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Wits University Press

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A lively and wide-ranging analysis of postapartheid South African writing: Losing the Plot by Leon de Kock

De Kock has a strong story to tell about writing in the postapartheid era and, more especially, the ‘post-postapartheid’ era, the period in which the high expectations of 1994 and the golden era of the Mandela presidency turned sour. It is detailed, lively, and full of sharp observation.

– Derek Attrridge, professor of English, University of York and co-editor of the Cambridge History of South African Literature

De Kock is concerned both with drawing lines of continuity and mapping trajectories of difference between apartheid and postapartheid fiction … the intervention Losing the Plot makes in the field of South African literary and cultural studies is substantial.

– Harry Garuba, author, poet and Associate Professor at the Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town

Losing the PlotIn Losing the Plot: Crime, Reality and Fiction in Postapartheid Writing, well-known scholar and writer Leon de Kock offers a lively and wide-ranging analysis of postapartheid South African writing which, he contends, has morphed into a far more flexible and multifaceted entity than its predecessor:

If postapartheid literature’s founding moment was the “transition” to democracy, writing over the ensuing years has viewed the Mandelan project with increasing doubt. Instead, authors from all quarters are seen to be reporting, in different ways and from divergent points of view, on what is perceived to be a pathological public sphere in which the plot – the mapping and making of social betterment – appears to have been lost.

The compulsion to forensically detect the actual causes of such loss of direction has resulted in the prominence of creative nonfiction. A significant adjunct in the rise of this is the new media, which sets up a “wounded” space within which a “cult of commiseration” compulsively and repeatedly plays out the facts of the day on people’s screens; this, De Kock argues, is reproduced in much postapartheid writing. And, although fictional forms persist in genres such as crime fiction, with their tendency to overplot, more serious fiction underplots, yielding to the imprint of real conditions to determine the narrative construction.

About the author

Leon de Kock is senior research associate in the Department of English at the University of Johannesburg. He is a poet, translator, essayist and occasional writer of fiction. His writing includes the novel Bad Sex (2011); three volumes of poetry: Bloodsong (1997), gone to the edges (2006) and Bodyhood (2010); several works of literary translation; and academic books.

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