“Why were we crucified into car mechanics?”: Masculine identity in Marlene van Niekerk’s Agaat
Critical commentary on Jak de Wet in Marlene van Niekerk’s Agaat centres on his being a patriarchal stereotype of Afrikaner nationalism. However, while his negative behaviour in the novel is undeniable, the construction of his masculine identity is mediated by the emasculated space in which he enacts it. This article reads his masculinity in relation to the concept of “hegemonic masculinity”, the spatial construction of public and private masculine identities, and masculinity as performative. This highlights the ways in which Jak’s representation reveals transient moments of insight. These moments find expression in the novel’s recurring images of mobility that culminate in his death.
Keywords: Afrikaner nationalism, Agaat, masculinity, Marlene van Niekerk.