in J. 1996). M. 153-167. and E. pp. 87-92.73Coetzee's novels are therefore particularlyaccommodating to incorporationby contemporarytheories of colonial discourse.69and his fiction has been easily fitted into academic discussions of post-colonialism.68Coetzee's writing exemplifies the increasing convergence between post-structuralist theories of language and post-colonial literary genres. Coetzee'. 1989). 31.in the post-colonial reading of Coetzee's novels. For furtherdiscussion of theoreticalissues at stake in the differing positions of Spivak and Parrywith respect to Coetzee's fiction. 271-313.'J. 72 G. the novel thematisesprocesses of colonial inscriptionand silencing. Boehmer. R. 110.Spivak has used Coetzee's re-writing of Robinson Crusoe in Foe as an exemplarof her theoreticalconcerns. 137-154. The Yearbookof English Studies. 25. Routledge. South Africa is not only constructedas a particular but of colonialism theorised primarilyas a set of discursive practices for the construction 67 A.71Benita Parry'scommentarieson Coetzee's novels can be read in turn as an oblique response to Spivak's position.G. pp. TheArnoldAnthologyofPost-Colonial Literaturesin English (London. 73 Atwell. in so far as they addressthe colonial traces not so much of South Africa as a whole. Benson and L. 'Sing Along with the Common People: Politics. Coetzee. Tiffin. In readings of Coetzee's work framed by contemporarytheories of colonial discourse and variantof colonialism. and B. 70 See Atwell's comments in Coetzee. 69 E. Ariel. in the figure of the tongue-less Friday who resists all attempts to make him tell his story. Publications of the Modern Language Association. 1995). C. Research in African Literatures. pp. and S.Johns Hopkins University Press. post-colonialism. p. Parry. Colonial and Postcolonial Literature(Oxford. 17-29. not least because of his position as both a novelist as well as a professional theorist and critic. 154-180. 4 (1989). 'White Writing 21 and Postcolonial Politics'. pp. Ashcroft. 3 (1987). 'Can the SubalternSpeak?'. 1 (1991). in K. Coetzee's novels have thus become the ground for theoretical exposition in colonial discourse and post-colonial theory. Coetzee: "WhileWriting"'. Environmentand Planning D: Society and Space. C.Arnold. Vol. Coetzee's fiction tends to reproduceeffects of silencing by refusing to represent the voices of resistance. Watson. Spivak. 1991). M. see S. 1994). 15 (1997).Macmillan. C. 79-95. Marxismand the Interpretation of Culture(London. N.Apartheidand the Novels of J.1988). and not least the basis for a continuationof debates sparkedby Spivak's much contested statement that 'the subalterncannot speak'.9. Coetzee's novels are frequentlyapproachedas if they were essentially allegories of certain theoretical principles drawn from post-structuralismor deconstruction. Roberts. Coetzee 299 The relevance of post-colonialism to South African society and culturehas been widely discussed. see C. in C.74 Furthermore. The Encyclopaedia of Post-Colonial Literaturesin English (London. 21-34. p. For the use of Coetzee's work in theorising post-colonial literature. but of the Cape in particular. pp. a quite distinctive undeistandingof colonialism is privileged as the frameworkfor understandingcontemporarySouth African society. J. 223. 'Colonialism and the Novels of J. From Parry's more sceptical perspective. Johnson (eds). p. 74 For examples. 4 (1994). Griffiths and H. Carusi. Nelson and L. Post and Post: Or. Jolly.'Speech and Silence in the Fictionsof J. Thieme (ed). 'Rehearsalsof Liberation:Conitemporary Postcolonial Discourse and the New South Africa'. Grossberg(eds). pp. New Formation7s. 71 G. pp. 'Post-Colonialism. 17-33. Consequences of Theoty (Baltimore. (1993). Doubling the Point. Routledge. 370-392.67These discussions are of interest here not least because of the place that Coetzee's fiction has come to hold in the working up of an international canon of post-colonial literary writing. M. M. one of the centraltheoristsof contemporary post-colonialism. Bamett. 27 (1997). The Empire WritesBack: TheoryanidPractice in Post-Colonial Literature(London. M. Clayton. Connolly (eds). pp.

