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Nuttal, Literary city:

 » (…) I considered the idea (…) that each time we move in the city we potentially use space differently – an idea that also suggested the need to resist reading space and identity, including racial identity, as one-dimensional. This « always moving space », a constant revising of the inventory of the city, is a tracking and a breaching of it’s historical construction, and a way of conceptualizing the contemporary city. As a means of tracking city space, I looked for fictional architectures, infrasctructural figurations in the making of the urban biography – the street, the café, the suburb and the campus. Into these infrastructures surfaced figures of the city – the stranger, the aging white man, a new minority figure trying to remake a public self; the suburban walker, name dropper, insular professional; and the hustler, deftly rummaging among the conventional modes of institutional life with a view to rerouting them.

In each case, I sought to draw out informations of race identity embedded in these city fragments. Blackness, no longer locked into an overarching binary with whiteness as in most of earlier South African Fiction, come increasingly to be mediated by the notion of the stranger, here the african other, the demise of certain forms of whiteness and the ride of the black middle class, and a parodic rendering of the democratic new, as discursive effect and as generative of material practices of living in the city.

I considered within these urban narratives and style of subjectivity and language, moments when « something gets made », while also paying close attention to the effect of an apartheid past. Much of that process of making likes of course within the constructing of narrative, the making of language itself, the act of summoning the city – in this case the African city, here the city of Johannesburg – into words. Thus we might think of Mpe’s second person narrative, itself a way of summoning the dead to life and opening the living to the dead; Vladislavic’s hermeneutics of city-ness, prizing open the meanings of the city through language as such; Andersson and Gordimer’s dialogism and Mlongo’s art of parody. Together they could be said to constitute and « architectonics », a term used by Bakthin to signify that which concerns questions about buildings, about how something is put together – in this case the literary city itself ».

Nuttal refers to 5 novels:

Mpe, Welcome to our Hillbrow.

Vladislavic, The restless Supermarket The explored view.

Andersson, Bite of the Banshee.

Gordimer,  The house Gun. 

Mlongo, Dog eat dog


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