Practice Of Postmodernism In Other Lives English Literature Essay

One of the postulations of this thesis lies on the possible ways in which the South African novels have undergone a change on the formal as well as the thematic level. As far as form and strategy are concerned, the embrace of the post modern stance and the dispensing with the reportorial mode of realism is where this transition can be felt.

In order to pinpoint postmodern texts it is essential to ascertain which elements within them are especially dominant. The following features are considered to be the quintessential post modern features that a post modern text can contain: first, self-reflexivity by which a text acknowledges its own status as an artifact. Second, an implicit critique of realist approaches both to narrative and to representing a fictional ‘world’. Finally, post modern texts show a proclivity towards drawing the reader’s attention to his or her process of interpretation when reading the text. In this chapter, the change from the realist dispensation to the post modern one will be investigated. Deploying the postulations of key critics on this issue and A Dry White Season and Other Lives to illustrate this movement, this section will show how this movement happened in Brink’s oeuvre.

From representation to experimentation

In the post-apartheid South African fiction of English expression there seems to be a visible change in the formal orientations. Indeed, the apartheid narratives adhered to the realist mode of representation while the post apartheid ones endorse a post modernist stand. It might help, first, to clarify the terms of postmodernism and realism to comprehend the disparities in usage and, eventually, to delineate the possible developments of South African fiction as far as the mode of representation is concerned. The views of the function of the aesthetics differ greatly between postmodernism and realism. To write in the traditional realism vein is to uphold criteria as the order of the narrative like "chronological plots, continuous narratives relayed by omniscient narrators, [and] closed endings" (Barry, 82). On a formal level, A Dry White Season respects the aspects of a realist novel. Its conventionally divided chapters along with the respected configuration of events place it within the realist realm. Furthermore, the themes that are touched upon in this novel attest to its standing out against the tyrant. As a matter of fact, Ben Du Toit, the protagonist of the novel, tries to look for what he perceives as the truth to Jonathan’s, the janitor’s son, disappearance. He says about this matter:

I don't think I ever really knew before," he looked into Stanley’s eyes. "Or if I did, it didn't seem to directly concern me. It was, well, like the dark side of the moon. Even if one acknowledged its existence it wasn't necessary to live with it. . . . The problem is: once you've caught a glimpse of it, once you've merely started suspecting it, it is useless to pretend it's different.

(A Dry White Season, 96)

On the other hand, postmodernism is assumed by Canadian critic Linda Hutcheon [1] to be politically ambivalent, that is to say, it does not have an announced or a fixed political motivations. The use and the exploration of the concept of realism is mainly meant as something to contrast with that of postmodernism, which I will define in further detail in the thesis.

In the opinion of the French postmodern thinker Jean-Francois Lyotard, the role of realism is "protecting consciousness from doubt, […] stabilising the referent, ordering it from the point of view that would give it recognisable meaning" (374). Implied here is the view that realism tries to conceal the fact that power structures are a part of language and also that words and signs do not have a stable meaning. The doubt of the consciousness that Lyotard refers to is the doubt that there might be no unity, that is to say, that consciousness itself is fragmentary and in the extension identity, reality and language itself.

There is a conspicuous move away from the aesthetics of a realist representation in Other Lives. In an attempt to justify this assumption, a scrutiny of the realist strategies should first be established. Realism is used to "describe a situation so truthfully … that the reader can no longer evade it" [2] . This fixation with the idea of truthfulness or what is referred to as verisimilitude in the realist dispensation, is a strategy that is essentially meant to bring the reader’s attention towards what is happening in a society. Since apartheid South Africa was particularly ravaged by such maladies as race and gender issues, the writers opted for a socio-realist representation in their works to make these issues come to light. In A Dry White Season, the writer sets out to seek the truth about the disappearance of Gordon’s son. The story; however, is not told by Ben himself but by a writer who has inherited Ben's papers and notes that the former has collected during his investigation. Thus, the obsession with truthfulness that realism always seeks to prove is finally achieved. The evidences that are found by the writer present a kind of document that account for the truthfulness of the story that is being told.

André Brink himself had his word to say about realism for his literary sensibilities in his early works were considered as more or less pure realist novels. As he himself puts it in Mapmakers :

For everything he is going to make some impact on his environment, he has to weigh doubly every word he utters in order to make as sure as is humanly possible that his perception and his account of the world is as true as he is able to render it

Basically, Brink links the act of representing reality with the truthfulness of his account of the world to the world. Fictionality, thus, is suppressed leaving room for a reportorial depiction of the world. By fictionality is meant the condition of being fictional or being constructed and mediated. In contrast, one of the tenets of postmodernist theory of narratives relies on the foregrounding of the fictional aspect of a novel. In a post modern narrative, it is likely to come across a self-reflexive acknowledgement of a text’s own status as constructed, aesthetic artifact.

The social realist representation in André Brink’s novels can be depicted in his pre-apartheid period. Such novels as A Dry White Season adhere to the social relist realm so much so they deal with race and gender and they rely on realist strategies as far as the formal aspect is concerned.

This historical epoch spurred such a literary orientation in a way that foregrounded the role of the South African writer. He is a watchdog and a historian in the society. He sees himself as the judge, the conscience and the teacher of human values. His various commentaries on society relate to political, educational and, even, cultural issues. Art cannot, therefore, exist without reference, whether explicit or implicit, to human situations.

In his seminal book Mapmakers: Writing under a State of Siege, André Brink articulates that under "a state of siege", writing does not have the same meaning nor the same function. By contrast, the narratives that appeared after the jettisoning of the racial separatist regime in South Africa are conferred a different meaning from previous works. Other Lives does not represent an exception. As a matter of fact, it was written after the "state of siege" as brink puts and its setting is modern compared to previous novels in André brink’s works. As stated earlier, writing is defined by the context in which it was produced.

As a result, the realistic mode was considerably appropriate for apartheid South African fiction, seeing its attempt to face the reader with faithful representations of the abomination of the apartheid state. However, Brink calls into question the relevance of this approach in post apartheid South Africa. He favors instead a movement towards post modernism.

Post-apartheid writing, that is to say, has made ambiguity its particular subject, and if it is relishing anything, it is relishing the freedom it now has to explore complexity, irony, new alignments of subjectivity and history, new forms of identity, new traditions, and new formal possibilities. This is a tougher road than the simplified one of a literature of praise and denunciation, and consequently, the field may not be as volatile as the literature of the 1980s, which was the most violent phase of our history. [3] 

Towards further experimentation: The formal and the strategic practice of postmodernism


In an important sector of post-apartheid South African culture there is an evident shift in sensibility, practices and discourse formations which distinguishes a post-modern set of assumptions, experiences and propositions from that of a preceding period. This section will, accordingly, be devoted to enquire into the possible approaches in which the movement of transition undergone by the South African fiction can be visible. In other words, these changes will be scrutinized as how they are put into practice in Other Lives.

