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Table of Contents
One of the things a writer is for is to say the unsayable, to speak the unspeakable, to ask difficult questions. —Salman Rushdie
	Three in a Bed: Fiction, Morals, and Politics
	The Status of the Writer in the World Today: Which World? Whose World?
	Turning the Page: African Writers and the Twenty-first Century
	References: The Codes of Culture
	The Lion, the Bull, and the Tree
	Günter Grass
	The Dialogue of Late Afternoon
	Joseph Roth: Labyrinth of Empire and Exile
	An Exchange: Kenzaburo Oe, Nadine Gordimer
How shall we look at each other then? —Mongane Wally Serote
	1959: What Is Apartheid?
	How Not to Know the African
	A Morning in the Library: 1975
	Heroes and Villains
	Crack the Nut: The Future Between Your Teeth
	How Shall We Look at Each Other Then?
	29 October 1989—A Beautiful Day, Com
	Mandela: What He Means to Us
	The First Time
	Act Two: One Year Later
	The Essential Document
	As Others See Us
	Labour Well the Teeming Earth
The ceaseless adventure. —Jawaharlal Nehru
	The Writer’s Imagination and the Imagination of the State
	Writing and Being
	Living on a Frontierless Land: Cultural Globalization
	Our Century
Document Text Contents
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(edited by Stephen Clingman)

Page 93

life that is lived out of sight of the white suburbs, and the thoughts that lie
unspoken behind dark faces. If one wants to know more than a few poor facts,
these autobiographies, novels, stories, essays, and poems are the place to find the
inner world where men learn the things worth knowing about each other.
Many of these works are what I call ‘escape’ books: the record either of the

fear and hazard of an actual physical escape from South Africa without passport
or permit, or the other kind of escape, less finally and sometimes never
accomplished—the slow escape, within the writer’s self, from the apartheid
carapace of second-class citizen, and the retrospective bitterness that threatens to
poison life, once outside it. Ezekiel Mphahlele’s autobiographical

, Matshikiza’s , Hutchinson’s —
escape books all, in their different ways—entered South Africa after publication
in England, and were on sale here for a time before being banned. One of the
first and perhaps the most movingly artless ‘escape’ book, , by
Peter Abrahams, was banned, although it had been out of print for years and the
writer was long in exile. Modisane’s and Mphahlele’s next
book, , a collection of essays, were banned before they reached
the bookshops, and Alex La Guma’s novel and the poems of Dennis Brutus were
automatically withheld because both writers were under personal bans. Dennis
Brutus’s little volume of poetry consists mainly of love lyrics; Alex La Guma’s
A is, so far as I am aware, the only novel to come out of
District Six—a slum story notable for a curiously impressive, fastidious,
obsessive horror at the touch, taste, and smell of poverty.
These writers—with the exception of Abrahams and Hutchinson, whose books

are banned individually—are under total ban now, and we cannot read what they
have written, nor shall we be able to read what they may write in the future. One
whose name I have not mentioned yet, Lewis Nkosi, is probably the greatest loss
to us of them all. This young man, who left his home in South Africa on an exit
permit in 1965, published a book of essays entitled . I took the
opportunity to buy and read the essays while on a visit to Zambia, for Lewis
Nkosi is on the list of exiles whose word and work are under that blanket ban of
April this year. The book contains critical writing of a standard that has never
before been achieved by a South African writer, white or black. Here is the
sibling Edmund Wilson, Lionel Trilling, F. R. Leavis we have never had. If the
ban on his work did not prevent me quoting from two of the essays—the first a
brilliant exploration of the conflict between truth as the individual has laboured
to discover it for himself and truth as the glib public proposition dictated by the
contingencies of political life; the second a cool, erudite look at fiction written

