Southern Africa

The Encyclopedia of the Novel - Peter Melville Logan 2014

Southern Africa

Andrew van der Vlies

The concerns and form of the novel in southern Africa have been determined largely by the region's cultural and social politics: for autochthonous communities as for settlers (mostly from Europe), writing served to mediate experiences of modernity, alienation, and ideological interpellation. Permanent European settlement began with the establishment by the Dutch East India Company of a refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652; the diary of the settlement's first commander, Jan van Riebeeck, is often cited as the progenitor of an Afrikaans literary tradition in South Africa. Little creative writing was produced until the early nineteenth century, by which time the erstwhile Dutch settlement had expanded and come under British control (1795—1802, and from 1806): South Africa achieved measures of independence in 1910 and 1930, and became a white minority-ruled republic in 1961 and a multiracial democracy in 1994. Elsewhere in the region, British, Portuguese, and German colonial expansion ensured that the whole of southern Africa was directly or indirectly ruled by European powers, or by self-governing minorities of European descent, by the early twentieth century.

During the nineteenth century, southern Africa attracted ethnographers, scientists, and missionaries. The latter may be credited with the spread of printing and literacy and the development of orthographies for several African languages. Mission education altered belief systems and patterns of behavior amongst indigenous communities but also facilitated access to print technologies and networks of distribution, encouraging the growth of African elites who would spur the activities of anticolonial liberation movements in the twentieth century. Furthermore, literary genres encouraged by mission presses—including narratives of conversion or self-improvement—provided the basis for early black literary prose. Inevitably, however, the model for the novel in southern Africa has been a European one.

The novel, with its investments in post-Enlightenment conceptions of interiority and progress and its assumptions about leisure and the value of reading, offered diverging opportunities for authors to stake claims on local and global identifications, involving negotiations of European and African identities—invariably against the backdrop of actual dispossession for autochthonous communities. In relation to South Africa, Rita Barnard suggests that contests over physical and imaginary geographies continue to structure psychological and social experience in a country whose history is marked by successive attempts to regulate access to space on the basis of race and ethnicity. J. M. Coetzee's seminal White Writing dissected the legacies of European metaphysics and epistemologies in South Africa's culture of letters; Barnard cites atopia, utopia, dystopia, and the pastoral as among the most enduring imagined tropes still haunting its literary imagination. A similar argument might be made for the whole of southern Africa. Critics (including Van der Vlies) draw attention to the transnational nature of the region's literary cultures: authors looked to European and North American models of the novel, and construed metropolitan publication as cultural validation. Many also found most of their readers abroad until the end of the twentieth century. Conflicting expectations of the novel—as high art or popular entertainment, as realistic representation of social conditions or contribution to a global literary field—continue to mark novelistic output from southern Africa in content, form, and in relation to the sites of publication and reception. Recent history, and unsettled narratives of cultural identity in the present, pose problems for literary historiography.

The Novel in South Africa

Anglophone Novels

Most white English-speaking residents of the Cape Colony in the early nineteenth century read whatever arrived on the latest ship from England. By the 1870s, however, colonial romances and adventure narratives appeared as the number of settlers increased after the discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) in the interior. The imperial romance, Laura Chrisman argues, both articulates and works through the “socioeconomic contradictions brought on” by the ensuing capitalization of southern Africa (6). The expansion of capitalism and its attendant class tensions, migrations to the interior, and the displacement of black communities provided fit material for novelistic treatment, although most writing traded in stereotype and cliché: faithful native retainers and pets, as in J. Percy FitzPatrick's Jock of the Bushveld (1907); wise white masters; Western medicine triumphing over local superstition; the discovery of fertile land represented as having been misused by the natives. Plots often relied on accident, inheritance, and fortuitous discovery. The Anglo-Boer War (1899—1902) provided a backdrop for much adventure writing, like Ernest Glanville's The Despatch Rider (1901). Glanville, author of twenty novels, and Bertram Mitford, who wrote forty-five, were among the most prolific authors of imperial romance.

More critically interesting writing evidences a late nineteenth-century imperial discourse fusing a rhetoric of utilitarianism and belief in the value of modernization, with that of mysticism, chivalry, and romantic primitivism. Such impulses are especially evident in Henry Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines (1885) and She (1887), which draw on quest and rite-of-passage narratives, mystical motifs, and social Darwinism. Some critics trace to this strain of colonial adventure the writing of currently popular novelists like Zambian-born Wilbur Smith, author of international bestsellers like When the Lion Feeds (1964), whose work Michael Chapman (2003) characterizes as offering “endless safaris and seductions, big game, game women, an Africa where the approved politics are thoroughly conservative” (131).

