Original Research

Beyond the walls of the lunatic asylum: Christopher Hope’s early fiction

F. Wood
Literator | Vol 25, No 2 | a255 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v25i2.255 | © 2004 F. Wood | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 July 2004 | Published: 31 July 2004

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F. Wood, English Programme Unit, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa

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This article examines an under-explored aspect of Christopher Hope’s early fiction: its capacity to suggest the potential for imaginative and psychological freedom through its comic, carnivalesque qualities. Hope produced various novels and stories set in South Africa during the 1950s and 1960s, including A Separate Development (1981), Black Swan (1987) and the short story collection Learning to Fly (1990). It is argued that Hope’s vision in these works tends to be perceived as essentially satirical, ultimately limited by bleakness and pessimism; while the carnivalesque, potentially liberatory aspects of his writing tend to be overlooked. By utilising comic and carnivalesque features Hope’s work indeed offers creative, liberated ways of apprehending reality. Mikhail Bakhtin’s discussion of the ability of the carnivalesque to open up new ways of seeing, through the “nonofficial” versions of reality that it proffers, is particularly relevant in this regard. It is argued that this latter aspect of Hope’s work is especially significant, bearing in mind the sense of constraint and confinement that seemed to dominate much of South African fiction during the apartheid era and that still remains a key concern in many postapartheid novels.


Apartheid And South African Literature; Christopher Hope; Satirical Perceptions Of Hopes Work; The Carnivalesque; Means To Create An Alternative Reality; The Fantastic; As Means To Present Another Reality


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