Chapter in book

"Vol spooksels uit 'n verlore verlede": Die versmelting van uiteenlopende tradisies in Vos

Publication Details

Author list: Loots S

Editor list: Van der Merwe, Chris N.

Edition name or number: 978-0-949977-05-2

Publisher: South African Academy for Arts and Sciences

Place: Pretoria

Publication year: 2021

Start page: 232

End page: 254

Total number of pages: 23

ISBN: 9780949977052


This article explores issues of appropriation and cultural transplantation with reference to Anna M. Louw's novel Vos (1999). Louw's use of traditional San tales and rituals has not been critically assessed from a postcolonial angle before. This is surprising against the background of contemporary debates about Afrikaans writers' interaction with what Eugène Marais called a "literature without letters" (quoted in Van Vuuren 2008: 96). In a postcolonial context, questions are often asked about the ethics of the inclusion of Bushman stories in texts by Afrikaans writers. Van Vuuren (1995: 25) sums up this problem as follows: “How does one justify the reconstruction of the oral tradition of an exterminated group of indigenous inhabitants of the country, exterminated by the Afrikaans farmers in whose language you are now reconstructing their committing cultural heritage?” My chapter considers Louw's use of "borrowed goods". How is it that her incorporation of elements from Western European literary adaptations of the Faust legend has been criticized in the past, but takeovers from the oral Bushman story tradition have not been critically judged to date? Are there similarities between Louw's use of elements from literary and oral traditions, or between the traditions themselves?
The appearance of elements from the oral Bushman tradition is discussed as part of a broader focus on the deposition of various sources and stories in the novel. The premise is that Louw's novel can be placed within a Western European word art tradition, but is also shaped by the appropriation and transformation of indigenous traditions. It is outlined how Vos' agreement with the devil, as well as the character portrayal of Hans Bokpoot, is partly derived from elements of the oral and spiritual traditions of the Bushmen as they survive in recorded and translated form. The depiction of the devil, his accomplices and the poltergeist are discussed with reference to Afrikaans folk tales and beliefs, which in turn are a mixture of Western European heritage and indigenous influences. In addition, the literary rewrites of the Faust legend that serve as the basis for Vos also shown to contain elements that can be traced back to late medieval folk beliefs and oral traditions. To clarify Louw's work, Vos is read comparatively with Christopher Marlowe's drama The Tragicall History of Doctor Faustus (1604). Louw's novel and Marlowe's drama, both adaptations of the same German folk legend, bear witness in remarkably similar ways to the extensive blending of literary intertexts, oral traditions, and official church dogma.


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Last updated on 2021-08-06 at 10:33