Speaking with many voices: The Cambridge History of South African Literature Cape Town launch

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LitNet rubbed shoulders (at times quite literally, due to a massive turnout) with local and international literati at the Cape Town launch of The Cambridge History of South African Literature at The Book Lounge on Tuesday, 13 March 2012.

This hefty volume is edited by David Attwell and Derek Attridge, both professors of English at the University of York, and boasts contributions by some of South Africa’s most renowned literary scholars, including Hedley Twidle, Stephen Clingman, Tlhalo Raditlhalo, Louise Viljoen, HP van Coller, Daniel Roux and Meg Samuelson.

The Cambridge History of South African Literature challenges the hegemony of the English department in South Africa and offers a fully representative and multi-vocal view of South Africa’s literary history, ranging from pre-colonial oral tradition to post-apartheid restitutory texts across all the major language groups. The volume looks both “inward and outward”, serving as a reference text not only to readers within South Africa, but also to those coming to South African literary studies from further afield.

The launch started with a brief discussion of the development of the volume from its inception to its conclusion by the editors. The inclusive nature of this process – the sharing of drafts between authors and the hosting of an interactive writers’ workshop, filmed for the benefit of those who could not attend – was in keeping with the multivalent spirit of this volume. Contributors were introduced, and as the foremost scholars in nearly every major literary field in South Africa raised their hands the  immensely ambitious scope of the project was revealed.

Njabulo Ndebele, novelist and former vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town, concluded with an overview of South Africa’s literary history, commenting on the role that The Cambridge History of South African Literature will play in providing generations to come with an entry point into understanding the complexities of the South African literary landscape.


Derek Attridge, Hedley Twidle and David Attwell with a copy of the hefty volume

Meg Samuelson contributed a chapter titled “Writing Women”

The entrance to The Book Lounge, where the event was held

Derek Attridge introduces Njabulo Ndebele.

Miki Flockemann and Mbongiseni Buthelezi, a contributor to the volume

Hedley Twidle

Louise Viljoen (middle) with Ester Levinrad (right)

Margaret Daymond, Meg Samuelson and Miki Flockemann

Margaret Daymond contributed a chapter on “Confession and Autobiography”.

David Attwell introduces the volume.

Derek Attridge and Njabulo Ndebele

Derek Attridge, David Atwell and Malvern Van Wyk Smith

Hermann Wittenberg socialises with a colleague.

Ester Levinrad and Elzette Steenkamp in conversation

The venue was packed.

Marlene Van Niekerk was in attendance.

André P Brink and Rodney Davenport

Malvern van Wyk Smith exchanges a few words with Rodney Davenport.

Photos: Christine Cronje

**(The prices indicated on Kalahari.com are incorrect at this time.  The correct prices for the volumes, supplied by the publisher, are indicated below.)

The Cambridge History of South African Literature

The Cambridge History of South African Literature

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