“For the reader in Benoni, and the reader in Beijing”: UK launch of the The Cambridge History of South African Literature

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43 contributors. 900 pages. South African stories.

On Friday 3 February 2012, with the winter sun setting on the week, academics and students met in the Berrick Saul Building’s beloved “Tree House” at the University of York to celebrate the UK launch of The Cambridge History of South African Literature.

Edited by David Attwell and Derek Attridge, two South African scholars from York’s Department of English and Related Literature, the multi-perspectival Cambridge History of South African Literature encompasses and emphasises South Africa’s multiple voices. The volume is the first of its kind in that, up to now, literary history in South Africa has tended to be single-authored. This important contribution to local and international scholarship is not teleological, celebratory or nationalist, but aims to “get the story out”. “Stories are what’s interesting to people,” says Attwell.

Footnote: “If you two were a boy band, you’d be DaDa.” – Isobel Dixon
 

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“The fiction of Margie Orford (left) is pacy, driven and intellectually riveting.” – David Attwell (right)

An academic that migrated into crime fiction, Cape Town krimi writer Orford gave a compelling talk on the grammar of violence in South Africa.

Margie Orford’s new Clare Hart thriller, Gallows Hills, was released in South Africa in October 2011.
“Reading a crime scene is like reading a literary text.”
– Margie Orford
Margie Orford, “the queen of South African crime thriller writers” (Sue Grant-Marshall in The Weekender),
and David Attwell

Janet van Eeden picks the mind of Margie Orford.

Derek Attridge
“Unashamedly a national project, but not
a nationalist one.”
– David Attwell
South African poet and Blake Friedmann Literary Agency’s Isobel Dixon. Dixon's new collection, The Tempest Prognosticator, is published by Salt in the UK and Umuzi in South Africa.

Dixon described this “panorama” as a “treasure house”, “a teeming hive of ideas, of many many voices”.

The editors of The Cambridge History of South African Literature, Derek Attridge and David Attwell from the University of York
Isobel Dixon and Derek Attridge
Derek Attridge and David Attwell
The purple edition: Derek Attridge, Isobel Dixon, David Attwell, Margie Orford and Northumbria Professor in English Literature and Creative Writing, Michael Green, pose with a copy of The Cambridge History of South African Literature.
Derek Attridge, Isobel Dixon, David Attwell, Margie Orford and Michael Green
Derek Attridge, Isobel Dixon, David Attwell, Margie Orford and Michael Green.

According to Green, there’s “no point to the book if it doesn’t stir up trouble. An extraordinary feat.”

Derek Attridge, Isobel Dixon, David Attwell, Margie Orford and Michael Green
Derek Attridge, Isobel Dixon and David Attwell
Derek Attridge, Isobel Dixon, David Attwell, Margie Orford and Michael Green
Derek Attridge, Isobel Dixon, David Attwell, Margie Orford and Michael Green
South African student Nora-Lee Wales and Pojanut Fai Suthipinittharm, a PhD student from Thailand doing research on JM Coetzee in York’s English Department, something of a hub for research
on South African literature in the UK.
English students Lucy Davies, Naomi Shields, Katie McKenna and, at the front, Lucy Potter
Students James Fraser, Ben Madden, Isabelle Hesse, Anna Bocking-Welch and Sarah Pett

South African book launches

The South African launches are planned for Saturday, March 10 in Jo’burg (venue to be announced) and Tuesday, March 13 in Cape Town (at The Book Lounge).


About the book

South Africa's unique history has produced literatures in many languages, in both oral and written forms, reflecting the diversity in the cultural histories and experiences of its people. The Cambridge History of South African Literature offers a comprehensive, multi-authored history of South African literature in all eleven official languages (and more minor ones) of the country, produced by a team of over forty international experts, including contributors from all the major regions and language groups of South Africa. It will provide a complete portrait of South Africa's literary production, organised as a chronological history from the oral traditions existing before colonial settlement, to the post-apartheid revision of the past. In a field marked by controversy, this volume is more fully representative than any existing account of South Africa's literary history. It will make a unique contribution to Commonwealth, international and postcolonial studies and serve as a definitive reference work for decades to come.

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