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A story of slavery, torture and colonialism
on 22 January 2017
The story is narrated by the unnamed magistrate of a small colonial town that exists as the territorial frontier of ‘the Empire’ yet recognizable as a 'universalized'’ version of South Africa. The Magistrate’s peaceful existence comes to an end with the Empire’s declaration of a state of emergency and the Third Bureau, a police force are sent due to rumours that the area's indigenous people, called ‘barbarians’ by the colonists, are preparing to attack the town. It is a disturbing story of empire, imperialism, slavery, torture and colonialism. The Third Bureau arrive but there are no barbarians there so they venture out into the wildness where they are convinced the barbarians must be gathered waiting to attack but there are no army of barbarians waiting for them. This is a common theme throughout the story, that the actual spectre of the barbarians, the Other being at the gates about to invade, is more powerful than the reality, because people like Empire need a scapegoat, someone to blame when things go wrong, someone to vent their anger and rage at. It would seem blame is a mirror in which you see every face but your own.