This land is us : aspects of the Plaasroman and hospitality in five post-apartheid Karoo novels.
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This dissertation investigates five texts: Damon Galgut‟s The Imposter (2008), Anne Landsman‟s The Devil’s Chimney (1998), Eben Venter‟s My Beautiful Death (1998) and Trencherman (2008) and Zoë Wicomb‟s David’s Story (2000). In addition to being written in the post-apartheid era, these five texts are all set wholly or partially in the Karoo, a semi-desert landscape unique to South Africa. The Karoo is, however, more than just a common setting onto which their individual stories have been transposed. It is part of the literary imagination of each text. Within these texts are a number of fluid interactions between the consciousnesses and the landscapes they portray. Of course, to attempt to examine these interactions as occurring purely between landscape and consciousness would be foolhardy. As such, this project investigates these links by comparing the texts under investigation to the historical literary form of the plaasroman and by scrutinising them through the theoretical concept of hospitality, as outlined by Jacques Derrida. According to J.M. Coetzee term „plaasroman‟ refers to the type of early twentiethcentury Afrikaans novel which “concerned itself almost exclusively with the farm and platteland (rural society) and with the Afrikaner‟s painful transition from farmer to townsman” (1988: 63). This project investigates all five texts in relation to a number of the concerns common to the plaasroman, including the idea of the farm as a patriarchal idyll, its valorisation of near-mythical ancestral values and the pushing of black labour to the peripheries of narrative consciousness. These concerns, along with the fact that the plaasroman marks out the farm as a fenced off area surrounded by threatening forces, means that it is an ideal form to include in an investigation involving hospitality Derrida outlines hospitality, at its most basic level as “the right of a stranger not to be treated with hostility when he arrives on someone else‟s territory” (Derrida 2007: 246). This relationship, however, goes further than a simple binary. Both host and guest give and receive hospitality. From Derrida‟s meditations on the subject come two forms of hospitality: Conditional and unconditional. The primary distinction between these two kinds of hospitality is a distinction “between a form of subjectivity constituted through a hostile process of inclusion and exclusion and one that comes into being in the self‟s pre-reflective and traumatic exposure, without inhibition, to otherness” (Marais 2009: 275). Unconditional hospitality is the latter and morally preferable. In linking the two concepts, this dissertation illustrates the degrees to which each text, through subverting, or conforming to the conventions of the plaasroman, achieves instances of unconditional hospitality.