Devil With Blue Eyes is a novel of dislocation that seeks to explore and expose the rise of xenophobia in South Africa. This it will do through the story of Fikile Gumede, an American-born biracial teenage girl – her mother is a white American and her father a black South African – who has to go and finish her schooling in her father’s country after the father dies in a car accident, and her mother breaks down and has to be hospitalised.
The post-apartheid South Africa that Fikile arrives at is a complicated country. And it is this post-apartheid complexity that the writer seeks to expose and interrogate in this novel.
When Nelson Mandela became the first president of post-apartheid South Africa in 1994, he engendered a new philosophy, a new spirit, a new nationalism which sought to locate his country at the cross-roads of a cosmopolitanism sweeping hitherto insular and closed societies.
With his passing away, there was a remarkable and immediate retrogression: tribalism, racism and xenophobia rose to the surface.
The book seeks to explore a process of synthesis between two aspects of the novel which have long consorted and contested with each other: between “on the one hand, the novel’s propensity toward realism, social documentation and interrelation with historical events and movements, and on the other … its propensity toward form, fictionality, and reflexive self-examination”. (Bradbury: 1977)