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African Literature Essay

4322 words - 18 pages

Literary works written in South Africa or written by South Africans living in other countries come under South African literature. South Africa has a very rich and diverse literary history. Realism being the dominating feature in the production of fiction in South African literature. The authors try to capture the country’s chaotic history and that of the experiences of its people. Fiction has been the dominating genre. Fiction has been written in all eleven official languages in South Africa – with a large body of works in Afrikaans and English.
The first fictional works to emerge from South Africa were produced by colonial writers whose attitude to native South ...view middle of the document...

It was not until the 20th century that literature by black South Africans emerged. The first generation of mission-educated African writers sought to restore dignity to Africans by invoking and reconstructing a heroic African past.
The first novel by a black South African was Mhudi (completed in 1920 but only published in 1930) by Solomon (Sol) Thekiso Plaatje. Viewed as the founding father of black literature in South Africa, Plaatje was also the first secretary general of the then South African Native National Congress (now the African National Congress) at its foundation in 1912.
Perhaps the dominant figure of South African literature in the period between the two world wars was Sarah Gertrude Millin, whose reputation has faded considerably since her death. This can be predicated on her politics: she was initially a devout supporter of Jan Smuts' government, but later became something of a supporter for apartheid.
Her views on the "tragedy" of racial miscegenation were put forward in God's Stepchildren (1924). Seen in terms of racial hierarchies, with whites at the top and blacks at the bottom, Millin's views represented those held widely at the time.
Her later novels continued to deal with the predicament of coloured (mixed-race) people in South Africa.
The 1940s saw the beginnings of a flowering of literature by black South Africans such as Hie Dhlomo whose work preached a "return to the source" - the wisdom of finding traditional ways of dealing with modern problems. His work includes several plays and the long poem The Valley of a Thousand Hills (1941).
Peter Abrahams, a writer of mixed race descent, published his first novel Mine Boy in 1946, the same year a large miners' strike was violently suppressed by Smuts' government. Mine Boy depicts life in black urban areas of the time, and dramatizes the problems of rural people in a depressed urban environment - a theme that was referred to as the "Jim comes to Jo'burg" phenomenon in South African literature.
Later works by Abrahams (who left South Africa and settled in Britain before finally moving to Jamaica) include The Path of Thunder (1948), which deals with interracial love; Return to Goli (1953) is a report on life in Johannesburg; and his autobiography is Tell Freedom (1954).
Another South African writer who emerged in the 1940s, Herman Charles Bosman, is best known for his tales, a portrait of Afrikaner storytelling skills and social attitudes. The first collection of stories was published in Mafeking Road in 1947. Among the most famous are Unto Dust and In the Withaak's Shade.
It was the work of a former white schoolteacher, Alan Paton that brought the world's attention to the situation of black people in South Africa. Cry, The Beloved Country (1948) is possibly the most famous novel to have come out of South Africa. When it was first published, it was an international bestseller, launching Paton, to worldwide fame. The novel put South Africa on the map of...

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