Social realism in Alex La Guma's longer fiction.
Mkhize, Jabulani Justice Thembinkosi.
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This thesis sets out to examine social realism in Alex La Guma's longer fiction by using Georg Lukacs's Marxist theory as a point of departure. Tracing the development in La Guma's novels in terms of a shift from critical realism to gestures towards socialist realism I argue that this shift is informed by Lenin's "spontaneity/consciousness dialectic" in terms of which workers begin by engaging in spontaneous actions before they are ultimately guided by a developed political consciousness. I am quite aware that linking La Guma's work to socialist realism might raise some eyebrows in some circles but I am nonetheless quite emphatic about the fact that socialist realism in La Guma's fiction is not in any way tantamount to the Stalin-Zhdanovite version of what Lukacs calls "illustrative literature". Rejecting Lukacs's conception that socialist realism is a prerogative of writers in the socialist countries, I argue that gestures towards socialist realism made in La Guma's last novels are rooted in South African social reality. One of the claims being made in this study is that La Guma's novels render visible his attempt to create a South African proletarian literature. For this reason I make a case for Russian precedents of La Guma's writing by attempting to identify some intertextual connection between La Guma's novels and Gorky's work. Where realism is concerned I argue that although La Guma seems to draw extensively on Maxim Gorky in redefining his aesthetics of realism, Lukacs's theory of realism is useful in contextualising his fiction. The first chapter is largely biographical, examining La Guma's father's influence in shaping his political ideology and his literary tastes. Chapter two focuses on La Guma's aesthetics of realism. In chapter three I examine La Guma's journalism as having provided him with the subjects of his fiction and argue that there is a carry-over in terms of La Guma's style from journalism to fiction. Accordingly, I provide evidence of this carry-over in the next chapter on A Walk in the Night in which I argue that while La Guma's style is naturalist the novel is critical realist in perspective. Chapter five contextualizes the shift from And A Threefold Cord, to The Stone • Country as providing evidence of La Guma's use of "the spontaneity/consciousness dialectic". In chapter six I read In the Fog of the Seasons' End in relation to Gorky's Mother as its intertext in terms of its gestures towards socialist realism as seen for example in its "positive heroes", Beukes and Tekwane. There are further elements of socialist realism in Time of the Butcherbird which are nevertheless brought into question by some ideological contradictions within the text this is the central thrust of my argument in chapter seven. I conclude this study with a brief discussion of La Guma's craftsmanship.