Split

Master Thesis

2014

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University of Cape Town

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Set in the seventies and eighties of Apartheid South Africa, Split tells the story of a middleclass Afrikaans family who –driven by disillusionment and unrealised personal ideals - frequently move house to start afresh somewhere else. In the process, both the family’s mother and father end up with a new spouse or partner. Not only does this result in physical excursions to new places, it invariably leads to a journey fraught with disappointment and unrequited dreams. All while the seething political realities of their country, itself struggling for emancipation, are safely tucked away in the shadows. The main focus of the story, divided into two parts, is the separate efforts of Vera and her daughter, Lien, to uproot entrenched traditions and forge fresh paths for themselves in a patriarchal society. The first part tells Vera’s story; a young wife and mother of three who, due to her husband’s numerous love affairs, has become distrustful of men, emotionally guarded, and disinterested in her environment. She finds short 5In the seventies and eighties, due to sanctions and stringent laws, South Africans got their cultural fix in small and censored jabs. Throughout the novel, selective examples of musical influences are used to illustrate division: between a country and the rest of the world, the difference between local and foreign contemporary music in the seventies, which made way, in the eighties, for a blossoming, not only in Afrikaans music, through the Voëlvry phenomenon but also in the written word, like the Vrye Weekblad newspaper. The raw and charged lyrics of the angry musicians taking part in Voëlvry, became the anthems of a youth culture lost in transition, waiting for their captain, hungry for emancipation. So the beginning of a new wave in Afrikaans music was initiated. While the country slowly dragged its heels towards democracy, its people, like the family in the novel, are forever trying to find a new place to call home.-lived solace in the arms of her neighbour, but this leaves her guilt-ridden and she blames her sexual wrongdoing on the infiltration of the very foreign literature she found liberating at first. And so, Vera runs back into the arms of the devil she knows. Part two shows Lien’s struggle to break free from her apparent imminent destiny: her fight against perpetuating her family’s female legacy of jumping into a shot-gun marriage at 18, and her wish to study art. Searching for identity and acceptance in a new world, the city of Johannesburg, Lien becomes her own worst enemy when she falls into promiscuity and eventually looks to be saved. She learns though, that she has to free herself. The decisions confronting her to win that freedom, and the split she has to enforce, proves to be the most difficult in her life.
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