Post-apartheid and its representation: The interregnum as motif in selected South African novels

Date of Completion

January 2008


Literature, Modern|Literature, African




In this study of post-apartheid South Africa, I share Nadine Gordimer's conception of an interregnum as a period of stasis characterized by ambiguities, uncertainties, and contradictions. Consequently, I have deployed Gordimer's view in my analysis of selected works on South African literature published between 1981 and 2006. I have argued in this study that despite the political transformation in 1994 from apartheid to multi-party democracy, post-apartheid South African literature reveals that the old binaries and strictures of apartheid have been carried over into the present. Thus, the new landscape in South Africa depicts ambiguities and contradictions that are indicative of a state of interregnum. ^ Accordingly, I argued that apartheid South Africa as explored by Gordimer in July's People presents a picture of resistance to change and asserts that the process of political transition to black rule will require a redefinition of roles and relationships, self-sacrifice, and re-examination of values if racial and political harmony are to be achieved. The study has also focused on racial tension, prejudice and exploitation by using rape as structural device to critique the Immorality Act of 1950. I have shown that rape is indicative of the relations of power, the social, political and cultural tensions, and the different histories at stake in post-apartheid South Africa. Besides rape, I examined violence, corruption, political ineptitude, suffering and death as illustrative of disillusionment in the new South Africa. ^ The study has also demonstrated a more nuanced perspective to the conception of post-apartheid South Africa as dystopia. In my analysis of colored identity, I concluded that even though the challenges facing the new democracy are enormous, there are some indications of possibilities for racial reconciliation and integration. Overall, the study has used the literature of South Africa as a basis of inquiry into its history to demonstrate that post-apartheid South Africa constitutes a state of interregnum, where the old is preventing the birth of the new, and that post-1994 South Africa is characterized by paradoxes, ambiguities and uncertainties that are indicative of disillusionment. ^