Original Research

‘Op die limiete’: Karel Schoeman se Verkenning (1996)

H. van Vuuren
Literator | Vol 18, No 3 | a549 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v18i3.549 | © 1997 H. van Vuuren | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 April 1997 | Published: 30 April 1997

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H. van Vuuren, Departement Afrikaans en Nederlands, Universiteit van Port Elizabeth, South Africa

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‘At the limits’: Karel Schoeman’s Verkenning (1996)
Written from the postcolonial vantage point of the new South Africa, Karel Schoeman's Verkenning (Reconnaissance) deals with the colonial era of the early nineteenth century. Through metafictional commentary the reader is alerted to the provisionality and tentativeness of historical fiction, as fiction and historical facts are constantly juxtaposed. At the same time the novel can be read as an attempt to fathom the ‘darkness’ of the bygone era, and to throw ‘light’ on the nature of intercultural relationships during the period of the Batavian Republic (1803-1806). Of central importance, however, is the way in which the consciousness of a new era is suggested through the subtle functioning of numerous intertexts. These intertexts deal with various forms of transitional consciousness, such as those associated with the French Revolution. A remarkable characteristic of the novel is its historiographic metafictionality, an innovative element in Schoeman’s oeuvre. Verkenning (Reconnaissance) is a polyphonic novel in which a collage of voices is foregrounded and presented in the process of ‘exploring’. From within the politically transformed multicultural South Africa of the late twentieth century, the creative imagination explores the roots of this society in the history of almost two centuries ago. In this respect Verkenning may be characterised as a postcolonial narrative construct and thus part of "oorgangsliteratuur" or “Wendeliteratur”, a term coined for the literature produced after the political change in 1989/1990 in Germany.


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