The Story of Seretse and Ruth: A Southern African foundational fiction

DODGSON-KATIYO, Pauline (2009). The Story of Seretse and Ruth: A Southern African foundational fiction. Journal of Literary Studies, 25 (1), 64-79.

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This article is centred on Wilf Mbanga and Trish Mbanga's Seretse and Ruth (2005), a Zimbabwean-authored, fictionalised biography of the first President of Botswana, Seretse Khama and his British wife, Ruth Williams. In the article, analysis of Seretse and Ruth is placed within the context of a resurgence of international interest both in Botswana as a society and in the marriage of the Khamas. The aims and methodology of Mbanga and Mbanga are compared to those of Michael Dutfield, the author of their main secondary source A Marriage of Inconvenience (1990). The ambiguity in the “play” on cultural and racial difference in Seretse and Ruth is discussed in an analysis of the biography's representation of Ruth and Seretse's courtship and the antagonism between Ruth and Seretse's uncle, Tshekedi. Drawing on the work of Doris Sommer (1993) on the romance as foundational fiction in nineteenth-century Latin American writing, the paper argues that Seretse and Ruth presents the story of the Khamas as a foundational fiction in which “starcrossed lovers” from different races and regions eventually unite the new nation of Botswana. Moreover, the retelling of this story has resonances in contemporary southern African politics and culture. Seretse and Ruth contributes to the “myth” of Botswana as a successful, harmonious society that can be contrasted with the divided society of neighbouring Zimbabwe. The paper concludes that Seretse and Ruth presents a way of imagining a foundational fiction for Zimbabwe based on consensus rather than exclusion.

Item Type: Article
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Humanities Research Centre
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Page Range: 64-79
Depositing User: Hilary Ridgway
Date Deposited: 16 Aug 2011 09:32
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 10:00

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