Routledge. not only in pre-selecting authorsand texts who are subsequentlymade the subject of academic canonisation. Jr. attention should be directed towards evaluating the relative influence and force of different interests and institutions in shaping the discourses of mediation through which cultural products are produced. 105-121. Tiffin and A. and that ends up tilted towards a descriptionof all kinds of social oppression and discursive control'. the context of Coetzee's novels is understoodaccordingto a particular. easily reproduces a representationof South African society in terms of a Manicheanstrugglebetween the forces of good and evil.300 Journal of SouthernAfrican Studies of colonial subjectivities.76 Conclusion I have tried to identify some of the ways in which the meaning and referent of 'South African literature' has been dependent upon the cultural mediation of texts through institutionaliseddiscourses of criticism and theory. 1992). as apartheidis assimilated to an essentially de-historicised model of oppression. L. pp. is distinct from academic literary criticism: the two practices are regulated by different imperativesand have a differentrelationshipto their object of analysis. Lawson (eds). Focussing upon the mediating channels of discourse through which 'South African literature'has been worked-up on an internationalstage enables the reformulationof the as of problemof the 'politics of representation' it applies to the interpretation South African cultural production.The review. 'Tradingon the Margin: Notes on the Culture of Criticism'. see M. 1988). The entanglement of inside and outside thus renders problematic any judgement that appeals to the 'authenticity' of acts of representationunderstood either mimetically or as the act of speaking on behalf of others. the contexts of the novels is understood to be an array of other texts and discourses. South Africa thus becomes just one example of a generic colonialism.stabilised model of South African reality under apartheid.the formal dimensions of Coetzee's fiction have been acknowledged and accorded more positive value as the locus of the political significance of the novels. 77 On the distinctive qualities of reviewing and criticism. In this reading-formation. nor do I want to suggest that questions of political judgement can simply be dissolved into an indeterminate mass of individual acts of endlessly creative reception. I lhavearguedthat Coetzee's fiction has been inserted into dominant moral representationsof apartheid.M. In the genre of the journalistic literary review. in C.On the one hand. 'Indigestion:a Rhetoric of Reviewing'. 15-32. I have suggested that there is no simple distinction between a domestic inside and an internationaloutside which might allow appeals to an enclosed South African context as the basis for providing final judgement on the value of Coetzee's fiction.circulatedand made available for consumption. which is central to contemporary theories of colonial discourse and post-colonialism. On the other hand. in Loose Canons (Oxford. even when this is the same work. 1994). 173-194..On the other hand. I have done so by looking in detail at the contexts of reception for the work of J. Coetzee. Slemon. in The Pirate's Fianc&e(London.75The historical specificity of apartheidas a regime of governance and accumulationis thus elided. pp. Gates. Rather. pp. . Morris. 76 For a critiqueof the 'colonialist paradigm'of oppressionin culturaltheory. Oxford University Press. as a form of literary journalism. De-Scribing Empire: Post-colonialism and Textuality(London. Verso. but also that the receptionof such a rigorouslyself-reflexive body of fiction makes visible the norms of these mediating discourses. one which 'cannot be historicised modally. The coloniser/colonised dyad.but also as part of an arrayof discourses where the persistent representation 75 S. 'The Scramble for Post-Colonialism'. within the emergent post-colonial paradigmof academic literary criticism and theory.77Metropolitanliterary journalism has been highly influential. see H.

And. Berkshire. Coetzee 301 of South African society as a racial allegory is worked-up and maintained. since this moralised staging of apartheid continues in accounts of the transformationof post-apartheidSouth Africa. CLIVE BARNETT Department of Geography. . Reading. RG6 6AB. M. UK The University of Reading. Whiteknights. The moral framing of literaryfiction succeeded in keeping South Africa at a distance by assimilating apartheidinto a stark moral dramaof good and evil which made it readily available as an object of clear cut moral judgement. which focus upon the activities of select individuals acting out an epic moral drama of reconciliation. it remains an importanttask to critically question the channels of discourse throughwhich particularrepresentationsof South African society are reproduced.Apartheidand the Novels of J.