Present Imperfect asks how South African writers have responded to the end of apartheid, to the hopes that attended the birth of the 'new' nation in 1994, and to the inevitable disappointments that have followed. The first full-length study of affect in South Africa's literature, it understands 'disappointment' both as a description of bad feeling and as naming a missed appointment with all that was promised by the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid Struggle
(a dis-appointment). Attending to contemporary writers' treatment of temporality, genre, and form, it considers a range of negative feelings that are also experiences of temporal disjuncture-including stasis, impasse, boredom, disaffection, and nostalgia. Present Imperfect offers close readings of work by a
range of writers - some known to international Anglophone readers including J.M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, Ivan Vladislavic, and Zoe Wicomb, some slightly less well-known including Afrikaans-language novelists Marlene van Niekerk and Ingrid Winterbach, and others from a new generation including Songeziwe Mahlangu and Masande Ntshanga.
It addresses key questions in South African studies about the evolving character of the historical period in which the country now finds itself. It is also alert to wider critical and theoretical conversations, looking outward to make a case for the place of South African writing in global conversations, and mobilizing readings of writing marked in various ways as 'South African' in order to complicate the contours of World Literature as category, discipline, and pedagogy. It is thus also a
book about the discontents of neoliberalism, the political energies of reading, and the fates of literature in our troubled present.
Andrew van der Vlies is Reader in Global Anglophone Literature and Theory in the Department of English at Queen Mary University of London and Extraordinary Associate Professor at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. Born and raised in South Africa, he was educated at Rhodes University and completed his doctorate at the University of Oxford. He is the author of South African Textual Cultures, editor of Print, Text, and Book Cultures in South Africa and of the journal Safundi, and contributor to a number of important collections about South African and African literature and culture.