It was against this widespread mode of adventure writing that what is arguably the region's first significant novel, written by a governess of German and English missionary parentage, was conceived. Olive Schreiner's The Story of an African Farm was published in London in two volumes by Chapman & Hall in Jan. 1883. Schreiner used the pseudonym “Ralph Iron,” gesturing toward the influence of transcendentalist writing on her (characters in the novel are named Waldo and Em) and her desire not to have her work read as a simpering colonial romance for female patrons of the circulating libraries. With its “New Woman” character, Lyndall, Schreiner's novel was controversial; it remains a key reference point for Anglophone South African writing, particularly for its engagement with the pastoral, its generic inventiveness, and its negotiation of the twin demands of verisimilitude and the imagination. This negotiation, of demands that might be termed those of history and of the aesthetic, prefigures the agenda for the novel in South Africa in the ensuing century. Other novels by Schreiner are the parable-like Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland (1897) and two published posthumously: From Man to Man (1926) and Undine (1929).

Douglas Blackburn, a British immigrant on the Witwatersrand when gold mining was transforming the proto-Afrikaner Transvaal republic into a site of contestation in the new capitalist economy, also produced important early novels, including A Burgher Quixote (1903), in which a principled narrator comments on corruption in a deadpan manner, and Leaven (1908), perhaps the first important depiction of the effects of urbanization on rural black African society. This “Jim-comes-to-the-city” (specifically Johannesburg) trope would be explored most famously in English in Peter Abrahams's Mine Boy (1946) and Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country (1948).

Land and language rights, cultural autonomy, race, and citizenship in a modern state (after 1910) within the British Empire—but with multiple cultures and traditions—form the overwhelming concerns of the early twentieth-century novel in South Africa. Mhudi, subtitled an “epic of South African native life a hundred years ago,” by Solomon T. Plaatje, a mission-educated man of letters, newspaper proprietor, and politician, uses the story of a young Barolong couple in the 1830s to explore the roots of the post-Union dispossession of black South Africans by the Natives Land Act (1913), which reserved less than ten percent of the country for black ownership, in the incursions of the proto-Afrikaner Voortrekkers (migrant farmers) into central South Africa, and the contemporaneous migration of black African communities, known as the mfecane (occasioned by the expansion of the Zulu kingdom under Chaka).

The issue of race, whether in the form of tensions between English- and Afrikaans-speaking whites or the so-called “question” of the “native” population's rights, dominated much literary production. Sarah Gertrude Millin's God's Step-children (1924), an indictment of miscegenation that plays on the “black peril” trope, became internationally known; it remains a point of reference for novels revisiting the hybrid nature of South African national identity. William Plomer, who left South Africa permanently in 1929, offered a scathing response to such conservative racialist discourse in his first—and only expressly South African—novel, Turbott Wolfe (1926), a first-person account by the dying eponymous narrator of his experiences in a thinly disguised Zululand.

Notable liberal realist novels in English, interrogating this dilemma to greater or lesser effect, include Laurens van der Post's In a Province (1934) and Jack Cope's The Road to Ysterberg (1959), although the most famous is undoubtedly Paton's internationally successful Cry, the Beloved Country. Imbued with a belief in humane cooperation and gradual amelioration (which struck critics as outdated paternalism), Paton's novel was received as a parable seeking to awaken South Africa's white population to their complicity in injustice, but also as a universal narrative of courage in adversity; its nonrevolutionary message resonated with white Cold War-era American readers. Its publication coincided, too, with the election victory of an Afrikaner nationalist party, which, under Prime Ministers D. F. Malan and H. F. Verwoerd, implemented the policy of apartheid (literally, separateness). The message of Paton's novel thus seemed immediately dated to many black readers. With the recognition of the hollowness of much white liberal rhetoric, the English novel in South Africa persisted in something of a crisis. Simon Gikandi suggests that Nadine Gordimer's The Late Bourgeois World (1966) is perhaps “the exemplary work of the liberal dilemma,” its “rhetoric of failure” exposing a “failure of the liberal project that the novel, nevertheless, espouses” (in S. Gikandi, ed., 2003, Encyclopedia of African Literature, 515). Gordimer, South Africa's first Nobel laureate for literature (in 1991), established herself as the apartheid era's most important—and most sophisticated— novelistic chronicler, with an impressive catalogue also including A World of Strangers (1958), The Conservationist (1974, joint winner of the Booker Prize), Burger's Daughter (1979), and July's People (1981). She refused to exile herself and believed it was, as she put it in a 1984 essay, “The Essential Gesture,” “the white writer's task as ’cultural worker’ raise the consciousness of white people, who, unlike himself, have not woken up” (in S. Clingman, ed., 1988, The Essential Gesture, 293—94). Gordimer offered a sustained response to the country's politics through a blend of lukÁcsian critical realism and elements of late modernist narration (often with implicated first-person narrators, and fractured, free-indirect discourse). She has continued to explore the complicated texture of post-apartheid life in recent work, including The House Gun (1998) and The Pickup (2001).

