Populêre vs. literêre grensverhale : twee beelde van die Angolese oorlog (1966-1989)

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

In this dissertation, a study is made of two bodies of fiction documenting the South African soldier in Angola. The fiction was limited to Afrikaans short stories, as this genre is believed to best reflect the fragmentary, explosive experience of combat. This demarcation also served as a way of limiting the body of fiction for the study. A cut-off year of 1990 was taken. The rationale for this is that the late seventies and eighties was the golden age for the publication of border fiction, and that Southwest AfricaNamibia gained independence in 1990 with a SWAPO (South West Africa People's Organisation) government, thus largely defeating the purposes of South African military involvement in Namibia and Angola. The collections of short stories that were analyzed in this study, were divided into two categories. The stories published in popular family magazines such as Die Huisgenoot were considered to be popular fiction. These stories are overtly accepting of South Africa's involvement in Namibia and Angola, and are highly propagandistic. The collections Ses Wenverhale (1988) by Maretha Maartens and others, and Verby die wit brug (1978) by Johan Coetzee, were analyzed as examples of this category. In the category of literary short stories, Wie de hel het jou vertel? (1988) by Gawie Kellerman and 'n Wereld sonder grense (1984) by Alexander Strachan were analyzed. It is important to note that the texts were selected thematically i.e. the criterium was that they had to have the South African soldier in South West AfricaAngola as main theme. Analyses of the texts are based on the thesis formulated by H P van Coller in his article "Afrikaanse literatuur oor die gewapende konflik in Suider-Afrika sedert 1963 - 'n voorlopige verslag". In this report, Van Coller mentions that studies comparing the literary border fiction with the popular border fiction, have been left behind. The study aims at examining this unexplored territory and looks extensively at how these two bodies of fiction differ. It was found that two radically different images of the border war emerge from the two bodies of fiction: the popular fiction is uncritical, war is presented more as an exciting game in the popular fiction, whereas it is presented as deadly, yet addictive, in the literary fiction. The ideological backgrounds from which the stories are written, are fundamentally opposed: the popular fiction often sees the war as a continuation of the white man's struggle for survival on a violent continent, and God is assumed to be on the South African side. The literary fiction documents a loss of God and criticises the government, censorship and apartheid. The literary fiction also fulfills a function of reporting - that which has not been said in the media due to censorship by government. The scope of the popular fiction is much narrower than the literary fiction, ignoring issues such as homosexuality in the army, torture and atrocities. Finally, the conclusions differ, with a sentimental "all will be well" in the popular fiction, as opposed to the fundamental pessimism in the literary fiction.

Bibliography: pages 198-207.