International Journal of Language & Linguistics

ISSN 2374-8850 (Print), 2374-8869 (Online) DOI: 10.30845/ijll

Africa-Centred Consciousness versus Liberalism in Selected Novels by South African Nadine Gordimer
Hellen Roselyne L . Shigali, PhD

Nadine Gordimer, the late South African white writer and 1991 Nobel Laureate for Literature, was involved in the debates on African Literature, starting with the one on definitions in the 1960s and 1970s. She argued that the African writer and literary text are to be defined, not by the writer’s skin colour, but on the basis of the individual author’s Africa-centred consciousnesss. This parameter appeared contestable in the South African context of the racist apartheid system spanning from 1948 to 1994. At the time, the characteristics of a literary text that exhibits Africa-centred consciousness were not clearly defined. The onus of definition and verification of the same seemed to be left to the critic. In this paper, we assume that representation of certain concepts and ideologies are some of the characteristics that denote Africa-centred consciousness. In Gordimer’s case, her representation-cum- contestation of the ideology and practice of liberalism constitutes a significant indicator of her Africa- centred consciousness .In her three novels: Occasion for Loving (1963), The Late Bourgeois World (1966) and Burger’s Daughter (1979), she portrays liberalism as a defeatist ideology ,incapable of achieving genuine liberation from the racist apartheid system. In these novels, Gordimer negates the contradictory liberating function of liberalism by creating plot structures in which all individualistic, interracial relationships inevitably fail. At surface level, such denouement seems to affirm the racist policy of apartheid and Gordimer as a non-African advocate of the colour-bar. But I argue for the reverse--that the ending instead reaffirms Gordimers’ Africa-centred consciousness which enables her to facilitate conscientisation of her immediate target audience. She succeeds in making many valid cases against the limitations of liberalist reformist effect, as opposed to its purported liberating function. Hence, the title of this paper which pits Gordimer’s Africa- centred consciousness that epitomises commitment to genuine liberation from apartheid, against the simplistic reformism of liberalism that is tantamount to a survival strategy of apartheid.

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