Dedre Immelman Student nr 5012-960-0
In Exile (Arthur Nortje) Question 1 The poem “In Exile” was written by Arthur Nortje in the 1960 – 1970 period. There could be different interpretations to the meaning of the title “In Exile”. Arthur Nortje won a scholarship to study at the Jesus College at Oxford University. Arthur became one of the privileged few “chosen” to further their education outside the borders of South Africa. Can he be seen as truly in exile? I will argue that the title of the poem is relevant and is a reference to the personal feelings and experiences of Arthur Nortje during his time spent in England and Kanada. This poem was written during the time period 1960 to 1970 – during this time South Africa had a volatile political situation and many a young activists fled the country. As mentioned, the poet did not flee the country but this title can be seen as an identification with those fellow South Africans in exile as well as a emotional reference to the feelings one experiences when you leave your country of birth and need to settle new roots in the soil of a new country. “In Exile” indicates that something or someone is unsettled and not in their place of true origin. They have moved away – either voluntarily or by force. The title does not indicate whether this exile is a positive or negative experience. It does however refer to an action because exile indicates motion. One other aspect worth considering is the fact that the poet was born from a mixed couple and classified as colored. This could have left him with a feeling of alienation and the social implications could have left him with a feeling of being in “exile”. Question 2 The poem could be seen as a lyric description of the poet’s feelings. The poet is writing about 2 things – his country of origin and his feelings of desolation and possibly anger towards his birth country. Secondly, he is painting a picture of a landscape in his new adopted country. Nortje often uses imaginative landscapes to compensate for his personal dislocation and feeling of isolation. It also refers to South Africa and the political
isolation characteristic to certain groups of our population during that period of time in our history. The communicative aim of the poet is to tell the reader more about the feelings of isolation he experienced and how wounded his soul was. It also refers to South Africa and the political and emotional context of fellow anti-apartheid or rather non-white patriots during that time. He is strongly relying on connotations in the reader’s imagination to bring his story across. A picture is painted of a current landscape but the poet makes you realise that you can’t see the beauty of a new picture without dealing with the hurt of the past. Question 3 The poet is relying on the readers understanding of the political and economic situation in South Africa during the time period in which this poem was written. In the first line “Open skies flare wide enough” – this is the first reference to the power of memory because the word “flare” could be a reference to the noise and action when a grenade explodes during war. The flare is often seen and heard when the grenade explodes. In the second stanza, the poet refers to “boots passing through” – this could be a reference to the unseen soldiers of apartheid South Africa passing through the townships at night to make sure no non-whites were out in the street. If you have experienced South Africa during that time, the boots passing through will remind you of oppression and fear or on the other side it might remind you of protection and hope. The words “wrong pigment” gives the reader an indication of a situation where people are judged simply because they don’t have the correct appearance – their skin color is unacceptable and thus they are unacceptable.
Question 4 The poet is referring to storm clouds in his past and also to clouds in the history of...