- Purchase/rental options available:
J. M. Coetzee described his novel Waiting for the Barbarians as a response to the South African government’s tacit employment of torture and assassination to silence opposition to apartheid. He claimed that the novelist seeking to represent the secret policeman in such a society was faced with a dilemma: he or she must either portray the torturer by means of cliché and fail aesthetically or attribute glamour or grandeur to the world of the torturer and fail morally. The existence of this problem appears to justify Coetzee’s presentation of the two torturers in his novel, Colonel Joll and Warrant Officer Mandel, as little more than faceless functionaries. I shall argue that the dilemma is false, drawing on journalist Jacques Pauw’s In the Heart of the Whore, an exposé of torture and assassination under apartheid that takes former secret policeman Dirk Coetzee as its protagonist.