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Modernism’s Hauntological Architecture: A View from South Africa

The specter of modernism has haunted South African culture for quite some time. In Katharine Kilalea’s recent novel O. K. Mr. Field (2018) it takes the form of “the House for the Study of Water,” a replica of Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, transplanted from its original setting in Poissy, France to the coastal cliffs of South Africa’s Cape Peninsula.[1] After an accident that leaves him unable to continue his career as a concert pianist, Field purchases the Villa from Hannah Kallenbach, the widow of Jan Kallenbach who, in the imaginary world of Kilalea’s novel, was a disciple of Le Corbusier (Kilalea Field, 4-5). It is worth noting, however, that the name “Kallenbach” suggestively recalls one of the leading figures of South African architectural modernism: Hermann Kallenbach, described by Loren Kruger as “friend of Ghandi and heir of German modernism.”[2] Modernism, in other words, is the motor that drives the novelistic machinery of Kilalea’s O. K. Mr. Field.

Having moved into the Villa with his wife, Mim, the Fields are soon visited by Curtis Touw, a developer armed with another quintessentially modernist “Manifesto for a House in the Sky” and who intends to begin construction on a vacant plot of land adjacent to the Villa (Kilalea Field, 38). Yet just as Field begins to settle into his new abode, he is mysteriously abandoned by Mim and, increasingly susceptible to ennui—another quintessentially modernist affliction—begins to conduct imaginary conversations with Kallenbach, over whom he has begun to obsess (30-31). Along with his recurrent observations about the intermittent but ultimately abortive work on Touw’s House in the Sky, these conversations punctuate and act as a counterpoint to Field’s flâneur-like, tours around (and descriptions of) the peninsula. If these arbitrary tours allow Kilalea to explore modernism’s narrative experimentation with Jamesian insights into the stream-of-consciousness, or if it recalls Guy Debord’s description of dérive as the “the practice of a passional journey out of the ordinary through a rapid changing of ambiences” (albeit in a manner curiously etiolated of any revolutionary potential), they are soon more narrowly redirected toward Field’s stalkerish pursuit of Kallenbach.[3] In the course of his clandestine surveillance of Kallenbach’s home, Field encounters and adopts a black dog—perhaps a too-obvious symbol for depression—and, finally, comes to overhear a story of another, quite horrific, accident—the novel’s ostensibly climactic event (Kilalea Field, 104-41; 162; 185-193).

Le Corbusier’s Villa arguably acts as an appropriate architectural analogy for Kilalea’s ironic engagement with decidedly modernist preoccupations. Following Le Corbusier’s suggestion that  “a house is a machine for living in,” and commissioned by Piee and Eugenie Savoye to act as a country home, the Villa in its Poissy setting rests on a series of ground level pilotis, and seems to float above the open field, bordered by woodlands, into which it has been introduced.[4] The Villa Savoye is arguably the epitome of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret’s Five Points manifesto, a testament to modernism’s commitment to utilitarian efficiency: the pilotis elevate “the mass off the ground,” opening the ground plan and façade for unrestrained internal construction.[5] Horizontal windows mean that “rooms are equably lit from wall to wall” and, in an imaginative deployment of modernist economy and environmental compensation, the Villa’s roof garden restores “the area of ground covered by the house” (Le Corbusier, “Five points,” 99; Schittich, Glass, 27).

Villa Savoye, Poissy.
Fig. 1. Villa Savoye, Poissy. Photograph by Fernando Leiva.

Curiously both of and disjunctively at odds with its original setting in the woodlands of Poissy, the Villa Savoye, is perhaps as starkly at odds with its new location in Kilalea’s global south as it is in its original domain. The Villa thus suits Kilalea’s conducting free-form explorations of Field’s dislocated inner world, and of unsettling conventional forms of narrative coherence in ways that recall modernism’s stylistic and thematic concerns. Conversely, the novel satisfies modernism’s countervailing demand for stylistic pattern, structural economy, and thematic unity. The accident that prompts the story, for example, complements another that brings it to its conclusion, thus providing a structural framework for Field’s arbitrary musings.

Similarly, Field’s detours are anchored by habitual returns to the Villa Savoye, his repeated acknowledgement of the rhythmic construction of the adjacent House in the Sky, and his compulsive reconnaissance of Kallenbach’s home. These patterns of structural and thematic economy are echoed at the level of linguistic style and expression: “Mim” is a three-letter palindrome—a lexical pattern economical enough to be read both ways—while Touw is comically oblivious to the economic homophony between his name and his description of the House in the Sky as a “tower.” In these and other ways, the Villa Savoye is, arguably, a felicitous objective correlative for Kilalea’s concerns.

