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Patricia Schonstein

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Response to Ben Williams’ column RIP South African Literature


Recent comments:

  • Reane
    December 23rd, 2015 @17:22 #

    How does one begin to to respond to this. Does one speak to the underlying fear and anger or the factually 'challenged' assumptions? The language of Fanon? South African situation not a colonial one! Language of liberation co-opted by the ANC! Fewer and fewer people are literate enough to enjoy them! Did Don really put his name to this!

  • HenryD
    December 24th, 2015 @12:27 #

    So, we have decolonisation and white privilege, the staple concepts of the race merchants of Critical Race Theory. Always heavy on imputed psychology – Fanon helps - but always, oh so very light on economic policy suggestions.

    Note that the charge of white privilege is a perpetual, irremediable one. The ZAR250bn cost of Nenegate will not make the slightest dent in it. You are told – once the race filter is deployed - to be stuck with it, and individual choice has no role in this universe. And of course, any reaction – anger - to this personal insult masquerading as social analysis proves the charge of your race, and your racism.

    Well, itʹs a choice to invest in this ideology. And itʹs a choice to reject its nihilist, solution barren psychology.

    What is supremely baffling though, is the incredible, deeply unrecognised , debilitating effect of this ideology – once the charge of racism is made, those that actually hold the levels of state power escape any semblance of meaningful scrutiny. If race and racism are the sole criteria by which everything is judged, how on earth are you able to recognise poor governance and the wastage of state assets by a government? It cannot be done.

    Racism is not a special evil, it is evil because it denies individual human dignity. In the same way that poor governance does. You donʹt need CRT to help you understand racism, unless you crave the psychological benefits of your confirmation bias.

    And thanks to Floyd Sivambu, who has given us a grown-up, operational and actually usable definition of decolonisation - - the extraordinary attempt at an economic coup de tat by a certain family G, an event to which the race merchants showed baffling ignorance except to, well, make it about race.

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    January 20th, 2016 @09:53 #

    Hi Patricia and Don

    Thanks for your reply to my column. Sorry for replying myself so tardily; I've been traveling and battling the flu.

    You make some interesting points, but for the most part our two pieces talk past each other. Your main concern seems to be the threat to the South African mind posed by a catastrophically poor education system, whose failure may be laid at the door of the liberation movement, and the consequent knock-on catastrophe for the marketplace for books. What I'm interested in, by contrast, is the threat to the construct, “South African literature”, which has been sustained by an unspoken social consensus for twenty years and more, but which, thanks to Thando Mgqolozana and the student fallists (among others), has been shown to rest on very shaky foundations indeed.

    What we are now perhaps witnessing is the fracturing of that construct - of its removal, along with its source, the White Literary System - which self-evidently exists, despite your protests - as the locus of literary authority, and the rise of a liberated poetics whose identity has not yet been formalised or systematised, but which may one day have a name.

    If you find the term “Zimbabwean literature” to be valid, for example, how would you react to the term “Azanian literature” - ? The rise of something like the latter would by definition mean the death of SA Lit as it currently stands.

    Further, I must point out that your statement, “But our South African situation is not a colonial one and Fanon is inappropriate here”, beggars belief; and that your characterisation of Thando as a moaning scolder simply indicates that you haven't listened to him properly. That's talk from a country different from the one I live in.

    Last, I hope you saw that I found no fault with writers in my column. This is because it's impossible to fault writers for doing what they do: they must write, and must seek to be published, on whatever terms are offered, or whatever terms they're able to bring about. I wish all writers strength and luck; they need it, far more than publishers, booksellers and editors do.

    With respect



    PS - Thanks for your comment, too, Reane; HenryD, I find yours incoherent.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Tom</a>
    January 20th, 2016 @14:06 #

    I can sympathise with Thando. I too, have been wasting my perfume on the desert air and pissing into the tent for the last fifty years -- and I'm a white boy, born into unearned privilege! I find it ironic that this whole debate has been conducted in the language of the oppressor. One would think that a true hard-as-nails radical, eager to create a new world from scratch, would do everything possible to break free of a colonial language which, like a linguistic virus, still infects millions of brains all over Africa.


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