Over Zuid-Afrikaanse literatuur

door Luc Renders

 

The diaspora in recent Afrikaans literature

Paper delivered at the University of Zimbabwe, Harare, August 1999

1. The diaspora of the Afrikaner tribe

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines ‘Diaspora' as «1. a the dispersion of the Jews among the Gentiles mainly in the 8th – 6th c. BC b  Jews dispersed in this way. 2 (also diaspora) a any group of people similarly dispersed b their dispersion.» (1990:322-323). The above makes it clear that the original meaning of the term diaspora has been broadened to encompass any dispersion of a people resembling the Jewish one. Accordingly, diaspora studies are not limited to the study of the Jewish diaspora but also cover similar displacements of other peoples. In the mission statement of Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies the generic use of the term ‘diaspora’ is explicitly recognised: «Diaspora is dedicated to the multidisciplinary study of the history, culture, social structure, politics and economics of both the traditional diasporas – Armenian, Greek and Jewish – and those transnational dispersions which in the past three decades have chosen to identify themselves as ‘diasporas.' These encompass groups ranging from the African-American to the Ukrainian-Canadian, from the Caribbean-British to the new East and South Asian diasporas. » (Diaspora Website). Especially the African or black diaspora, with its roots in the slave trade, features prominently in recent diaspora research.

Not only along the main slave routes in Africa and beyond but also on the southern tip of Africa a wealth of fascinating diaspora material can be unearthed. All the more so if the term 'diaspora' is, perhaps somewhat unorthodoxically, broadened to denote, besides the dispersion of a people, also the divorce between individuals and their people. Especially since the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in 1652 diaspora traces can be discovered all over the Southern African landscape.

Southern Africa too, was caught up in the slave trade. Indeed, soon after their arrival the Dutch imported slaves from different parts of Africa and from the East. From 1667 the Cape also served as a place of exile for East Indian political dissidents. Van Riebeeck soon granted a number of servants of the United East Indian Company the right to work on their own account. Slowly the bond of these so called 'free burghers' with the East Indian Company eroded and numerous conflicts of interest arose. For the free burghers the Cape was their home, in contrast to the servants of the East Indian Company who stayed only for a tour of duty. The free burghers turned the refreshment station into a settlement colony. The arrival of French Huguenots in 1688 and of German immigrants in the course of the 18th century significantly strengthened the local white community.

As the colony grew bigger more and more farmers were forced to move inland, in search of arable land or pastures for their cattle. This led to clashes with the Bushmen and the Hottentot who were decimated by persecution and diseases. The survivors were enslaved or put to flight.

When the Cape of Good Hope temporarily became English between 1795 and 1803 and definitely in 1806 English immigrants, such as the 1820 settlers,  began arriving in substantial numbers. To shake off the shackles of British rule and cultural hegemony, large bands of Afrikaner farmers started on the so-called Groot Trek in 1836. After bitter clashes with black tribes they proclaimed two Boer republics: The Orange Free State and Transvaal. These in their turn were conquered by the British in the Boer war of 1899-1902. In the wake of the war some Boers, who could not stomach to live under British rule, left for other parts of Africa or for South America. In the short story 'Ontmoetinge in 'n voorvaderland' (meetings in a pre-fatherland) by J. C. Steyn a reference is made to a group of Boers departing for the Argentine. The novel Die reise van Isobelle (The travels of Isobelle) by Elsa Joubert dwells shortly upon a Boer fighter resettling in Kenya after the war. The recently published novel Op soek na generaal Mannetjies Mentz (In search of general Mannetjies Mentz) by Chistoffel Coetzee describes in the last section how a band of fugitive Boer fighters start a new life at the foot of the Kilimanjaro immediately following the Boer surrender.

During the war Boer prisoners were sent to detention camps abroadfrom which they were allowed to return home after the cessation of all hostilities. One of the first Afrikaans writers, Joubert Reitz, writes the poem ‘The searchlight’ while staying in a detention camp on Bermuda. In the poem an exile expresses his sorrow about the suffering as a result of the war and his longing for his homeland (Kannemeyer 1990: 49). One of the most striking poems in early Afrikaans literature is ‘Dis al’ (This is all) by Jan F. E. Celliers in which he describes the return home of an exile to find nothing but a grave.

The military defeat destroyed the Afrikaners' dream of freedom and sovereignty. Nevertheless, the injustices they had suffered, spurred them to try and regain control of their promised land through the ballot box. The victory of the National Party in the elections of 1948 signals the political rebirth of the Afrikaner people. For nearly 50 years an Afrikaner controlled government would dictate the law in South Africa. The first fully non-racial election of April 1994 would bring the era of white domination to a definite close. 

