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Preview of Leon de Kock’s Forthcoming Book, Losing the Plot: Crime, Reality and Fiction in Postapartheid Writing

Leon de KockLeon de Kock’s forthcoming book, Losing the Plot: Crime, Reality, and Fiction in Postapartheid Writing (Wits University Press) places South African writing since 1994 under the microscope, comparing it to the literature of the past.

Mail & Guardian has shared an edited extract from Losing the Plot, in which De Kock observes trends in local literature since the start of democracy.

De Kock notes that realist fiction, as written by JM Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer, was the literary mode of choice before 1994, while the post-1994 era has seen a surge in and a preference for non-fiction titles to tell the story of South Africa.

De Kock analyses this “sea change” in South African writing, and attributes the transformed literary landscape to shifts in modes of writing and new media. He also takes a look at the trends in postapartheid fiction, with reference to the works of K Sello Duiker, Lauren Beukes, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Imraan Coovadia and Zakes Mda.

Read a preview of the book:

Postapartheid fiction

In Duiker’s novel, the groundwork, or everyday “data”, of the fictively documented “real” is unembellished pathology and madness (as witnessed in Tshepo’s Valkenberg period), occasioned partly by rape and slaying (events instituted by Tshepo’s father against his mother).

Such documentary tendencies in the novel, drawing much of its discursive force from similar currents in testimony before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, are confirmed in another signal postapartheid fiction in which killer cities overwhelm their subjects, Phaswane Mpe’s Welcome to Our Hillbrow.

Both these works, in different ways, build on the foundation of Zakes Mda’s early transition novel, Ways of Dying, where the struggle between death and creative imagination is staged as the definitive challenge of postapartheid.


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