Black writers also experimented with critical realism. Most significant is Alex La Guma, whose novels appeared from publishers abroad and were banned inside South Africa. And a Threefold Cord (1964) is exemplary of his method: evoking a studied naturalism, it offers detailed descriptions of deprivation in a Cape Town shantytown, inviting readers to perceive the injustices suffered by characters who themselves only gradually identify their plight as political. Other novels include The Stone Country (1968) and In the Fog of the Seasons' End (1972). La Guma was one of the few novelists whom critic Lewis Nkosi was prepared to exclude from a charge—in his essay “Fiction by Black South Africans” (1966)—that the subservience of aesthetic form to the protest message had too often resulted in “journalistic fact parading outrageously as imaginative literature” (in U. Beier, ed., 1967, Introduction to African Literature, 212). Another might well, in due course, have been Bessie Head, whose complex work, including the novels Maru (1971) and A Question of Power (1973), has become more closely associated with Botswana, where she lived in exile from South Africa. Later “protest” writing included Miriam Tlali's Amandla! (1981), Mongane Wally Serote's To Every Birth Its Blood (1981), and Sipho Sepamla's A Ride on the Whirlwind (1981), which deal with the aftermath of the Soweto uprising of 1976. Tlali's semiautobiographical Muriel at Metropolitan (1975) is concerned with the everyday, exemplifying critic and novelist Njabulo Ndebele's suggestion that the “insensitivity, insincerity and delusion” of much protest writing should be superseded by a “rediscovery of the ordinary” (50) in which apartheid's spectacular narratives were eschewed and its effective authorship of every narrative of life in the country refused.

In an address at a book fair in Cape Town (1988, “The Novel Today,” Upstream 6(1)), Coetzee spoke to a similar concern, arguing against what he called his historical moment's “powerful subsume the novel under history.” History, Coetzee countered, was “not reality,” but “a kind of discourse”; the novel did not need to answer to the dominant historical narrative. He had faced charges that his novels engaged insufficiently with the realities of his historical moment: his first, Dusklands (1974), offered twin narratives set in contemporary California and eighteenth-century South Africa; his second, In the Heart of the Country (1977), is a highly unreliable narrative by a woman in an apparently colonial-era setting. But his body of work is regarded by many as unparalleled in its ethical seriousness (Attwell). Waiting for the Barbarians (1980), a sophisticated allegory pushing the limits of the form, responds to questions of torture and complicity in the South African context. Life & Times of Michael K (1983) won Coetzee his first Booker Prize; the second followed for Disgrace (1999), a controversial narrative set in post-apartheid South Africa. Foe (1986) offered a rewriting of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719—22) and Roxana (1724), addressing issues of authority and the canon; The Master of Petersburg (1994) returned to similar issues. Age of Iron (1990) offered a self-reflexive and highly mediated meditation on ethics, writing, and the humanities in a time of political crisis. Coetzee has published three fictionalized memoirs: Boyhood (1997), Youth (2002), and Summertime (2009). Each, and especially the last, tests expectations of truth and fiction in autobiography, and they are sold in some markets as novels. Coetzee won the 2003 Nobel Prize for literature.

The work of several Anglophone novelists bridges the transition to democracy in South Africa. Damon Galgut's The Beautiful Screaming of Pigs (1991, rev. 2005) was well received, and The Good Doctor (2003) and The Imposter (2008) shortlisted for international and local prizes. Mike Nicol, known locally for novels like The Powers That Be (1989), expanded his audience with The Ibis Tapestry (1998), a postmodern thriller set in late apartheid South Africa. He has followed this success with detective fiction, including Payback (2008), the first of a contracted trilogy signaling his likely international success in a lucrative popular field. Lawyer Andrew Brown's Coldsleep Lullaby (2005) and academic Jane Taylor's Of Wild Dogs are examples of other recently successful—but more literary—detective novels, a genre that seems likely to grow given the obsession shared by many South Africans with popular discourse about criminality, corruption, and violence in the postcolonial state.

