Resistance, Liberation, and Aesthetics in the Early Novels of Alex La Guma

in Matatu
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Alex La Guma, the late South African Coloured novelist and short-story writer, died in exile in Cuba in 1985. Until his death, he was clearly the most ambitious novelist in South Africa of the apartheid era. Even while he was in exile, he kept in touch with the momentum of the anti-apartheid struggle, which culminated in the abrogation of apartheid and the attainment of independence with the ascendance of Nelson Mandela as South Africa’s first non-white president in 1994. Resistance and liberation are unmistakably the credos enshrined in La Guma’s fiction. But these thematic preoccupations did not distract him from his calling as a consummate writer who also needed to pay particular attention to the dictates of the art of fiction in his novels and short stories. Thus, in his fiction we find a true blend or matrix of resistance, liberation, and aesthetics. This essay sets out to unravel the trajectory of La Guma’s depiction of this matrix in some of his early novels which, by and large, could be said to have anticipated the revolutionary imperatives of his later fiction.


Journal for African Culture and Society




Lewis Nkosi, Home and Exile (1965; London & New York: Longman, 1983): 12.


Alex La Guma, A Walk in the Night (London: Heinemann, 1962): 21. Further page references are in the main text.


Nkosi, Home and Exile, 26.


Bernth Lindfors, “Form and Technique in the Novels of Richard Rive and Alex La Guma,” Journal of the New African Literature and the Arts 2 (Fall 1966): 13.


Alex La Guma, The Stone Country (London: Heinemann, 1967): 18.


S.O. Asein, Alex La Guma: The Man and His Work (Ibadan: New Horn/Heinemann, 1987): 102.


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