Longing for Love: Eros and National Belonging in Three Novels by Rayda Jacobs
Keywords:South African literature, Islam, slavery, Rayda Jacobs, romantic love, national allegory, feminism
The female Muslim descendant of Cape slavery is a key figure in the work of South African writer, Rayda Jacobs. Three of her novels, in particular, seem to track the social and political genealogy of the female Muslim descendant of slaves, namely, Eyes of the Sky (1996), The Slave Book (1998), and Sachs Street (2001). These novels trace, through the subjectivity of the female Muslim slave, the emergence of the South African nation from its origins at the Cape, through the hinterland, to its contemporary borders. The novels foreground the personal relationship of romantic love, which, of all the personal relationships, is the most volatile and dynamic, producing unexpected transformations. Love, which produces a child from the erotic encounter in Eyes of the Sky, and social union through marriage in The Slave Book, is presented as having the potential to transcend racial, class and religious boundaries in the colonial state. We see in the declining apartheid state presented in the third novel, Sachs Street, that the national allegorical potential of eros finally is not fully realised, leading to a reconceptualisation of romantic love in a transnational frame, centred nonetheless in Cape Town, South Africa. As much as these novels are historical, since they are written post-1994 reflecting the contemporary concerns of its author, they present a singular vision of the place of the female Muslim descendant of slaves in the South African nation, where the postcolonial nation is implicitly conceptualised as a white-dominated derivative European nation state.
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