Symbolic self-translation in Bloke Modisane’s Blame Me on History

  • Thengani Ngwenya Durban University, South Africa


The article examines Modisane’s self-portrayal in his autobiography, Blame Me on History (1963). The author argues that for Modisane autobiographical self-representation takes the form of a complex and multi-layered process of symbolic and metaphorical translation of (self) identity. Symbolic self-translation in Modisane’s autobiography involves attempts by the narrator-protagonist to untangle the conundrum resulting from what is presented as an unbridgeable chasm between the kind of person he could have been in a country devoid of racial oppression and what he was forced to become in the racially segregated South Africa of the twentieth century. Central to the analysis of Modisane’s chosen mode of self-portraiture is James Olney’s notion of “metaphors of self” in terms of which the autobiographical self seeks to articulate its elusive ontological status through metaphors and symbols. The article also provides a critique of contradictions inherent in the ideology of liberal humanism which is presented as universally desirable in Modisane’s autobiography. Keywords: alienation, identity, self-representation, South African literature, translation

Research articles