Narrating the past: reflections on recent Black Afrikaans writing




History, nostalgia, romance, tragedy, dystopia


A return to the past has been a dominant feature of recent Afrikaans writing. This is evident in the many novels re-visiting the Anglo-Boer War or recounting incidents from the apartheid past. The approaches include the debunking of myths and a nostalgic longing for the good old days. Whether this is true of the small body of Black Afrikaans writing, given its ambivalent relationship to the canon, needs to be investigated. A number of texts that was published recently either had a clear autobiographical background or emanated from the desire and imperative to "tell our own stories from our communities". This paper explores the way that the past is narrated in a number of selected texts by i.a. Fatima Osman, Simon Bruinders, Ronelda Kamfer and Valda Jansen. In the case of the texts by the firstmentioned authors the narrative is about survival, determination and the triumph of the human spirit in the face of a dehumanising system like apartheid. In the latter texts one finds elements of dystopia and disillusionment with the past as an ydill. It also gives an unsentimental view of the state of mind and events playing out in communities in the present. The texts furthermore grapples with textual strategies to represent history and the inability at times to comprehend the past.


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Author Biography

Steward van Wyk, University of the Western Cape, Bellville

Steward van Wyk is Professor and Head of the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch at the University of the Western Cape.


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How to Cite

van Wyk, S. (2018). Narrating the past: reflections on recent Black Afrikaans writing. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 55(1), 70–80.



Research articles