Essays in French Literature, Thought and Visual Culture
Charlotte Baker ‘For a minute, their sense of the ways of the world was ruptured.J ust by looking’: The Black African Albino in the Novels of Didier Destremau, Patrick Grainville and Williams Sassine 201
Charlotte Baker ‘For a minute, their sense of the ways of the world was ruptured. Just by looking’: The Black African Albino in the Novels of Didier Destremau, Patrick Grainville and Williams Sassine The citation in the title of this article comes from ‘That Rare and Random Tribe: Albino Identity in South Africa’, a study by Ngaire Blankenberg, a person with albinism: My grandfather, as black as tar, was ecstatic. The gods had decided to give him a white grandson; almost white, but not quite. As I got older, people would look at me with horror, with fascination, almost perfect but not quite, and, for a minute, their sense of the ways of the world was ruptured. Just by looking.1 The rupture described by Blankenberg is both a rupture of identity and of the established boundaries that define it; a rupture that expresses the profound and problematic associations of the black African albino body. That the act of looking at the albino body with horror and fascination described by Blankenberg is so closely associated with this sense of rupture leads us to ask a number of questions: why is there an enduring sense that this body needs to be explained, categorised and contained? Why has the albino body come under such scrutiny and what are the consequences for the onlooker and for the albino individual who is the object of that gaze? To explore these questions further, this article will examine literary repre- sentations of the figure of the black...
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