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dc.contributor.authorNel, Adéle
dc.date.accessioned2015-08-19T09:57:52Z
dc.date.available2015-08-19T09:57:52Z
dc.date.issued2012
dc.identifier.citationNel, A. 2012. Om 'n deeglike "aanmaning van sterflikheid" te kry:  katabasis, relasionaliteit en retrovisie in Die benederyk van Ingrid Winterbach. Litnet Akademies, 9(2):413-441. [http://www.litnet.co.za/Category/akademies/litnet-akademies]en_US
dc.identifier.issn0258-2279
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10394/14289
dc.identifier.urihttp://www.litnet.co.za/Category/akademies/litnet-akademies
dc.description.abstractA profound reminder of mortality: catabasis, relationality and retrovision in Ingrid Winterbach’s Die benederyk (2010) The aim of this article is to indicate that Die benederyk (The underworld) may be read within the theoretical framework of catabasis, relationality and retrovision. My point of departure is that relationality manifests itself in two ways in Die benederyk, namely as an ontological relationship on a personal level between people (whether it be family relations or the bonds of friendship), and also as an ontological relationship between specific artists through the ages. With reference to Kaja Silverman’s book Flesh of my flesh (2009), but also referring to Etty Mulder’s Freud and Orpheus (1987), a brief summary of the theoretical concepts of relationality, catabasis and retrovision will first be provided. It will be shown, furthermore, that at the same time Die benederyk is a narrative philosophical reflection on the nature, value and function of art and the artistic process. However, since every artist also works within a specific public sphere and tradition this aspect, too, is relationally based. The title itself, Die benederyk, already establishes a connection with death and the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice that is confirmed throughout the story. Silverman uses this well-known myth, as recorded by Ovid in Book X of The metamorphoses, as her starting point from which she develops her theory of relationality. What is not so well known in Western literature is the fact that after the second disappearance of Eurydice into Hades, Ovid adds a redemptive coda to Book XI, which largely invalidates the woman-death link and lays the foundation of relationality. Orpheus is murdered by the vicious Maenaden. This results in his second descent into the underworld. When he arrives in Hades he sees what he had seen before, but he sees it anew and differently. He embraces Eurydice lovingly and in doing so he acknowledges her ontological equality (Silverman 2009:181). In this way, they re-enact what had happened before, cancelling the violence of the events and transforming it into a reversible and ontological equalising analogy (Silverman 2009:181). Orpheus’s descent into the underworld is related to the Greek concept of katabasis–a concept defined as a movement or journey downwards. According to Falconer (2005:2) the Greeks used the term katabasis (Latin descensus ad infernas) metaphorically to refer specifically to the story of a living person who had visited the underworld and returned reasonably unscathed to the land of the living. Silverman’s (2009) thesis regarding the theory of relationality is bound up with the fact that mortality is the most comprehensive and basic feature that man shares with every other living being on earth. Finiteness marks the time and place where we end and others begin, both spatially and temporally. It is the acknowledgement of this limitation that gives us a sense of our place within the larger whole (Silverman 2009:4). Silverman (2009:8) then engages with the ideas of psychoanalyst and writer Lou Andreas-Salomé. She refers to Salomé’s memoir, Looking back, in which she voices insights that correspond with Ovid’s coda in the recording of the Orpheus myth. Salomé attributes a redemptive power to this type of looking, i.e. the capacity to revive the past so that it happens again, but in a new way. She refers to this process as the healing power of Nachträglichkeit–a term originally created by Freud, but used in a different sense by Salomé. She also attributes a number of other powers to Nachträglichkeit, namely the possibility that it can cleanse sin, raise the dead and resolve differences between people. Die benederyk tells the story of two brothers, Aaron Adendorff and his brother Stefaans. The novel addresses, among other issues, the quest for the meaning of life by both characters after each one descends into his own personal hell and in the slow process of re-emerging back towards the light. Both are struggling with their own sins, the death of their loved ones, broken relationships between people and the intense emotions of dealing with loss. The most striking reference to someone visiting the underworld and returning is found when Stefaans is said to have gone down to the darkness and had been lost for a long time. During the course of the narrative Stefaans is likened to the biblical New Testament Lazarus, who was resurrected to life, but also to Joseph of the Old Testament, who was saved from certain death in the pit. Among other things, the novel tells the story of Stefaans’s descent into darkness due to drug addiction, the turning point in his life, as well as his gradual return