As mentioned in an earlier section, post apartheid fiction, especially written in English and by white writers, endorse a post modernist stance. On the formal level, the embrace of intertextuality presents the acme of the aesthetics of post modernism. Intertextuality is a literary device that appears frequently in post modernist narratives. It was the post-structuralist theorist and critic Julia Kristeva who pointed to the phenomenon in postmodernist literature, popularising the term in Séméiôtiké in 1969. The concept is accurately expressed in the following: "Any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another text. The notion of intertextuality replaces that of intersubjectivity, and poetic language is read as at least double." [4] (Kristeva, 66)

Basically, Kristeva postulates that the term refers to a writer’s use of external texts to add meaning to their own. This is mainly achieved through quotation, allusion and sometimes appropriation. Intertextuality sees the relationship with ‘reality’ become more indirect. By depicting a text within the world of literature, rather than the physical world, the reading experience is transformed.

This eclectic gesture is celebrated by postmodernism for it underscores the very idea of origin and originality. Postmodernism, actually, seeks to debunk this much vaunted factor upon which the European thought is premised. Consequently, intertextuality is celebrated by the post structuralist critics as one of them contends: "Owing to postmodern art and aesthetic reflections on it, intertextuality and its related notions such as "rewriting", "quotation", "imitation", "pastiche", "simulation", "double-coding" and "palimpsest" penetrated theoretical-scholarly and public discourse" (Juvan, 83).

As mentioned earlier, the post modern features are conspicuous in this novel at different levels. In order to delineate these features and relate them to the changing face of South Africa, it is better to define post modernism first. Of the ruminations of Ihab Hassan on the post modernist practice intertextuality emerges as one of the tenets of this mode. Intertextuality is included in Hassan’s identification of this mode in what he defines as ‘hybridization’ or the blurring of generic boundaries. This strategy consists in referring to and using elements from other works and authors. Brink’s novel falls into this category. Indeed, it is replete with many references from other works, especially from the Western literary and artistic corpus.

Seeing the general atmosphere of Other Lives, the reference to Kafka’s Metamorphosis is self-evident. In "The blue door" and "The mirror", the characters undergo a kind of metamorphosis, or what appears to be as such since nothing is actually ostensible. While David le Roux’s life is the element that changes in the first novella, it is David that transforms in the second one by experiencing a metamorphosis as far as his complexion is concerned. When it comes to the topic of intertextuality, it is common to point to the idea of the palimpsest. This is further underscored in the definition above. Indeed, in the presence of a palimpsest, the presence of an original text is usually implied. This prior text is referred to as the archetext [5] . Both "The Blue Door" and "Mirror" present the rewriting of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. The general idea of Kafka’s novel is condensed into the following quotation "When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from troubled dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous insect." Metamorphosis (Kafka 1915, trans. Freed 1996, p. 64) This extract from Metamorphosis is paralleled with Other Lives in the upcoming lines:

There was, first, the dream, which should have alerted me, except that I’m not normally into dreams. But this one I found strangely disquieting, and carried it with me like a persistent tone in my head, throughout that long day. The kind of moments that once turned the life of Kafka’s Samsa upside down. But this was not fiction. It happened. And to me. (Other Lives, 1)

One of the characters gives her view of intertextuality as she, Carla, discusses with her husband his employing of Walt Whitman’s words "I am a multitude":

‘I have never read Walt Whitman.’

‘You must have,’ she remonstrated. ‘These things cannot fall out of the air.’

‘Who knows? I argued. ‘Is that not where all stories come from?’

‘No! She was adamant. ‘Stories come from other stories.’

‘Then there is no originality anywhere.’

‘Does it matter? Perhaps your idea of originality is overrated. And unoriginal.’

(Other Lives, 136)

These lines exemplify the use of intertextuality. They also foreground another postmodern strategy. In fact, by injecting these lines, Brink intends to make a self-referential gesture. In other words, Brink wants to justify his use of intertextuality by referring to the status of Other Lives. His novel is a "story [that] come[s] from other stories."

On a different note, attention must be paid to the implications of the use of intertextuality. In fact, whenever one states this strategy another issue is to be raised, that is to say, the application of this strategy and its possible meanings. In other words, ‘hybridization’ can be deployed for two distinct reasons. First, it can be the site for counter discursive gesture by the author whereby it is presented as a "writing back" to a dominant discourse and its assumptions. Second, intertextuality can be used just plainly, that is with no clear purpose.

In Other Lives, Brink, in fact, exploits this intertextual strategy but does not mean it as a ‘counter-discursive’ gesture. As a matter of fact, he implements the works of the Western culture into a post-apartheid setting to create a basis for the depiction of his characters. At times, he has recourse to this eclectic gesture not to oppose his novel to a dominant western notion of literary truth. Instead, he uses information from other works so as to establish his characters’ identity. For example, he reflects on but does not subvert Dante’s Inferno when he states: "Nel mezzo camin di nostra vita" (Other Lives, 11). This expression can be translated as "in the middle of the path of our life." [6] In the original book, Dante is lost in a dark and he is unable to find an exit. He is unable to find a straight way to salvation. But, at last, he is rescued by another poet, Virgil, with whom he begins a journey to the underworld.

Here, this reference to Dante is meant to make an analogy between Dante’s character and David to highlight their experiences. In "The Divine Comedy", Dante finds himself entrapped in hell, but is finally rescued by Virgil. An analogy is made here between Dante and David since both of them seek refuge in their art as he states later on:

I have been able to indulge my private passion for painting, to the extent of taking part in a few group exhibitions and of renting my own studios, a garden cottage belonging to a ramshackle old house in Green point, far enough from our large, comfortable flat in Claremont to offer a feeling of escape and privacy.

(Other Lives, )

While the deployment of intertextuality is equated with the use of pastiche, Jameson supports this idea by assuming that in postmodernist era we no longer have a common language, there is no uniqueness, and no privacy. Parody, thus, loses the sense of mockery and accordingly, it becomes devoid of "the satiric impulse" and devoid of "laughter". It becomes a ‘parody without’, ‘a blank parody’ and finally replaced by ‘pastiche’. In such a world, we lose our sense of history in a world which is like a series of styles and images or ‘simulacra’ which, according to Jean Baudrillard, are replications of reality.

The postmodernist artists are incapable of creating and producing an original work because they are surrounded by simulacra. A simulacrum is a sign of a thing but this sign lacks any historicity because of its universal qualities. For example the simulacrum meaning, the reality of the Bonventure is that it captures tourists because of its architectural design and not because of its history.

The fantastical mode or magic realism:

In order to probe into the changes that characterize André Brink’s novel, it is required to examine the strategic aspect of the novel. Brink’s apartheid novels have a realistic bent. One way of reinventing narratives according to Brink is to adopt post modernist strategies that accord more with the nature of the South African condition. This article, thus, constitutes an attempt to probe into the course that Brink’s post-apartheid novels have taken. In what follows, I aim to demonstrate first how Other Lives falls into the category of post modern novels especially seeing that it is strategically magical realist. Delineating the origin of this term is a requisite step to show how the movement of transition in the South African novel is fulfilled. In addition, specifically here in relation to André Brink’s writing, it is clear that this narrative strategy is not applied to the same extent in different novels. For this reason, the implication of the use of magic realism will be examined in this section.

