Kaleidoscopic Visions of South Africa: A Study of State and Station in Imraan Coovadia’s Tales of the Metric System

J. Coplen Rose: University of Toronto

DOI: https://dx.doi.org/


This paper discusses the structure of Imraan Coovadia’s Tales of the Metric System: A Novel. Drawing inspiration from Karina Szczurek’s review of Coovadia’s book, the article explores the kaleidoscopic view of the South African state that emerges across the storylines in the novel. Critically, this paper connects Szczurek’s terminology to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of the rhizome. The multiple perspectives that intersect over the course of Coovadia’s text foreground the polyvalent bonds connecting characters across space and time. These links form a web between characters which closely resembles Deleuze and Guattari’s description of the rhizome in A Thousand Plateaus. In doing so, the rhizomatic structure of this novel presents a version of history that runs contrary to state history by focusing on individuals’ stories and the ties that bind them as a family, a community, and a nation. Mapping the range of connections surrounding one of the central characters, Professor Neil Hunter, I argue these bonds help to highlight how apartheid violence is experienced plurally, across multiple people, spaces, and generations; in the case of Hunter, I also show how his tragic murder impacts people born after his death. Advancing forward in time, this article goes on to show how the links between characters can also help readers map challenges pertaining to reconciliation and nation-building in the post-apartheid South African state. The interplay between time, memory, and a non-linear storyline in this novel raise important questions about the past and how or why this history is recalled.


Apartheid, Felix Guattari, Gilles Deleuze, History, Rhizome

Please login first to access subscription form of article

Read Full text in PDF

Browse By

Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)