The successive National Party governments introduced ever harsher apartheid laws. They would spell the relentless erosion of even the most basic human rights of the black peoples. This would lead to a dual diaspora. The homeland policy combined with the ever-growing demand for industrial labour inevitably led to the scourge of migrant work, the splitting up of families and the mushrooming of multitribal townships. The township sattelites of the white cities and indstrial areas also became magnets for blacks hoping to escape out of the poverty trap of the rural areas. In these townships blacks became divorced from their tribal rootsand established a unique, vibrant melting pot culture.

Apartheid also drove a substantial number of South Africans into exile. Some left because they had fallen foul of the apartheid laws, others because they wanted to rebuid their futures after their voices had been silenced and their dreams shattered. Some joined the armed struggle against the apartheid regime. South African literature in English has extensively dealt with both forms of diaspora.

However, not only in English literature written by blacks and whites, but also in Afrikaans literature the diaspora is a frequently occurring theme. Indeed, despite the fact that an Afrikaner government ruled over South Africa for nearly 50 years sometimes also Afrikaans writers found themselves at loggerheads with the government. In my paper I shall discuss Afrikaans literary works about people who are on the verge of leaving or or have left South Africa basically because of their disaffection with Afrikaner culture and the apartheid government. Expatriate writers such as Elisabeth Eybers or Olga Kirch whose motives for moving abroad were of a personal nature fall outside the scope of my paper. Nor will I discuss the work of Breyten Breytenbach, arguably the most renowned Afrikaans anti-apartheid writer,  as I have already analysed his prose texts from the exile vantage point in an earlier paper.

For some authors writing about the diaspora is an intensely personal experience. Mathews Phosa, the present premier of Mpumalanga published the poetry collection Deur die oog van ‘n naald (Through the eye of a needle) in 1996. In the eighties he spent some years abroad as the commander of the MK in Mocambique. In his poetry Phosa expresses his abhorrence of apartheid and his desire to see a just, democratic South Africa rise out of the ashes of Apartheid. In one poem he refers to exile:

Wat doen hulle daar?
 
Ek sit en peins oor my broeders
Hulle wat weg is
Wat my en hul families verlaat het
Hulle wat nou deur seewater omring is
Wat doen hulle daar? (p. 31) 

(What are they doing there? I sit and think about my brothers/They who are gone/who have left me and their families/ They who are now surrounded by the sea/What are they doing there?)

This is straightforward 'struggle' poetry in which the emotions are expressed in an unsophisticated but therefore all the more direct and forceful manner.

For others writers the diaspora motif is a vehicle to express their sentiments about the political situation in South Africa. The fact that the diaspora is given such prominence of place in contemporary Afrikaans literature is an indication of most Afrikaans writers' abhorrence of apartheid and their commitment to the realisation of a non-racial South Africa. In the remainder of my paper I shall take a closer look at the political diaspora in contemporary Afrikaans prose. Apart from the texts by political dissidents who out of choice or necessity decided to or were forced to leave their native country, Ishall also analyse the texts written by authors residing in South Africa. These texts either concern people wanting to leave the country, living in exile, or returning to South Africa, temporarily or definitely after a stay abroad.

I don’t belong between those people

Some writers have left. A few years ago Eben Venter emigrated to Australia. The same decision is taken by Konstant Wasserman, the main character in Venter's latest novel Ek stamel, ek sterwe (I stutter, I die). Wasserman is sick and tired of his fellow Afrikaners. Their rituals, self-righteousness, pettiness, insularity and racism have become intolerable: «Hier moet ek weg, nee, o wragtag. Ek hoort buitendien nie tussen hierdie mense nie. Dis nie my mense nie. Weg? … Wat soek ek nog hier?» (9). (I have to get away from here, no, really. Moreover I do not belong between these people. They are not my people. Away? … What am I still looking for here?). Wasserman's disaffection with his people, does not allow for compromise. He emigrates to Australia. The physical distancing symbolises an unbridgeable mental divide. He turns his back on the Afrikaner community and its values. This divorce seems irreconversible.

Disillusionment with one's fellow Afrikaners, the feeling of not sharing the values and the ideology of the Afrikaner tribe is indeed the main reason why people leave the country. In the historical novels Die reuk van appels (The smell of apples) by Mark Behr and Kikoejoe (Kikuyu) by Etienne van Heerden it is indicated that this is not a recent phenomenon. Both evoke the harsh apartheid years: the early sixties and the middle seventies respectively. They are told by child narrators who have an aunt living in Europe. In Die reuk van appels aunt Karla's attitude is sharply contrasted with that of her sister Leonore who is married to the youngest general in the South African army. Karla, despite her conservative upbringing, rebels against the values of her tribe; Leonore in contrast is a picture of conformity. Karla's departure for England underlines her estrangement from her family and her rejection of racism and of the dictates of patriarchal Afrikaners. Their laager mentality makes them unbending. It does not bode well for the future: "Is selfs die idees wat ek het, dan so'n bedreiging? My liefste Leonore, as my idees oor wat verkeerd is in ons land jou bang maak, kan ek nie anders as om te vrees vir die dag wat jy uitvind wat die meeste swart mense dink." (117). (Are even the ideas I have then such a threat? My dearest Leonore, if my ideas about what is wrong in our country frighten you, then I cannot but dread the day when you will find out what most black people think.) Indeed the Afrikaners feel constantly threatened by the 'black danger', which might partially explain their intransigence. Significantly the narrator's grandparents returned to the Afrikaner's promised land after selling their possessions in the beginning of the Second World War in Tanzania. They foresaw nothing but chaos after a black takeover (28).