The only problem is that there is no Villa Savoye in the Cape Peninsula.

Phantom Limbs, Replicas

What, then, are we to make of the specifically Capetonian location of what we might call the “imaginary modernism” of Kilalea’s O.K. Mr. Field?– her hauntological longing for South African Modernism’s “lost futures”?[6] And how might this line of questioning assist us in thinking through and reimagining local attempts to grapple with a distant and dislocated modernist heritage—one that exerts a similarly ghostly pressure upon the body of South African literature as that of phantom limb? What, in other words, are we to make of Kilalea’s return, in fiction, to a fictionalized South African home in the Cape Peninsula’s False Bay, replete with the aura of modernism’s utopian promise and, more pertinently, with what Rob Nixon has elsewhere called “modernity’s false dawn”?[7] Does her willingness to imaginatively transplant the Villa Savoye to the Cape coast suggest that modernism—or a version of modernism closely associated with the intellectual terms and conditions subtending Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, and peculiarly suited to Kilalea’s own particular aesthetic preoccupations—is absent from all of South Africa or, more broadly, the global south?[8]

As a recent episode of Black Mirror (shot on location at a sprawling mansion in Constantia, Cape Town) suggests, there is no reason to believe that a similar replica of Le Corbusier’s Villa will not one day find a home amid the wealthier arenas of Capetonian real estate.[9] Indeed, South Africans have long been accustomed to local markets so disproportionate to the nation’s broader economic context as to render entirely grotesque its presumably beautiful and prestigious architectural, aesthetic, and political symptoms.

It is worth noting, too, that replicas of the Villa have migrated far beyond the Savoye’s original home in Poissy. Consider, for example, Asmund Havsteen-Mikkelsen’s “Flooded Modernity,” in which a full-sized replica of Le Corbusier’s Villa lies half-sunken in a Danish fjord near Vejle, or Howard Raggatt’s 1:1 replica, the so-called “Shadow Savoye” in Canberra.[10] Like Kilalea’s “False Savoye,” both Raggatt’s and Havsteen-Mikklesen’s Villas remain curiously out of sync with both Le Corbusier’s original intention and their new geographical locations. Commissioned by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), Raggatt’s replica seems deliberately opposed to Le Corbusier’s original: the Poissy Savoye’s white stucco has been replaced by black aluminum, its transparent windows are now foreboding panels of dark glass. If Le Corbusier’s original appears to float above its setting, Raggatt’s “Shadow” imposes mass and weight upon the landscape, and its black and muted tones present a challenge to Le Corbusier’s utopian interest in imagining an internationalist future not simply minimalist and efficient but also, given its voiding of any trace of modernism’s complicity in colonial history, inevitably “white.” To paraphrase Walter Mignolo, the “Shadow Savoye” represents the colonial “darker side” of modernism’s imperial coin.[11]

Institute of Aboriginal Studies building, Canberra.
Fig. 2. Institute of Aboriginal Studies building, Canberra. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Though similarly attentive to modernity’s political shortcomings, Havsteen-Mikkelson’s description of “Flooded Modernity” offers a more mournful evocation of the failure of modernism’s utopian promise. “When, at Floating Art, I let Villa Savoye ‘run aground’ in Vejle Fjord,” he writes,

[I hoped to] comment on the state of modernity today. The geopolitical events of recent years—Brexit, the election of Trump, Putin’s interference in democratic elections, the advancement of right-wing radicals in Europe . . . challenge modernity’s classic notions of a critical public. . . . Flooded Modernity is . . . an attempt to draw attention to the importance of modernity and how we will deal with the legacy of modernity.[12]

Yet to set Havsteen-Mikkelson’s dispiriting assessment of “Flooded Modernity” in relation to Raggatt’s postcolonial critique of modernity’s exclusions is to question the optimistic promise of a Habermasian public sphere “made up of private people gathered together as a public and articulating the needs of society with the state.”[13] Differently stated: if Habermas’s claim accompanies the emergence of autonomous postcolonial agencies, “Flooded Modernity” arguably attests to European modernity’s anxieties about its own, floundering significance amid rising tides of multicultural otherness when, ironically, it is fortifying its domain as those others—now associated with “the migrant crisis”—are the ones drowned.

