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This article is taken from PN Review 58, Volume 14 Number 2, November - December 1987.

In the Heart of the Country: A Calvinist Allegory? Anna M. Louw

When Dusklands, J.M. Coetzee's first novel, appeared in 1974, I hailed him as the first English South African author of stature, since the much less profound Herman Charles Bosman, to speak in an authentic South African voice. My conviction was confirmed by the publication in 1976 of In the Heart of the Country, a Calvinist allegory in avant-garde dress. For Coetzee's novels are nothing if not mythical abstractions from the ideology commanding his attention at a particular time.

Coetzee's precursors and peers - I speak of white South African authors, as indigenous black writing is in its infancy - even the competent Nadine Gordimer with her obsession with the urban African political scene stay willy nilly within the English literary tradition. Sadly, others such as Alan Paton, Jack Cope and Guy Butler whilst ostensibly South Africans to the core often sound like the first generation Colonial writing letters home, sometimes over-romanticizing, at other times complaining rather impotently about the other white racial group, the Afrikaners. To return to J.M. Coetzee: he was born in 1940 in Mowbray, a suburb of Cape Town, of mixed English and Afrikaner parentage. He received his early school and university education in Cape Town, afterwards spending almost a decade in America studying at the University of Texas and lecturing at Buffalo University. Since his return to South Africa, he has taught linguistics and American literature at the university of Cape Town.

He spent parts of his childhood on his paternal ...


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