Reblogging this important post by Helen Finch because historical fiction never works in a vacuum from actual history – it’s constantly engaging, disengaging, re-engaging and flat-out arguing. And we forget to “keep it real” at our peril as writers and human beings.
I already knew about the Rhodes protests before I left Leeds. I had been sent an email by our South African colleague, telling us that the University of Cape Town was alive with student activists protesting at the slow pace of transformation twenty years after the fall of apartheid, and demanding the removal of the statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes, who presides over the campus looking north to the rest of the continent. I’d also been forwarded the email communication from the VC of Cape Town, which seemed to me measured and respectful, acknowledging the justice of the students’ demands and promising accelerated action.
We were in South Africa as part of a series of projects, principally a project generously funded by the British Academy, ‘Contemporary Literature from Germany and South Africa: Critiquing the Narrativization of Trauma as Nation-building’. This also chimed with other projects – Performing the Jewish Archive…
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2 thoughts on “Rhodes, revenge, rage; what use is literature?”
Hey, thank you so much for the lovely commentary and the reblog. To anger and justice in literature! x
You’re welcome – and it’s a great cautionary story because it’s so easy for anyone, in any circumstances, to go into that anodyne world you describe so well when there’s insufficient challenge to it. Or, when writing, dump in a Teachable Moment about History somewhere on page 293 and feel that does the job enough. One has to (a) recognise it’s complicated and (b) engage in a way that’s relevant. I always felt that Sebastian Barry did a great job of that in A Long Long Way. But then again, that to my mind is the *proper* application of writerly restraint 🙂