Some writers whose work long reflected a felt obligation to represent the emergency in apartheid-era South Africa—like Zanemvula Kizito Gatyeni (Zakes) Mda, who established a reputation as an activist playwright during periods of exile—began publishing more inventive, less socially realistic work after 1994. Mda published She Plays with the Darkness and Ways of Dying in 1995, shortly after his return to the country, following with The Heart of Redness (2000), The Madonna of Excelsior (2002), The Whale Caller (2005), Cion (2007), and Black Diamond (2010). Mda's novels explore the claims of tradition and modernity in narratives that employ realism, magical realism, and satire. Anne Landsman also explored the potential of magical realism in The Devil's Chimney (1997).

Zoë Wicomb had only published short fiction until David's Story (2000), which challenges nationalist—Afrikaner and black South African—myths of gender and ethnic identity, established her as one of the most accomplished post-apartheid novelists. Playing in the Light (2006) is similarly concerned with race, language, memory, and writing. Wicomb's writing, in its concern with trauma and acts of witnessing, engaged with the one of the legacies of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC): the heightened profile of narrative, and a complex understanding of narrative “truth” (as opposed to forensic, or verifiable, truth). Other novels to respond to the potentialities suggested formally and thematically by the TRC include Achmat Dangor's Bitter Fruit (2001), Yvette Christiansë's Unconfessed (2006), and Njabulo Ndebele's formally experimental and politically provocative The Cry of Winnie Mandela (2003).

Ivan VladislaviImage has produced adventurous and nuanced examinations of the late and post-apartheid urban landscape with a keen eye for the absurd, particularly in The Folly (1993), in The Restless Supermarket (2001), and in short fiction that aspires to the novelistic, especially The Exploded View (2004). Other “urban” fiction, grappling with the deprivations of street children, conditions of drug abuse and prostitution, and the devastation wrought by HIV/AIDS, include the small but powerful work of Phaswane Mpe (2001, Welcome to Our Hillbrow) and K. Sello Duiker (2000, Thirteen Cents; 2001, The Quiet Violence of Dreams). Kgebetli Moele's Room 207 (2006) examines the textures of everyday life in urban South Africa, particularly for young black men; The Book of the Dead (2009) confronts issues of sexual behavior and social responsibility—and gives a voice (literally) to HIV/AIDS. Murhandziwa Nicholas (Niq) Mhlongo also explores urban life, in Dog Eat Dog (2004) and After Tears (2007).

African-language Novels

There is a relatively long and robust novelistic tradition in South Africa's African languages. The publication of Tiyo Soga's isiXhosa translation of part of Pilgrim's Progress (as uHambo Lomhambi) in 1866 is often cited as a seminal moment in the development of a vernacular South African literature. It also bespeaks the significance of mission presses (particularly the Morija Press in Maseru, Marianhill in KwaZulu-Natal, and Lovedale in Alice in the Eastern Cape) which vetted writing for compliance with Christian orthodoxy by fostering a black southern African culture of letters (Attwell). Morija published Thomas Mofolo's 1907 Bunyanesque Sesotho-language Moeti oa Bochabela (also Moeti wa Botjhabela, The Traveller to the East) and his masterful historical work Chaka (1925). The former revisits the hero-quest form and an allegory that tests as it examines the impact of Christianity on Basotho culture; Chapman suggests that Chaka might equally be regarded as epic and as romance (212). Mofolo's work features in early debates about whether the written word should be used to advance African nationalism, or serve the goal of Western—for which read Christian—modernity, and whether these goals are mutually exclusive.

A seminal debate about the use of English in developing a black national identity raged in print throughout the 1930s between isiZulu poet and critic Herbert Isaac Ernest Dhlomo (1903—56) and the novelist, poet, and academic Benedict Wallet Vilakazi. The latter's Nje nempela (1933, Really and truly) is among the first isiZulu novels to deal with contemporary life rather than historical subjects. John Langibalele Dube, writer, educator, and politician, wrote the first novel in isiZulu with U-Jege: Insila kaShaka (ca. 1930, Jeqe, the Bodyservant of King Shaka). Rolfes Reginald Raymond Dhlomo contributed a series of historical novels, including on kings Dingane (1936, UDingane), Chaka (1937, UShaka), and Ceteswayo (1952, UCetshwayo). He also authored the 1946 “Jim-comes-to-Jo'burg”-themed Indlela yababi (1946, Path of the Wicked). Also in this genre are Jordan Kush Ngubane's Uvalo lwezinhlonzi (1956, Fear of Authority) and James Nduna Gumbi's Baba, Ngixolele (1966, Father, Forgive Me) and Wayesezofika ekhaya (1967, He Was About To Go Home), novels tracing the implications for traditional community and family structures of the apartheid South African state's industrialization and urbanization.

