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Title:Friday updated: 'Robinson Crusoe' as sub-text in Gordimer's 'July's People' and Coetzee's 'Foe'
Author:Medalie, DavidISNI
Periodical:Current Writing: Text and Reception in Southern Africa
Geographic term:South Africa
About persons:John Michael Coetzee (1940-)ISNI
Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014)
Abstract:Daniel Defoe's 'Robinson Crusoe' (1719), even before one considers the kinds of intertextual reworkings and reversals to be found in Nadine Gordimer's 'July's 'people' (1981) and J.M. Coetzee's 'Foe' (1987), is already a novel of reversal which finds succour, tranquillity and capaciousness in the most unlikely places, amidst solitude or uncompromising companions. The attribution of equality to the servant Friday is itself a reversal, an invitation to look for civilization in the most unlikely places. In this attribution of equality lies a fundamental humanistic belief. That very belief is questioned in 'July's people', which also is a novel of reversal. It shows that to be able to insist on equality of people proceeds from a position of power. Even more explicitly than Gordimer's novel Coetzee's 'Foe' returns to 'Robinson Crusoe' in order to investigate power and authority, especially textual power. Coetzee's Friday cannot come to power through the returning and ascendant potency of a suppressed language of his own, as in July's case. No one can summon him to language, to heal him with the power of the word. He points to the limitations inherent in the enterprise of narrative itself. Bibliogr.