Representations of home, dislocation, and nostalgia in select contemporary South African novels.
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This dissertation analyses the literary representation of home in Michiel Heyns’s Lost Ground (2011) and Zoë Wicomb’s October (2014), by investigating the fictional reflection of the (e)migrant’s ‘home visit’. I am interested in the trope of the return-home visit as representing a turning point in the migrant’s trajectory, an event which initiates a crisis of identity and challenges conventional understandings of home and belonging. While most critical studies have addressed the migrant’s experience in the ‘host’ country to investigate issues of ‘home’, ‘belonging’, and ‘identity’, I argue that focusing on the migrant’s visit to the original ‘home’ country can offer equally valuable insights into such postcolonial concerns. By drawing on relevant critical studies and theoretical perspectives — for example, Marschall’s seminal research on the issue of the migrant’s home visit (2017, 2018) — this dissertation examines the literary representation of the migrant’s ‘return-home visit’ in two contemporary South African novels. Each novel presents a migrant protagonist who has spent a significant amount of time in another country, and whose return visit to the original home is problematic and depicted through a nostalgically reflective and self-critical gaze. Based on a postcolonial theoretical framework, I analyse the representation of the migrant’s home visit as a liminal experience marked by conditions of alienation, dislocation, and nostalgia. This dissertation, therefore, emphasises the return-home visit as a significant life event during which migrants reflect deeply on their personal histories and their individual understanding of ‘home’. The literary trope of the return-home visit, which in turn reveals the psychological intricacies of the migrant condition, further emphasises the instability of ‘home’ and the inevitable psychological disruption and dislocation associated with the journey across borders.