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South African short fiction and orality

Wicomb, Zoe (2001) South African short fiction and orality. In: Telling Stories: Postcolonial Short Fiction in English Finalized for Publication by Andre Viola with Jean-Pierre Durix. Cross/cultures S. : No. 47 . Editions Rodopi B.V., Amsterdam, pp. 156-170. ISBN 9042015349

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Abstract

This volume originated in the second conference on postcolonial short fiction organized in Nice by Jacqueline Bardolph. The scope has been subsequently enlarged to cover most geographical areas and make it more comprehensive, resulting in a total of thirty-five contributions analyzing a broad spectrum of stories. If theoretical approaches to this often undervalued yet multifaceted genre receive due attention, the essays closely scrutinize specific texts. Some of the writers discussed are exclusive practitioners of the short story (Mansfield, Munro), but others (Achebe, Armah, Atwood, Carely, Rushdie) are also well-known novelists, a duality of interest that allows stimulating comparisons between shorter and longer works by the same authors. The origin of the short story in orality is a topic frequently addressed by contributors, who comment in particular on the use of dialect and dance rhythms in Selvon and Mittelholzer, or on circularity and the trickster figure in Thomas King and Ken Saro-Wiwa. Alternatively, they assess the stance adopted by characters or implied authors towards their communities, a stance ranging from marginality (Janet Frame) through apparent rootlessness (Wilding, Gunesekera) to a more or less explicitly formulated sense of belonging (Marshall, Head). Correspondingly, in the case of a multicultural society such as South Africa, the changing political situation has rendered possible new ways of defining whiteness (Isaacson, Gordimer). The status of women (both white and black) emerges as another major theme, with an emphasis on their persistent marginalization. As for the confessional mode, favoured by a number of women writers, it assumes a new form with Janice Kulyk Keefer, who gives the reader the rare pleasure of discovering 'Fox,' her version of what she calls 'displaced autobiography,' or 'creative non-fiction.'