Postapartheid Ephemerality in Marlene van Niekerk’s Triomf

Arthur Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


In the wake of the Fees Must Fall movements in South Africa, there was renewed criticism of Nelson Mandela’s conception of the “Rainbow Nation” in his 1994 inaugural address. This essay considers how, from its moment of utterance, the metaphor was never allowed to communicate its more positive affordances: the recognition that processes of transition are frequently buoyed up by ephemeral moments, whose usefulness is encoded in their very transience. By returning to the ephemeral in Marlene van Niekerk’s Triomf, it shows how Van Niekerk’s text signals, again and again, how to allow things to pass away. Signalling this postapartheid ephemerality through the breath, Van Niekerk opens up a discussion about ephemerality in the foundational text of the postapartheid period that has been largely overlooked, but has, perhaps, never been more important than in South Africa’s present.
Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch in African Literatures
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 17 Jan 2020


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