Abstract

This article returns to Andrew Offenburger’s allegations that Zakes Mda plagiarized from Jeff Peires’s The Dead Will Arise in his novel The Heart of Redness. Offenburger reads Mda’s borrowings alongside other works of “postcolonial African literature” subject to plagiarism scandals, works whose borrowings he grants might be understood as part of a “subversive literary tradition,” but argues that Mda’s work transgresses “the limits of postmodern and postcolonial creative licence.” He makes this argument partly on the grounds that Mda borrows from only one source and thus is insufficiently “intertextual.” I revisit the definition of intertextuality and also argue that Mda borrows from another source—Theophilus Hahn’s account of Khoikhoi cosmology, Tsuni-||goam: The Supreme Being of the Khoikhoi (1881). Mda obscures this print source, instead describing the Khoikhoi stories in his novel as bequeathed to him by the oral traditions of his mother’s people, descendants of the Khoikhoi. Mda’s borrowings, I argue, are more complex than “plagiarism” might denote and demand to be read against a long history of transcultural borrowings that are not the preserve of “postcolonial African fiction,” but which are a feature of the colonial archive on African peoples, part of a long history of epistemic violence. This history is an explicit subject of Mda’s novel, and Mda’s borrowings might be understood as enacting a “symbolics of the text,” to use the phrase with which Christopher Miller describes the borrowings of Yambo Ouologuem in Bound to Violence.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2044
Print ISSN
0034-5210
Pages
pp. 124-143
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-06
Open Access
No
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