Apartheid Spies: The Character, the Reader, and the Censor in André Brink’s A Dry White Season


  • Giuliana Iannaccaro Università degli Studi di Milano



Parole chiave:

South Africa, anti-apartheid literature, Brink, spying-gaze, censorship


André Brink’s novel A Dry White Season (1979) is strictly connected with the time and place in which it was written. Its dialogue with the real Johannesburg of the late Seventies is manifest: characters and plot are grafted on real events, like the youth riots in Soweto (1976) and the death of Steve Biko in the hands of the Security Police (1977). Brink’s early novels have been commended for their political commitment, but also criticized for being ‘easily’ documentary. Yet, A Dry White Season’s structure is rather complex, and its fabricated nature is shown to the reader through the device of the double internal narrator and the considerable number of ‘documents’ discovered and employed – each telling its own truth. The metaphor of the ‘spying gaze’ proposed here is useful in order to point out the interconnections between story and history, as it shows the way in which a complex and multi-layered narrative structure succeeds in both reflecting and exposing the intricate apartheid system devised to control and ‘discipline’ its own citizens. In the novel, most of the characters intrude into the life of the others and are intruded upon, included peaceful citizens who are obliged to defend themselves from an oppressive and violent police State. At the same time, also the reader is drawn into the dangerous spying game, above all when he/she is introduced into that notorious site of interrogation, torture and detention which was the Johannesburg Police Station in John Vorster Square. The last part of the essay takes into consideration the South African censorship system in force at the time, to show that the activity of surveillance is both intrinsic to the narration and external, related to the conditions of the novel’s composition and appearance on the literary market.


Biografia autore

Giuliana Iannaccaro, Università degli Studi di Milano

Giuliana Iannaccaro è professore associato di Letteratura Inglese e dei Paesi Anglofoni presso l’Università degli Studi di Milano. I suoi interessi di ricerca si concentrano su due aree prevalenti: il Cinque e Seicento inglese e la letteratura postcoloniale africana in lingua inglese, con particolare attenzione all’espressione letteraria sudafricana. In ambito early modern ha pubblicato diversi saggi sulle controversie politiche e religiose del periodo e due monografie, dal titolo: La morsa del paradosso. Retoriche del femminile nel Rinascimento inglese, 1580-1640 (1997), e Ombre e sostanza. La figura e la lettera nella scrittura radicale della Rivoluzione Inglese (2003). In ambito postcoloniale, accanto a vari contributi che esplorano il rapporto fra narrativa sudafricana e Storia, nel 2009 è apparsa la monografia J. M. Coetzee.

Giuliana Iannaccaro is Associate Professor of English Literature and Anglophone Literatures at the Università degli Studi di Milano. Her publications in the field of early modern studies include a monograph on gender rhetoric between 1580 and 1640 (La morsa del paradosso, 1997), a number of articles on political and religious controversial literature, the translation into Italian and editing of John Foxe’s account of Anne Askew’s examinations and execution (Parole di fuoco, co-edited with Emanuele Ronchetti, 2002), and a book on the writings of the religious radicals of the English Revolution (Ombre e sostanza, 2003). She is currently working on Elizabeth I’s foreign correspondence. Another and more recent field of interest concerns South African literature in English, in particular the relationship between South African narrative and history. Her monograph J. M. Coetzee appeared in 2009.




Come citare

Iannaccaro, Giuliana. 2014. «Apartheid Spies: The Character, the Reader, and the Censor in André Brink’s A Dry White Season». Altre Modernità, n. 11 (maggio):69-84. https://doi.org/10.13130/2035-7680/4044.



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