South African Lit

Nadine Gordimer, J M Coetzee, and Andre Brink; some of the most well-known South African writers. If you’ve never delved into the realm of South African literature, I invite you to do so.

My own interest originally stemmed from studying postcolonial theory. I then stumbled upon apartheid literature, and I just kept reading. I think I was so taken aback by the immediacy of it. It wasn’t exactly history, it was recent (apartheid ended in 1994). Even now, the ‘legacy of apartheid’ (Fault Lines: Journeys into the New South Africa) still permeates the novels, stories, and poetry coming out of the country. It is so far infused into the works that the literature is often spoken of as being journalistic. (Read Nadine Gordimer for greater insight into this). Writers were reaching out around the world with their work trying to show what was really happening.

I think it was Gordimer who said that they had no need of imagination to derive plots; what was unfolding in the country was dramatic enough that it exceeded the wildest of imaginations. We see a similar sort of reportage in post-apartheid literature, but these newer novels focus on other subjects;  we are seeing a nation in transition, the positive attributes of this transition, and the areas still in need of improvement.

I’ve listed a few recommendations for first time South African lit readers, and please don’t forget the wonders of iTunes- the podcasts on there are brilliant, and you can find interviews with authors, reviews of their books, etc, etc (I generally profess love for podcasts…. see here)

Top Picks for South African Reads

  • Andre Brink- A Dry White Season (1993)
  • Damon Galgut- The Good Doctor (2003)
  • Antje Krog- Country of My Skull (1998) (please note, this is a graphic retelling of so many aspects of apartheid, it is not a read for a lazy Sunday).
  • Ivan Vladislavic- Portrait of Keys: The City of Johannesburg Unlocked (2013)
  • J M Coetzee- Disgrace (1999)

Have you read any South African lit? Do you have any reccommendations? Let me know in the comments– Why not start a dialogue?