A History of South African Literature by Christopher Heywood

By Christopher Heywood

Christopher Heywood surveys consultant South African poems, performs and prose works in 5 literary traditions: Khoisan, Nguni-Sotho, Afrikaans, English, and Indian. Heywood's choices contain over a hundred authors and chosen works--covering poetry, theater and prose. Explored within the context of crises resulting in the formation of recent South Africa, South African literature emerges from this learn as one of many nice literatures of the fashionable international.

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The ensuing arrest and trial of the backbone of the meeting at the Treason Trial paved the way for the move towards military action and the rise of Black Consciousness after 1960. A principal literary event before 1960 was the formation of the magazine Drum in 1951. This journal achieved outstanding heights through its combination of reporting, prose sketches, protest writing, and humour, with inspired and inspiring literary editing from Es’kia Mphahlele and Sylvester Stein, and with guidance from its omnivorous and omnicompetent general editor, Anthony Sampson, and from its founder and backer, Jim Bailey.

He identified seven stages in the life of any individual in any society, and of whole communities, each marked by a rite of passage or ceremony and accompanied with formulaic narratives, music, release of energy, and resolution of tensions in the individual and the group. These are: birth, entry into family life, entry into school, entry into fertility (initiation), entry into parenthood, exit from parenthood, and exit from life. His model unlocks meanings in literary works from the world’s widely separated literary traditions.

Collecting and transcribing Nguni–Sotho oral literature began among the northern Nguni (Zulu) community of KwaZulu-Natal, in the circle of W. H. I. Bleek, Henry Callaway, Bishop Colenso, and their informant William Ngidi. Collections have been made in the course of a century and a half, notably by Callaway, Cope, Damane and Sanders, Dan Kunene, Nyembezi, Opland, Schapera, and Scheub. The imbongi∗ (praise singer) tradition has taken South African performers around the world. Professor Jordan observes that ‘the African bard is a chronicler as well as being a poet’.

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