In Kikoejoe a similar situation is sketched. The story is situated in 1960. The boy narrator's parents have a guesthouse in the arid Karoo. The contrast between Geertruida, the cosmopolitan sister of the father, who visits every year before Christmas and her Afrikaner relatives of the dry Karoo cannot be starker. Her way of living as a lesbian is also very atypical. She has built up her own life with the result that she sees things differently from her family: "Ag, kan Geert ons nie los nie? Wat weet sy van die hitte en stryd, van die Afrikaner wat die juk van die Engelse moes afskud. Het sy 'n idee van Swart Afrika? Nee, sy het nie, sy dink net aan haar restaurante en galerye in al daardie stede van haar." (150) It is small wonder that her political views do not rhyme with those of the average Afrikaner either. It is through her that the narrator also gets a broader look on life: "Ek en sy is burgers van die wêreld, sê sy, ons is altyd op reis, ons sal mekaar altyd weer iewers in die eensaamheid van breedtegrade raakloop, daarom groet ons nie." (294). Travelling becomes not only a way of escaping from the insularity of Afrikaner thinking but a state of existence, an indication of the core of life. It also expresses a restless state of mind, forever questioning traditional values, never satisfied with the obvious and easy choices.

Geertruida finds an escape route to Europe. It could also be interpreted as a lack of commitment to the struggle against apartheid. Exactly this inactivism is foregrounded in Karel Schoeman's Die noorderlig. Paul, the central character has left South Africa to become a marketing man in Amsterdam. In South Africa he could not live any longer: "Ek het van alles ontslae geraak toe ek oorsee kom." (31). He has built a new life for himself in the Netherlands. He is portrayed as a rather lethargic character. His passivity is sharply contrasted with the activism of a university friend who has become a well-known poet. She as a daughter of a well known nationalist politician makes a mockery of the values her father stands for the church, patriarchy, white supremacy, values which are instilled in the country's youth, which they are supposed to follow without thinking. And she takes potshots at. In the end she becomes more and more involved in the struggle against apartheid. When her coloured lover is apprehended by the police and dies in their hands she commits suicide. This is seen as an act of defiance, an utter rejection of the apartheid state in contrast to the passivity of Paul. The novel is a sharp criticism of Afrikaner thinking: "Dis 'n vreeslike ding wanneer domheid en kleinlikheid die mag in hande kry en veg vir selfbehoud." (77). The country is caught up in whole network of injustice of which everyone is a part. Everybody is contaminated by it (95) Of Paul Estelle says: "… jy het die mentaliteit van 'n middeljarige mielieboer, jy's jou pa se ewebeeld, verstok, verstik, blind, doof, ingekapsel, ingepapie, toegewaai onder die sand van die Vrystaatse vlaktes." (36). Paul has escaped from Afrikaner society despite the fact that South Africa is presented as the promised land (62), a promise which was not kept. Paul has completely europeanised. There are no bridges with South Africa anymore. His attitude is sharply contrasted with Estelle's commitment: "Estelle het iets gedoen, en ons twee, ek en jy, het pad gegee .." (106). Not that she achieved anything but: "Mens hoef ook niks te bereik nie, die nie belangrik nie. Die belangrikste is dat jy protes aanteken." (113). This choice was not made by Paul.

Complete estrangement coupled with inactive withdrawal is also the overriding feeling in Na die geliefde land by Karel Schoeman which sketches a similar situation. The story is situated in a post-revolutionary period. George the son of a diplomat parents, who has been raised and is still living in Switzerland, travels, after his mother's death to South Africa with the intention of selling the family farm.

On the farm of the Hattingh family who leads an impoverished existence, like all Afrikaners, he finds a temporary place of abode. It is a completely alien world to him. The Afrikaners live in idolary of their idealised past and strive to return to the old set-up. George cannot sympathise with them. He only shares his language with them. As a result he remains an outsider. His trip, undertaken as a pilgrimage, has not in any way touched an emotional string in him. On the contrary, he sympathises with the two Hattingh children who utterly reject their parents' ideology. George returns to his adopted country. He has become completely estranged from his tribe.

The main character too returns to South Africa after the death of his mother in Switzerland to deal with an inherited farm. In South Africa he stays with relatives on an impoverished farm. They are engaged in a rearguard action against the black authorities. They live very much in the past. He decides to leave again as he has nothing in common with them. A searing picture is sketched of the reluctant exiles. They live of dreams of an idealised past which have nothing to do with reality. The point is that Afrikaners have to adapt or die.

