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Research in African Literatures 33.1 (2002) 220-222

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Book Review

Midfielder's Moment: Coloured Literature and Culture in Contemporary South Africa

Midfielder's Moment: Coloured Literature and Culture in Contemporary South Africa, by Grant Farred. Boulder: Westview, 2000. xi + 178 pp. ISBN 0-8133-3514-0 cloth.

Grant Farred's book is a worthy, if flawed, addition to the neglected area of "Coloured" culture in South Africa. Culture is limited to football (soccer) and cricket. The lack of coverage of music, and other cultural activities, emphasizes the binary opposition in Farred's study: the "high," individual-centered culture of literature versus the "popular," community-centered culture of sports.

Farred's introduction chapter, "Introduction: Occupying the Interstices," offers a clear postcolonial perspective for his readings. The style suggests a lack of surety in the audience sought--there are a plethora of parenthetical explanations. Narrative fluency suffers as a result. [End Page 220]

"I. Writing into the Twilight Zone: Richard Rive, the Making of a Coloured Artist and Intellectual" offers a brief reading of three of Rive's books in light of the Population Registration Act of 1950. The reading is subtle and well argued, concluding that Rive "cannot fully take his place in that coloured body politic because he is unable to voice his own colouredness" (52). "2. The Politics of Partial Affiliation: Arthur Nortje and the Pain of Origin," in contrast, shows the poet consistently scrutinizing his colouredness, invariably representing it as "reduced subject[hood]" (57). Farred uses of poems from the highly corrupt volume Dead Roots. He is particularly adept in his reading of Nortje's misogynistic tendency, where the poet "deflects attention from the historic impotence of the coloured male" (63). Jennifer Davids's poetry is recuperated by Farred in "3. Searching for Colouredness: Reading the Poetry of Jennifer Davids," by way of Thomas Keenan's Fables of Responsibility (1997), in an analysis of ten representative poems. Geoffrey Haresnape's work on Davids is the backbone to this discussion. Farred finds Davids's poetry engaging, if "elusive" in its grappling with the need "to escape the double historical bind of racialized and gendered Otherness" (99).

Farred is innovative and assured when discussing sports. "4. 'Theatre of Dreams': Mimicry and Difference in Cape Flats Township Football" offers a well-grounded reading of football in the coloured community as a transformative moment, where community agency finds its footing in a comprehension of mimicry, "an all too brief triumph over the devastation of the Group Areas Act" (118). In "5. The Nation in White: Cricket in Postapartheid South Africa," Farred produces a partial counternarrative to the prevailing view that "[t]he history of whites in the game has assumed [. . .] the status of South African cricket" (141). The recent confessions of Hansie Cronje, the Sprinboks' white captain, will add symbolic weight and a twist to Farred's contention that the young coloured player Paul Adams "is being asked to make history bereft of basic resources such as cultural memory or the ideological conditions of his embattled community. He is expected to be a cricketing pioneer without a political past" (149). Cronje's corruption has "repoliticized" the game, leaving the door open for a new history, new leadership. "6. McCarthyism, Township Style," on Benni McCarthy's football successes, leads Farred to an overreading of McCarthy's cultural significance. McCarthy's response to his goal against Peter Schmeichel of Denmark was "I'm really happy to have scored because it's the first goal for South Africa in the World Cup . . . To score against that man, it was a dream for me" (165). Farred interprets the bifold response thus:

In the moment of his greatest triumph, however, his "cultural" essence articulated itself as coloured. After years of trying to make like his Manchester United idols on the dusty fields of Hanover Park with his friends, McCarthy had gone one better: He had beaten the man who minded the net at Old Trafford. In the "theatre" of international football, he had realized an unlikely "dream." (165-66) [End Page...


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