It is similarly useful to read Kilalea’s appeal to Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye alongside these aforementioned colonial ironies—to suggest that her preoccupation with European modernism “there and then” is a means of getting to grips with the possibility of modernism in South Africa’s post- or decolonial “here and now.” On the one hand, by recognizing and standing in critical counterpoint to modernism’s complicity in a colonial project designed to exclude blackness from its purview, Raggatt’s “Shadow” has a particular resonance with South Africa’s own post- and decolonial imaginaries.

On the other hand, however, Havsteen-Mikkelson’s “Flooded Modernity” appears to be more invested in lobbying a critique of modernity’s inflated imperial aspirations, and so seems distantly related to such overtly postcolonial concerns. Yet it would not be too difficult to reconcile the colonial significance of the Canberra Savoye with the Habermasian lament subtending Havsteen-Mikkelson’s nautically evocative modernist nightmare. After all, jutting awkwardly from the fjord, “Flooded Modernity” may well recall those shipwrecks—American and British mail ships, steamers, cargo-liners, coal ferries and passenger liners—run aground along the shores of Table Bay: RMS Athens, Kakapo, Hermes, SS Clan Stuart, Winton MV, Commodore II.[14] In South Africa (and other postcolonial elsewheres), such wrecks morph almost too easily—perhaps unethically—into the sprawling wreckage of townships at the periphery of Cape Town’s rapidly modernizing city center.

Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
Fig. 3. Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Courtesy of Portland Seminary.

Voids

Kilalea’s Savoye does not seem to function in the same way as its counterparts in Canberra or Veijle. Rather, it provides a modernist backdrop for the exploration of a surprisingly anodyne form of South African subjectivity. This is not the first time that Kilalea has deployed local, modernist, architecture as an objective correlative for inner psychic landscapes. In an essay entitled “On the Most Dangerous Building in South Africa, and an Unexpected Pregnancy” (2018), she launches an extended meditation on Johannesburg’s infamous Ponte Tower—paying particular attention to the “light-well” of its void-like inner-core:

What began as a luxurious address had, by the time I was growing up, been taken over by drug dealers and prostitutes. It was a symbol of depravation, a place so dangerous that even ambulances wouldn’t enter without army support. The idea of Ponte haunted me. It symbolized the hole in its center. That void . . . occupied the city’s collective imagination.[15]

For Kilalea, then, Ponte Tower moves from being a nostalgic site of “luxurious” promise, to one involved in an autobiographical narrative of disillusionment—bildung figured as symbolic rather than socially or politically produced “deprivation” or ruin—before emerging, finally, as an allegorical site anchoring a more general imaginative malaise.

Fig. 4. Ponte Tower, Hillbrow. Photograph by Paul Saad.

Ponte Tower thus becomes the location from which the decidedly modern gaze of the urban flaneur gives way to a postmodern—or perhaps postcolonial—rhetoric of disrepair, anxiety, and suspicion:

Rumors circulated about what went on inside it. The hole, we heard, had become a giant garbage bin. Its contents rose five stories high. It contained drug debris, mattress coils and dead bodies, because Ponte a popular suicide spot. (Kilalea, “On the Most Dangerous Building”)

Cut off and distanced from the everyday reality of Ponte Tower, Kilalea is compelled to fall back on speculation. And it is perhaps the failures of speculation that occasions her return to a more personal reflection on the shocking suicide of a close friend, and her equally shocking discovery that she would not be able to fall pregnant—news which proves to be false.

Later in the essay, Kilalea notes that her Canadian obstetrician’s speech recalled “Ezra Pound’s Cathay poems, where each line is distinct, a full sentence,” that it “evoked the sparseness of the Canadian landscape, or at least the northern parts . . . seen in the photographs my father brings back from mine visits” (Kilalea, “On the Most Dangerous Building”). Roving across space and time, Kilalea draws together such disparate and disconnected details as Ponte Tower’s inner void, Pound’s modernist evocation (or “translational” voiding) of Chinese poetry, the photographically mediated “void” of a terra nullius that seems no less suspect for being located in a Canadian rather than a South African hinterland, and photographs of mines (though it remains unclear where these mines are located). These empty spaces—architectural, poetic, natural, and industrial—finally coalesce to form an ironic counterpoint to the voided “light well” of Kilalea’s own body.

