Kaiyue He

From Bruntsfield to Bulawayo: Homeland and Household in Muriel Spark’s African Writings

For Muriel Spark, a Scottish writer and exile, Africa was the scene of estrangement and a personal encounter with colonialism. Spark’s African sojourn lasted from 1937 to 1944, as she travelled from her Edinburgh home in Bruntsfield to Bulawayo in what was then Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Although none of Spark’s novels are set in Africa, this continent features prominently in many of her works. Spark’s African writings have received some critical attention, but her African poems and the racial politics in her fiction remain under-investigated. This paper analyses Spark’s nostalgia for Scotland and her sense of dislocation as a white settler expressed in her African poems. It also studies some of Spark’s African stories and explores the white settler household in South Africa from the perspective of housekeeping, housework, cleaning and decorating. This paper argues that Spark’s African writings present a fierce attack on racial segregation, class snobbery and patriarchy before and during the early stage of apartheid in South Africa.

Kaiyue He, University of Glasgow