Coetzee's "Foe" is a subversive novel for it challenges the ideology that underlies colonialism to present a story that deconstructs some of the myths historically associated to the imperial project
Foe demonstrates that colonialism can also be questioned through form and style, crucial mechanisms to unveil the decisive role played out by literature in the expansion and consolidation of the colonialist agenda.
Coetzee's work draws on postmodernism to reformulate several 18th-c literary expressions such as:
· the epistolary genre,
· the adventure romance,
· the realist novel.
For postcolonial literature, postmodernism emerges as the best means of depicting the fragmented identity of the colonised, historically exposed to the alienating pressure of the empire:
- The situation of the colonised cannot be depicted from a realist point of view because the postcolonial context is no longer uniform and stable.
- Foe emerges as a novel that questions the pillars of realism and the ideological component that underlie it. Coetzee questions the omniscient narrator who knew and controlled the life and the thoughts of his characters.
- Foe's reaction to Susan's conception of the novel leads him to reshape her story and thus he ostracises her plans and reveals the extent to which the 18th-c realist author tended to adopt a God-like pose.
- Through his words, Foe manifests that the characters, the action and the style ultimately depend on his personal decisions and narrative manipulations.
- At this moment, characters lose all their autonomy to become fictional in Foe's hands.
- Coetzee's critique is also directed at all the ideological constraints that were implied in these novels, since most authors took advantage of their narrative position in order to manipulate the events according to their own will.
- Coetzee appears as Foe's "other" since his narration lacks the predictability, organisation and time-order that Foe wants Susan's account to display:
· Foe articulates his novel within a rigid cause-and-effect linearity that clashes with Coetzee's temporal and spatial disjointedness.
· In Foe there is not a fixed time-line, but a series of flashbacks.
· Coetzee suggests that the nature of truth is fragmented and that its apprehension as a totality is merely an illusion. Our conclusion can only be that we can simply have an impression of truth, which dismantles the claims for truthfulness in realist novels.
Post-colonialism and postmodernism also converge in that they give voice to those who have been historically silenced in both literary and socio-political terms:
- Coetzee's novel is narrated by a woman
- and one of its main protagonists is black.
However, Foe's distortion of Susan's story and how he addresses Friday is Coetzee's way of telling the reader that power is still in the hands of a white male character, turning literature in a mere source of benefits.