ABSA Chain: Abraham H de Vries in conversation with Mike Nicol

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Abraham H de Vries slightly changed the context of the questions put to him by Kole Omotosho, and asked the same questions to Mike Nicol:

  1. Why is there no humanist tradition in South African English literature?


  2. Can you combine the writing of poetry with slave trading?


  3. The way white writing envisaged the end of apartheid is different from the way black writing did. Is it impossible for writing to prevent the racist slant of the writer, given that writing has a humanist agenda which the writer might not share?


  4. Why did the humanities not humanise the proponents and managers of apartheid?


  5. Why were the apartheid laws expressed in English when Afrikaans came to be seen as the language of apartheid?


Mike Nicol’s response:

It was with an increasingly heavy heart that I read through this list of questions. The air in the room turned grey and a feeling that belonged to years ago, to the old South Africa, a feeling close to despondency but even closer to despair, brought the foul taste of gall to my mouth. I screwed shut my eyes and sighed. I hoped that when I looked again the questions would no longer be imprinted black on the white screen of my computer. The questions were traps: deep dark pits rancid with putrefaction and old bones. But, of course, the questions would not go away. Then again, the longer I stared at them the more adamant I became that I would not answer them.


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