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"Reading takes you on a metaphorical journey, and now you can get up and go on a real one." - Co-author of A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal, Lindy Stiebel

KwaZulu-Natal is culturally rich, offering a wide range of writers – writing mainly in English and Zulu – who are linked through their lives and their writing to this province of South Africa. The writers include, to name just a few, Alan Paton, Roy Campbell, Lewis Nkosi, Ronnie Govender, Wilbur Smith, Daphne Rooke, Credo Mutwa and Gcina Mhlophe. And how better to understand a writer than to know about the places they are linked to? For example, who, after reading the lyrical opening sentences of Paton’s famous book Cry, the Beloved Country (1948) has not wanted to see this scene in reality?

There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it.

A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal introduces you to the regions and writers through word and image, leading you imaginatively through this beautiful province.

This could include following the route a fictional character charts in a novel, visiting particular settings from a story or tracking down the places linked to a writer, whether a birthplace, home, burial site or significant setting. Literary tourists are interested in how places have influenced writing and at the same time how writing has created place.

This is also a way of reflecting upon and understanding historic and contemporary identities in a changing cultural and political South African landscape.

Niall McNulty is a digital publishing specialist who was involved in the Literary Tourism in KwaZulu-Natal research project for several years. Niall is currently the digital publishing manager at Cambridge University Press where he is at the forefront of researching and developing publishing technologies for the creation of interactive e-books.

Lindy Stiebel is Professor Emeritus of English Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her research interests are linked by a profound interest in the relationship between writers and place: these include the South African colonial and post-colonial novel; Indian Ocean studies, particularly literary interconnections between South Africa, India and Mauritius; and literary tourism. Her latest book published in 2016 is entitled Writing Home: Lewis Nkosi on South African Literature (with Michael Chapman, UKZN Press).

The Times‘s Shelley Seid recently discussed this remarkable book with Lindy Stiebel. Take a peek!

That KZN has the only active literary tourism project in the country must have greatly enhanced the bid to proclaim Durban a Unesco World City of Literature, the first on the African continent.

Literary tourism engages with writers and their real lives as well as the fictional settings that appear in their works.

It is a flourishing niche market in Europe and more prominently in the UK where it’s often hard to avoid – Harry Potter’s platform at King’s Cross station in London, for example, or the George Inn, where you can have a pint in a pub that featured in Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit.

Where geography and literature meet. ©University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.


In South Africa it’s a new initiative and most of the credit for what is available is due to Professor Lindy Stiebel, a UKZN academic who began a research project on KZN writers and writing in 2002.

“KZN Literary Tourism began as a five-year research project. Students received bursaries for their work on KZN writers and we built up an archive. We then created a website and loaded authors’ profiles. My particular interest was literary maps so I began mapping out where and how writers were linked.”

Initially the tourism aspect was “muted”, she says, but grew almost organically.

“Who, after reading the lyrical opening sentences of Paton’s famous book, Cry the Beloved Country, has not wanted to see the place in reality?” asks Stiebel.

Cry, the Beloved Country fans can journey to Paton’s office. ©University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.


Continue reading Seid’s article here.

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Q&A: PEN SA interviews their newly appointed board member, Sisonke Msimang


Sisonke Msimang


PEN SA extends a warm welcome to Sisonke Msimang, who has been co-opted onto its Board. Msimang was asked to share what motivated her to agree to take on this assignment, what she hopes to accomplish during her tenure as well as to reflect on any concerns, hopes and encouragement for writers expressing themselves in South Africa during this time.

PEN SA: How long have you been a member of PEN SA?

I have been a member for two years.

PEN SA: What motivated you to become a member?

I admire the work PEN does globally, but I also think as the politics in South Africa becomes more complex, we will see more and more incursions into the space writers occupy – both by the state and by private actors.

Critical thought is flourishing in many ways and it is a great time to be a South African writer.

It is also, of course, always a dangerous time to be a writer when your ideas challenge the status quo and special interests. PEN is an important place precisely because of this.

PEN SA: What action(s) taken by PEN SA stand out for you?

I was really impressed with the activism for Stella Nyanzi that PEN SA helped to mobilise. That show of solidarity was important on many levels.

PEN SA: What motivated you to join the board of PEN and what do you hope to contribute/accomplish during your tenure?

I joined the board because I think representation and leadership are important. I also believe strongly in the values of the board and have the deepest respect for my fellow board members. Plus it is very difficult to say no to Nadia Davids!

