Critical Context

Dan Jacobson was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and spent the first twenty-five years of his life, with the exception of trips to Israel and London, in South Africa, which provided the setting and themes for his first short stories and novels. In 1954, he returned to England, which has become his home, although he has continued to visit South Africa. In following this course of action his career has resembled those of fellow African English novelists such as Olive Schreiner and Doris Lessing. His move to England has affected his writing, since after his first five novels, which were set in South Africa and concerned the racist policies there, he has turned to England for setting and themes.

In his earlier novels, Jacobson had been, for the most part, in the realistic school of fiction, but with the publication of The Rape of Tamar (1970) he has changed his style, making the narrator’s relationship to his theme the focus of his novel. This reflexive quality, the concern with the narrator’s voice and with the craft of fiction is even more apparent in The Wonder-Worker. In The Confessions of Josef Baisz (1977), Jacobson’s focus is also on the relation between the first-person narrator’s psychology and the story he tells. Jacobson’s shift in style and theme has resulted in fiction that makes new demands on his readers, who find that, in a very real sense, they must participate themselves in the “making” of each of his novels.