Essays on South African Literature
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.
Challenging the metropolis as the marketplace for Third World literature
What news about Africa, and that goes for the rest of the Third World, goes onto American television is decided by two dozen men living within a twenty-five-mile radius from Manhattan.1 That same news then, via news channels like CNN, goes out to the Third World countries: their information about other Third World countries – if any – is effectively screened, sifted, emasculated, biased and censored by a group of very powerful news editors in New York. Third World News, which is unpleasant to the American government or the big multinationals, has little chance of slipping through this net of information bureaucrats, who often don’t even know where Harare is, let alone which political and economic forces are acting why in Third World countries. We are left to read between the pictures what we can of what really happens in Manila or Bogota.
What is true for TV news is true for art: whether it is Indian film or Surinam music, West African sculpture or Philippine poetry, what we get is already sifted, screened and adapted to the metropolitan market of Europe and America. It takes little notice of the concerns of Third World countries.
One of the things we need to consider, is the economic power of the European and American publishing houses, based on the fact that Europeans spend on average between R100 (in Portugal) and R400 (in Germany) per person on books annually. In Germany alone that tots up to between R24 and...
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