"Epochal weaving" : metaphors of narrative and metafiction in Marlene van Niekerk's Triomf and Agaat

Reiersgord, David (2015-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2015

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis examines the use of specific narrative strategies, metafiction and metaphor in Mar-lene van Niekerk’s Triomf (2004) an Agaat (2010). Each of these expansive novels are set in South Africa during the period of national transition to democracy in the 1990s, and explore issues related to ideological aspects of space, race, class and land dispossession. Throughout the thesis I highlight and refer to illustrations of “epochal weaving”, a literary framework that is used to trace historical overlap between the narrative past and present. These depictions of “epochal weaving” in each novel suggest thinking about the capacity for literature to represent the multi-layered nuances informing national and historical contexts in South Africa and be-yond in relation to personal, and lived experiences. My reading of metaphors in relation to the depiction of social space in Triomf focuses on city streets and the significance of repositioning marginalised spatial histories. The alternative landscape of Johannesburg’s western suburbs that Van Niekerk recreates, evokes, in turn, the former history of Sophiatown, and seems to advocate imagining new ways for addressing the issues of neglected urban space. My close examination of Agaat traces specific metaphors of narrative and the novel’s display of notions of metafiction, and Van Niekerk’s reinterpretation of the literary history of the plaasroman from a post-apartheid perspective. In the final chapter I put Triomf and Agaat into conversation to display how Van Niekerk appears to weave national histories, embedded in each text, to-gether through the physical and domestic space of the family homes. Through the metaphorical significance of mirrors, an object which overlaps in these texts, various images reflected in mirrors produce multi-layered reconsiderations of national and sociopolitical issues embodied in the lived experiences and memories of the characters. Framing my reading, this thesis adopts an international gaze to consider not only how the literary features and narrative strategies in Van Niekerk’s fiction illuminate local issues related to cultural, historical, political and social contexts, but also create awareness about similar concerns that transcend national borders. In short, what South African literature, such as Van Niekerk’s work, stimulates in a reader who encounters it in translation.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek die gebruik van spesifieke narratiewe strategieë soos metafiksie en metafoor in Marlene van Niekerk se Triomf (2004) en Agaat (2006). Beide van hierdie omvattende romans neem plaas in Suid-Afrika gedurende die periode van nasionale oorgang na demokrasie in 1990, en verken kwessies verwant aan ideologiese aspekte soos spasie, ras, klas, en landontneming. Deurlopend belig hierdie tesis en verwys na uitbeeldings van “epogale verwewing”, ʼn literêre raamwerk wat gebruik word om historiese sameval na te trek tussen die narratiewe verlede en hede. Hierdie uitbeeldings van “epogale verwewing” in beide romans dui na ʼn kapasiteit van literatuur om veelvoudige lae van betekenis en nuanse voor te stel, in verwantskap met die persoonlike en geleefde ondervinding, wat nasionale en historiese kontekste in Suid-Afrika en selfs wyer inlig. Ek interpreteer metafoor in verwantskap met die uitbeelding van sosiale spasie in Triomf en fokus op die stadspaaie en die belang daarvan om gemarginaliseerde historiese spasies te herplaas in nuwe kontekste. Die alternatiewe landskap van Johannesburg se westelike woonbuurte wat van Niekerk herskep in fiksie herroep in beurt, die geskiedenis van Sophiatown, en blyk om nuwe maniere aan te voer om kwessie aan te spreek aangaande verontagsame en dus vergete stedelike spasie. My nasporing van spesifieke metafore van narratief in Agaat raak ʼn tentoonstelling van die roman se begrip van metafiksie asook van Niekerk se herinterpretasie van die literêre geskiedenis van die plaasroman vanuit ʼn post-apartheid perspektief. In die finale hoofstuk plaas ek Triomf en Agaat in ʼn gesprek om te vertoon hoe van Niekerk nasionale geskiedenisse verweef en beide tekste word bespreek deur die fisiese - en huislike spasie van die familiewonings. Deur die metaforiese belang van spieëls, ʼn voorwerp wat opduik in beide tekste, word vele afspieëlings weerkaats wat veervuldige heroorwegings produseer aangaande die nasionale en sosio-politiese kwessies vergestalt in die geleefde ervarings en herinneringe van die karakters. Wat my interpretasie ook raam is my internasionale posisie en oogpunte. Ek oorweeg nie net hoe die literêre funksies en narratiewe strategieë in van Niekerk se fiksie plaaslike kwessies verwant aan die kulturêle, geskiedkundige en sosiale kontekste belig nie, maar ook hoe hierdie strategieë bewusmaking bevorder oor soortgelyke probleme in ander kontekste oor nasionale grense heen. Ek vra: wat stimuleer Suid-Afrikaanse fiksie, soos byvoorbeeld van Niekerk se werk, in ʼn leser wat dit in vertaling teëkom?

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/98018
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