Irony in Herman Charles Bosman's Oom Schalk stories.
Herman Charles Bosman's Oom Schalk stories have made him one of the most popular writers in South Africa, and the rural Marico District in which the stories are set a popular tourist destination. This popularity is largely due to the storytelling figure of Oom Schalk, the likeable old boer raconteur, who tells the stories and ironically pokes fun at his Marico community. This image of Oom Schalk and the Oom Schalk stories is one which was created and nurtured by Lionel Abrahams who was almost single-handedly responsible for the collection and republication of many of these stories after Bosman's death. The image of Schalk, and therefore the intention of Bosman in creating this fictional narrator, as a benign figure has been contested by some literary critics and defended by others. The debate has revolved around the extent to which Bosman's use of irony in the stories addresses the explicitly racist attitudes of Schalk and the Marico community. Unfortunately the debates around irony have been hampered by a lack of attention to the nature and functioning of irony. In my introduction I look at the problems that many critics have in trying to define the diverse body of writing that Bosman produced and the way in which this has defined a particular critical approach to Bosman. In Chapter 1 I discuss how the history of publication of Bosman's Oom Schalk stories and literary criticism has defined an approach to these stories which is often inappropriate. I also discuss some of the literary critical implications of the recent recollection and republication of Bosman's work in The Anniversary Edition. In Chapter 2 I address the issue of irony in the Oom Schalk stories. I deal with the way in which irony is constructed in the Oom Schalk stories. This discussion includes an analysis of the narrative structure of the short stories and the way in which the figure of Oom Schalk is used to create different levels of irony. In Chapter 3 I examine some of the Oom Schalk stories in detail in order to demonstrate the way in which Bosman's deployment of irony produces an identifiable pattern which establishes a basis for a discussion of Bosman's ironic intent in writing these stories.