Original Research

Michiel Heyns’s Lost Ground: The white man’s sense of identity and place in a decolonised Africa and a democratic South Africa

Renate Lenz
Literator | Vol 38, No 1 | a1329 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v38i1.1329 | © 2017 Renate Lenz | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 August 2016 | Published: 27 March 2017

About the author(s)

Renate Lenz, Department of Communication and Education, Vaal University of Technology, South Africa, South Africa


In Lost Ground, Michiel Heyns portrays the former white settlers’ position and experience in South Africa, Africa and Europe after the overturn of South Africa’s apartheid regime. An analysis of the novel illustrates that the legacy of the colonisation of Africa and apartheid in South Africa still shapes the settler descendants’ perception of self and the other and the formers’ place in South Africa and Africa. After the electoral victory of the African National Congress, contemporary white South African men, as exemplified by the English-speaking male protagonist who features in the novel, tend to dissociate themselves from the country and the African continent as home. Although the original colonisers’ experience of alienation and ambivalence about apartheid has been widely depicted, the significance of this experience in relation to white South African male identity has not been fully explored in a study of Heyns’s Lost Ground, principally as regards the novel’s detective narrative framework and the counterdiscursive technique of intertextual referencing that implies other interpretative possibilities. Lost Ground will be critically analysed in terms of the central character’s experience of space and place, and the influence of these paradigms on Peter Jacobs as he makes strides towards abandoning historical/racial restrictions and locating his identity in people.


Michiel Heyns; Lost Ground; New South Africa; White man; Intertextuality; Themes; Space, place and identity; Travel and borders; Narration and narrator


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Crossref Citations

1. Whose ‘Lost Ground’? Facets of Outsiderhood
Ileana Dimitriu
Current Writing: Text and Reception in Southern Africa  vol: 32  issue: 1  first page: 10  year: 2020  
doi: 10.1080/1013929X.2020.1743027