In an insightful attempt to expound on the nature of magic realism and its application, many critics propose a rudimentary definition of the term as being a mixing of elements of realism with fantasy. This definition, however, can send us back to other narrative modes such as science fiction or even to fairy tales. Christopher Warnes puts forward a rather succinct definition of magic realism in the following lines:

There exists a large body of fiction . . . that combines realism and fantasy, yet does this in such a way that the resultant mode or genre cannot be described as fantasy, science fiction, the uncanny, the fairy tale, the baroque or as any other of the categories with which magical realism overlaps. The key defining quality of magical realism is that it represents both fantastic and real without allowing either greater claim to truth [7] . (Warnes, 3)

The collision between the real and the fantastic is one of the aspects of Brink’s project of re-imagining the past. In one of his instructive essays: ‘Stories of History: Re-imagining the past in Post-Apartheid Narrative’ Brink proposes "a transgression of the boundaries of an originary sensual perception", with the view of "infusing the ordinary with a sense of the extraordinary, the everyday with a sense of the fantastic, producing a result in which the whole is decidedly more than the sum of its parts" (31).

André Brink’s post-apartheid novels, among them Other Lives, have been credited for the post modernist movement particularly because they are magic realist in spirit. It is worth noting that magic realism is not an exclusively post modern strategy. It can be linked to the post colonial practice as well. Simon During says "formal issues such as magic realism and strategies like irony and allegory are all shared by the post modern and the post-colonial even if the final uses to which each is put may differ" (During, 369) since the post colonial character is less pronounced.

The act of re-inventing South Africa, though, is what differs from both posts is the use of this strategy. Before discovering the difference in employment, it is essential that the term magic realism be clarified first. For this matter, Linda Hutcheon states: "The post modern is linked by magic realism to post colonial literature (which) are also negotiating the same tyrannical weight of colonial history in conjunction with the past".

This aesthetic style or genre is determined by its blend of the real with the fantastic. Spindler typifies three clear-cut forms of magic realism. The first type, which is "metaphysical magic realism" and is the most present in Other Lives, is identified as the "one that exposes the unexpected in everyday reality by injecting the unusual, the magic into reality." [8] This novel falls into this category, though only the two first novellas can be labeled magic realist, because the reader is in the presence of the life of three separate protagonists, whose lives intermingle at times, leading normal existence. But, this seemingly normality is disrupted by one way or another.

Magic realism is employed by novelists for a reason. As one critic puts it:

The plot of these fictions deal with issues of borders, change, mixing and syncretizing. And they do so, and this point is critical, in order to expose what they see as a more deep and true reality than conventional realist technique would bring to view. [9] 

This quotation will be further explained in detail in the upcoming section where the disruptive nature of post modern narratives will be discussed.

The use of the strategy of magical realism is materialized in the novel through the special configuration of chronology. Indeed, chronology in Other Lives seems to waver between coherence and fragmentation. Earlier novels by Brink, namely those written during the apartheid period, followed a defined time pattern whereby it is seen as having only one character: time as linear, unidirectional, with a beginning and an end, and constantly progressing from the past into the future. This pertains to the conventional conceptualization of time and story line defined by realist representation. In an attempt to reinvent the notion of time in a modernity- affected post apartheid South Africa, Brink‘s conceptualization of time should accordingly endorse a postmodern stance whereby he abandons the idea of a regular view of time. However, at first glance, the reader notices a return to a conventional form of narrating. This will be further explained with reference to the novel.

In Lyotard’s view, a disorganized narrative is more subversive because it makes visible the power structures that lie below what is conceived as reality. He also asserts that realism with its concern with orderly narration "can be defined only by its intention of avoiding the question of reality implied in the question of art" (Lyotard LT 374).

In Other Lives, time in its formal sense is conventionally used. The writer follows a defined story line from beginning to end. Each novella follows the conventional pattern of a story. However, within each section, the narrator jumps from a scene to another without any chronological order. Time escapes the constraints of definition. This fluctuation between two contradictory views of the story line and this anachronical potential presents one of the landmarks of the postmodernist text. Indeed, with its "move away" from representation, postmodernism marked also a break with the concern with plot and character construction. Instead, it is marked with disorder and intermittence.

The narration in Other Lives does not always abide by a linear chronology. The readers live the story as it is told by the narrators. At different moments in the story line, the flow of narration is disturbed by movement backward and forward in the narration. There are also gaps in the narration that mark the narrators’ feelings and thoughts. Thus, the reader is able to enter the narrators’ minds. Formally speaking, these breaks are indicated by the deployment of either the parenthetical notes or by the italicized statements. On the other hand, A Dry White Season presents a perfect example of a realist novel. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

On a different note, it would be interesting to point to the issue of the narration strategy in both novels. In A Dry White Season, …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………The text seems to be aware of its factuality. To put it differently, the narrator, as he is narrating the events is self-conscious of his situation. Contrarily to the reportorial feature of realist representation, post modern narratives highlight their fictitious propensity. As he reports the conversation between Carla and himself, Steve’s narration is interrupted by this comment: "(how can we know that only a few hours from now everything will look utterly different?) (89) Similarly, he adds "but this is not a theoretical situation. What has happened to me- a new, furtive glance in the mirror confirms it- is very real and practical. And urgent. Or should that be in the past tense? When this project started, I was white. I no longer am." (88)

These quotations that come to highlight the postmodern spirit of the novel come in line with French post structuralist Roland Barthes who insists on the idea of the death of the author. André Brink concurs with him as he quotes Marshall Sahlins in the beginning of the second novella, mirror, "an event bomes such as it is interpreted." (Other Lives, 71)

Open or/and closed endings: postmodern ambivalence:

The ending of a story is one of the areas in which realism and postmodernism differ. While realist narratives abide by a linear chronology and follow a well-defined story line whereby there is a beginning and an end, the postmodern narratives are remembered for their tendency to resist being characterized as a closed and finalized story. As a case in point, A Dry White Season displays this aspect of realist writings. The narrative is told by an anonymous narrator who tells the story of Ben Du Toit, a schoolmaster and a model citizen. The story evolves as the protagonist comes to discover the atrocities that the Secret Police inflicts on the black community. The story ends with him becoming considered as a pariah and an outlaw. In the following lines, the fate of the characters is resolved to an end as he says:

I’m not thinking of what I have to go through, worried and harassed and hounded day by day. But the others. (…). Because, at least partly, it is through my involvement that they have to suffer. The cleaner: "disappeared". Dr Hassiem: banished to Pietersburg. Julias Nqakula: in jail. The nurse: detained. Richard harrson: sentenced to jail- even though he’s going to appeal."

(A Dry White Season, 236)

So, this novel can be said to have a closed ending. The ending seems to be clear so as to the fate of the characters involved in the query held by Ben Du Toit. Even he knows what he will be going through because of his commitment to the cause of the black community.

On the other hand, Other Lives is placed in between closure and 'open-endedness', because on a metaphorical level, the narrator resolves the symbolicity that is represented through the coming back in front of the blue door in the first novella and through the shattering of the mirror in the second one.

Nevertheless, on a narrative level, no closure is apparent, because Brink does not provide a continuation for the events of the three novellas. Moreover, closure is also closely related to the idea of 'rupture'.

