Original Research

‘Wie het die geheim verklap?’ – Seksuele identiteit in Johann Nell se plaasroman Sondag op ’n voëlplaas (2013)

Joanita Erasmus-Alt, Hendrik P. Van Coller
Literator | Vol 39, No 1 | a1428 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v39i1.1428 | © 2018 Joanita Erasmus-Alt, Hendrik P. Van Coller | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 June 2017 | Published: 29 March 2018

About the author(s)

Joanita Erasmus-Alt, Department Afrikaans & Dutch, German & French, University of the Free State, South Africa
Hendrik P. Van Coller, Department Afrikaans & Dutch, German & French, University of the Free State, South Africa


‘Who let out the secret?’ – Sexual identity in Johann Nell’s farm novel Sondag op ’n voëlplaas [Sunday on a bird farm] (2013). The statement of the narrator in Johann Nell’s farm novel Sondag op ’n voëlplaas (2013) about his self-quest amongst ‘wild, fierce and erect ostrich necks’ (pp. 244–245), alludes to his doubts about his sexual identity. The apparent latent homosexual is strengthened by the epigraph, a direct translation of an excerpt from Calaf’s aria ‘Nessun Dorma’ from Puccini’s opera Turandot. In the traditional Afrikaans farm novel, the narrator is usually a third-person (auctorial) narrator. The use of a first-person narrator in Nell’s novel emphasises his deviation from the (stereo)typical traits and attributes of the traditional farm novel. The subjectivity inherent to the firstperson narration (the I-as-protagonist) implies that what is represented in this novel is the main character’s version of reality and his response to, especially, the farm as bastion of masculinity and traditional socio-political beliefs. Based on the above, this article takes as its point of departure the hypothetical assumption that the epigraph has an important part to play in the interpretation of the secret in that the implied or abstract author, by means of a parodying perspective, highlights a specific vision regarding the thematic significance. The epigraph not only reinforces the idea of a lack of identity and the idea that the ‘true’ identity could perhaps be a homosexual disposition, but also that it is simultaneously an etiological journey to the original opera libretto. In its turn, the libretto can be traced back to the Greek myth of Oedipus and the sphinx. By both discussing the intertexts and analysing the narrator’s language usage, his disposition and his tale of the (traumatised) self, his sexual identity is scrutinised.


Johann Nell; farm novel; sexual identity; intertextuality; epigraph; abstract author; narrator; focalisation; trauma representation; authenticity


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