The theme of the return of the prodigal son is treated in Deuteronomy Bhekinkosi Zeblon Ntuli's Ubheka (1962, The Watcher) and the prolific Kenneth Bhengu's Baba Ngonile (1971, Father, I Have Sinned). Each of these novels draws on oral traditions of storytelling, and on allegory and the structure of the morality tale—the latter showing the imbrication of Christian and older codes of ethics and morality. In Cyril Lincoln Sibusiso Nyembezi's Inkinsela yaseMgungundlovu (1961, The Rich Man of Pietermaritzburg), an urban trickster hoodwinks rural folk. Christian Themba Msimang has published a number of novels, including Akuyiwe emhlahlweni (1973, Let Us Consult the Diviner) and Buzani kuMkabayi (1982, Ask Mkabayi), as well as a 1983 monograph, Folktale Influence on the Zulu Novel. According to the 2001 census, isiZulu was the home language of 23.8 percent of the South African population; it is thus the most-spoken home language. Samuel Edward Krune Mqhayi is regarded as having written the first novel, U-Samson (1907), in isiXhosa, home language of the second-largest proportion of South Africans (17.6 percent, according to the 2001 census). Mqhayi also authored a utopian fiction, U-Don Jadu (1929). Guybon Bundlwana Sinxo, an important translator of European literature into isiXhosa, himself wrote UNomsa (1922), Umfundisi wase-Mthuqwasi (1927, The priest of Mthuqwasi), and Umzali Wolahleko (1933, The prodigal parent), tackling issues such as the education of children, family structure, and the politics of race as it continues to affect even black Christian converts. James Ranisi Jolobe, chiefly known as a poet, wrote several novels—including UZagula (1923), dealing with witchcraft, and Elundini loThukela (1958, On the Tugela Hills). Victoria Nombulelo Mermaid Swaartbooi was a pioneering feminist writer whose 1934 novel, U-Mandisa, follows the career of a woman who seeks employment over marriage.

The flowering of isiXhosa prose fiction came with Archibald Campbell Jordan's celebrated Ingqumbo Yeminyanya (1940, The Wrath of the Ancestors), but the effect of so-called “Bantu” education, a policy of the apartheid government that, after 1953, deliberately impoverished the standard of education for black South Africans (who, it was held, should be raised only to work as laborers), had a deleterious effect on literary culture. Comparatively liberal mission presses were overtaken by Afrikaans publishing houses as the centers of publishing for black education, and little interesting vernacular literature was encouraged or allowed. IsiXhosa-language writers who came to the fore in this difficult period include Enoch Fikile Gwashu, Knobel Sakhiwo Bongela, Randall Langa Peteni, and the prolific Peter Thabiso Mtuze, an academic and man of letters whose novels include UDingezweni (1966), Umsinga (1973, A Tide), and Indlel' ecand' intlango (1981, The Road through the Wilderness).

In Sesotho, or Southern Sotho (spoken by 7.9 percent of South Africans, and the majority language of neighboring Lesotho), writers like Bennett Makalo Khaketla (1960, Mosali a nkhola; A Comforting Woman) and Kemuel Edward Monyatsi Ntsane (ca. 1967, Bao Batho; Those People) produced novels blending sociocultural concerns with a cautious note of political protest. Kgotso Pieter David Maphalla has published numerous prizewinning and much-prescribed short stories, poems, dramas, and novels, the latter including Nna ke mang? (1991, Who Am I?) and Ha maru a rwalellana (2007, The Clouds Eclipse One Another). The academic Nhlanhla Paul Maake's novels include Ke Phethisitse Ditaelo tsa Hao (1994, I Have Fulfilled Your Commands), Kweetsa ya Pelo ya Motho (1995, The Depth of the Heart of Man), and Mme (1995, Mother).

Amongst less widely spoken languages in South Africa are Setswana (the majority language of neighboring Botswana) and Northern Sotho (or Sesotho sa Leboa, sometimes called Sepedi, though this refers to a dialect in this group), with less than 10 percent of the population as home-language speakers, and Xitsonga (Shangaan in Mozambique), SiSwati (spoken, too, in Swaziland), Tshivenda, and isiNdebele, with less than 5 percent. Among contemporary Setswana novelists in South Africa, Kabelo Duncan Kgatea's Monwona wa bosupa (2008, The pointing finger) features a quest narrative, elements of pan-African transnationalism, and contemporary issues such as the legal custody of children.

