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RIP Lewis Nkosi, 1936 – 2010

Lewis Nkosi in Command

BOOK SA received the news this morning that Lewis Nkosi, the giant of South African letters and one of the last remaining voices from South Africa’s famed Drum generation of writers, passed away yesterday in Johannesburg, after a long illness. He was born in December 1936 in KwaZulu Natal, making him 74.

Nkosi’s first novel, which won worldwide acclaim, was Mating Birds. It was banned by the apartheid government; Nkosi lived for long periods in exile, particularly in Switzerland. His last novel was Mandela’s Ego. It was shortlised for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize.

Mating BirdsUnderground PeopleMandela's Ego

Siphiwo Mahala of the DAC and Raks Seakhoa of wRite Associates conveyed the news to BOOK SA. Nkosi’s twin daughters, Louise and Joy, and his wife, Astrid Starck, were at his side in his last hours.

BOOK SA spoke to his publisher, Annari van der Merwe, who said:

“If I think about Lewis, two things come to mind: the brilliance of the man’s mind, and his sense of irony – of self-irony. And of course he was quite naughty, but endearingly so. For all his bravado, he was sensitive in a way that few men truly are. There was a real empathy with people – and he had a very broad perspective, from having lived in a different cultural environment for so many years. The devil inside him prevented him from taking things too literally. It’s difficult to think of somebody so vibrant not with us any longer. He will be greatly missed.”

BOOK SA extends deepest condolences to Nkosi’s family and friends. He was an irrepressible character who brought joy to our world.

We’ll post more information here as it comes in.

Lewis Nkosi and Breyten Breytenbach

Book details

Photos courtesy Victor Dlamini

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    September 6th, 2010 @11:45 #
     
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    I've just spoken with Nkosi's wife; she'll have details about the funeral later this evening. Will post them here.

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  • <a href="http://i-aint-a-poet.blogspot.com" rel="nofollow">Jen</a>
    Jen
    September 6th, 2010 @11:52 #
     
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    RIP Lewis Nkosi. Heard his wife speak about his illness on Saturday at the M&G lit fest. We have Nkosi's brilliant works to still ponder on.

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    September 6th, 2010 @12:27 #
     
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    Just spoke to Nkosi's publisher, Annari van der Merwe - see quote from her above.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    September 6th, 2010 @12:30 #
     
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    Hamba kahle, Lewis Nkosi. Thanks for the words and the memories. Condolences to his family.

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  • <a href="http://karinamagdalenaszczurek.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Karina</a>
    Karina
    September 6th, 2010 @13:29 #
     
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    I met Lewis Nkosi in December 2004 on his birthday. He was a guest at the symposium we organised at the time. After a long day full of events, he was signing books. I was the last one to approach him when he was already putting his pen away.
    'Sorry to be a nuisance, but could you please still sign mine,' I said.
    He wrote: 'For a lovely nuisance'. I still smile thinking of it almost 6 years later.
    I will never forget him reading from - then still unpublished - Mandela's Ego. What a magnificent performance that was.

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  • <a href="http://henriettaroseinnes.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Henrietta</a>
    Henrietta
    September 6th, 2010 @16:57 #
     
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    Sad news. Fond memories.

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    September 7th, 2010 @10:41 #
     
  • <a href="http://liesljobson.bookslive.co.za" rel="nofollow">Liesl</a>
    Liesl
    September 7th, 2010 @23:00 #
     
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    My condolences to his family. I had the delight of sharing a meal with him in Melville in 2007. What a vibrant gentleman. What an inspiration.

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    September 9th, 2010 @00:24 #
     

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