restricted access Chapter Three: From ‘The Speaking Voice’ to Intertextuality in The Heart of Redness
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Chapter Three From ‘the speaking voice’ to intertextuality in The Heart of Redness Introduction From Bakhtin’s notion of ‘the speaking voice’ in Chapter Two, we move here to the ways in which many voices dialogue to create intertextuality. Tobias Döring explains: [A]ll literature partly continues and partly contests previous writing: continues because the very forms of language are inherited and taken over, contests because these forms are now used in a different context to establish different meanings … texts are never closed, contained and clearly bounded by their authors, but principally open, limitless, accessible from many sides and for diverse influences (Döring: 2008, 82–3). The writing that intertextuality invites therefore contains ‘repetition and resistance, or reliance on and reversal of … given structures’ (Ibid, 83). Particularly useful for the purposes of my argument is John Frow’s definition: ‘The concept of intertextuality requires that we understand the concept of text not as a self-contained structure but as differential and historical. Texts are shaped not by immanent time but by the play of divergent temporalities’ (in Worton & Still: 1990, 45). This chapter is made up of three sections. In the first, I compare and contrast Conrad’s Heart of Darkness with Mda’s The Heart of Redness. In the second, senior undergraduate students at the University of Cape Town explore the intertextual challenges that these two texts offer. In the last section, I explore issues of imitation and innovation in Mda’s text as it builds on Peires’ The Dead Will Arise. Community and agency in The Heart of Redness and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness Zakes Mda has elicited strong critical response over the past decade. Rogier Courau, discussing ‘literary and political historiography in the postcolony’, draws attention to Mda’s fusion of ‘official history and community stories in the postcolonial context’ (Courau: 2004, 7) through his use of ‘the speaking voice of a communal consciousness’ (Ibid, 8), his ability to draw on the past to From ‘the speaking voice’ to intertextuality in The Heart of Redness 35 invigorate the present, and his engagement in ‘artistic and cultural translation’ (Ibid, 12). Johan van Wyk speaks of what he takes to be a literature of transition marked by ‘resurgence of the repressed, loss of the reality principle, dream and mysticism’ (Van Wyk: 1997, 80), while Margaret Mervis sees Mda as incorporating orature and magic realism to move beyond anger at apartheid towards the reconstruction of individuals and their communities. David Lloyd discusses the ‘polyphony of voices that allows Mda to present a richly complex and ironised debate about the issues facing contemporary South African society and its historical colonial antecedents’ (Lloyd: 2001, 35), while J.U. Jacobs, writing of the new Constitution’s refusal to define Africanness by race, colour, gender or historical origins, points out that unlike the stereotyped figures of liberationist writers, Mda’s characters are ‘allowed … complex and (extra)ordinary individuality’ (Jacobs: 2000, 68). He also draws on African music to show how ‘Mda turns to traditional performance to mediate a culture in the process of transition and renewal’, arguing that The Heart of Redness is a ‘split-tone narrative’ employing a ‘palimpsest structure’ (Jacobs: 2002, 227). Wendy Woodward shows how Mda as a postcolonial writer deconstructs Western dualisms in order to rehabilitate a traditional Xhosa world-view grounded in the ‘contemporary issues of post-1994 South Africa’ (Woodward: 2003, 173). She demonstrates the imbrication of place with identity in Mda’s fiction and discusses his use of the Bakhtinian carnivalesque. These writers insist on the importance for Mda of community,1 history and memory in constituting postcolonial agency. Underlying their thinking is the concept, important from late 1996 onwards, of an ‘African Renaissance’ 1 Several critics dispute what I see as Mda’s evocation of the ideal of community. Grant Farred remarks that in Ways of Dying ‘Toloki the artist represents the benign face of post-apartheid society’s preference for the upwardly mobile black individual rather than the demands of the township masses; he is a character obsessed with creative expression and spiritual self-improvement … focused on the exceptionalism and singularity of the individual subject’ (Farred: 2000, 192). For Farred, ‘Mda’s novel may be said to enunciate the death of radical politics, of the commitment to transforming and materially improving the lives of the black underclass’ (Ibid, 196). Konstantin Sofianos sees The Heart of Redness as attempting to reconcile not just Believers and Unbelievers, ‘but more importantly the contradictions within the...