A similar situation is portrayed in the short story 'Palais Chaillot 1950' by Elsa Joubert. It focuses on a young South African girl staying in Paris doing nothing, living on money sent to her. In it a sharp contrast is sketched between their careless living and the commitment of a Central American activist who is prepared to die in order to get peace and justice for his people. The young Afrikaner girl realizes things are not well in her country but she remains uncommitted. The end of the story leaves open whether this realization has dawned on her or whether she will forever remain on the sidelines. Freij the other South African seems not to realise what he is expected to do.

This oppressiveness is all the more obvious when it concerns a situation of love across the colour line. In Corlia Fourie's Die oop deur, two lovers are forced to flee to England as their love across the colour line is illegal. It reinforces the argument that the Afrikaner has developed from the oppressed to the oppressor: "En terwyl Julie sit en luister, vervaag Mattie se stories van boeremartelare en die beeld van die arme, verdrukte Afrikaner wat sy op skool uit die geskiedenis leer ken het, voor haar oë en en ander beeld verskyn. Dié van die Afrikaner as verdrukker. Want hoe noem jy dit anders as polisiemanne by slaapkamervensters inloer na mense wat kafoefel, deure oopskop, mense uit kaste pluk …" (152) On leaving they realise that they have to leave everything which is dear to them. Once in London they get married but their longing for Africa will never disappate (217).The point is made that in South Africa a normal life is impossible. One has tyo get away from the country in order to find it. It is a stark choice between morality and immorality.

Escaping and choosing for love is also what the main characters of the two short stories in Emma Huismans’ Sonate vir wraak do. They return to the country of their birth after a life in South Africa. Why she is asked have you left your country: «Ek mompel iets oor selfvernietiging, die army en my nuutverworve seun. Ek lees haar aantekeninge oor "n afstand en onderstebo. «Vluchten voor het geweld». Vir my eie geweld, verbeter ek maar sê dit nie hardop nie.» (11).  Adapting to life in The Netherlands is not easy because it implies a process of «verlange en haat» (13). The female character was actively involved in the struggle against the apartheid regime. In the end she decided to put her own aspirations, her love above the struggle: «Sou dit verraad wees? wonder ek hardop. Die persoonlike liefde, die persoonlike vrees? bo die groep, bo die saak? Seur niet! antwoord die kroegstoel naas my met deurdrinkte nugterheid. Oor die liefde bepaal jy tog nooit self nie.» (17). The group, the cause is of course the one of the anti-Afrikaner cause. This is in the end what she chooses for is love because she realizes she is being sucked into the spiral of violence which is affecting every aspect of her life. Her choice for love does not work out as her lover leaves her. Interesting is the fact that she does not call herself an «exile» (9) but that she does not respond when the doctor calls her a fugitive: «Eintlik is jy dus ‘n soort vlugteling …» (11). She does not feel at home in the country in which she was born either. She avoids her family like the plague. The Dutch have conservative reflexes too but she learns to adapt and to turn the questions onto the questioner in a civilised manner: «So slu, so gemeen, maar veral aangepas.» (105). In nature she finds peace in the realisation that she has touched someone with what she has written: «Liefde en pyn jou hulle nie altyd aan formele grense nie.» (106). The choice seems to be one between personal fulfilment and commitment to the liberation struggle. Ultimately these characters choose for personal satisfaction, an escape from the vicious circle of violence and hatred.

The short story ‘Hierdie poskaarte’ by Abraham De Vries concerns a couple leaving South Africa. The woman is an academic from The Netherlands, who returns home together with her Afrikaans lover. They decided to leave the country because her job was abolished by the authorities.  Her lover is an Afrikaans journalist cum academic who is under suspicion by the authorities. His wife has regular breakdowns because he doesn’t give her certainty and security. In het breakdowns she tries to flee from anything which might upset her. Leaving South Africa gives him an opportunity of «Nie as ontvlugting nie, vir een poosje maar en dat jy weer héél kan word» (47). South Africa indeed is a country: «… waar die dodelyste daagliks langer word, bloed en brand en verminking iets alledaags, en almal vasgevang, almal gebuk onder skuld, in so vele vorme, en die las van boetedoening of vereffening – voor het aandreunen van de tragische toekomst? … Julle is almal op "n makabere wyse gebonde aan dié land. Julle word beheers deur genadelose en jaloerse voorvadergeeste wat hul eie sondes besoek aan julle en niemand rus sal gun nie.» (46). The Afrikaner ruling class still expects complete subservience to the Afrikaner cause. The Afrikaner has to form a solid unitary front. Anybody going another track is, not agreeing with the tribal dictates of the Afrikaner is expelled from the tribe: «Wat ek kon aanvoel, was dat daar in dié mense se denke en leefwyse vir jou en dié soos jy nie plek is nie» (51). As it is impossible to get away from this oppression, leaving is the only solution. It is the only way of excaping from the conflagration which is going to engulf the whole of South Africa. Indeed: ««Ons onderskat die intensiteit van die haat, ons wens dit weg. Jare lank al word soveel emosies in hierdie land om den brode versteek of gesublimeer. Sal ons die rituele van reiniging vryspring? Ek weet nie»» (48-49). 