Ponte Tower’s “light well.”
Fig. 5. Ponte Tower’s “light well.” Photograph by Spach Los.

In this way, Kilalea approximates Fredric Jameson’s observation that “with the collapse of the high-modernist ideology of style—what is as unique and unmistakable as your own fingerprints, as incomparable as your own body—the producers of culture have nowhere to turn but to the past: the imitation of dead styles, speech through all the masks and voices stored up in the imaginary museum of a now global culture.”[16] Yet it is perhaps slightly too glib to link Kilalea’s preoccupation with void to Jameson’s discussion of postmodernism or, in fact, with his detection of those voids, infinities, or absences so central to high modernism’s aesthetic productions.  After all, Kilalea does not quite fit the profile of a metropolitan subject struggling to apprehend forms of “meaning loss” in imperial centers defined by colonial modes of life and production continuing apace in distant imperial peripheries. Put differently: even if Kilalea’s persistent return to modernism seems close to Jameson’s discussion of postmodern pastiche, we are still no closer to answering the question of why modernism, more than any other aesthetic trope, remains so seductive—not just to her, but to a much wider sector of South African arts and literature.

Trope, Symptom, Temporality

Consider, for example, Mikhael Subotzsky’s Ponte Tower (2014), where the building and its residents become the subjects for photographic and literary exploration. Subotzsky is particularly enthused by how Ponte “bastardized the concept of modernism and [how it] related to the apartheid policies of the time,” adding that the “false promises of apartheid and false promises of modernist architecture were alive here.”[17] Originally published as a series of seventeen independent chapbooks containing, variously, photographs, academic and personal reflections, and fictional responses to Ponte Tower, Subotzsky’s project seems concerned to offer a decidedly modernist multiperspectival “image” of the site while striving to challenge assumptions associated with its prototypically modernist positionality.

Tellingly, some attempt to attempt to delineate postcolonial relationships with precursors closely associated with modern (or, perhaps, postmodern) aesthetics remains as central to the literary responses included in this collection. For instance, Harry Kalmer’s contribution, “Luminosity,” imagines a visit by I. Calvino, whose fascination with the building’s neon “Coca-Cola crown” makes little sense until it is revealed that the guest’s name is not “Italo,” the writer, but “Isidoro,” an “Ingegnere Elettrico” (Kalmer in Subotzky, 2014: v. IV, 11). By contrast, Denis Hirson’s “Perec/Ponte” admits that while “George Perec never visited Johannesburg . . . it is easy to imagine him casting his wistful, mischievous glance toward Ponte City while listening to some of the wild stories that have been told about it” (Hirson in Subotzky, 2014: v. XVII, 3). In “Flat 3607,” Ivan Vladislavic uses documents found in a room in the tower to reconstruct a narrative about two Congolese cousins who briefly resided there (Vladislavic in Subotzky, 2014: v. VIII) and, in “Flow,” he suggests that the homeless people living on Saratoga Island, the “dead-space” beneath a flyover close to Ponte, “cannot escape attention” in ways diametrically opposed to “the architect” Robert Maitland’s predicament in J. G. Ballard’s Concrete Island (Vladislavic in Subotzky, 2014: v. XV, 3).[18] Vladislavic’s wry observations about lives beyond “machines for living in” resonates uneasily with Percy Zvomuya’s bemused response to a Ponte resident’s suggestion that the tower “is more like a township than other buildings” (Zvomuya in Subotzky, 2014: v. XIII, 3).If he initially admits that “no-one can live here,” Zvomuya proceeds to entertain the suggestion that Ponte “relies on an architectural idiom widely regarded as African, the circular hut,” and wondering whether that should make it “more appealing to African residents” (Zvomuya in Subotzky, 2014: v. XIII, 3, 7). In all these instances, modernism appears in the form of haunted objects or spectral figures against which lost or voided “lives” and “histories” are reimagined.[19]

Ghostly habitations of historical voids also preoccupy well-established South African poets such as Peter Anderson and Rustum Kozain. Noting their lasting obligation to, and deployment of, modernism, they nevertheless register a curious degree of uncertainty about modernism’s spectral potential. It is perhaps telling that Anderson’s In a Free State: A Music (2018), a sequence that recalls Basil Bunting’s Briggflats or Geffrey Hill’s Mercian Hymns, remains uneasily aware of the risks involved in exhuming such spectral voices. Indeed, these voices will either remain as “rumourous” as the speculative chatter that informs Kilalea’s understanding of Ponte Tower’s mythic significance, or threatened by their conscription into the textures of the poet’s own voice: “For want of a story,” Anderson admits, “we will lie, lie/at the ramparts of our teeth’s Jericho./How imperfectly we know//this girl and how we fill her in.”[20]

