Dan Sandman

18:In the Heart of the Country by J. M Coetzee

In Books, Fiction on 29/04/2016 at 12:00 pm

In the Heart of the Country by J.M. CoetzeeThis book is set in the South African countryside. On an isolated farm, a disturbed character called Magda is writing down her thoughts in the present tense. Readers are given no omnipresent narrative voice, nor are we shown another side to the story. Magda controls the words on the page and we, the readers, are her confidants.

Below the surface of this closed room psycho drama lie two problematic power relationships. Firstly, from a psychoanalytical perspective, it is possible to observe an unsettling and worrisome sexual tension between a mentally ill daughter and her patriarchal father. Secondly, and relevant to any postcolonial critique of the novel, there is a more overt discourse between master and servant. Later in the novel, such relationships are shown to be held together by the power of money or the power of a gun. When this power is taken away from the master, the results are catastrophic for the social order of the household.

Coetzee presents us with another dark work of postcolonial fiction. His bleak and isolated South African landscape is a microcosm in which to explore mental illness. On first appearances, it is the violent story of an individual descent into a fantastical madness. When seen from a number of critical perspectives, it can be used to open up questions surrounding psychoanalysis, feminism, colonial history and social class.

‘A powerful study of lust, degradation and fantasy’.


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