Notwithstanding, Brink does not provide any clues to resolve the story to an end when it come to themes. To put it another way, Other Lives resists a thematical closure. This is partly due to the fact that not all events and occurrences are clarified and concluded as they should. It is only through providing some 'images' that Brink creates a sense of absolution. These figures are in most cases of a metaphorical nature. For instance, the shattering of the mirror in the second novella can stand for the inconclusiveness about the identity of Steve. He does not know whether he is white who turned into a black-skinned person just for the interval of one day or whether he has always been a black but he has been living in delusion.

In this respect, "The Blue Door" and "Mirror" can be said to resist closure because the endings are symbolical in nature. Particularly this symbolicity distinguishes Other Lives from Brink’s realistic novels and points out the difficulties concerning representation.

Meaning is differed the reader can’t disclose the nature of relationship between the characters at first reading many clues are mentioned though they remain unreliable, the reader has to read the whole novel to understand the meaning of the novel, or at least bits and pieces of its meaning.

In a post structural vein, Other Lives introduces a Derridean presumption, that of the blurring of genres. The novel is subtitled "a novel in three parts". However, only after reading the whole novel does the reader understand that it is not a novel divided in parts but a set of three novellas. Each one is divided in parts not necessarily chronologically related. Each novella is given a title and each one has its own protagonist. Moreover, it is interesting to note that "the Blue Door" was published separately before Other Lives appeared as a whole.

As far as the issue of close or open ended conclusion to the novel, Brink’s novel is premised upon the principle of lack of closure that is typical of post modern narratives. The novellas are not closed ending: the novellas lack closure in the sense that their endings are not clear. The outcome of the story is not mentioned. The three novellas bear this post modern trait. Neither of David’s or Steve’s or Derek’s conclusions is revealed. At the end of the day, Steve is unable to give a logical explanation for what has occurred to him the whole day. Instead, he ends with a broken mirror. Similarly, David closes his day by going back to his cottage. He finds himself in front of the blue door, but the reader ignores whether he will be ending with Sarah and two children or Lydia.

There is nowhere else to turn to, nowhere at all. Except back to Green Point, from where I have just come. Back to the blue door which I painted myself (…) Except that this time the door was not blue. (...) But, at last, I took a deep sad breath inserted the key into its deep hole, and leaned with my full weight against the door to push it open. (Other Lives, 68-69)

Here the reader is left suspended about the outcome of the future of David. There is no clue about the truth about the likelihood of the experience that the character has been through.

The last novella is less inconclusive than the other ones because it is less postmodern in vein. The ending is not really closed but the reader is not akin on finding out about the ending of this story so much so it does not display much of the post modern strategies. Consequently, the outcome of the story is less contradictory and the ending becomes somewhat predictable.

Chapter Three

The thematic reading of the novel

After dealing with the novel on strategic and formal levels, this study could reach the conclusion that there is a perceptible transition from the realist dispensation to a more experimental mode of writing. This section inquires the themes that are inscribed in Other Lives. The movement of transition that informs the core of the work is ostensible in the post-apartheid novels by Brink. As a matter of fact, the change in sensibilities by the writer is not only remarkable in his adoption of the post modern strategies in his post-1993 narratives. Much the same can be said about the thematic concern of his most recent novels.

This assumption falls into two halves. In the first half, it is necessary to point to the fact that Brink’s post-apartheid novels, seeing their post modern vein, are interested in "bringing the marginal to the centre". Thus, the themes of the other and gender will be the predominant themes that show the transition encountered in the novel.

In the second half of this assumption concerning the study of themes, it should be noted that Other Lives demonstrates the impulse of either handling different themes or tackling them from a different perspective. This is evinced in the novel by the themes of reality and space alike. Seeing their importance, the themes of space, the perception of reality and the other will be scrutinized in the upcoming lines.

The re-articulation of the issue of the Other

The fantastical mode, as post-colonial narrative, privileges marginalized subjectivities: women across the gender and racial divide and the so-called racial Other. The movement of transition in Brink’s post- apartheid novels has not spared the treatment of themes. Indeed, in the period of apartness, the novelists felt the need to denounce the atrocities perpetrated on the black community. In the realist vein, the writer was bound to expose those practices that the apartheid regime used to inflict black with. Hence, the themes treated in apartheid novels were more politically engaged.

However, at the dawn of a new South Africa, the perception of the writers also changed. And along came the rising incredulity towards grand narratives which can be translated as the emergence of post modernism. As stated in an earlier section, post modernism is proved to be politically ambivalent. In other words, it does not endorse any political orientation. Accordingly, the themes that used to be dealt with in the past have changed, too. If we are to compare between A Dry White Season and Other Lives, it is ineluctable to notice a radical change in the way themes are being treated.

Race and Gender paradigm exploded

In the abstract of her article "Reading Sex and Violence in André Brink’s Rumors of Rain and A Dry White Season" Alice Brittan argues that the apartheid narratives by Brink are repository for articulating the injustices and violence inflicted on the black men and women’s bodies in what came in the form of torture. She contends that Brink application of pornographic description to women’s bodies and his "mak[ing] the sexuality of the female body abundantly available to the reader (as well as to the men of the novels, and a host of voyeurs) precisely because he cannot take the risk of turning the obscenity of torture into an object of aesthetic pleasure." (55) So, Brink’s resolution to this bold choice of abusing the image of the female body was meant for the sake of representing a larger issue of the apartheid state which consisted in the violence used on the black people. Seeing the period in which it was written, A Dry White Season complies with the tenets of the realist mode of representation.

In looking back at the possible developments in South African literature since the transition, however, it is likely to point to the fact that this strategy of representing something by portraying another issue in a narrative has turned to be obsolete. This can be credited for two major reasons: the first one being the downfall of the apartheid regime with all its abominable practices. The second reason has to do with the rising incredulity towards representation. All dichotomies seem to be emptied of their meaning.

The movement of transition is conspicuous in Other Lives in the way the characteriztion of women is configured. In earlier narratives, women used to be represented in a certain way that would reinforce the dichotomy of male/female whereby women were seen as a subaltern to their counterparts. However, with the dismantling of apartheid followed a conviction of dispensing with the old paradigms. In addition, the postmodern dispensation ushered in the idea of blurring distinctions. The male/female paradigm presents an interesting terrain for exploring the different ways in which the change in the South African narrative scene has taken place.

The late entry of black women as actual actors and not merely shadows of men attests to the historical deprivation of social justice that marked apartheid novels. The characterization of women in post-apartheid narratives displays discrepancies with that of the previous period. It is in this area that the change in sensibility in the South African fiction is perceptible. It is argued, though, that André Brink’s new interest in the representation of the female voice coincides less with the downfall of racism than with current trend in global gender politics and the privileging of previously marginalized subjectivities. The emergence of gender discourse may have propelled the writer to re-establish the position of women in the new South African narrative scene.

