The distinguished South African scholar and critic Graham Pechey was one of the leading voices in the debates about literature’s role in the apartheid state, and he continued to reflect influentially on its importance and function after the establishment of democracy. Pechey died in 2016 without putting the finishing touches on a book on South African literature and culture that had been some twenty years in the making. He wrote on a wide range of South African literature across the racial divide and across periods, combining an acute sense of the historical and geopolitical situation of South African writing with a sensitive ear to the workings of the literary; he was thus able to do justice to both the singular grain of individual works and their broad political and cultural implications. This collection brings together the most significant of these essays, organised in a way that reflects his major concerns. Topics addressed include the role of culture in the transition from apartheid to democracy, the specificity of English as a literary medium in South Africa, the freedom of the artist in an authoritarian state, and the global trajectory of South African words. Among the authors discussed are Olive Schreiner, Njabulo Ndebele, Nadine Gordimer, J.M. Coetzee, William Plomer, F.T. Prince, and Roy Campbell.
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