PEN SA: South Africa is proving to be a remarkably resilient constitutional democracy, notwithstanding the multiple political, social, economic, governance-related challenges (most notably from government itself): what concerns, if any, do you have regarding the role of the writer in this time? What hopes/words of encouragement do you have for writers during this time?

My concerns are related to the fragility of the moment – the fact that so much hangs in the balance.

South Africa is on the verge of a leadership transition, but we are also at a stage where our innocence has been lost. We are having far more robust discussions about who we are and where we are going.

Writers have never mattered more – not just journalists but playwrights and novelists and poets. The best work often emerges out of times like this and so in some ways I think of myself as being hopeful but vigilant. So for my fellow writers – for those who express themselves with the pen, I am buoyed by the fact that we live in a time of hope and sobriety. They make strange but passionate bedfellows.

Msimang’s memoir, Always Another Country, was recently published by Jonathan Ball.

Always Another Country

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Also available as an eBook.

Dié boek lewer ’n bydrae om die weerstand van gay en lesbiese persone verstaanbaar te maak vir mense wat sukkel om dit te begryp

In Oktober 2015 het die Algemene Sinode van die NG Kerk ’n merkwaardige besluit oor selfdegeslagverhoudings geneem.

Die besluit het erkenning gegee aan sulke verhoudings en dit vir predikante moontlik gemaak om gay en lesbiese persone in die eg te verbind. Ook die selibaatsvereiste wat tot op daardie stadium vir gay predikante gegeld het, is opgehef.

Met hierdie besluit het die NG Kerk die eerste hoofstroomkerk in Suid-Afrika en Afrika geword wat totale gelykwaardige menswaardige behandeling van alle mense, ongeag seksuele oriëntasie, erken – en is gedoen wat slegs in ’n handjievol kerke wêreldwyd uitgevoer is.

Die besluit het egter gelei tot groot konsternasie. Verskeie appèlle en beswaargeskrifte is ingedien, distriksinodes het hulle van die besluit distansieer, en in die media was daar volgehoue kritiek en debat.

Die besluite wat geneem is in 2015 is die kulminasie van ’n lang proses wat reeds in die 1980’s begin het.

Die boek Weerlose weerstand is ’n persoonlike relaas van dié lang, komplekse proses in die NG kerk. Die verskillende verslae wat voor die sinodes gedien het, die besluite wat daaruit voortgevloei het en die stories daaragter word uit ’n persoonlike perspektief behandel.

Die boek lewer ’n bydrae om die weerstand van gay en lesbiese persone verstaanbaar te maak vir mense wat sukkel om dit te begryp.


André Bartlett is hoof van Excelsus, die Sentrum vir Bedieningsontwikkeling by die Universiteit van Pretoria.

Hy was voorheen predikant van die NG Kerk in Pretoria, Potchefstroom en Johannesburg.

Sedert 1999 is hy amptelik betrokke by die gesprek in die NG Kerk oor homoseksualiteit. Hy is voorsitter van die Suid-Afrikaanse Raad van Kerke in Gauteng en ook ’n lid van die Nasionale Uitvoerende Komitee van dié organisasie.


Adam Small: Denker, digter, dramaturg ’n huldigingsbundel wat een van die belangrikste swart Afrikaanse stemme verewig

Met Adam Small se oorlye op 25 Junie 2016 het daar ’n einde gekom aan die lewe van ’n unieke mens en ’n unieke oeuvre: ’n digter, dramaturg en denker met besonderse insig in die aktualiteite van sy tyd.

Hoewel die toekenning van die Hertzogprys aan Small in 2012 en die gepaardgaande publisiteit daarrondom die idee vir ’n huldigingsbundel by die SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns laat ontstaan het, was dit Small se dood wat die deurslag gegee het om dié publikasie te verwesenlik: Wanneer ’n kunstenaar sterf en sy stem vir ewig verstom het, bied dit immers die geleentheid om oorkoepelend oor die geheel van sy kunstenaarskap te besin.

Die bydraes in hierdie bundel dra die ondertoon van ’n afsluiting, ’n terugblik op die mens en kunstenaar Adam Small, met temas soos die toekoms van Afrikaans en die Afrikaanse letterkunde, die uitbreidende rol van Kaaps, en sosiale vraagstukke soos bendegeweld en armoede.

