Glen Retief

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Glen's Blogs

Make Present the Experience of the Other: Three Memoirs of Political Witness
Memoir has, of course, never carried the cachet of poetry. Yet like the poetry or fiction of witness, the outward-looking, politically engaged memoir and essay have a rich and respected literary pedigree, including slave narratives (the predominant form of African-American literature until the twentieth century); Mark Twain’s pamphlet about the genocide in the Congo Free State; James Baldwin’s and George Orwell’s searing dissections of racism and colonialism; Ivan Turgenev’s descriptions of Jean-Baptiste Tropmann’s execution; and Mary McCarthy’s brilliant denunciations of American Stalinism, to name just a few.
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