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Literary Spaces in the Selected Works of J.M. Coetzee


Katarzyna Karwowska

This book closely examines the processes governing the construction of literary spaces in the selected works of J.M. Coetzee, focusing in particular on the writer’s subversive and destructive treatment of traditional modes of representation which participated in the imperial enterprise and served to overcome the ontological insecurity of colonisers. This strategy results in the formation of heterogenous, fluid and open locations which can be deciphered along the postmodern spatial theories of Foucault, Augé, Deleuze and Guattari. The transformation of topographies not only cleanses them of the conventional residue in preparation for alternative spatial rearrangements, but also initiates processes which reverse the colonising project by breaching the gap between the other and the self.
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Chapter One: In the Heart of the Country: Spaces and Characters Resisting the Grip of Conventions

← 18 | 19 →Chapter One


In the Heart of the Country, published in 1977, is Coetzee’s second novel but also the first which is set in the South African farmed countryside. It marks the beginning of the author’s unwaning interest in this particular landscape. However, this attentiveness has at times been interrupted by forays into fictive territories more distant and less familiar to this writer born and raised in the Western Cape. In the Heart of the Country not only comes first in the series of novels whose events are depicted amidst the rural regions of Coetzee’s native land but also, irrespective of its overall timelessness, can be judged to cast the most distant glance in terms of chronology. The narrative betrays very few definite indicators of its temporality, nevertheless, it has been agreed on that it probably covers the time span of late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century.17 This period in the South African literary history is dominated by the difficult subject of relations between people and the land they inhabit. Thus all Coetzee’s subsequent fictions which are located, be it partially, in the South African countryside are in a way rooted in this novel which constitutes an explanative prelude to the author’s further studies of the familiar farmed landscape set in distinctively more contemporary times.

Yet there are pronounced differences between In the Heart of the Country and Coetzee’s later novels which pursue spatial themes inaugurated by it. First of all, In the Heart of the...

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