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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


VAN DER WALT, Thomas  and  NIEMAN, Marietha. Women authors of youth fiction on the Anglo-Boer War: Realism and reconciliation after decades of adventure and nationalism. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2009, vol.49, n.4, pp.674-687. ISSN 2224-7912.

The Anglo-Boer War has been a very important influence in the history of the Afrikaners, and is well represented as a theme in Afrikaans literature for adults. However, so far relatively few books for young people have appeared with the war as their theme. The potential of this war, in which so many children were active participants, has not been realised properly by authors of Afrikaans children's and youth literature. The wave of new books for adults which appeared in Afrikaans during the centenary of the war at the end of the 20th century did not reach children's and youth literature. No new children's or youth books with the war as theme have appeared after 1990. The role often played by such books for adults - finding the truth, achieving reconciliation and recreating both individuals and the collective - was therefore not available by way of Afrikaans children's and youth literature. In this article five Afrikaans youth books with the Anglo-Boer war as theme that were published between 1985 and 1990 were analysed. These books include Gezina en die bruin wind by Maretha Maartens (1985), Helena in die tyd van die tente by Franci Greyling (1986), Dirkie, Drieka, Frederika by Franci Greyling (1988), Wynand se oorlog by Ria Jordaan (1989) and Eendag was daar 'n oorlog by Heléne le Roux (1990). All these books were written by female authors. If we look more closely at the children's and youth books on the war which appeared in the 1980s, it is evident that they differ considerably from the ones which had been published prior to this. Books on the war before the 1980s can mainly be described as adventure stories against a background of the war. These books have a powerful nationalistic and patriotic message. On the other hand, youth literature appearing in the 1980s is characterised by depictions of female characters' experiences of the war. These female characters are depicted as strong, resolute and undaunted women. The books also reveal a more realistic view ofwar and the meaning of heroism. The emphasis is on the characters' inner growth and the insights which they gain from the war. There is also a clear difference in the depiction of the enemy, while attempts at reconciliation are touched upon without falling into the trap of didacticism. Relations between white and black are depicted with due regard for the altered sociopolitical situation in South Africa during the 1980s, and for the first time the suffering of black people in the war is touched upon. This change coincides with the first contributions of women writers to literature on the war. Before 1980, Afrikaans children's and youth books on the war were with two exceptions written by men. This article discusses the changes introduced by women writers on the Anglo-Boer War. It initially compares the children's andyouth literature on this topic in Afrikaans with South African adult fiction as discussed by Eduan Swanepoel in 1998. Swanepoel identifies in an article in Stilet, five periods ofwhich the first extends from 1902-1910 and is characterised by personal accounts. The second period, 1910-1934, features memoirs with an additional element of fiction. Literature which appeared during the third period, between 1934 and 1948, is overwhelmingly propagandist. After a period featuring trivial popular novels replete with anti-English sentiments (1948-1980), we have the postmodern or postcolonial phase, characterised by a reversal of ideological and political sentiments. As far as Afrikaans youth literature is concerned, the first two phases do not for practical purposes exist. The next two phases identified by Swanepoel can be combined in Afrikaans youth literature. Most of the youth books which appeared during that time were written by Mikro. The postmodern or postcolonial period can be identified in youth literature about the war written by female authors.

Keywords : Anglo-Boer War; war; youth literature; women writers; change; female characters; reconciliation; black-white relations.

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