Afrikaans Novels

The “Boer” Republics established in the interior from 1854 onward (after the migration of many “Dutch” farmers—or Boers—from the British-ruled Cape Colony in the mid-1930s) were annexed by Britain after the Anglo-Boer War. Their spoken language differed from the Dutch used in the church and courts, and assimilated vocabulary from contact with autochthonous languages and the so-called “Malay” creole of slaves from the Indian Ocean rim. A concerted movement to recognize this as a new language began in 1874 and intensified in the early twentieth century, resulting in state recognition in 1925. The developing literary culture soon included significant novels by Johannes van Melle, Mikro (pseud. of C. H. Kühn), and C. M. van den Heever, whose pastoral novels in the plaasroman (farm novel) tradition (see Coetzee) included Somer (1935, Harvest Home) and Laat Vrugte (1939, Late Harvest). More complex representations of life in South Africa, including the dilemmas of racial politics, came with C. J. M. Nienaber's Keerweer (1946, Cul De Sac), which J. C. Kannemeyer regards as “the only novel written at this time showing any sign of genuine innovation” (61). F. A. Venter published a tetralogy in the 1960s—including Geknelde land (1960, Oppressed Land), Offerland (1963, Land of Sacrifice), Gelofteland (1966, Land of the Covenant), and Bedoelde land (1968, Intended [or Promised Land])—that explored Afrikaner struggles, in particular the mythology of the Voortrekkers, implicitly expressing optimism in the future of the white-ruled state. He is better known for his “Jim-comes-to-Jo'burg” novel about the supposed perils of urbanization, Swart pelgrim (1952, Dark Pilgrim). It is worth noting that some other Afrikaans novels in this genre were written by black Afrikaans authors—including Sydney Vernon Petersen's As die son ondergaan (1945, When the sun sets) and Arthur Fula's Jôhannie giet die beeld (1954, The Golden Magnet).

Anna M. Louw published historical novels, including Die banneling: Die lyfwag (1964, The Exile: The Bodyguard) and Die groot gryse (1968, The Great [or Honored] “Gray One” [or Old Man]; it was about Transvaal president Paul Kruger) in the 1960s, but is best known for books like Kroniek van Perdepoort (1975, The Chronicle of Perdepoort), a farm novel combining allegory, satire, and symbolism in a potent mix. Wilma Stockenström, better known as a poet, also engaged with the farm novel in Uitdraai (1976, Turn-off). Elsa Joubert published important work in the 1960s and 1970s, including, most famously, a novelized version of her black female employee's struggles (including with apartheid bureaucracy), Die swerfjare van Poppie Nongena (1978, The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena).

The 1960s saw the flowering of the “new” novel in Afrikaans, heavily indebted to existentialism, psychoanalytic theories, and the nouveau roman. Writers—many of whom spent time in France or the Netherlands—explored myth, deployed extensive symbolism, and were comparatively daring in representing sexuality and political dissent. Chief among this Sestiger (sixties) school are Jan Rabie, author of Ons, die Afgod (1958, We, the Idol), and Etienne Leroux (pseud. of S. P. D. le Roux), who is best known for the Silberstein trilogy: Sewe Dae by die Silbersteins (1962, Seven Days at the Silbersteins), recounting feckless Henry van Eeden's week with his fiancée's family on a wine farm in the Western Cape, is a symbolically complex exploration of good and evil; Een vir Azazel (1964, One for the Devil) explores culpability and moral judgment, drawing on classical rhetorical patterns, detective-fiction formulae, and Greek tragedy; Die Derde Oog (1966, The Third Eye) is loosely patterned on the Hercules myth. They were published in English as To a Dubious Salvation (1972). The banning of Leroux's Magersfontein, O Magersfontein (1976) by the apartheid censors in 1977 was a cause célèbre, hastening changes in the restrictive censorship regime (discussed extensively by Peter McDonald).

Another Sestiger, André P. Brink, is perhaps the best-known Afrikaans novelist abroad, particularly for 'n Droë Wit Seisoen (1979, A Dry White Season), later filmed. Highly prolific and eclectic, Brink has experimented with surrealism, social realism, political reportage, a version of magical realism, historical romance, confessional first-person narratives, and sweeping family sagas. The banning of his 1973 novel Kennis van die Aand (Looking on Darkness)—it was the first Afrikaans novel to be so censored—cast Brink as the spokesperson for enlightened Afrikanerdom. (Since the 1970s, he has prepared simultaneous English and Afrikaans versions of his novels). Post-apartheid fiction includes Sandkastele (1996, Imaginings of Sand) and Donkermaan (2000, The Rights of Desire).

