The essays collected here are responses to books of poetry and prose published during the transition period from the apartheid regime of the mid-1980s to the first democratic election in South Africa in 1994. The volume comprises a variety of texts written during the crucial mid-1980s – the time of the «Emergency» and the height of oppression – up to and including the installation of the first freely elected South African government in 1994.
In the years of anti-apartheid struggle, the immediate political conflict was pre-eminent in the minds of many poets but extended to broader concerns about race, writing and colonialism, such as the debate about the imbongi (African praise singer) as the true antecedent of the contemporary African poet. After the end of apartheid new challenges came to the South African book publishing industry and, thus, to South African writers, as they tried to make sense of the past and draw tentative lines into the future. The works of J. M. Coetzee, Njabulo Ndebele, Kelwyn Sole, Sandile Dikeni, Vincent Swart, Heather Robertson, Patrick Cullinan, Seitlhamo Motsapi, W. P. B. Botha and more are read against this changing social and political landscape.
About the Author
Peter Horn was previously Professor of German at the University of Cape Town and since his retirement is Honorary Professorial Research Associate at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He has published seven volumes of poetry, including Poems 1964-1990 (1991), An Axe in the Ice (1992), The Rivers that Connect Us to the Past (1996); two volumes of short stories, My Voice is under control now (1999) and Walking the Road of Death (2014); and one volume of essays, Writing my Reading (1994). He has also published translations of South African poetry: Kap der Guten Hoffnung. Gedichte aus dem Südafrikanischen Widerstand (1980). In addition, he has published widely on German literature, including books on Kleist, Hölderlin, Celan and Rilke.
Table of Contents
Contents: The imperative to imagine the unimaginable: J.M. Coetzee’s Doubling the Point – «Nothing less than the writing of our own texts»: Njabulo Ndebele’s Rediscovery of the Ordinary – Challenging the metropolis as the marketplace for Third World literature – The voice of the poet: «The blues is you in me». The class and culture specificity of emotion – «Where we stride above the fading, insistent mutter of the dead»: Kelwyn Sole’s Projections in the Past Tense – «That invention of the working class»: Sandile Dikeni’s Guava Juice – «Standing armed on our own ground»: Barry Feinberg’s Gardens of Struggle – Vincent Swart or the malaise of South African poetry – Poetry to sing at Rosies and All that Jazz: Heather Robertson, Under the Sun – The poet has nothing but his voice: On the poetry of Tatamkhulu Afrika – The spaces between: Tatamkhulu Afrika, Maqabane (Mayibuye 1994) – At a certain distance from hell: Patrick Cullinan, Selected Poems 1961-1994 – «The purple pink salt of songs without heads»: Seitlhamo Motsapi’s earthstepper/the ocean is very shallow – Dostoevsky in Cape Town: J.M. Coetzee’s The Master of Petersburg – I am dead: you cannot read. André Brink’s On the Contrary – The difficulties of memory: Christopher Hope’s Serenity House – The mysterious patterns of everyday life in a colony: Christopher Hope’s The Love Songs of Nathan J. Swirsky – A house/a story hanging by a thread: Ivan Vladislavic’s The Folly – The genealogy of shame: Etienne van Heerden’s Ancestral Voices – The myth of the wave: Mike Nicol’s This Day and Age – Trying to make sense of the past: W.P.B. Botha’s The Reluctant Playwright.