The “Single S”: Desire for Subjectivity and Story in Zoë Wicomb’s “When the Train Comes”

  • Andrew Matthews


In this essay on Zoë Wicomb’s “When the Train Comes” from the collection You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town (1987), I read the short story as  exemplary in its engagement at both the level of representation and the level of genre in the formation of the subjectivity of the central character,  Frieda Shenton. The textual strategies and rhetorical tactics – which include delay, ellipsis, postponement and stoppage – fissure narrative discourse  with its dependence on the conventions of time (story) and causality (plot) that ensures the smooth operation of a well-wrought fictional  or literary text. The rupture of the traditional components of narrative curiously unconceals the originary moment of subject formation primarily  based on Jacques Lacan’s concept of desire, the notion of the story as a unique and singular element, Deleuze and Guattari’s distinction between the  genre of the novella and the tale, and Judith Butler’s term “gender performance”.


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eISSN: 2071-7474
print ISSN: 0376-8902