For the female focaliser the return to The Netherlands is a homecoming tinged with sadness. Throughout the text the difference with The Netherlands is highlighted. The low country is a haven of peace and tranquility. South Africa is painted in all its harshness. The intransigence of the Afrikaner ruling class has made it an impossible country to live in. It is a country in which reality is ignored and the interest of the ruling class at all cost pursued. Even the release of Mandela does not change the picture. There is no suggestion that the future will be any better. As an antidote to all this is the love of a foreign woman. As a stranger she shares the dissident views of her lover, emphasizing the exclusion from his people.

‘Hierdie poskaarte’ highlights the oppressive nature of Afrikaner thinking, the need to break loose from the traditional moulds, the complete aberration of Afrikaner rule. Escape is only possible by rejecting identification with the Afrikaner people and leaving the country because revolt against the system saddles the individual with an unbearable responsibility. Leaving is the only way to escape from all the guilt. Love is the only redeeming force. Through love it is possible to sublimate one’s loneliness. ‘Hierdie poskaarte’ sketches a very dark picture of South Africa. The reference to the wife of the man who has regurlarly to be detained in a psychiatric hospital is a recurring theme in contemporary Afrikaans literature. It also occurs in Die jogger, Slegs blankes/whites only, Kikoejoe.

Rina Sherman's Uitreis tells the story of a young actress Tilda Kaufman, an exile who lives in Paris. Her return visit at the occasion of her father's death is a searching visit to south Africa and her own past. Once again politics and personal affairs become inextricably intertwined. Her youth was spoiled by an authoritarian and loveless father, by a mother who was very submissive and a brother who could not contain his bouts of anger. Her parents and brother are very conservative and supporters of the policies of the National Party. Her father is even a member of the Broederbond, the notorious secret organisation, promoting the interests of an inner circle of Afrikaners. Tilda herself is a rebel, wanting to break loose from the straitjacket of Afrikaner nationalism. She becomes a actress, joins a black theatre group and has a relationship with a fellow black actor, Sidi. In Paris too she has an affair with a black person, which does not come to fruition either. She has an abortion and goes to live on her own once again.

South African society is protrayed as extremely racist and patriarchical, its religious bigotry, their selfdestructiveness (128). Tilda revolts against all aspects of it. She rejects everything her parents stand for. In the end she cannot cope with, that is why she leaves  the country: "Eendag het Tilda uit haar lewe geloop. Omdat Pa haar nie liefgehad het nie. Omdat Paul haar geslaan het. Omdat sy skaam was vir haar land, haar mense en haarself. Om liefde te soek." (21). On the plane out she muses, on an echo of Huismans characters: "Ek wou nog altyd uit my lewe padgee. Hier is die oomblik nou. Ek kom nie terug nie. Ek het genoeg gehad!" (178).

The life of an exile is also vividly portrayed. It is dominated by loneliness: In this way exile becomes a metaphor for life itself. That too is a fruitless search for fulfilment: ""Ja, hoe, 'n mens jou ook al met ander omring, jy is altyd alleen. Die res, samesyn, is dromery."" (212) en ""Ja, verlore in my enkeldheid. Niks bly vir my meer staande nie. Al wat my kan red, is om my sin vir humor te behou." (215). Besides this element on her return home she voices critical opinions about the white government which result in her being cast into the role of an outsider: ""Inderdaad, my kind, jy is nie meer een van ons nie."" (70) Indeed France has become her country. She does not know the customs anymore (73): ""Jy verstaan niks meer wat hier aangaan nie."" (86).

Despite this soured relationship and the outspoken political differences Tilda's feelings keep on oscillating between love and hate with the result that it never comes to a final break. Nevertheless, her father has permanently damaged her capacity to love. The life of Tilda is a permanent departure: from her youth, her parents, her lovers, South Africa. She has to distance herself from her parents and her country in order to gain her freedom. She returns to France because it is where her future lies and this despite the fact that South Africa has freed Nelson Mandela (80). Uitreis is a very moving novel in which the themes of exile and the complicated relationship with the mother country and all it entails are sharply brought into focus. It is a raw book, scarcely hiding its biographical origins.