Kozain, in turn, hesitates at the prospect of linking Anderson’s work to modernism. If he regards, In A Free State “as a kind of Waste Land,” noting the “fragmentary, yet . . . unifying voice,” that runs through the sequence, he recognizes the temporal dislocation accompanying modernism’s “place” in South Africa:

We are Postmodernists in a literal sense in that we came of age . . . when Modernism was already long past . . . . I do think we live in a parallel age, where the virtues of Modernism in literature and art can speak to the times better than that radical, senseless relativism of Postmodernism.[21]

Like Kilalea’s Villa Savoye, Touw’s House in the Sky, or Vladislavic’s The Folly (1994), a novella concerned with an abortive attempt to imagine a home suitable to the overestimated and frankly imaginary promise of the new South Africa, Kozain’s attempt to situate a familiar version of metropolitan modernism within the imaginary plot of South African literature succeeds only insofar as it fails to fit.

Floating Modernism

The small selection of examples I have gathered here may together delineate the contours of South Africa’s continued preoccupation with modernism and, despite the limited nature of this frame, a few tentative conclusions may be drawn from this brief survey. Firstly, there appears to be a persistent interest in paying homage to forms of modernism that emerge predominantly from a European metropole. Secondly, modernism is persistently invoked as a means by which to signify the ruin of modernity’s utopian aspirations. Thirdly, and in a related sense, modernist tropes emerge as a convenient pretext for the aesthetic exploration of a dialectic of fragmentation and coherence.

These observations raise a number of related questions. Why, given Jameson’s observations about modernism, should an aesthetic form symptomatically linked to an imperial center’s failure to grasp the workings of monopoly capital, to apprehend colonial immiseration, and to comprehend its own circumstances—remain worthy of aesthetic aspiration in the postcolony?[22] Why should modernism’s seductive potential to act as a readymade aesthetic foil against which a drama of ruin and restoration—or what Hirson calls “composition and chaos”—retain its currency in locales distanced in both space and time from modernism’s predominantly metropolitan spheres of influence (Hirson in Subotzky, 2014: v. XVII, 5)? Why, too, do local expressions of the modern drama of ruin and restoration repeatedly seem to lapse into typically pessimistic postcolonial evocations of fragmentation and more fragmentation, ruin and more ruin, rather than Joycean “epiphany” or Forsterian “connection”? How are we to reconcile imaginary attempts to rehabilitate voices buried by modernism’s imperial history with T. S. Eliot’s modernist mind “which abandons nothing en route, which does not superannuate”?[23]

Despite their differences, and despite the difficulty of such questions, the engagements with South African modernism gathered here arguably attest to ways of looking at modernism from its proverbial “darker side,” to recognize modernism as some attempt to view what Ian Baucom calls the “capricious gleam” of modernity’s urban and, by now, global spires from the disaffected and distanced perspective of its excluded or marginalized others.[24] It is perhaps worth adding that these preoccupations coalesce around figurations of South Africa’s built environment and its land. In this way, aesthetic preoccupations with modernism intersect with current debates regarding South African space: from land reform and restitution, through service delivery and institutional failures (of which Fees Must Fall’s occupation in 2015 and 2016 of University and public spaces, and its disruption and destruction of modernist monuments, forms part), to a more numinous preoccupation with questions concerning migrancy and belonging. Such concerns haunt the outskirts of Kilalea’s literary field as much as they preoccupy a wide range of South African artists and writers. Yet one detects in many of these broader engagements a ludic note—a satirical, potentially politically progressive, recognition of the absurd (dis)location of modernism’s place in the South African postcolony—that belies Kilalea’s arguably affectless redeployment of modernist tropes as the dead styles of postmodern pastiche. In these and other ways, modernism continues to unsettle, but also to anchor, the perennially unsettled South African imagination.

 

Notes

[1] Katharine Kilalea, O.K. Mr. Field. (New York: Duggan, 2018), 4.

[2] Loren Kruger, Imagining the Edgy City (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 21.

