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Postcolonial Departures

Narrative Transformations in Australian and South African Fictions

Hano Pipic

This book introduces a comparative transnational approach to Australian and South African literatures to move beyond the boundaries of the nation and to reveal a shared history of indigenous dispossession and violent repression. It engages with issues of trauma, suppression and the manifold concerns regarding the unfinished processes of reconciliation. The contemporary postcolonial fictions chosen for the text-based analysis intervene in the unfinished processes of coming to terms with the legacy of the colonial practices of the past. This book compares nationally diverse postcolonial texts with a particular interest in the parallels in their deliberate breaks with generic patterns and structures.

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Chapter I: Representation of Trauma in Two Selected Bildungsromane: Gail Jones’ Sorry (2008) and Rachel Zadok’s Gem Squash Tokoloshe (2005)


The Australian writer Gail Jones and the South African writer Rachel Zadok transform the conventions of the Bildungsroman as a form/sub-genre of the novel. By engaging with questions of female development, processes of becoming, and reconciliation with the past both writers adapt the Bildungsroman to address settler-colonial legacies of racial and ethical injustice. In her novel Sorry (2008) Jones adopts the perspective of a non-Indigenous female child named Perdita to recognise the grief of Australia’s Stolen Generation, the thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were forcibly taken from their families in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In Gem Squash Tokoloshe (2005), Zadok portrays the development into adulthood of a white girl, Faith, who witnesses the harrowing experiences of black South Africans both during the apartheid period and in the post-apartheid regime. These appropriations of the traditional Bildungsroman point to the genre’s flexibility, and suggest it can contribute to the deliberate reworking of European inheritance in postcolonial fiction. Both postcolonial Bildungsromane appropriate and disrupt the traditional generic framework.

The Traditions of the Bildungsroman

The traditional Bildungsroman has been conceived (stereotypically perhaps) as a “European genre defined primarily by male theorists, in terms of works by and about men” (Lima, “Caribbean Women Writers” 2). From Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s prototypical Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1795),21 via Charles ← 29 | 30 → Dickens’s self-cultivating David Copperfield (1850), to James Joyce’s protagonist in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), the celebration of the...

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