Mothering the Land: Maternity and Nationhood in Coetzee’s Age of Iron
J.M. Coetzee’s novel Age of Iron, set in South Africa of the 1980s, depicts the brutality rampant in its society and the various repercussions of a nation-state in violent transition. Maternity is a recurring trope in the novel and one of the chief principles along the lines of which Mrs Curren curates a sense of her own self and the body politic of South Africa. Curren’s cancer-ridden White body comes to represent the ravages of Apartheid within the South African landscape and its people, both afflicted by a disease fostered and nursed within its own body. The perverted motherland which anchors itself to the corrupt system of Apartheid can only further the systematised bigotry. This necessitates a complete and absolute rooting out of the previous ethos and its adherent's their engenderers to make space for the new. The figure of the dying mother is linked to the figure of a motherland reordering itself as the older order is cast off to beget engendering a new ethical and political system within the country. Coetzee deploys the conventional mother-land dialectic and reorients it within the Apartheid-ridden South Africa to allegorise the nation-state and its people losing their antiquated moorings in the face of rebelling and the unsettling change it effects.
Key Words: Apartheid; Postcolonial; Motherhood; Colonialism; Illness; Sexuality