"In hell you hear only your mother tongue": Afrikaner nationalist ideology, linguistic subversion, and cultural renewal in Marlene van Niekerk's 'Triomf'

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    This article returns to the original Afrikaans version of Marlene van Niekerk's Triomf (1994), proposing that we read the novel as radically subverting Afrikaner nationalist thought on a textual as well as thematic level. Van Niekerk's use of dernotic language and pervasive code-switching is crucially linked to her antinationalist project, which radically interrogates related ideas about white Afrikaner racial "purity" and the linguistic "purity" and racial designation of "high" Afrikaans. To contextualize van Niekerk's distinctive and subversive linguistic play, I briefly show how nineteenth-century Afrikaans nationalists viewed the relationship between land ownership and language. Also, in contrast to a widely held view that has seen Afrikaans as of chiefly European extraction, I review sociolinguistic debates about the ways in which it has been influenced by African languages. Ultimately, I argue that van Niekerk's fiction holds out the possibility for "white" Afrikaans to escape the cultural stagnation of Afrikaner nationalism.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)105-120
    Number of pages16
    JournalResearch in African Literatures
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2006

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