Aryan Kaganof, previously known as filmmaker Ian Kerkhof, offered his debut Hectic! to various established publishing houses – in vain. ‘We can’t publish this book, they said, because we’re not sophisticated enough to read it, because we’ll think you’re an AWB-writer. I couldn’t believe it’, says Kaganof. He then ended up publishing it himself, followed by a Dutch translation.
With Hectic! Kaganof further penetrated the literary space that Coetzee had opened up. He wrote an anti-moralistic novel that is set in Cape Town, and deals with the subculture of young people who hang out in pool halls. That’s where Kaganof found the essence of the white South African. ‘The whites in this country are all white trash. No European who was on any level a worthwhile human being came into this country. The shit, the detritus and the dirt came here and invented the Negro, the kaffer, because then they could feel better about themselves. So if you want to find those things out you have to go to the lower classes, because that’s the history of the country, all the rest is affectation. Culture is very skin-deep with the white South Africans, all ersatz culture. Real South African culture is fighting and drinking and sports.’
He wanted to get to the heart of a subculture he was part of. ‘There was no other mission. To show people as they really are, not these people talking political things of change and all this rubbish. And nothing about guilt from the past. Most of the people I know live their life and don’t give a fuck about anything. They’re pissed off with all that shit.’
Despite this unwelcoming literary climate, there has been a steady stream of young post-apartheid writers, even though it’s too early to talk of a movement. ‘I could come up with a beautiful, coherent story’, says author Etienne van Heerden, who teaches creative writing at the University of Cape Town. ‘But the truth of the matter is that everything is still in a ferment, everything is very complex, and everything has a counterargument. This is the first literary generation that doesn’t write in opposition, a generation that has to search for subject matter and that is very cynical about involvement. A generation that, contrary to us, the Tachtigers, isn’t issue driven.’