Cracked Vases and Untidy Seams: Narrative Structure and Closure in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and South African Fiction

  • M Samuelson


The TRC reveals a tension between a desire to open up the story of the past and to “close the chapter on our past”. I explore this tension by considering both the TRC’s relation to closure and those of selected fictional narratives that explicitly respond to the TRC. I argue that the tidy closure of reconciliation both excludes the traumatic traces of “deep memory” and fails to account for the presence of the past in the present. Focusing on formal structure and endings, I consider how metaphors of narrative such as Walcott’s “cracked vase” and textile images of quilting, tapestry and weaving suggest ways of writing the past that defer closure and complacency in favour of process and creative reworking.

Journal Identifiers

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