Wednesday 19 April 2023

Gready, Paul. Comparative Literature Studies 46, no. 1 (2009): 156–76.

‘Novel Truths: Literature and Truth Commissions’ is an article that was written by Paul Gready and published by Penn State University Press in Comparative Literature Studies. Within it, Gready examines the relationship between South African literature and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and, as a result, the unique space literature can offer to explore truths post-conflict, something he defines with the phrase ‘novel truths.’ It is split into three main sections: the instinct to prioritize multiple narratives and truth in context over literature and why this should not necessarily be the case; the volumes of pop culture relevant to the TRC; and the way in which his so defined ‘novel truths’ can contribute to reconciliation.

Gready acknowledges his own initial shortcomings in seeing the flexibility and open-endedness of literature as a drawback to a truth-seeking process. He explains that he has since come to see how the unique form of the novel can be conducive to progress. In the process, he raises interesting questions about how exactly literature, as an inherently passive form, can become an active peace-building force. He leaves more space for the explicit link to be explored between the so-called ‘novel truths’ and progress in spaces of reconciliation, focusing more on the theory that literature occupies a unique space, rather than what this looks like in action. However, his article serves as a useful spring board to start thinking about the relationship between literature and truth-telling.


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