In Other Lives, women are characterized in such a way that they seem in total charge of their lives. With some exceptions, there is no distinction between a white and a coloured woman. And even though the three novellas are told by male characters, the female actors seem to take the lead especially when it comes to their bodies and sexualities. "Apassionata", for instance, portrays a soprano, Nina Rousseau, who has become the fantasy of her pianist.

The paradigm male/female is subverted in a different way in Other Lives. The fact is that in earlier novels by South African writers in general, and Brink especially portrayed women as frail and dependent on their male counterparts. This was not certainly blatant. Nevertheless, the act of claiming women’s voice and standing up for their agency testifies to the fact that women in the time of racial separateness used to be considered differently than in the post apartheid South African novel. A Dry White Season is no exception regarding the theme of gender. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

On a different note, the issue of women’s sexualities and bodies is highly present in the novel but in an altered paradigm. As a matter of fact, women’s sexuality used to be depicted as the property of men and women had no control over them. However, what is noticed in Other Lives is quite the opposite. Women are no longer afraid or ashamed of being exposed. They do it either consciously or with total consent. They use their bodies either to fulfill their sexual lust or to have control over their male partners. It was common in earlier novels to portray the body of a woman as a fetish when it comes to art. This tendency is reversed in this novel for ………………………………………..On the other hand, men are depicted in the opposite way. As a matter of fact, the male characters of Other Lives are put in the shoes of women in the way they deal with their bodies and their sexuality. They express their uneasiness to the fact of being exposed. Nakedness is no longer a problem for women but for men. Having sexual intercourse is no longer a matter of obligation women are gently asked if they want to indulge in such an act or not. As a case in point, David asks Sarah if she is eager to have sex with him: "shall we try?’ I ask quietly.

If we examine the case of David and Steve we can see how this discomfort is depicted. David for example puts the fact of the invasion of his space by his wife Lydia on the same scale as being stripped naked in public. He talks about an episode of his childhood with a tone of bitterness. Steve cannot feel the threat of being black but instead highlights his nakedness and the strange feeling that accompanies this occurrence as he introspectively says: "this is my house, my bathroom, my bedroom; (…) I am naked. I am black. Where can I hide? (…) but I am black and naked." (Other Lives, 86)

In the realist dispensation, Brink makes the body of the woman available to the reader as a way to compensate for the absence of the male black body and the torturous practices inflicted on their bodies. Brink substitutes the representation of the other by the representation of the body of the sexual other. As she sleeps, David describes Sarah’s body with an eye for detail and specificity that borders upon a pornographic fascination.

One of the themes in which Brink’s literary sensibilities have also changed is the theme of representing the female body. To put it differently, the representation of the female sexuality has also manifested a movement of transition in the novels of André Brink. It is argued that in his apartheid narratives Brink proposes an overt description of the female body to the readers. His pornographic depiction makes the female sexuality profusely available to the readers. Alice Brittan argues that Brink equates the text with the female body that attracts the reader to it. This is, actually, meant to provoke the reader in order to raise his political awareness to what really happened during apartheid.

Another way o deconstruct the old paradigm is by emptying the dichotomy based on race. "Theoretically, my new appearance could even be an advantage. This is the new South Africa. Colour is (once again) important, even in an altered paradigm." (Other Lives, 88)

2. Voicing the silenced: from totality to becoming:

One of the practices of postmodernism is to bring the marginal into the centre. In fact, many critics have it that the postmodernists insist on bringing the marginal into the center "[by] seek[ing] to dismantle the paradigm of the past and (…) rewrite history in favor of those who have been excluded from power -- women, homosexuals, blacks (…) and other victims of oppression". [10] 

Postmodernism is about the other, and othering. It deconstructs any traditional hierarchy established by the western logocentric thinking. This, however, is not meant as a political gesture that seeks to give agency and voice to the erstwhile marginalized individuals because, as it has earlier been noted, postmodernism is politically ambivalent.

Brink has taken on himself the mission of voicing the silenced other not as a way to give them back their agency but following the postmodern mantra of bringing the marginal to the center in a deconstructive manner. Actually, he is in line with this motto as he contends: "Silence is not to be thought of as an opponent or an adversary; it is not simply the ‘other’ of language." Therefore, he talks about silence(s) in his post-apartheid novels because he sees it as an "other", and since the other is situated at the margins accordingly talking about silence and the other end up to be talking about the same thing.

Brink has recourse to detailed description of the female body but not only for there are instances when he gives an account of the minute detail of the male body too. For example:

Then I lower my eyes to the stomach, the dense patch of coarse pubic hair, the penis resting on the testicles gathered tightly in the scrotum. This holds a special fascination, as in the early days of my adolescence. The shape and size appear reassuringly unchanged, but the colour is drastically different from the way I remember it. (…) I push the foreskin back to examine the glans, a virulent purple. The scrotum, contracting and extending as always, but very black. (Other Lives, 87)

This passage delineates the male gaze towards the male gaze. From this point, it can be seen that there is a change in paradigm whereby the female body is no longer exposed to the male gaze, but also the male body. The rigorous description of the male sexual organ is interpretive of how the paradigm male/female is subverted in the post-apartheid novels. The fascination with the female body and sexuality is reversed whereby the male sexuality too is an object of fascination and even voyeurism.

In the previous section, it has been assumed that the apartheid novels were replete of pornographic depictions of women. This was by no means fortuitous. André Brink compares the text of his novels with the female body that attracts the male reader and awakens his political awareness. By extrapolation, the post-apartheid novels, that are assumed to adhere to a post modern stand point, do not endorse any political orientation. In other words, post modern narratives do not seek to awaken the political awareness of a male reader and direct his attention to the injustices that belie the apartheid practices. Consequently, the equation is reversed: instead of portraying female sexuality and making it available to a male reader, Brink provides male sexuality to a female reader. This is evinced in the detailed description of the male sexual organ.

On a different note, the novel represents an attempt to insert a female voice into a male narrative. To put it differently, Brink’s narrators are all males. However, it can be implied that his writing is all the more feminine even though it feature male protagonists. Feminist critics have it that "to advocate a woman’s language and a means of expression that would be specifically feminine seems to us equally illusory" [11] . Basically, what is meant by this testimony is the refutation that there might a feminine writing and a masculine writing. At the same time, this assumption points to the fact that a male voice cannot be representative of a female experience.

The title of the novel is evocative of this gesture of voicing the other. Other Lives is a novel about the other in the characters’ identities. so, the novel presents a space of articulating the voice of the silenced other in each character.

The re-envisioning of spatio-temporal element:

It is one of the area in which the change in perception felt in André Brink’s post-apartheid novels that is worth exploring. The fascination with land and the theme of space in general has always inscribed South African narratives. It is, then an area of interest to investigate the ways in which the envisioning of space has followed this redirection of narratives towards a post modernist stance.

