patonAlan Paton’s ‘The Waste Land’, published in a collection entitled ‘Tales from a Troubled Land’ (1961), for example, is a short story that on the surface is fairly straight forward: a man ends up unwittingly killing his own son who was part of a gang wanting to rob him. The story has an inherent quality of sadness reflecting the situation of the ordinary impoverished, those mired in and subject to oppression, injustice and inhumanity. However, underlying the detail of the story is the author whose social data informs the work. It’s more than sad that a son is killed by his own father but beyond that, the story evokes desolation, desperation and perhaps even betrayal. This, Paton is telling us, is what happens when the ‘world is dead,’ or perhaps when it’s been left for dead. The last time I read that story was a while before I produced ‘Getting Laced’ and it’s stuck in my mind ever since. I’m fairly sure the word Apartheid is not mentioned even once. Doesn’t have to be because what Paton shows us are the consequences of oppression. No preaching, no polemic – just life as he sees it. Of course, there is a whole industry devoted to analyzing such texts and I’m fully aware that my précis here is very limited. The point I’m keen to underline is that such stories have a duality at the very least: the obvious and keenly overt story in which things happen alongside a layer of social commentary, the author’s subtle or not so subtle imposition upon the reader of what is right but more usually what is wrong with the space she or he inhabits. Although there’s a world of difference between ‘Getting Laced’ and ‘The Waste Land’, both have a political pulse running through them. In Paton’s case, inequality, injustice and all the dehumanizing elements that he saw around him fed – and fed into – his work. In my case, sure, it might have been about casual racism and the casual violence it results in but it didn’t explicitly convey a politics of identity, marginality or oppression and nor, for that matter, did it aim to: mine was mostly an act of Orwell’s quasi therapeutic voodoo; of rewriting reality so that you can move on and live with yourself. Any political dimensions that appeared in my work at that point were accidental, unintentional. It was only later, much later, that a sense of politics and, more importantly, aspects important to my identity, started to figure in whatever I wrote.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8