The Speculative Fictional Mapping of Literary Johannesburg’s Spaces in Beukes’s Zoo City and Grey’s The Mall

Authored by: Irikidzayi Manase

The Routledge Handbook of Literature and Space

Print publication date:  January  2017
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138816350
eBook ISBN: 9781315745978
Adobe ISBN:


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The chapter explores how the post-millennial social-cultural, built and other spaces of literary Johannesburg are defined in the speculative novels Zoo City (2010) by Lauren Beukes and The Mall (2011) by S. L. Grey. I am interested in how both writers enmesh the speculative, thriller and horror genres, to define space and relate it with the larger city’s lived and travelled spaces, as well as the other Johannesburg spaces, described by Graham (2015: 64) as the “subterranean spaces – basements, mines, tunnels.” As a result, the chapter is based on the assumption that this speculative fiction writerly production of literary Johannesburg’s spaces traces the spatial practices (Lefebvre 1991) of the main protagonists and other urban residents, in a way that makes us understand further the nature of the spaces of the intimate and personal, the socio-cultural consumption, and the alternative and hidden, as well as the experiences unfolding on the city’s surface and hidden cartographies. A further assumption is that although the spaces are different and disconnected, a condition that Smith (2012: 2), drawing on Darko Suvin (1979), defines as “cognitive estrangement,” the city still maintains this “soft” quality (Raban 1974), in which possibilities and connections are still established within “discontinuous realities,” in ways we may not imagine but are only possible in the world of science fiction and by extension speculative literatures (Smith 2012: 4).

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