Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751
BOTHA, Marisa and VAN VUUREN, Helize. "Our struggle, our heroic death...": A creative reworking of patriotic material from Celliers' war diary in Ingrid Winterbach's Niggie". Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2008, vol.48, n.1, pp.111-128. ISSN 2224-7912.
This article focuses on the Oorlogsdagboek van Jan F.E. Celliers, 1899-1902 [War Diary of Jan F.E. Celliers, 1899-1902] (1978) and how it is creatively reworked and adapted in Ingrid Winterbach 's (Lettie Viljoen) Niggie [Cousin] (2002). The Anglo-Boer War has been a recurring theme in Winterbach 's (Viljoen 's) oeuvre as can be seen in novels such as Belemmering [Impediment], Karolina Ferreira and Buller se plan [Buller 's Plan]. She is one of many writers who made extensive use of this material in her oeuvre,. There was an overwhelming increase in the publication and re-publication of such novels and war diaries during the centenary anniversary of this historic war. Winterbach's Niggie was awarded the Hertzog prize in 2004. It will be shown that this novel is in fact not a superficial reworking of an age old theme, but that it is cleverly layered with commentary on the past, its people and government as well as commentary on these facets in the present, and to a certain extent a possible future for this country and its people. She uses the technique of intertextuality (Bakhtin and Kristeva, 1969) with great literary effect. This theory rests on the principle that all texts are to some extent interconnected. Nothing stands completely alone. There are references between texts created either consciously or unconsciously by authors. In a broader sense it can be said that all aspects of life, society, politics, economics, art and so forth, impact on each other and the world we live in. Winterbach uses the poet Celliers' war diary to draw parallels between the past and the present. She adapts actual historic views, problems, social and political circumstances in her novel and even succeeds in creating a character, Japie Stilgemoed, based on Celliers as seen through his eyes in his diary during almost the full length of the war. Topics to be discussed include patriotism, the role of religion, discipline, passivity and boredom during the Anglo-Boer War. Patriotism was fuelled not only by the prospect of defending one's country, but to a great extent also by the effects of the scorched earth policy on the nature of warfare and the innocent people involved. The scorched earth policy was also the direct cause for the increase in concentration camps which led to thousands of deaths, especially of women and children. It will be shown how religion played an important role in sustaining the commando's during the three years of the war, by carefully chosen texts from the Old Testament. Discipline was difficult to maintain during the war as the commando's were in fact free men and not trained soldiers. The lack of discipline was also a result of the boredom and passivity of the commando's during the war. Interestingly enough, the Anglo-Boer War (through the eyes of Celliers) was not a glorious experience with great battlefields, but rather for the most part the unnecessary loss of human life. There were, however, a few people who were seen as heroes after the war and these heroes went on to build a republic with nationalist views through the shared grief and pain of those who lived and died in this tragic war. The anomaly of such a novel in 2002 seemingly dwelling on the past is clearly shown to be a metaphor for the present and its dilemmas, reflecting the social conflicts existing at present in the crumbling Afrikaans community.