Other significant novelists include John Miles. His Donderdag of Woensdag (1978, Thursday or Wednesday) and Stanley Bekker en die boikot (1980, Stanley Bekker and the Boycott) were both banned: the former featured artists planning to kidnap the president; the latter dealt with racial discrimination and school boycotts through a formal engagement with the children's story. Miles is best known for Kroniek uit die Doofpot (1991, Deafening Silence: Police Novel), which was based on the case of the police killing of Richard Motasi—also recounted in Afrikaans poet Antjie Krog's creative nonfiction prose account of the TRC hearings, Country of My Skull (1998).

Karel Schoeman's many novels show a range of influences, including—unusually for an Afrikaner— conversion to Catholicism, and a later interest in Buddhism. A period as a novice in an Irish monastery informed By fakkellig (1966, By Torchlight), a historical novel about Irish nationalism in the late eighteenth century. Later novels included Na die geliefde land (1972, Promised Land), Die hemeltuin (1979, The Heavenly Garden), and a trilogy: Hierdie lewe (1993, This Life), Die uur van die engel (1995, The Hour of the Angel), and Verliesfontein (1998). Another writer who wrote historical novels, though in a more popular—and very successful—vein, is Dalene Matthee, whose series set in the southern Cape's Outeniqua forest (around present-day Knysna) includes Kringe in 'n bos (1984, Circles in a Forest), Fiela se Kind (1985, Fiela's Child; also filmed), and Moerbeibos (1987, The Mulberry Forest).

Significant voices in contemporary fiction include Jeanne Goosen, Marié Heese, Chris Pelser, Ingrid Winterbach, Christoffel Coetzee, and Eben Venter, whose well-received novels include Ek Stamel Ek Sterwe (1996, My Beautiful Death) and the dystopic Horrelpoot (2006, Trencherman). Mark Behr's Die Reuk van Appels (1993, The Smell of Apples), well received in the country and abroad, a tale of lost innocence, is also partially an example of grensliteratuur (border literature), engaging with the legacies of South Africa's costly covert military operations in Angola in the late 1970s and 1980s. Behr now writes in English (2009, Kings of the Water). Etienne van Heerden is prolific and highly regarded; his best-known novel is Toorberg (1986, Ancestral Voices). Marlene van Niekerk's harrowing 1994 novel Triomf (Triumph), is named for the working-class white suburb built by the apartheid government on the ruins of the famed center of black Johannesburg culture, Sophiatown, and follows a trio of poor white siblings, the Benades, in the run-up to the first democratic elections of 1994. Van Niekerk's Agaat (2004, The Way of the Women), an ambitious revisioning of the plaasroman, has been received as amongst the most accomplished South African novels in any language in the new millennium.

Other Countries

In all countries of the South African Development Community (SADC), the usual delimitation of South Africa as a region, novelists have felt tensions between demands that writing act in support of projects of national self-definition in the postcolonial era, and concerns to interrogate the pitfalls of nationalist rhetoric or the disappointments of independence and neocolonialism. Attempts to write for a living in what are very small markets also pose dilemmas.

Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing colony in 1923. Early novels include colonial romances, although some work is critical of white racial attitudes and policies, including Arthur Shearly Cripps's Bay Tree Country (1913). Doris Lessing, the 2007 Nobel literature laureate, is sometimes regarded as a Rhodesian novelist; she spent the years 1925—49 in the colony, and The Grass Is Singing (1950), her first novel, is set there (as are parts of The Golden Notebook, 1962). The white minority Rhodesian government declared itself unilaterally independent of Britain in 1965, precipitating a protracted and bitter conflict with armed black nationalist guerrillas that culminated in the election of a majority government, and independence as Zimbabwe, in 1980.

Stanlake Samkange's On Trial for My Country (1966) is among the first significant proto-Zimbabwean novels, restaging the encounter between late nineteenth-century Ndebele/Matabele king Lobengula and Cecil Rhodes. Samkange also published The Mourned One (1968) and Year of the Uprising (1978). Charles Mungoshi's Waiting for the Rain (1975) compares earlier wars of liberation with the anticolonial struggle of the 1960s and 1970s, but was an indictment of the Rhodesian government's cultural policies, too, in that it was published in English in London, in the Heinemann African Writers series, so escaping Rhodesian censorship and defying the white government's attempts to corral black writers into writing in their vernaculars and being published by government-controlled presses (though Mungoshi did contribute greatly to the development of a literary Shona in his several novels in that language).

Much writing produced during the struggle (1966—79) is marked by a sense of psychic as well as spatial displacement, as writers attempted to balance aesthetic with political concerns. Nowhere is this more marked than in the work of Dambudzo Marechera, whose The House of Hunger (1978; strictly a short-story collection, but featuring an eponymous novella), Black Sunlight (1980), and Mindblast (1984) have earned him considerable regard as a high Modernist representing extreme alienation and psychological difficulties. Chenjerai Hove's Bones (1988) and Ancestors (1997) display striking formal inventiveness, including the use of Shona idioms and expressions. Like Shimmer Chinodya's Harvest of Thorns (1989) and Chairman of Fools (2005), Hove's writing engages with idealism and disappointment, solidarity, and the pitfalls of national identity. Chinodya's other novels include Dew in the Morning (1982) and Farai's Girls (1984).

Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions (1988), the narrative of a young rural Shona girl's education and coming to consciousness, and of her female family members’ struggles with the twin burdens of colonialism and the chauvinism of traditional society, has received much critical attention. The much-anticipated second novel in a projected trilogy, The Book of Not, was published in 2006. Yvonne Vera published her first novel, Nehanda, in 1993, and followed it with four more, including the prizewinning Butterfly Burning (2000) and The Stone Virgins (2002). Vera has received praise for her poetic prose and sophisticated engagement with questions of gender identity. She died in Canada in 2005.

Vera's work is regarded as having been influenced by the form and style of the novel as it had developed in Shona, as well as of Shona oral culture. Important early work in Shona includes Bernard Chidzero's Nzvengamutsvairo (1957, Mr. Lazybones), published by the Rhodesia Literature Bureau and widely read in schools in the colonial period. Catholic clergyman Patrick Chakaipa's romances Karikoga Gumiremiseve (1959, Karikoga and His Ten Arrows) and Pfumo Reropa (1961, Spear of blood), and the didactic Rudo Ibofu (1961, Love Is Blind), which also draws on traditional storytelling, were influential. Garandichauya (1963, Wait, I Shall Return) deals with disruptions wrought by colonial intrusions into traditional life. Paul Chidyausiku produces mostly shorter work (and is also a poet). Raymond Choto's satirical novel Vavariro (1990, Determination) offered a departure from nationalist fictions. A journalist, he was arrested and tortured by Mugabe's regime in Dec. 1998. Ignatius Tirivangani Mabasa, a former senior editor of the Herald newspaper, has had great success with his novel Mapenzi (1999, Fools), a satire on post-independence Zimbabwe drawing on aspects of Shona orature and contemporary urban slang.

A literary tradition in Sindebele (or Northern Ndebele) is less developed, as is the case in South Africa (where the variety of the language is isiNdebele, or Southern Ndebele, where, as a written language, it is one of the youngest in the region). In Zimbabwe, Barbara C. Makhalisa's Qilindini (1974, Crafty Person) won a Rhodesian Literature Bureau award and explores issues of tradition and modernity, although apparently endorsing mission schooling and colonial governance. She also published Impilo Yinkinga (1983, Life Is a Mystery).

Malawi, with a history of mission education and a literate elite, produced a more robust literary culture earlier than neighboring Zambia, which, as Northern Rhodesia, had developed economically primarily on the basis of colonial mining interests. A joint Northern Rhodesian and Nyasaland (Malawi) publications bureau, established in 1947, attempted to encourage literary production but too often promoted writing which endorsed colonial attitudes. Aubrey Kachingwe's No Easy Task (1966), about the anticolonial struggle, is regarded as the first Malawian novel in English. The first major Zambian novel was arguably Dominic Mulaisho's The Tongue of the Dumb (1971), while other significant writers include Gideon Phiri, Binwell Sinyangwe, and Andreya Masiye.

Angola and Mozambique achieved independence from Portugal in 1975. Despite economic difficulties and protracted civil conflicts that lasted into the 1990s, both countries have witnessed significant literary production, before and since independence, in Portuguese and in autochthonous languages. Among the better known are Angola's Pepetela (pseud. of Arthur Carlos Pestana), whose Mayombe (1971, pub. in Portugal 1980; Mayombe: A Novel of the Angolan Struggle) dramatizes debates about commitment and politics. Mozambican novelists include Paula Chiziane and António Emílio Leite (Mia) Couto, acclaimed author of, among other novels, Terra Sonâmbula (1992, Sleepwalking Land), A Varanda do Frangipani (1996, Under the Frangipani), and O Último Voo do Flamingo (2001, The Last Flight of the Flamingo). He is one of the best-known proponents of a regionally inflected magical realism. Angolan-born (now largely Lisbon-based) José Eduardo Agualusa (Alves da Cunha)'s O Vendedor de Passados (2004), translated as The Book of Chameleons (the translation won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2007), is rendered in a similarly fantastic—though lightly dazzling—style, featuring a character, Félix Ventura, who is a seller of pasts. Nação Crioula (1997, Creole) first won Agualusa notice as a leading young Lusophone writer; it followed Estação das Chuvas (1996, Rainy Season).


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