Building a multiracial future

In the apartheid years: fighting against apartheid

While some authors are leaving or describe characters getting out of the country others are returning. In a way this is Jan Rabie's point as well. He left South Africa in 1948 to go and live in France. He stayed for 7 years. He returns because he is tied to his country, a link which he calls: "… dié kloppende, bitter nawelstring." (14). The bitterness comes from the realisation that apartheid is destroying the country. His European stay however has given him a wider perspective. Looking at South Africa from the outside made him realise what horrible abomination apartheid is. His literature cannot be separated from this experience: "ek weet nou dat Europa my geleer het dat ek dwarsdeur 'n aanvanklike estetisisme getas het na waarvoor ek eintlik bestem is, l'engagement. In geen party of groep, maar teen l'injustice et le malheur." (14)

Some returns are motivated by the country itself. In the short story 'Ontmoetinge in 'n voorvaderland' by J.C. Steyn a similar journey but by an Afrikaner journalist is described. Jan Visser goes for a winter break in Amsterdam where he also stayed as a student. To him Amsterdam is the city of his ideals (132). He is critical of the South African government for which reason his family accuses him of having turned his back on the Afrikaner. He is not "een van ons" (136) anymore. In Amsterdam he is confronted with people expressing their criticism of the Apartheid regime. The day before his return to South Africa a fellow South African offers him a post in the Netherlands. It is suggested that the Afrikaner is bound to die, that a violent revolution will destroy the old South Africa. He decides however that: "Maar as die volk sterf, dan ek ook. Ek is deel van hom. Dis my enigste besit, dis al wat ek oorhet om voor om te gee …" (145). He does not so much identify with the Afrikaner as with the language. Nobody can take that away from him.

The Afrikaans movement of the sixties meant a complete upshake of Afrikaans literature. Although the movement was primarily directed towards form renewal and the processing of the newly discovered existentialism – a number of the sixties writers spent some time in Paris – it also had considerable social impact. The questioning of the traditional Afrikaner values, the shattering of taboos around religion and sexuality, the opposition against the censorship system did not make them popular. The main representative of the Sixties writers is no doubt André Brink. At the end of the decade his literature moves away from literary experimentation to social engagement. During the student protest of 1968 he was in Paris. The revolt against the authorities makes him aware of south Africa’s shocking predicament. He decides to go back. Not long after his first engaged novel, Kennis van die aand (1973), appears. It was the first Afrikaans novel to be banned. This is a very important issue in the sense that by opposing apartheid the writer was also disengaging himself from his people. For the Afrikaner writer the refusal to conform to his tribe’s traditional values and norms requires a deliberate act of defiance and dissent. That is why the contemporary writer’s position in his community has often been a rather awkward and even a precarious one. In the process of distantiating huim/herslef from apartheid he at the same time demolished the myths which allowed the Afrikaner to gain dominance in South Africa. The struggle against apartheid is inextricably intertwined with a radical rejection of his tribe’s values and an intensive, even desperate search for new ones.

Brink’s novel signals his disaffection with the ever hardening aparheid laws. It was a feeling shared by other Afrikaans writers, artists and intellectuals.Brink’s novel. With this novel Brink brings South Africa’s diaspora to the fore. 

Returning by black characters.

The main character is Josef, a player who prefers social commitment in South Africa to a successful career in England. On his return he becomes the soul of a travelling theatre company with the aim of to foster a greater political awareness among the black population. Meanwhile he starts a relationship with the white Jessica Thomson. When his company through the interference of the security police splits and his affair with Jessica is undermined by the racial segregation laws, he kills her and gives himself over to the police. He is condemned to death.

Josef returned to South Africa to fight for the rights of his people. It was to him the only way of living as a human being. Within the apartheid context this means to put your life at stake. This is the book’s main accusation against apartheid. The key of the diaspora literary text in Afrikaans literature centres around the question of commitment to South Africa and involvement in the struggle against apartheid. It can be no surprise that diaspora and a redefinition of a new identity go hand in hand. It is perhaps exactly the fact that the Afrikaans writer very often writes about a tearing a tearing away from his tribe, a complete rejection of this tribe’s values and past, which sets this diaspora literature apart from the others. The key situations are the following: characters in South Africa wanting to leave the country or going abroad, characters living abroad or staying teporarily abroad, characters returning to South Africa, or characters in South Africa being confronted with people who have left, thus exposing a rift in the family.

A smilar situation is sketched in Die muur van die pes by Andre Brink. The main character, the coloured Andrea Malgas flees from South Africa after being caught by the police in bed with her white English lover Brian. After a stay in England she finds herself in France where she starts a relationship with the South African expatriate Paul a writer film maker. When he asks her to marry him she has to make a choice. On a trip to the south of France she considers her options. It is ultimately through her contact with Mandla, an ANC representative, that she decides her future lies in South Africa. She chooses against the comforts Europe has to offer in favour of a life of commitment to the black liberation struggle. Despite the fact that she has cut all ties with her family, has committed herself to living in France she has niot found her peace through meeting Paul she realises her roots are in South Africa. There is her calling.

