The Story of an African Farm, by Olive Schreiner
One of the qualities of an authentic book is that each generation, thinking itself the first to see it clearly, sees in it its own face. This is very true of Olive Schreiner's strong and magical The Story of an African Farm.
Patient and enduring as the koppie on which its children play and pray, it has outlasted the fluctuations of taste and ideology which have determined the frameworks within which it has been praised or damned by successive generations. When Ralph Iron's The Story of an African Farm first appeared in January 1883 it was welcomed for its bold address to contemporary issues: the status of religious belief and the status of women. In South Africa recently a leading churchman, commenting on the relationship between Christianity and the state, pointed out that Christ was sympathetic to the poor, the sojourner, the outcast, and the woman. Schreiner's novel, with its sensitivity to all forms of oppression - a sensitivity central to South African fiction - rightly linked the oppression of childish consciousness by an authoritarian patriarchal dogma to the social curtailment of female consciousness. Waldo's story and Lyndal's story are the same story, linked by their awareness that any preordained fate removes an element of free will, individual choice, and liberty of movement. The strength of African Farm lies in the honesty with which two young people fight to maintain their human integrity against the distortions of widely accepted dogmas about the right way to grow as a young woman, or as any free spirit. The story of Schreiner's own mother, Rebecca Lyndall Schreiner, brought out to Africa as the wife of a missionary and a social adjunct (a grand piano locked up and used as a dining table, Schreiner said), but in reality both mother and teacher to the surviving eight of her twelve children, stripped of any frivolities, and vulnerable to her husband's financial disasters, drives home the intimate connection between the structures of conventional Christianity and those of the family, and the broader social relations of women. The Victorians responded to this message in the novel. They had been living the same distorted lives in England. It is to their credit that they took Schreiner's novel 'fairly on the ground on which it must be praised or condemned', as Schreiner said of Canon McColl's review of African Farm. They did not always agree with its answers, but they knew what the questions were. In fact they divided, as critics and reviewers, against the rock of those existential issues. Victorian England was interested in what the novel said. The fact that it was set in the distant Karoo instead of Piccadilly gave it an added charm, as did the soon discovered fact that the literary armour of Ralph Iron concealed a vulnerable and ardent colonial girl. A certain glamour was added to judicious morality and literary talent. As soon as there was glamour and femininity there was also patronage: the novel became 'more remarkable' for being the work of a young woman, but it also betrayed the faults of a beginner; there were 'faults of proportion and perspective', or the story was too vague, the characters were 'minds rather than bodies'. These criticisms persisted until recently. The novel has always been associated with a visionary strength and a mental power larger than, or imperfecdy realised in, its actual form. As the central Victorian conflicts receded or became flattened in the early decades of the twentieth century, Schreiner and her work became increasingly detached, in the public view, from both given social realities and the actual texture and shape of her specific written works. Her writing was increasingly mined for valuable nuggets, noble thoughts, and pieces of local colour. [...]
This is an excerpt from the novel: The Story of an African Farm, by Olive Schreiner.
Title: The Story of an African Farm
Author: Olive Schreiner
Publisher: Jonathan Ball Publishers
Johannesburg, South Africa 2009
ISBN 9780868520728 / ISBN 978-0-86852-072-8
Softcover, 13x20 cm, 305 pages
Schreiner, Olive im Namibiana-Buchangebot
The novel The Story of an African Farm details the lives of three characters and inhabitants of a Karoo farm in South Africa in the 1880s.
Words in Season is a selection of Olive Schreiner's uncollected writings on key South African issues, supported by her own autobiographical pieces.
'The Story of an African Farm' was Olive Schreiner's international coming out as a author as early as 1883.
The story of an African farm is Olive Schreiner's famous autobiographical novel takes place in the remote Karoo at the end of the 19th century.
Under the Southern Cross, an anthology of short stories, provides a wide-ranging introduction to South Africa.
Die Geschichte einer afrikanischen Farm in der südafrikanischen Karoo und ihrer Bewohner ist in diesem berühmten Roman beschrieben.