to the land of the living. After this catabatic experience, Stefaans gains insight into his relationship with other flesh being of his flesh and understands his existence as an aware being with a body that has limitations, so that relationality is established. He then reflects on those that he has left behind, whether dead or alive, and so he starts his journey to renewal and regeneration. He accepts his fate, reconnects with his lost brother and heals broken relationships with departed family and friends through retrovision, exorcises his fears, and finally experiences release. Aaron Adendorff, the painter, is the central character in the novel. His story, too, is one of destruction and salvation. After the death of his wife, Naomi, Aaron descends to the dark depths of depression and is also confronted with his own mortality when a cancerous growth is removed from one of his kidneys. There is another striking link with the Orpheus myth in this novel regarding art and the creative process. A conclusive connection exists between being an artist and relationality. It is specifically the descent into the underworld that is presented as the creative process. In this way, the story of Aaron as an artist highlights a different aspect of relationality. Aaron’s art is initially figurative in nature and as such he associates himself with the recognisable image. However, after the 1980s his work becomes more abstract as he loses touch with the physical image. This change in the subject-object relation distresses Aaron, because he is constantly aware that the loss of the image –of a discernible object –could be the death of all structure: a formal deadend. The tone in which the novel is written gets its power from the inevitable influence of the invisible image as is evidenced by the description of the intense experience of loss every time the recognisable image disappears. For Aaron, the benefit of his insights into relationality is the rediscovery of his lost loved one, here being the recovery of the recognisable image. He, too, accepts loss and overcomes his anxiety. His renewed creative drive and the prospect of the exhibition in Berlin is proof of his renewal and regeneration. The ontological relationship between people isn’t important only for the personal connections and dialogue with predecessors, but also for the insight it gives into what it entails being an artist. It also highlights the connection between artists throughout the ages. Thus, Aaron’s retrovision is also a comprehensive overview of Western art history, including many references to predecessor artists with whom he feels a kinship. Feeling himself marginalised (both as a person and as an artist), Aaron takes a critical look at his own figurative paintings as well as those of a few chosen, fictional artists. These include Jimmy Harris (a videographer who has an obsession with deconstructive creativity) and Moeketsi Mosekede (a politically correct artist). Many deceased artists, of whom Joseph Beuys and Francisco Goya are the most notable, are resurrected through retrovision. This historical layering has the effect of a palimpsest, viewing the present as being intertwined with the past. In this way relationality between the past and the present is suggested. Die benederyk is, therefore, indeed a narrative philosophical reflection on the nature, value and function of art in the early 21st century, the history of Western art and the artistic process. Thierry De Duve’s comment, as quoted by Lyotard (1992:16), is especially relevant to this novel as it refers to the issues addressed by it: “The question of modern aesthetics is not ‘What is beautiful, but rather what is art to be and what is literature to be?’” This article also briefly explores what the terms art and artwork currently mean. Adorno’s statement in Aesthetic theory (1997:1) is relevant here: “It is self-evident that nothing concerning art is self-evident anymore, not its inner life, not its relation to society, not even its right to exist.” In fact, it could be argued that this pronouncement is the artistic theoretical framework on which Winterbach constitutes her reflection of art and what it means to be an artist in Die benederyk. This novel reflects on the meaning of art, the origin and nature of creative expression (the formation of art) and the possible value thereof. In conclusion it is clear that Winterbach is making explicit pronouncements on art theory through her characters. This means there is evidence of inter-textual poetic reflection. Although these poetic views cannot necessarily be attributed to Winterbach as a visual artist, the narrative philosophical reflection about the creative process confirms once more the particular relationship between her prose and her visual dispositionen_US
dc.language.isootheren_US
dc.publisherUniversiteit van Stellenboschen_US
dc.subjectIngrid Winterbachen_US
dc.subjectDie benederyken_US
dc.subjectKaja Silvermanen_US
dc.subjectFlesh of my fleshen_US
dc.subjectRelationalityen_US
dc.subjectRetrovisionen_US
dc.subjectCatabasisen_US
dc.subjectArtistryen_US
dc.titleOm 'n deeglike "aanmaning van sterflikheid" te kry:  katabasis, relasionaliteit en retrovisie in Die benederyk van Ingrid Winterbachen_US
dc.typeArticleen_US
dc.contributor.researchID10119663 - Nel, Adéle


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