Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
COETSER, Johan. Representations of violence in Slaghuis (2007) and Skrapnel (2011) by playwright Willem Anker. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2013, vol.53, n.1, pp. 45-59. ISSN 2224-7912.
The article aims at establishing whether and how the conceptual metaphors violence is literary revenge and violence is global terrorism realise in two published plays by Willem Anker. This aim raises critical questions concerning the nature of the violence depicted in Slaghuis (meaning butchery, 2007) and in Skrapnel (meaning shrapnel, 2011). An additional critical question is whether representations of violence are unique to Anker's plays, i.e. whether representing specific forms of violence are also present in other Afrikaans plays from the decade during which plays by Anker were staged. Similar to Pirandello's play, Six Characters in Search of an Author (1922), the characters in Slaghuis (2007) display an ambivalent nature. The explanation for the ambivalence is that the characters originate from books by Afrikaans novelist Etienne Leroux. Leroux is also a character in the play. Each character in Slaghuis (2007) experiences similar forms of violence and trauma as is the case in the novel from which the playwright took them. The characters demand that the character Leroux complete their stories and thereby end their fictional existence. Leroux turns down their demands. In an act of literary revenge, they then brutally murder their fictional author in a fictional onstage butchery. In an ironic twist of fate, all (including the fictional author Leroux) realise that they are bound to the person that created them, namely the characters to the novelist Leroux, and the character Leroux to the playwright Anker. Similar to Slaghuis (2007) the representation of violence in Skrapnel (2011) relates to pages taken from other sources, in this case from the internet. Skrapnel (2011) consequently confirms the statement by Brink (2010) that representations of violence in the period are unique "in the way of narrating as such, that is, in the presentation of that content" (original emphasis). The influence of web pages on the plot is critical in the sense that the playwright translated large portions of selected web pages into Afrikaans and included his translations in the text. These web pages contain descriptions of international events marked by extreme violence. Because the events occurred abroad, we may regard the violence depicted in Skrapnel (2011) as examples of global or international violence. The characters touched by the violence, however, are South Africans. Based on real events, the violence represented in the play is of an extreme nature, namely the representation of a terrorist attack on the London Underground in 2005, and the description in the dialogue of two aircraft that deliberately few into two tall buildings in 2001. The representations of the attacks on the London Underground in 2005 and the attack on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001 provide the backdrop for the relationship between the characters Chris and X. Their relationship develops and terminates in violence characterised by nihilism. The discussion therefore confirms that the conceptual metaphors violence is literary revenge and violence is global terrorism are active in the published plays. For instance, the representation of extreme violence in the two plays shows similarities with the depiction of extreme violence in some British plays, specifically Crave (2001) by Sarah Kane, which was performed for the first time during the last decade of the previous millennium. Anker translated Crave (2001) into Afrikaans as Smag (2008), which suggests that he is familiar with Kane's plays. These similarities primarily relate to the representation of excessive physical (bloody murder of the author in Slaghuis, warlike attacks on civilian targets in Skrapnel) and excessive psychological violence or nihilism in Skrapnel. Representations of extreme forms of violence are not unique to Anker's plays during the decade that his plays were performed for the first time. Prinsloo versus (2009) by Adriaan Meyer and Die kortstondige raklewe van Anastacia W ([nd], meaning the brief shelf life of Anastacia W) by Marlene van Niekerk also demonstrate extremities of violence. Together with Slaghuis (2007) and Skrapnel (2011), Prinsloo versus (2009) and Die kortstondige raklewe van Anastacia W [nd] serve as examples of plays in Afrikaans confirming statements that Brink (2010) made in a Marjorie Wallace/Jan Rabie Memorial Lecture. Brink (2010) then said that "a trail of blood stains our literature". According to Brink (2010), what is new are expressions of "a violence that customarily went further and became more atrocious than even brute colonialism made possible or necessary within every context".
Keywords : Willem Anker; Slaghuis; Skrapnel; violence; literary revenge; nihilism; globalism.