Writing Transition : Fiction and Truth in South Africa and Argentina

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Writing Transition : Fiction and Truth in South Africa and Argentina

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Title Writing Transition : Fiction and Truth in South Africa and Argentina
Author(s) Hemer, Oscar
Date 2011
English abstract
The thesis is the result of a four-year research project, which takes its point of departure in a simple, vast question: What can fiction tell us about the world that journalism and science cannot? The truth of fiction – if there is one – must obviously entail something other than factual truth. But how can it be assessed? This dilemma is tackled by exploring two specific cases, South Africa and Argentina, and the relationship between literary fiction and society’s dramatic transformation in the two countries over the past three decades. South Africa and Argentina are both extraordinarily rich in literary production and moreover share a common experience of transition from a traumatic near past; in South Africa the system of racial segregation known as apartheid and the culmination of violence in the ”interregnum years”; in Argentina the latest military dictatorship and its ”dirty war” on the militant left, which took the character of extermination. The concept of transition has different connotations in the two cases, primarily due to the diametrically opposed outcomes of the political militancy. The demise of the apartheid state was conceived as the victory of the liberation struggle, whereas Argentina’s return to democracy was in a way the result of a double defeat; the annihilation of the revolutionary guerrillas, followed by the humiliation for their vanquishers in the disastrous campaign to reconquer Malvinas (the Falklands) from Great Britain. Given the dissimilar historical contexts and diverging cultural traditions, the experiential correspondences between the two countries become the more striking. Literature has been a crucial means for differing attempts at looking the horrific past in the face and taking possession of history and memory. Both South Africa and Argentina abound with examples of interrogations of the present and the near past by means of fiction (or documentary forms with fictional elements) that arguably have played a proactive role in the transition process, by displaying public lies and self-deceptions, deconstructing prevailing myths rather than forging new identities. One of the premises for the investigation has been to adopt the perspective of the author, rather than that of the academic researcher. Fifteen writers are interviewed extensively; more than “informants”, they are participants in a collaborative venture. But what does the writer’s perspective imply? Attempting, in praxis, to answer the question of fiction’s truth confronts the author with the dilemma of finding a single form that may, in some sense, be congenial with the content of the investigation. The solution to this presumably impossible dilemma is an experimental compromise: a basically discursive text that borders on both journalism and literature, incorporating reportage, essay and memoir.
Publisher Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Oslo
Series/Issue Series of dissertations submitted to the Faculty of Social Sciences;281
ISSN 1504-3991
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) Fiction, Truth, Literature, Anthropology
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::SOCIAL SCIENCES
Note Dissertation for the degree of Dr. Philos. at the University of Oslo
Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2043/12700 (link to this page)

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