When it comes to the topic of space, it has become common to consider the contribution of Henri Lefebvre in his perception of space in relation to change. He asserts that:

A revolution that does not produce a new space has not realized its full potential; indeed it has failed in that it has not changed life itself, but has merely changed ideological superstructures, institutions or political apparatuses. A social transformation, to be truly revolutionary in character, must manifest a creative capacity in its effects on daily life, on language, and on space. [12] 

As demonstrated in Other Lives, the theme of space is featured in two ways. There is first the issue of space and its implications on the individual. Space becomes a definer of identity. In this respect, space is visualized in terms of its affects/effects on the individual. Space is no longer a well-shaped entity; it is rather marked with evasiveness and boundary-free. In line with this assumption comes Sadeq Rahimi’s article "Identities without a Reference: Towards a Theory of Posthuman Identity" in which he puts forward the idea of the shrinking time and he links it to the identity construction. He defines the postmodern identity as ineluctably marked with temporal locatedness and virtual geography or even virtual space.

However, in this novel, we witness the absence of a defined space. As a matter of fact, David finds difficulty in having his own space. Hard though he tries to own one, the reality of his situation prevents him from doing so. Maybe it is due to the fact that David, a white South African man, is torn between two factors. From an ethnic perspective, he cannot be considered as a postcolonial subject considering his skin color. But at the same time, he is a postcolonial subject since South Africa was a British colony. This is one of the reasons that add to the frustrations felt by South Africans along with their traumatic past caused by years of racial separatism.

On the other hand, the theme of space is inscribed in Other Lives as part of a "new" paradigm in the new "rainbow nation". In fact, the element of space is foregrounded in this novel in the way it is visualized in the dichotomy of urban/ ghetto. This dichotomy is meant to expose the morality of dispossession and forceful removals of the black population groups. The transition that can be felt in this paradigm is that South Africa has always been depicted otherwise. In other words, the South African landscape was essentially portrayed as a barren land and peopled by bush men contrasted with white settlements or farms tamed by white settlers. Other Lives still holds to a dichotomy to a different one. There is no place for the old dichotomy but rather a new paradigm that describes South Africa as an urban place which perfect scenery is marred by ghettos.

In the consideration of the notion of space with reference to Other Lives, it would be interesting to draw on Paul Virilio’s articulation on the issue of space for it may be pertinent to the outlook of the spatial analysis of the novel. In his conception of space, the construction of the city or the birth of a city, a political territory, brings about an artificial activity or an artificial construction of the space. He contends that the act of creating a space is antagonistic to the individual. In other words, the creation of a space must be carried through at the expense of the individuals. In Other Lives, the modern and technology-oriented city of the Cape erection was detrimental to the black community that used to occupy the space. The project of the post- apartheid South Africa is to build a new nation where "apartness" gives room for "togetherness". This enterprise has a dark side though. At one moment in the novel, Steve tells how in order to safeguard the interests of developers and his own as well, he had to push away graves of slaves:

Towards the end of our excavations on the site, for the massive foundations, we unearthed some old unmarked graves. (…) there was only one solution: all evidence of the graves had to disappear. Literally overnight. (…) the few bags of human bones that had been found were re-interred in a hastily dug grave right on the boundary of the property. (…) it was concluded that the human remains of several skeletons from unmarked graves may have been those of slaves once attached to the refreshment post once known as Papenboom (…)" (Other Lives. 102-103)

This episode is analogous to the current practices that push early established settlements to the periphery in order to erect new and urbanized cities. The ghetto includes the pariah of the new South Africa whose presence is aberrant and irksome to the new bourgeois of the society. The choice of words and adjectives with which the narrator describes the people who surround his new building best evinces this "ghettoization" of the black community. Their presence seems to be undesirable and the white community feels "driven to despair by their presence". (Other Lives, 101)

The concept of space in the postmodern thought is sometimes tantamount to that of time. It is interesting to dwell on the intersection of both notions in Other Lives so much so there are different instances where the effect of this intersection is a highly determinant of the evolution of the characters. The idea of the intersection between space and time joins Sadeq Rahimi’s concept of acceleration. Now, we speak of space of time or we count distance using time referents. This quotation from the text further affirms the previous assumption: "Remote from the world, we huddle in our small pool of light in the dark. Less than two hours from Cape Town, yet light-years removed." (Other Lives, 218) here, the distance that separates Derek and Nina from the Cape Town is measured by the unit of time and not distance as it should be.

The issue of identity is tightly linked to locality and spatial reference. Identity can be defined in connection and identification with a space. The problem that arises with the post modern condition is that the impact of modernity and modernization on space has now become more and more pronounced and fast. The environmental changes are characterized by speed. By extrapolation, identity is affected.

Rahimi affirms that acceleration is inimical of the question of identity. In other words, identity is inseparable with the presence of a spatial reference to establish itself; however, the modern conceptualization of space which is identified by its accelerating potential inevitably affects identity construction. This act prevents identity from creating the balance it is made of, and, eventually, becomes either inexistent, or indeterminate. It is n wonder then, in a post modern setting that Other Lives depicts to find such characters as David Leroux whose identity is ambiguous and schizophrenic at times. His identity is related to the speed with which the city of the Cape has changed. The name of the art exhibition in which David Le Roux is to display his work is a second illustration of the issue of space and identity. Indeed, the writer adopted a title that evokes this uncertainty of identity as related to space as he intentionally named it "South Africa?" The recourse to the question mark with the name of the country is indicative of how the South African identity is not able to define itself.

In this section, it is important to analyze the nexus between the shape of a given space and the human psyche. In psychological terms, the symbolism of a house appertains to this correlation between space and identity. As a matter of fact, buildings are the projection of the human psyche into the outer environment. The house as it looks externally comes to represent the persona as that aspect of ourselves that we display to the world. Choosing a small cottage to indulge in his hobby is reflexive of the image of himself that David desires to give to the world. "But I needed a space, whether physical or emotional, that would be mine only, that was inaccessible to the rest of the world. Perhaps it was simply the consequence of growing up in such a big family." (Other Lives, 13)

The question of space in Other Lives can be disclosed from a different vantage point. Indeed, the relation between the space and the psyche of the human being is highly represented in the novel. By examining the way the implementation of closed spaces in the description of the setting in the three novellas one can come to the conclusion that not only human beings shape the space in which they evolve, but space itself shapes and mirrors the characters in this novel. This assumption refers us back to Henri Lefevre’s understanding of the space.

Architecture and visual arts:

A standard way of thinking about post modernism has it that architecture comes down as the first manifestation of this trend. As a matter of fact, in 1970, Andreas Huyssen purports in his article "Mapping the Postmodern" that postmodernism gained preponderance mainly within the domain of architecture. It’s articulation in literature was, according to him, less discernible during this particular period. But, before approaching the manifestations of post modernism in architecture and visual arts in Other Lives it will be requisite to understand how architecture, and to a lesser extent, visual arts commensurate with post modernism.

The postmodernist architecture highlights the act of effortless eclecticism. In other words, they bear landmarks of other works without denying the fact of borrowing.

Delusions of grandeur typify the postmodern architecture in the sense that they are the embodiment of this delusion of grandeur in Other Lives is vested in the work of Steve. At several moments in the novel, Claremont Heights is referred to as "an enormous building" (22) but when it comes to the interior, nothing seems to be working. Behind its substantial size, though, it is inscribed by dysfunctional (Other Lives, 24) where everything is "out of order".