Page 94

by black South Africans—it would not be necessary for anyone to take my word
for it. The book is divided into three sections. ‘Home’ includes an
autobiographical chronicle of the fifties in Johannesburg that might perhaps have
been entitled ‘Know the White Man’, had Nkosi with his wit and candour not
long since outgrown the categorical approach. ‘Exile’ contains two fascinating
encounters with New York that ring with the overwrought sensibility of the
stranger in town. ‘Literary’, the outstanding section, is devoted to criticism of
life and letters. The book clearly does not seek to present final answers on the
author’s behalf, but deals with questions proposed to him by exile and the
perspective of foreign countries. It is a long hard look at South Africa, at
himself, at all of us, black and white, among whom he belongs.
In 1963 I wrote about the proliferating forms of restriction of free expression

in our country, in general, and the effect of the (then) new Publications and
Entertainments Act in particular. I pointed out that most of the writings of black
South Africans who had recorded the contemporary experience of their people
were banned; the process is now completed. No association of writers or
intellectuals, English or Afrikaans, has protested against this virtual extinction of
black and Coloured South African writers. One can only repeat, with a greater
sense of urgency, the questions I asked then: These books were written in
English and they provide the major part of the only record, set down by talented
and self-analytical people, of what black South Africans, who have no voice in
parliament or any say in the ordering of their life, think and feel about their lives
and those of their fellow white South Africans. Can South Africa afford to do
without these books?
And can South Africans boast of a ‘literature’ while, by decree, in their own

country, it consists of of the books written by its black and white,
Afrikaans and English-speaking writers?

Page 185

[203] and Brecht wrote . . . ‘To Posterity’, Selected Poems of Bertolt Brecht,
trans. H. R. Hays (Grove Press), p. 173.

[203] ‘make the decision . . .’ Nikos Kazantzakis, Report to Greco.


[210] Edward Said cites . . . Orientalism (Vintage Books, 1979), p. 25.
[213] Claude Lévi-Strauss’s splendid exegesis . . . The Raw and the Cooked:
Introduction to a Science of Mythology, Vol. 1 (Jonathan Cape, 1970).


[216] ‘If I cannot move Heaven . . .’ Virgil’s lines from the Aeneid, as translated
by Freud as a motto for his Interpretation of Dreams.

[216] ‘the defining moments of terror . . .’ Gar Alperovitz, ‘The Truman Show’,
Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 9, 1998.

[216] ‘are not merely . . .’ The Crazy Iris, and Other Stories of the Atomic
Aftermath, ed. Kenzaburo Oe (Grove Press, 1985).

[217] France was followed by India and Pakistan in 1998.
[223] ‘One of the things . . .’ Salman Rushdie in an interview, London, 1995.
[224] ‘to speak of trees . . .’ ‘To Posterity’, Selected Poems of Bertolt Brecht,

trans. H. R. Hays (Grove Press, 1959).
[224] ‘a terrible beauty is born’… ‘Easter 1916’, Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats

(Macmillan, 1950).
[224] which Proust defines . . . Quoted by Robert Painter in Marcel Proust, Vol.

11, p. 307.
[225] Satyajit Ray, Indian film-maker . . . Quoted by Andrew Robinson in ‘The

Inner Eye: Aspects of Satyajit Ray’, London, October, 1982.
[226] ‘man in the process . . .’ Sartre, Le Fantôme de Staline. (Publisher not

recorded in my notebooks.)
[228] ‘Freedom for the huts! . . .’ Georg Büchner, Der Hessische Landbote (The

Hessian Messenger). (Publisher not recorded in my notebooks.)
[229] Gandhi formulated a concept . . . M. K. Gandhi, Satyagraha in South
Africa (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1950).

Page 186

[229] ‘Satyagraha postulates . . .’ Ibid.
[230] as Umberto Eco writes . . . ‘Ur-Fascism’, The New York Review of Books,

June 22, 1995.
[236] ‘without doubt the most murderous . . .’ Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of
Extremes: The Short 20th Century 1914-1918 (Michael Joseph), p. 13.

[236] ‘ceaseless adventure of man . . .’ Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of
India (Meridian Books, 1951), p. 16.

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