Aesthetics Pain and Suffering Books: “Waiting for the Barbarians” by J.M. Coetze “Nervous Conditions” by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Topics: Suffering, Torture, Tsitsi Dangarembga Pages: 3 (910 words) Published: October 18, 2010

Pain and Suffering
“Waiting for the Barbarians” by J.M. Coetze

“Nervous Conditions” by Tsitsi Dangarembga


Pain and suffering… What comes into your mind when you read these words? You probably just told yourself “I don’t want to read this”. Well, it is true that our minds connect pain with torture and scenes of horror. But let’s see how the two novels presented the theme of pain.

In the first novel that we studied in class, “Waiting for the Barbarians” by J.M. Coetze, the theme of pain and suffering was evident throughout its course. The narrator, a magistrate of one South African frontier, faces the horror after the tortures and devastation that Colonel Joll left behind after his visit/hunt of “enemies of the Empire”. One of Colonel Jolls prisoners, a girl, is left behind temporarily blind and crippled comes into the story to give a body to torture. The magistrate feels responsible for her wounds and gives her self-cleansing baths, with no sexual interactions, trying to heal the pain that this girl has suffered from her torturers.

“[…] (Colonel Joll) “First I get lies, you see – this is what happens – first lies, then pressure, then more lies, then more pressure, then the break, then more pressure, then the truth. That is how you get the truth.” Pain is truth; all else is subject to doubt. That is what I bear away from my conversation with Colonel Joll,[…]”

After the girl recovers, and while the magistrate is suffering by his acts towards this girl, he decides that he should take her back to her people. During the journey he realizes his love for her, but that doesn’t change his mind about going back alone. When he returns though, he becomes one of the prisoners that he used to feel sympathetic for and tried to help; Colonel Joll accuses him for treason. This is how he, for the first time experiences raw physical pain.

“[…] In my suffering there is nothing ennobling. Little of what I...
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