I was a bit reluctant to start reading this book, because the last book I read by Sebastian Faulks, Human traces I hadn't enjoyed very much. So my wif...moreI was a bit reluctant to start reading this book, because the last book I read by Sebastian Faulks, Human traces I hadn't enjoyed very much. So my wife bought it three years ago, and it has sat on the shelf since then, but then looking for something I hadn't read for bed-time reading I picked it up and started it, and it seemed quite different from Human traces and I was rather enjoying it and finding it interesting, and beginning to think it was the best thing I had read by Sebastian Faulks.
So I had reached page 280 and hoped to finish it tonight. But unfortunately page 280 was followed by page 25, and it seems that the book has been misbound. After three years it is probably far too late to take it back to the bookshop and ask for another copy that has been properly bound -- they probably won't even have one in stock anyway. And though one might be able to order another copy from the publishers, it seems a bit of a waste to pay the full price of a book for the last 60 pages or so, and anyway by the time it arrived I'd probably have forgotten most of the story anyway and would have to start again from the beginning. I just wish printers would be more careful in checking their stuff. I see it was printed and bound in Greeat Britain by Clay Ltd, St Ives plc. If by any remote chance anyone from there happens to read this, perhaps they'll take pity on me and send an intact copy.
I'm currently readi ng this in the electronic format downloded from the Gutenberg site, since I don't have a copy and the library copy is at the binde...moreI'm currently readi ng this in the electronic format downloded from the Gutenberg site, since I don't have a copy and the library copy is at the bindery.
A group of us on the Coinherence-l mailing list are reading it and commenting as we go. (less)
"Currently reading" is a misnomer in this case -- it is not a book one reads, but a book one refers to, a kind of concordance of Samuel Beckett's work...more"Currently reading" is a misnomer in this case -- it is not a book one reads, but a book one refers to, a kind of concordance of Samuel Beckett's works, with explanations of obscure allusions and such.
My first introduction to Beckett came nearly 50 years ago when someone who had been reading Watt read an extract to show what a strange book it was. She quoted:
O what is this so high, so white? And what is this so black, so low? It is a duck, a duck, a duck
and went on to say
Cush's stones are calling yet forth from the wall to Habakkuk
and ended with wind, and sand, and evening wolves.
I wanted to read the bits I couldn't remember and took Watt out of the university library, and searched for that passage in vain. I thought I was going mad, but the Faber Companion to Samuel Beckett informed me that that passage had been omitted from an American edition of Watt. Unfortunately our university library doesn't have the unexpurgated edition.
Back in the 1970s there was a school of Marxist historians who attacked the "liberal" school that had flourished 30-40 years earlier.
According to the...moreBack in the 1970s there was a school of Marxist historians who attacked the "liberal" school that had flourished 30-40 years earlier.
According to the "liberal" school, the biggest problem in South African society was "race", and in particular "native policy", which they saw as retarding the development of the country.
The Marxist historians believed (with some justification) that the liberal historians had missed the role of capitalism in promoting poverty, oppression and misery. Capitalism was largely invisible to the "liberal" historians, because they assumed that it was part of a normal society, and if they thought about it at all, they thought of it being largely beneficial. Any glitches were simply teething troubles in the development of an industrialising society, and so in an industrial society those problems would be things of the past, just as when a baby learns to chew solid food and enjoy new tastes, it forgets the discomfort of the eruption of milk teeth.
The Marxist historians, or some of them at least, tended to deny that there was such a thing as racism. Racism, to them, was simply a cover up for class warfare, a rationalisation and an excuse for exploitation of the working class. All economic activity, and even government policies were described in terms of "extracting surpluses".
So there were two competing views of South African history -- one with the view that the central issue was "race" and the other with the view that the central issue was class.
Now this is a gross over-simplification, and I've been exaggerating the extremes and playing down the middle to try to make the two tendencies clearer, but these tendencies were nevertheless there.
There were other schools of history too -- for example, the Afrikaner nationalist school, which tended to dominate school text books in the mid-20th century, and protrayed the main theme of history as the rise and development of the Afrikaner nation, with its own language, culture and territory (which God had given them by displacing the savages who had previously occupied it). Central to this story was the Great Trek.
Marxist historians, on the other hand, tended to see the Great Trek as just one of several similar population migrations (like that of the Ndebele to Matabeleland in the present Zimbabwe) which put the ruling classes in the various groups in a better position to extract surpluses from their own groups or their neighbours.
More recently there has been, in the true Marxist dialectical pattern, a synthesis. If "liberal" historiography was the thesis, and Marxist historiography the antithesis, then the synthesis combines the two into a new synthesis. And that seems to be the role of New history of South Africa