Postapartheid Ephemerality in Marlene van Niekerk’s Triomf

Arthur Rose

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

1 Citation (Scopus)
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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
Pages (from-to)211-229
Number of pages19
JournalResearch in African Literatures
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I would like to thank Thando Njovane for inviting me to present a first version of this work at the 2015 Finding Africa Seminar Series, where it also benefitted from comments by David Attwell and Jane Taylor. I am indebted to the project team on Life of Breath for developing my thoughts on breathing over the intervening six years and to Ryan Topper and Rick de Villiers for invaluable comments on earlier drafts.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, Indiana University. All rights reserved.


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