Returning by white characters

A decision to return to her home country is also made by the author and the female central character in Afrika: 'n roman by Karel Schoeman. Gisela is a photographer who was born in South Africa but who went to Germany after finishing school. Her mother who is German extraction (27). After an unhappy marriage and her ex-husband's death she finds herself in Glasgow where she lives an isolated existence. She is trying to find her real calling as a photographer which she slowly discovers in the downside of Glasgow and of human life. Her photographs are a lasting testimony of this. That is also why she after a whiel decides to leave the city and go th North Africa to do volunteer work. When she gets back to Glasgow it is only to collect her belongings as she is on her way to South Africa. There she wants to continue her calling: "Foto's neem. Getuig." (139). Her whole life has been a preparation for this final decision. That is also why she cannot commit herself to any relationship, Love only gets in the way of her self-imposed task, she is merciless in this regard. That is also why she does not feel connected to a single place. In south Africa too she travelled around with her parents as her father was a road engineer (111). She does not belong anywhere which gives her the freedom to make her own decisions and to focus on her artistic calling. Her lover in Glasgow, Philip, is a South African who left because : "die lewe het beklemmend begin word" (33). He now lives a rather sophisticated existence surrounded by art without any connections with South Africa. The whole novel is a discussion of the role of the artist in society. Gisela says she is interested in: "Of die wesenlike dinge wat oorbly wanneer die uiterlikhede verlore gegaan het." (57). Art serves the purpose of conserving for eternity: "Ek het gesorg dat niemand die kind se lyding sal vergeet nie. Ek het hom onsterflik gemaak." (84, 106)

Some returns are marked by the anti-apartheid struggle itself. This is the case in Gevaarlike land by Louis Kruger. In this novel Evert Schepers is engaged to return to South Africa to assassinate the head of the military junta, General Landman who wants to keep South Africa in white hands. In the end he is caught up in a plot in which he is a pawn.

This dilemma is also the theme of Emma Huismans’ novel Requiem op ys. In this novel Chris Bouman, a journalist and editor of an encyclopedia travels through Europe. In Denmark she falls in love with Inger and they start a  passionate lesbian relationship. After a few weeks Chris returns to South Africa where she is joined after a while by Inger. Together they make a trip to the Drakensberg during which the inequities of the apartheid system become very obvious. Chris then once again follows Inger to Europe. It is obvious that the confrontation between between Europe and Africa is a prominent theme in the novel. Chris with her Dutch roots feels pulled between Europe and Africa. Moreover she has to make a choice for love or political commitment. In the end she decides against following her lover and returning to South Africa. Her sense of civil duty has gained the upperhand. It is a struggle for identification: "Wie is jy? Vra ek in Lou se skeerspieël. Jy sal eendag moet kies. Dalk nog binnekort." (80).and "… meer onseker as ooit oor watter deel van my in Afrika en wat in Europa hoort." (82). Ultimately her choice is one between personal fulfillment and social commitment. Chris realizes that she has come to dead end: she lives in a western way on the African continent: "Die waarheid is dat ek in Afrika begin leef het asof ons regtig die Weste of Europa is. Ek sal 'n ander rigting moet inslaan." (97) and "Ek weet nie waar ek hoort nie, mompel ek. As ek hier bly, sal ek op 'n heel basiese vlak betrokke moét raak." (98). Ultimately Chris says: "Ek weet nie hoe om haar te kies én ook nog 'n eerlike lewe wat verby eie behoeftes strek nie." (134). She sacrifices her personal happiness for commitment to Africa. Once again the choice is expressed in rather stark terms. It is a choice between Europe and Africa, between personal and social responsibilty. The fact that a love relationship lies at the basis of the choice highlights the dilemma the main character faces. In a way there is indeed nothin more personal or self-satisfactory than love. Whether it will put to an end her feeling of rootlessness remains to be seen.

Black majority rule: a commitment to majority rule

The tables have turned. Returning becomes an act of faith, an expression of support for majority rule, leaving is turned into an almost racist deed, a remnant of the old South Africa. Returning to, or leaving for Europe would be politically incorrect.

