• The Seduction of Narration in Mark Behr's The Smell of Apples

    Author(s):
    Jay Rajiva (see profile)
    Date:
    2013
    Subject(s):
    African literature, Postcolonial literature
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    trauma, whiteness, Apartheid, narrators, children
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M6ZC91
    Abstract:
    The problem of who speaks on behalf of the traumatized other is sometimes too easily glossed in postcolonial literature by a specious claim to insiderness, which consistently mediates the kind of story we receive as readers. This gloss represents itself as imagination at its most expansive and inclusive, even as it conceals areas where neither text nor author want to go, based on very particular subject positions informed by race, class, ethnic affiliation, and language. By contrast, Mark Behr’s The Smell of Apples sets the fantasy of harmonious white South African family life during apartheid against the text’s silences, omissions, contradictions, and falsifications. I suggest that the transparency of the subject looking back at apartheid constitutes a seduction of the reader, a liminal seduction that situates voyeurism and empathy on the same axis. My analysis engages with tracing the structural, modal, and schematic contours of this novel: how it discloses trauma and distributes references to traumatic events. I also examine the novel’s use of the child narrator Marnus, who dramatizes the text’s preoccupation with bodies of all types escaping narrative, physical, and ethical containment. Though we are always at risk of succumbing to the seduction of the text as fantasy enclosure, that risk is counterbalanced by Behr’s persistence in demonstrating how innocuous, everyday language can generate a passivity that eclipses and denies the trauma of the other.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    2 years ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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