South African Literary Cartographies: A Post-Transitional Palimpsest

Ronit Frenkel


This article investigates three South African novels in an attempt to map
the movement between transitional cultural production and
post-transitional literature of the present. I briefly outline Phaswane
Mpe’s Welcome to our Hillbrow (2001) as a formative text of the South
African transitional period before discussing Kgebetli Moele’s Room 207
(2006) and Ceridwen Dovey’s Blood Kin (2007) as post-transitional texts.
These novels all circle around issues of place and space, while also
revealing the shifts in South African cultural history, as they comprise a
set of related perspectives that inscribe meaning across times and spaces.
I argue that a palimpsestic reading of this fiction opens up the
possibility of reconceptualizing the relationship between space, place,
and transnational connectivity. Each of the three texts under discussion
writes the space of the city as a type of situated transnationalism where
the local and the global exist as coeval discourses of signification. The
fecundity of a palimpsestic reading lies in the revelation of how one
transitional experience is already present in another. By inscribing one
discursive act over another, the ruptures and continuities between
textualizations reveal a wealth of imaginaries that, I argue, define the
idea of post-transitional South African literature. But perhaps most
importantly, the post-transitional can be read as a palimpsestic concept
itself, much like the fiction explored in this article, in that it enables
a reading of the new in a way in which the layers of the past are still
reflected through it.  Rather than moving in a temporal linear fashion,
post-transitional literature creates a palimpsest in which we can read the
imaginaries circulating through and shaping South African cultural
formations today.


South African, post-transitional, transnationalism,Phaswane Mpe,

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