Experiments with Truth
Title Details

265 Pages

23.4 x 15.6 cm

Series: African Articulations

Imprint: James Currey

Experiments with Truth

Narrative Non-fiction and the Coming of Democracy in South Africa

by Hedley Twidle

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Unusable pasts; scandalous lives; political betrayal, confession and collaboration: reading narrative non-fiction across South Africa's unfinished transition.
Over the last decades, South Africa has seen an outpouring of life writing and narrative non-fiction. Authors like Panashe Chigumadzi, Jacob Dlamini, Mark Gevisser, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Antjie Krog, Sisonke Msimang, Njabulo Ndebele, Jonny Steinberg and Ivan Vladislavic; have produced a compelling and often controversial body of work, exploring the country's ongoing political and social transition with great ambition, texture and risk.
Experiments with Truth is the first book-length account of non-fiction in South African literature. It reads the country's transition as refracted through an array of documentary modes that are simultaneously refashioned and blurred into each other: long-form analytic journalism and reportage; experiments in oral history, microhistory and archival reconstruction; life-writing, memoir and the essay. It traces the strange and ethically complex process by which real people, places and events are shuffled, patterned and plotted in long-form prose narrative. While holding in mind the imperatives of testimony and witness so important to the struggle for liberation and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the case studies here are increasingly drawn to a post-TRC aesthetic: works that engage with difficult, inappropriate or unusable elements of the past, and the unfinished project of social reconstruction in SouthAfrica. The author examines non-fictions that are speculative, formally innovative and sometimes experimental, rather than informational or narrowly journalistic; that explore difficult subjects like collaboration, complicity, confession - and have embedded within them their own reflections on the problems of narrating within a scene of unresolved difference. In this way, southern African materials are placed in a global context, and in dialogue with otherimportant non-fictional traditions that have emerged at moments of social rupture and transition.

Hedley Twidle is a writer, teacher and researcher based in the English Department at the University of Cape Town. He specialises in twentieth-century, southern African and world literatures, as well as creative non-fiction and the environmental humanities. His essay collection, Firepool: Experiences in an Abnormal World, was published in 2017.
Preface: Encountering non-fiction
Introduction: Historical and theoretical approaches
Unusable Pasts: The secret history of Demetrios Tsafendas: assassin, madman, messenger
Literatures of Betrayal: Collaboration, confession and collapse in post-TRC narrative
In Search of Lost Archives: Nostalgia, heterodoxy and the work of memory
A Very Strange Relationship: Ambition, seduction and scandal in post-apartheid life writing
Some Claim to Intimacy: Political biography and the limits of the liberal imagination
In Short, There Are Problems: Literary journalism in the postcolony
Unknowable Communities: Necessary fictions and broken contracts in the heart of the country
A New More Honest Code: Memoirs of the "born frees" and the futures of non-fiction
Afterword: The extracurriculum
Bibliography
"Twidle's book is an important contribution to the study of literature and democracy." African Studies Quarterly
"Extensive research has gone into this book, making it a compelling read about the archival processes of non-fiction narrative and how these can be metred against state orchestrated processes of re-presenting democracy and nationhood. It will appeal to scholars and students of history, cultural studies, comparative literature, post-colonial theory, and literary studies on the post-colony." African Historical Review
"Experiments with Truth is a thought-provoking and nuanced book with impressive scope and depth. [...] All in all, Experiments with Truth is a must-read for scholars in South African literature and non-fiction studies." Journal of the African Literature Association
"Hedley Twidle's Experiments with Truth, which he offers as the first book-length response to democratic South Africa's boom in nonfiction, is an intellectually ambitious and exciting work." Literary Journalism Studies
"Twidle has not chosen an easy task. To write on the contemporary moment brings with it always the most obvious challenge: the present is fleeting, a moving target. Its sound is shrill and distorted. This is occasionally reflected in the life writing (and the responses it garners) that finds itself at the centre of this book. Yet Twidle handles these various challenges with deft. Through clear, subtle, and empathetic arguments, Twidle is able to find form and pattern in the present South African moment and the life writing that informs it." South African Historical Journal

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Hardcover

9781847011886

April 2019

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9781787445079

April 2019

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Title Details

265 Pages

2.34 x 1.56 cm

Series: African Articulations

Imprint: James Currey