Sandkastele by Pierre Brink has a similar point of departure. In it a young returns to South Affrica because her grandmother is on her deathbed. Before she dies she tells her the myths of her family. Kristien returns from England where she is living as a voluntary exile (29). She left South Africa because she did not agree with the apartheid ideology. She made a clean break. In England she got involved with the ANC and worked for them for a while. That is why she wants to return to her lover in England as soon as possible. In South Africa she is once again confronted with the worst aspects of the white Afrikaners. They are extremely racist, domineering, anti-woman, violent, hypocritically religious. All this is embodied in the person of Kasper, her brother-in-law.  Her sister Anna is his victim. Kristien too was rejected by her father because he wanted a son (15). This father is also a Broederbonder (393) and therefore a devout follower of the Nationalistic cause (187). When the sevurity police tried to compromise her Kristien decided to leave the country (188-189). Her family does not like jews (104). Kristien also had an abortion (180). She was always considered as; "ek het kwansuis my rug op 'ons' mense gedraai" (182) On her return to South Africa she once again is confronted with the terrible Afrikaner past. It is a situation of brutre violence just before the first democratic elections. Kristien is looking for her identity. She wants to find who she is, and what cause she can feel attached to (64). She too is ostracized because she has become a stranger, an outsider (57). It is turned into a fight between definition of place: "dis 'n bleddie kwaai land om in te oorlewe dié. Maar ons het dit drie eeue lank reggekry, al moes ons net so kwaai raak. … Omdat ons lief is vir hierdie plek, dis hoekom. Ons het hom gekoop met bloed en stront. Dis die enigste plek in die hele wêreld wat ons s'n is. En nou wil hulle dit van ons kom afneem. Maar dit gaan ons nie toelaat nie. My God, man, ons het nêrens anders om heen te gaan nie!" (75) (209). After a short while Kristien feels that she is back 'home' (84). She too realizes like Abel Joubert (210) that south Africa is in her blood, that she cannot get away from it.

Finally she decides to stay in South Africa as this is where her callling lies. She is tied by the history of the women of her tribe, as told by her grandmother on her deathbed to her country.   She realises she can make a contribution by putting women on the map and fighting for a new country. Only women, mothers can make an end to the fighting which has been going on for ages. They have to break the domination of men and build a new, peaceful future. Ulitmately Kristien finds herself: "Toe hjet dit vir my gevoel soos wat 'n bresin my binneste geslaan het. Toe het dit vir my gevoel soos 'n leete, 'n gemis, 'n gebrek: nou het ek begin wonder of dit nie die oopgaan van 'n nuwe ruimte in my was nie, 'n vermoë en 'n behoefte om lief te hê. Dié fatale, wonderbaarlike betrokkenheid by ander - by almal van hulle, goed en kwaad en neutraal, die lewende en die dooie." (429) She too has to give up a lover to make this decision. Finally she realises: "Ja. Ondanks alles. Ten spyte van alles. Dit is my plek dié." (444).

This is also the decision made by the main character of Die reise van Isobelle. She too decides to stay on in South Africa while her boyfriend, of whom she expects a baby is on the verge of leaving South Africa. She too wants to participate in the making of its future. Earlier one of her foremothers went on a trip to Kenya where she fell in love with an Indian who was shot by English soldiers. And long before one father left South Africa immediately after the Boer war as he did not want to live under English rule.

In Sandkastele the main character wants to make a contribution to the building of a new country. The freeing of Nelson Mandela has indeed enabled a number of refugees of returning to their home country. This is the case in Dido's Die storie van Monica Peters, in which the theme of love is once again very prominent.  Love across the colour line and the struggle against apartheid brought Eric Richmond and Monica Peters together. When things become too hot they have to flee to England. Finally they are allowed to return when the ANC is unbanned. There they once again return to their activist activities which lead in the end to the death of Eric. With the election victory of the ANC and the appearance of Mandela in Cape Town the story ends on a positive note. The struggle has not been in vain. Freedom and justice have been achieved.: "Almal wat hulle lewe vir hierdie land neergelê het, is vandag gelukkig." (12). South Africa is a country which fulfills God's purpose by demonstrating: "… hoe mense van verskillende rassegroepe, kulture, gewoontes en geloofsoortuigings saam in liefde en vrede kan leef …" (15). The peace which reigned before the Nationalists came to power once again has thriumphed. The whole story is a declaration of love: love between Eric and Monica, love for South Africa, love between the different peoples of South Africa. It is this love which ultimately breaks all barriers down.

A similar situation is described in Gilfillan's Pouoogmot. In it different women, thrown together in a hospital ward take turns to tell each other stories about a piece of clothing. It is a time of upheaval and change as the elections have taken place and the country is day after day faced by the revelations of the Truth and Reconciliation commission. Once again the storizes centre around love. Love in relationships, love across the colour line, love for south Africa. One of the patients is the black Sister Precious Mafokeng. She now holds an important position in the provincial administration. She very much wants to see the divisions in the country healed: "Sy bid dat daar liefde mag kom in haar hart. Liefde bowenal, want daaruit sal vergifnis vloei. Sy smeek dit nie alleen vir haarself nie, maar vir al die bewoners van haar wonderlike en vreeslike land." (55). She herself becomes the embodiment of this love because she too lived in exile for some time. During her exile she kept longing for South Africa. The quilt she made with bits of cloth sent to her by her relatives is her expression of her attachment to her country. She made it into a rainbow coatwhich she wore on her return and at the occasion of Mandela's inauguration. Her return to the beloved country is a joyful occasion tinged with sadness, as some many of her loved ones have died. 

The end of the dream?

Breytenbach Dog heart.

Bibliography