Two contrasting views of narratives are explored by discussing two Afrikaans novels, André Brink's Duiwelskloof (1998) and Marlene van Niekerk's Triomf (1994). On the one hand (as represented by Duiwelskloof - in accordance with views by narrativists, 20th Century Language Theory, constructivism) it can be argued that we understand ourselves and the world only by means of narratives. On the other hand (as represented by Triomf - and the critical tradition) it could be stated that there is an insurmountable gap between narrative and reality and that narratives merely disguise reality. A choice for the first option deprives one of the possibility to criticize any narratives, as it doesn't allow for the possibility of a "correct" narrative. It leaves one without grounds on which to reject some narratives as false or undesirable. The second option fails to explain what that reality outside language really is. In the end it is argued that neither of the positions can be held without various problems - some of which are explored concerning the two novels. A third option is suggested, derived from Paul Ricoeur's idea of mimesis.
This article was written by Prof. Willie Burger before he joined the University of Pretoria