Arnon Grunberg : die retoriek van oorlog en die etiek van getuienis

Bartlett, Rentia (2015-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die oorlogsretoriek van die Nederlandse skrywer en openbare intellektueel, Arnon Grunberg, word in hierdie tesis bestudeer en verbind met etiese vraagstukke wat deur sy werk opgeroep word. Daar word ondersoek op welke wyse reportage uit Kamermeisjes en soldaten; die roman Onze oom; en enkele essays geskryf deur Grunberg asook deur sy heteroniem Marek van der Jagt die leser prikkel om etiese vrae te stel, na aanleiding van die wyse waarop hierdie tekste van retoriese middele gebruik maak, of daarop kommentaar lewer. Die reportages wat Grunberg as klandestiene joernalis in onder andere Afghanistan, Irak en Guantánamo Bay geskryf het, word ondersoek om te bepaal hoe hy “die ander” uitbeeld wat hy in hierdie oorlogsterreine ontmoet. Daar word geargumenteer dat Grunberg se reportage nie as instrumentalisties beskou kan word nie omdat hy probeer om sy subjekte as ongelyksoortig uit te beeld. Grunberg dui die werking van retoriek in hierdie literêre joernalistiek aan deur die gaping tussen die sg. offisiële diskoers en die werklikheid aan te stip. Hierdie reportages word beskou as tekste wat die werking van retoriek ten toon stel en kommentaar lewer op die impak van retoriese meganismes. Die ondersoek na die oorlogsretoriek van Grunberg behels ook die bestudering van die roman Onze oom, ’n verhaal gebaseer op werklike oorlogservarings en gesprekke met soldate. Grunberg maak met hierdie roman ’n studie van die potensiële mag van woorde om “immorele dade” te regverdig, deur die kortsluiting te wys tussen die “werklikheid” en die karakters se opvattings. Daar word stilgestaan by die weerstand wat hierdie roman teen appropriasie bied in die manier waarop die teks geen eenvoudige morele boodskap verkondig nie, en nie as ’n vervoermiddel van ’n sekere boodskap – vir of teen oorlog of rewolusie – beskou kan word nie. Dit is eerder ’n roman wat die illusionêre gedagtegoed van sy karakters aanspreek en daardeur die gevaar van retoriek as ’n vorm van vleitaal ten toon stel. In plaas daarvan om Onze oom as ’n etiese roman te beskou wat sy subjek op ’n etiese wyse verteenwoordig, kan dit gesien word as ’n roman wat ’n etiese eksperiment aangaan en weerstand bied teen ’n finale interpretasie. Die term “oorlogsretoriek” verwys in hierdie tesis ten slotte na die potensiaal van ’n diskoers om verandering te bewerkstellig. Die oortuigende retoriese effek van Grunberg se gebruik van aforismes of maxims word ondersoek en daar word bevind dat Grunberg die maatskaplike relevansie van fiksie probeer bevestig. Aan die ander kant maak hy gebruik van ironie en dubbelsinnigheid wat hierdie absolute uitsprake kompliseer. Dié spel tussen betrokkenheid en afsydige ironie lei daartoe dat sy werk nié as manifes vir of propaganda teen ’n sekere saak beskou kan word nie. Die sosiale en sosiologiese betrokkenheid van Grunberg is nie onproblematies of duidelik definieerbaar nie. Die konflik wat hierdie tekste genereer, stimuleer by die leser ’n kritiese besef van eties-komplekse vraagstukke oor die verhouding tussen “die self” en “die ander”, en kan daarom gesien word as ’n vorm van “etiese getuienis”.

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis makes a study of the war rhetoric of the Dutch writer and public intellectual, Arnon Grunberg, and connects it to the ethical demands provoked by his work. The ethical questions being triggered by his literary journalism from Kamermeisjes en soldaten [Chambermaids and soldiers]; his novel Onze oom [Our uncle]; and singular essays (partly written under Grunberg’s heteronym Marek van der Jagt) are examined to determine how these texts make use of or comment on rhetorical devices. Grunberg’s literary journalism, written as an undercover journalist in, amongst other places, Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, is studied in order to define how he portrays “the other” that he comes across in these war zones. It is argued that Grunberg’s journalism cannot be classified as instrumentalist. He rather tries to portray his subjects as heterogeneous. Grunberg points to the working of rhetoric in these reportage by demonstrating the gap between the so-called official discourse and reality. These reportages are seen as texts that depict the workings of rhetoric and comment on the power thereof to have a certain effect. A study of Arnon Grunberg’s war rhetoric also includes the examination of the novel Onze oom, a narrative based on real war experiences and conversations with soldiers. With this novel Grunberg makes a study of the potential power of words to justify “immoral deeds” by exposing the short-circuit between the “reality” and the characters’ interpretation thereof. The way in which this novel offers resistance against appropriation is inspected. It is argued that it does not proclaim a simple moral message and is not a conveyor of a specific agenda – for or against war or revolution. Rather, it is a novel that addresses the illusionary sentiments and reflections of its characters and therewith depicts the danger of rhetoric as a form of flattery. Instead of considering Onze oom as an ethical novel that represents its subject in an ethical manner, it is a novel that makes an ethical experiment and provides resistance against a final or firm interpretation. The term “war rhetoric” in this thesis finally refers to the potential of discourse to bring about change. The convincing rhetorical effect of Grunberg’s use of aphorisms or maxims are examined as a case in point of his aim to affirm the relevance of fiction to have a social effect. On the other hand his use of irony and ambiguity complicates these absolute utterances. This play between engagement and detached irony prohibits the reader to see his work as a form of propaganda for or against a certain cause. It is concluded that Grunberg’s social and societal engagement is not unproblematic or clearly definable. The conflict that these texts generate, stimulates with the reader the critical understanding of ethical-complex questions about the relation between “the self” and “the other” and is therefore considered as a form of “ethical witnessing”.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/98027
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