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The Mother as Pre-text: (Auto)biographical Writing in Antjie Krog's <i>A Change of Tongue</i>

L Viljoen


Antjie Krog's autobiographical text, A Change of Tongue (2003), consists of six separate but also related narratives which give different aspects of the author's experience of transformation after South Africa's change to democratic rule in 1994. This article deals with the first narrative titled “A Town”, in which the processes of post-apartheid change in the Free State town, Kroonstad, where Krog grew up, are interspersed with a narrative about her youth and coming of age as a writer and political being during the time of apartheid. This is a process in which her mother is deeply implicated as complicit with an unjust political system but also exemplary as a writer and literary foremother, a configuration that leads to deep ambivalences in the mother-daughter relationship. This article explores the way in which the narrative represents the writing subject's relationship with her mother, proceeding from Brodzki's statement that the mother is often the “pretext for the daughter's autobiographical project” and that “the daughter's text, variously, seeks to reject, reconstruct and reclaim – to locate and recontextualise – the mother's message”. Attention is given to the strategies of self-representation employed by the autiobiographical subject, the relationship between (writer) daughter and (writer) mother, the inclusion and use of texts written by the mother and grandmother in this section of the autobiography as well the ethics of revealing the self and others in (auto)biography.

Current Writing Vol. 19 (2) 2007: pp. 187-209

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eISSN: 2159-9130
print ISSN: 1013-929X