Salman Rushdie on Writing and the Nation

27 August 2008, 8:00 pm

The nations requires anthems, flags. The poet offers discord, rags.

Beware the writer who sets himself or herself up as the voice of the nation. This includes nations of race, gender, sexual orientation, elective affinity. This is the new Behalfism…. The New Behalfism demands uplift, accentuates the positive, offers stirring moral instruction. It abhors the tragic sense of life. Seeing literature as inescapably political, it replaces literary values with political ones.

It is the murder of thought. Beware.

Nationalism corrupts writers, too…. In a time of ever more narrowly defined nationalisms, of walled in tribalisms, writers will be found uttering the war cries of their tribes.

“Notes on Writing and the Nation”, Harper’s Magazine, September 1997

National identity and xenophobia

29 May 2008, 7:41 pm

Some quick thoughts on this, orginally posted at BookSA:

Along with many South Africans, I too am despaired by the violence perpetrated in the main by poor people on other poor people, and that racism (racism!) is used or voiced as a justification for that violence.

As some commentators in the press have indicated, the roots of such xenophobia and intra-African racism is perhaps also more cultural than simply economic. I.e. South Africa is apparently deeply xenophobic and the violence that is occurring is not simply a matter of poor people misidentifying the cause of their own suffering. Indeed, we certainly engage in a further othering of the poor if we dismiss the attacks and its causes as simply the expression of the desperation of the poor (it is, to an extent), or simply a criminal wave that has found useful cover in its racism (which it also may be). It is too comfortable, and comforting, that we imagine this xenophobia to obtain only on the desperately poor margins of South Africa. In other words, if there’s a cause, we can locate it in the economic, and once located there, we can blame the government for poor service delivery, the root cause. Read the rest of this entry »


3 July 2006, 5:36 pm

SOME AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL reflection on the interplay and tensions between Afrikaans and English, published at LitNet.

Mark Sanders, Complicities

15 March 2005, 1:22 pm

Mark Sanders, Complicities: The Intellectual and Apartheid, Philosophy and Postcoloniality Series. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002.

Published at H-Net Review.

MARK SANDERS’S Complicities: The Intellectual and Apartheid is a difficult book and it is difficult partly because of its intellectual genealogy. Though developed from what the author calls “incidental remarks in the responses of Jacques Derrida and others” during the mid-1990s debates about complicity, European intellectuals and Nazism, carried out mainly in the New York Review of Books, Sanders’s affiliation to a Derridean form of reading is more than incidental (p. x). I do not mean this in a pejorative sense (as is now de rigueur in contemporary reactions to the work of late-twentieth-century theory). On the contrary, the strengths of Derridean reading come to the fore in this book because it makes difficult or complicates notions of resistance, responsibility, and complicity. Another intellectual affiliation of this book may illuminate this point.

Read further…


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