[3] Guy Debord, “Report on the Construction of Situations and on the International Situationist Tendency’s Conditions of Organization and Action.” Situationist International Anthology, ed. and trans. Ken Knabb (Berkley, CA: Bureau of Public Secrets, 2006), 40.

[4] Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture. Trans. Frederick Etchells. (New York, Dover, 1986 [1931]), 95.

[5] Le Corbusier, “Five points towards a new architecture.” Programs and Manifestoes on 20th-century Architecture, ed. Ulrich Conrads (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1971), 99-101. Christian Schittich et. al., Glass Construction Manual (Basel: Birkhauser, 1999), 26-27.

[6] Mark Fisher, “What Is Hauntology?” Film Quarterly, 66(1), 2012: 16-24, 16.

[7] Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011), 42.

[8] This latter alternative seems untenable given Andrew van der Vlies’s recent rehearsal of a longstanding preoccupation within South African arts and letters with how Le Corbusier’s modernist influence may be felt and seen across the urban and suburban landscapes of Johannesburg. See Andrew van der Vlies, “Thick Time: William Kentridge, Peripheral Modernisms, and the Politics of Refusal.”

[9] Charlie Brooker, “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too,” Black Mirror series 5, episode 3, directed by Anne Sewitsky, June 5, 2019.

[10] See Asmund Havsteen-Mikkelsen, “Flooded Modernity” and John Macarthur, “Australian Baroque: Geometry and Meaning at the National Museum of Australia,” Architecture Australia, Vol. 90, no. 2 (March/April 2001), 48-61, and “Letters and Fixes: Howard Raggatt Replies,” in Architecture Australia, Vol. 90, no. 4 (July 2001).

[11] Walter Mignolo, The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011).

[12] Asmund Havsteen-Mikkelsen, “Flooded Modernity,” Arqa (August 29, 2018).

[13] Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger with Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991), 176.

[14] These details are derived from a variety of textual and online sources but cf. Malcolm Turner, Shipwrecks and Salvage in South Africa 1505 to the Present (Cape Town: Struik, 1988). Interestingly, the Commodore II is believed to have been the setting for Clark Gable’s Mutiny on the Bounty before being repurposed as a coal ferry during WWII. It was then bought by the grandson of Paul Kruger, the third President of the South African Republic, and sailed to Buenos Aires before sinking off the Milnerton coast in 1946.

[15] Katharine Kilalea, “On the Most Dangerous Building in South Africa, and an Unexpected Pregancy,” Literary Hub (August, 2018).

[16] Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (London: Verso, 1991), 17-18.

[17] Mikhael Subotzsky and Patrick Waterhouse, Ponte City, v. I-XVII, ed. Ivan Vladislavic (Göttingen: Steidl, 2014). See also Zachary Slobig, “Meet the Characters of an Iconic (And Controversial) South African High-Rise.”

[18] Vladislavic’s appeal to found objects as touchstones for narrative reconstructions recalls Nthikeng Mohlele’s Small Things (2013), a novel in which the protagonist, Che, having been mugged on the modernist monument of Nelson Mandela Bridge (22-23), reconstructs a imagined profile of his assailant after finding his way into the latter’s inner-city apartment by “reading” the objects found there (31-32). For a fascinating recent account of Small Things see Timothy Wright, “Ruined time and post-revolutionary allegory in Nthikeng Mohlele’s Small Things,” Social Dynamics, 45:2 (2019),198-212.

[19] Karen Jennings, “Behind the wall in Kobus Moolman’s A Book of Rooms,” Tydskrif vir Letterkunde, 56(2), 2019: 21-27.

[20] P. R. Anderson, In a Free State: A Music (Cape Town: uHlanga Press, 2018), 10.

[21] “‘Poetry is music, nothing more’—PR Anderson talks to Rustum Kozain about his new collection, In a Free State: A Music,” Johannesburg Review of Books (January, 2019).

[22] Cf. Jeanne-Marie Jackson’s suggestion, in “Modernism after Modernism,” that “so long as ‘globality,’ in modernist studies and elsewhere, is framed as an endless reaction against Western myopia, it will continue to fall short of its pluralistic aims.”

[23] T. S. Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” in The Sacred Wood and Major Early Essays (New York: Dover, 1998), 29.

[24] See Ian Baucom, “Township Modernism,” in Geomodernisms: Race, Modernism, Modernity, ed. Laura Doyle and Laura Winkiel (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005), 64-65.