Albie Sachs, Indres Naidoo, and the South African Prison Memoir

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Scrutiny2: Issues in English Studies in Southern Africa



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Detained by security police in 1963 and again in 1965, Albie Cachs was subjected to a "self-destroying regime of psychological torture. Over the years he repeatedly visits the prison cell in his autobiographical and polemical writings to rewrite his "self" as an oppositional political subject. In his Jail diary of 1966, his depiction of himself emerging from months of solitary confinement without making a statement is one of a resolute individual defying his captors. But in Stephanie on trial (1968), Sachs narrates how during his second detention he broke and made a statement within twenty-four hours; he is thus forced to find another basis on which to establish an oppositional identity. He does so in part through a collaborative autobiography with Indres Naidoo, whose Robben Island (1982) depicts the more communal experience of imprisonment on the island. Sachs is thus able to continually revise his identity to meet what Paul John Eakin describes as the everchanging "needs of present consciousness".

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