With postmodern architecture, there is a return of "wit, ornament and reference to architecture of the past". The preponderance of references to architecture is highly noticeable in the novel so much so two of the major characters, Steve and Lydia, are architects. They are portrayed as two of the most influential architects that have changed the landscape of Cape Town. "The apartment building in Claremont looms ahead in the early dusk. I have never noticed before, but today I am struck by how much it resembles Brueghel’s Tower of Babel- although there is nothing dilapidated about this one." (Other Lives, 22) Styles of past and present collide in postmodern aesthetic. This measure emerges as contrast to the functionalist and formalized shapes and spaces of earlier trends. The Claremont Heights, by extrapolation postmodernism in Other Lives, present no exception for they stand for this collision between different styles:

It is majestic, it is awe-inspiring, it is magnanimous, it is outrageous, it is fun. (...) the Tower of Babel, as some envious slanderers will have it, or Fort Knox, or Gormenghast, or a cousin to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, or a resurrection of a Mayan temple, or Angkor Wat, or a film set from Raiders of the Lost Art or Star Wars. My inspiration has been Escher, more than anyone else. It makes my spirit soar every time I come here. I feel like a child who has finished his first own Lego castle. (Other Lives, 101)

This quotation does not only point to the post modern architecture proclivity towards eclecticism but also to another post modern practice which consists in the mixing of codes. What is meant here is that this mode tends to challenge modernist dogma by blurring the boundaries between high and low art. Here, the Mayan temple and the tower of Babel, that both are the epitome of great civilizations, are put on the same scale with an artificial film. The comparison of Claremont Heights with a Lego castle appertains to this mixing of codes.

Post modern architecture displays a pungent sense of nostalgia as well. This is all the more true about other forms of art.

Space and late capitalism:

At the dawn of democratic capitalism or what is referred to as the non-racial South Africa the …..The evidence that South Africa has become a new capitalist society is apparent. ………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Jameson treats of the issue of the postmodern space as he argues: "There has been a mutation in the object unaccompanied as yet by any equivalent mutation in the subject. We do not yet possess the perceptual equipment to match this new hyperspace (38) He goes further:

This latest mutation in space — postmodern hyperspace — has finally successed in transcending the capacities of the individual human body to locate itself, to organize its immediate surroundings perceptually, and cognitively to map its position in a mappable external world (44)."

In making this comment, Jameson argues that the outcome of capital accumulation is manifest in a world that the individual is somehow unable to locate himself within. Besides, the individual finds himself unable to control this space. Steve and Carla, for instance, humorously discuss this issue by pointing to their inability to fit into the new "rainbow nation" as they converse: "My poor deprived husband. I suppose you were never really meant for Africa, were you? (…) we’ll always be misfits, my darling. The little lost white tribe of Africa." (Other Lives, 75)

The question then becomes related to how we, as a species and as a society, must "mutate" in order to keep pace with this new postmodern space. I am particularly interested in his notion of "postmodern space" which has direct implications on the way we behave as individuals. There are two ways to consider the notion of space in the post modern thought. First, are people present or moving through space? Second, do people behave like architects in the way they define themselves as responsible for the definition of and the management of space. These questions are pertinent to the novel in the way that both stances can be depicted.

Considering the direction that post-apartheid fiction has taken, it is possible to talk about a mutation as far as the apprehension of the concept of space is concerned. The conversion is noticeable in two aspects. There is, first, the technological aspect. The invention of various means through which space can be consumed in high speed and, second, the developments in transportation technologies have transformed the ways in which space is consumed, essentially through speed. The elevator or the lift allows the transcendence of the horizontal event, allowing a theoretically infinite expansion upwards of slightly varying realities.

The depiction of the new South Africa has changed in the sense that it is no longer the barren land but a space that is pervaded by mass urbanization. In A Dry White Season, space is depicted as …………………………………………. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Conversely, Other Lives perfectly displays this evolution from portraying South Africa as a land to portraying it as totally urbanized. The following lines provide a proof for this mutation that South Africa has been through:

The enormous apartment building in Claremont looms ahead in the early dusk. I have never noticed it before, but today I am struck by how much it resembles Brueghel’s Tower of Babel – although there is nothing dilapidated about this one. It is vast and solid, arrogantly modern, rising in layer, with yawning glass-and-chrome entrances on all four corners. As there are rows of cars queuing up to enter, I find a parking spot outside in a small side street, about a block away. (Other Lives, 22)

The pastoral vein of apartheid South African novels is no longer felt in the post apartheid works. there is rather a celebration of progress ….

Deconstructing the Construction of Reality

It is possible to speak of a post modernist project when it comes to the idea of deconstruction of grand narratives. Even though postmodernism does not endorse any political orientations, it is, nonetheless, akin on deconstructing the meta-narratives established by the modernist dispensation. Desecrating grand narratives is celebrated by post modernists. One of the postulations of post modernism retrieves the idea of the real or reality as just a metanarrative in order to question and deconstruct it.

The "real" and by extension, reality, is a principle that is one of the realist mantras. By definition, the movement led by realists is gauged by the extent to which a work of literature adheres to or mirrors reality. The very principle of representation that the realists have always held dear illustrates the correlation of this movement to reality. Indeed, they judge a good work by its ability to represent and confront the forces in work that govern any society, or what is more referred to as the objective totality that exists in the world. It is in A Dry White Season that one of the stances of realism is defended. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Baudrillard’s perspective on the matter is highly pertinent to this issue. As a matter of fact, he contends that the postmodern age is the locus and the producer of what he calls the hyperreal. The hyperreal, according to Baudrillard, is "that which is always already reproduced" (338). The hyperreal is a product of the media, in the sense that in the hyperreal world the media constitutes our reality and manufacture it with a capitalist logic. It is interesting to consider the hyperreal post structurally in the sense that its effect on language is concerned. Indeed, a critic contends:

[i]n the world of the hyperreal, events and language lose fixed meanings and we can no longer say with confidence what they mean because the meanings are generated as competing truth claims which, political in themselves, allow no access to the real [13] .

Dispensing with the "real" and reality is one of the purposes of postmodernism. By endorsing the choice of change, Brink has accordingly chosen to put the notion of reality and representation in the drawer. Seeing its post modern vein, Other Lives presents the reader with various instances of this questioning of the real. Indeed, Brink manages to play with the notion of the real and reality through the use of different strategies. The novel, however, does not question the notion of real and reality blatantly. This is achieved through the deployment of strategies at the level of form. Thus, what seems to be real or unreal at first glance is soon subverted. As the novel progresses, the reader’s expectations are shattered by a refutation of previously established truths. Brink has used the hallucinatory device of magic realism to try to capture, metaphorically, the sweep and chaos of contemporary reality. The life of David Le Roux is a typical example of this play with the idea of real and reality. As a matter of fact, the first novella tells the story of David who experiences a fantastic change in his life as he discovers that he shares his life with another family other than his with his wife Lydia:

Just as I am about to unlock the blue door it swings open, and a slim young woman comes out onto the narrow stoep. She is dark of complexion (…) All I know is that I have never seen her in my life before. Behind her, two small children (…) both as dark and black-eyed as their mother, come running to me with shouts of glee. ‘Daddy!Daddy!’