Mense wat Small van naby geken het is hier aan die woord saam met literatore en kollegas uit die maatskaplikewerk-omgewing waarby Small lewenslank betrokke was.

Adam Small: Denker, digter, dramaturg – ’n Huldiging hoef nie as afsluiting van die gesprek oor Small se lewe en werk beskou te word nie – inteendeel: Dit bied juis ook geleentheid om die oorkoepelende blik oor Small se kunstenaarskap as inleiding tot verdere ondersoek te benut.

Adam Small (1936–2016) was een van die belangrikste swart Afrikaanse stemme om die onreg van Apartheid en die lot van veral die gemarginaliseerde sprekers van Kaaps stem en erkenning in die letterkunde te gee. As opgeleide maatskaplike werker was hy ook lewenslank betrokke by die bemagtiging van armes en onderdruktes in die Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing. Van sy bekendste werke is die toneelstuk Kanna, hy kô huistoe en die digbundels Sê sjibbolet en Kitaar my kruis.

Jacques van der Elst was hoof van die Departement Afrikaans en Nederlands aan die destydse PU vir CHO en was tot 2012 die uitvoerende hoof van die Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns. Tans is hy navorsingsgenoot in die Skool vir Tale aan die Noordwes-Universiteit.


Jacket Notes: Frans Rautenbach on how a conversation with his son motivated him to write South Africa Can Work

Published in the Sunday Times

South Africa Can Work
Frans Rautenbach, Penguin Random House, R250

My son’s statement hit me like a blow to the gut. We were enjoying dinner at a Mexican restaurant. We debated the #FeesMustFall movement, and I ventured the view that the problem was the government’s economic policies. I reiterated my mantra that free enterprise was the way to go to save South Africa.

That’s when Stefan said it: “I no longer believe in your arguments. Trickle-down economics does not work…”

While I battled to suck air into my lungs, protesting that I had researched the topic for years, Stefan added that I only read that which confirmed my prejudices.

I realised that no sensible continuation of the discussion would be possible without a thorough re-examination of my premises. Thus the book was born.

The soul of the book is freedom, in particular economic freedom – a policy many might see as less than politically correct. So shoot me, I’m a contrarian. In the introduction I confess: “As a lawyer I still marvel at the beautiful words of Lord Justice Megarry in the case of John v Rees: ‘As everybody who has anything to do with the law well knows, the path of the law is strewn with examples of open and shut cases which, somehow, were not: of unanswerable charges which, in the event, were completely answered; with inexplicable conduct which was fully explained …’”

As in law, so in life. But while often against the mainstream, I am not so just for the sake of being otherwise. As a student politician I relished the thought of pulling both apartheid and capitalism from their pedestals. Intellectually the former proved easy, but nowadays the thought of defending communism or socialism fills me with despair.

People often ask me how I managed to spend so much time and energy writing a book arguing that a free market will save South Africa. My best answer is that I cannot do otherwise.

Seeing our society being led to serfdom while the evidence of a better way is so abundant, is like observing a patient with a mental disorder self-inflicting pain, day by day. I cannot keep quiet…

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Listen: Eusebius McKaiser in conversation with Redi Tlhabi

KhweziIn August 2016, following the announcement of the results of South Africa’s heated municipal election, four courageous young women interrupted Jacob Zuma’s victory address, bearing placards asking us to ‘Remember Khwezi’.

Before being dragged away by security guards, their powerful message had hit home and the public was reminded of the tragic events of 2006, when Zuma was on trial for the rape of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, better known as Khwezi. In the aftermath of the trial, which saw Zuma acquitted, Khwezi was vilified by his many supporters and forced to take refuge outside of South Africa.
Ten years later, just two months after this protest had put Khwezi’s struggle back into the minds and hearts of South Africans, Khwezi passed away … But not before she had slipped back into South Africa and started work with Redi Tlhabi on a book about her life.

How as a young girl living in ANC camps in exile she was raped by the very men who were supposed to protect her; how as an adult she was driven once again into exile, suffering not only at the hands of Zuma’s devotees but under the harsh eye of the media.

In sensitive and considered prose, journalist Redi Tlhabi breathes life into a woman for so long forced to live in the shadows. In giving agency back to Khwezi, Tlhabi is able to focus a broader lens on the sexual abuse that abounded during the ‘struggle’ years, abuse which continues to plague women and children in South Africa today.

Redi recently discussed her significant book with Eusebius McKaiser. Listen to their conversation here:

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