Any bibliophiles (book-lovers) over here? South African literature is rich and diverse, and tells the story of our country, particularly the apartheid regime, through fictional and non-fictional ways.
You should definitely have these select novels on your ‘must-read’ list. On some pages, you’ll feel anger, on others, despair. But overall, three brilliant South African novels by authors that have encouraged ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, to convey deeply-rooted issues with poise.
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
This novel is more than just a few pages within a cover, and runs much deeper as a social protest against the structures of the society that would later give rise to apartheid. Cry, the Beloved Country has been praised as one of the greatest South African novels. It evokes emotion through the story of a father, Stephen Kumalo, in search of his son, Absalom. Once you peel at the layers of each idea that Paton tries to convey, you begin to witness the brutality of the apartheid regime, and how there are still glimmers of hope for a brighter future, despite the suffering.
Life and Times of Michael K by J.M Coetzee
In a South African setting, beset by civil war, Michael K prepares to take his sickly mother back to her rural home. Sadly, she passes away while on their journey, which leaves him alone in an unruly world that is controlled by brutality. When he is imprisoned, he tries to escape, feeling confined, and expresses determination to live his life with pride and dignity. This novel reaches into the soul of human emotion and demonstrates the human experience in it’s need for a meaningful, spiritual life.
The Heart of Redness by Zakes Mda
This novel is brilliant in terms of its plot and character development. It interweaves the fascinating story of Nongqawuse, a teenage prophetess who preached salvation for the Xhosa people in the 19th century, with the narrative that takes place in Qolorha, a Xhosa village in present-day South Africa. The Heart of Redness showcases an exile, who returns from America after fleeing during the apartheid era. However, he returns to discover that his new democratic country is chaotic. Through each of these pages, the spiritual separation is revealed within post-Apartheid South Africa where values are weighed against Western rule.