(Other Lives, 17)

However, in "Apassionata", the reader’s conception of reality is blurred. The illusion of plausibility is debunked as Derek Hugo, the narrator of the third novella, describes his friend David to Nina Rousseau as:

A very ordinary, decent kind of guy, on the surface. But you can tell there are hidden depths to him. Some years ago, married a coloured woman. A photographer. At the time, it was already legal, of course; still, it took guts to challenge the old white establishment. And they have the two most exquisite kids.

(Other Lives, 212)

The reader seems to be lost whether to believe the first or t second version of the story. What seems to be real turns out to be fictional. Whether David is convinced of his being married to Lydia and conceives of his relationship with Sarah as a dream, Derek asserts the opposite.

Other Lives demonstrates Derrida’s concept of différance or what is known as the potential of meaning to be constantly differed. In the same vein, in a post modern condition, meaning is disseminated. So, the very conception of real and reality is accordingly impossible. In Other Lives, the characters tell their stories and convince themselves of their likelihood. Even though the three novellas are interwoven, there are disparities in the events. So, each narrator tries to convince the reader of his version of the story by convincing themselves first for they seem to lose control over their realities. By drawing on a quote of Milan Kundera, the first novella tries to provide a proof for the likelihood of the upcoming events: "Es muss sein! … Es könnte auch anders sein" [14] . The epigraph to the novella "The Blue Door" can be translated into "it must be! It could not be otherwise".

The confusion and rupture in the narrative structure are typical of the disruptive quality of post modern works. These features that inscribe the post modern mode are conspicuous in Other Lives. The story line of the novel is defined by its lack of linearity which leaves the reader alienated and confused.

Deconstructing reality is achieved in Other Lives through different strategies. First, the fluctuation between two different modes of representation (even though dispensing with representation is one of the post modernism premises) presents another example of the disruptive effect of post modernism in this novel. Second, wavering between the real and the fantastical alienates the reader and prevents him from constructing a well-defined story line. Finally, and to a lesser extent, Brink draws upon ironic gestures to achieve this purpose.

The style of narration is a parameter that can be determinant of the mode of representation to which a novel adheres. In Other Lives, it plays another role, though. It comes to account for the writer’s impulse to deconstruct the real and reality. The novel’s narrative situation can be identified as a case of ‘simultaneous present tense narration’ [15] . Contrarily to a retrospective narration which relies on the ‘live now and tell later’ principle, the simultaneous present tense narration is a narrative in which the speaker tells the events as they take place. Some critics add that the narrating ‘I’ is also the experiencing ‘I’. This aspect of the novel gives the sense of immediacy to the narrative since the narrator is giving an account of the events as they are lived. The reader is brought closer to the events of the story. This excerpt from the novel is illustrative of the above assumptions:

Avoiding the kitchen, I hurry to the side door on the right to move directly into the wide garage, open the driver’s door of the bright red Porsche, and slide in. as the muted, reassuring growl of the engine envelops me, I press the button to turn the revolving floor so that the car now faces the tilt-u door, which is raised at the same time, and drive out. (Other Lives, 91)

In this passage, the narrator describes the situation as it occurs to him. He does not use the conventional tense for narration, that is the simple past, but the present tense. This choice of using the present tense in order to report the events is repeated throughout the novel.

Brink’s use of this type of narration does not present a conventional way of narrating a story. Indeed, it is argued that in real life, one is bent on telling the events of things that happened in the past using the past tense. Del Conte adds that this narrative form "does not have a clear, real world analogue." (Del Conte, 429) Thus, the divide between experiencing and narrating is blurred. This is one of the strategies that Brink deploys in his novel in order to undermine the idea of real and reality.

Real time vs. fantastic time:

As mentioned in an earlier section, Other Lives complies with the tenets of postmodernism through its embrace of magical realism. However, this novel also presents some of the realistic mode standards. One should note here that, this section deals with the chronotope of the postmodern novel in which non-linear time and temporal displacement problematise the reality by questioning scientific laws that govern the time perspective of the modern world, and by questioning social and cultural constructions of time in post-apartheid South African society. The author problematises the linear time perspective by using two historically discontinuous time frames. This paper will show how the novel successfully challenges modern assumptions about linear time, because at the ending the readers have to accept that the boundary between past and present are sometimes erased and that the two main characters may have been one identity, partly in the reality and partly in the fantasy realm.

In Other Lives, there are no rational explanations for the time slips that occur between past and present and, to a lesser extent, between the three novellas. The novel is a problematisation of that rational thinking that seeks causality and linearity.' Non-linear time is incorporated in the fabric of the real not distanced from it, so the reader has to accept this concept of time in order to understand the novel:

'In the chronotopes of postmodern novels, non-linear time and temporal displacement are often integral to the thematic structure and content of the novel: they are not just stylistic elements . . . they are designed to problematise scientific, social and cultural constructions of time, constructions that are associated with western concepts of reality.' [16] 

One of the instances that accounts for this problematisation of the linearity of time is the episode of the elevator in "the blue door" where the protagonist, David LeRoux, is caught up in the time warp. It is disquieting for both the narrator and the reader. This phantasmagoric scene is unnerving and mars the flow of the story. …………………………………………….

In this excerpt, the flow of time plays an important role. In fact, time seems to be flexible. It is elasticized or shrunk depending on the context.

Brink presents David in two separate narrative spaces: the real world, and a dream world. The reader is transposed illogically from the perceptible to the imaginary, and what emerges at the end is the effort of the character to apprehend his identity.

The transposition of past to the present time is one of the features of magical realism. The movement backward and forward in time alienates the reader and prevent him from setting a framework for the story. This strategy estranges the reader from reality. In the novel, moments of reality, or what the narrators purport to be real, are interrupted by events from the past that are injected haphazardly into the flow of the story. In a self-reflexive gesture, the text refers to itself as in how it wavers between the real and the fantastic by a meticulous choice of examples. Indeed, as David recalls his first meeting with Lydia, the story is disrupted by the invocation of Embeth: "for me, it was a return to normality- no, not normality, but the mere possibility of a normality interrupted by Embeth." (Other Lives, 64) this quotation is provided by the writer as a justification for an earlier moment in the novel where he transposes the past with the present, the real with the unreal.

One of the moments in Other Lives where reality is debunked is the use of ironic measures. The most striking example is the choice of words. Perfectly aware of his ironic stance, Brink selects a diction that serves his choice. Indeed, one can detect a note of irony in the title of the second novella in Other Lives that is Mirror, presents one of the many instances where the writer ironizes the notion of the "real" and reality. Actually, the concept of mirror refers the reader back to the realist movement whereby the mirror is usually symbolic of the strategy that the realists link with reality. By way of explanation, realism is always correlated with the idea of mimesis. This strategy relies essentially on representing the reality as it is, or in other words, mirroring reality. What is understood in the second novella, though, is different from what a mirror is supposed to hold as meaning. We see Steve, the protagonist, in front of the mirror that does not reflect his real personality. At times, this mirror reflects the silhouette of a different person other than Steve. Eventually, the very mirror that gives a blurred version of reality is dispensed with by the last page of the novella through its breaking.