Ominous Inevitabilities: Reflecting on South Africa’s Post-Transition Aporia in Achmat Dangor’s "Bitter Fruit"

Aghogho Akpome


Achmat Dangor’s novel Bitter Fruit (2001), nominated for the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 2004, is one of several important works of fiction that comment on the imperfections of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), offering a polemical critique of South Africa’s on-going transition. In this article, I examine two significant ways in which Dangor’s novel questions the work of the TRC. First, I posit that the story represents the TRC’s model of transitional justice as being too determined by a “forgive and forget” approach that is inadequate as a means of providing reconciliation and thus fundamentally flawed. Second, I argue that, overall, the novel depicts the national reconciliation project as a mission that has in a way resulted in the appropriation of justice from – instead of its delivery to – some victims of Apartheid-era crimes. The aim of this article is not to present Dangor’s fictional text as a one-dimensional reflection of complex social realities, but rather to foreground the practical and imaginative means that his inspired realist narrative offers for dealing with the aftermath of the massive social injustices perpetrated in South Africa during the Apartheid era.

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