South Africa’s landscapes have had some incredible fictional and biographical yields. Take Olive Schreiner’s Story of an African Farm, capturing the nuanced moods of the African veld from the supremely memorable setting of a farm on a Koppie in the Karoo. Or the exquisite view Eve Palmer brings us of six generations of her family in the autobiographical story set on the farm Cranemere on the Plains of Camdeboo – another magnificent account of life in a Karoo landscape.
In Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country, we enter the rural village of Ndotsheni, and also Johannesburg, and we find intimacy with the contrast between village and city life. Miriam Tlali leads us into Soweto, whilst Dalene Matthee takes us deep into the mysterious forests of Knysna and into a complex weave of class and race.
The diversity of South African landscapes supporting great fiction is vast and captivating. So many writers – Nadine Gordimer, Stuart Cloete, Njabulo Ndebele and JM Coetzee, to name just a few – have drawn up the landscapes of South Africa into the realm of the intensely palpable. The post-apartheid years will forever be vivid in the superb work of writers like Zakes Mda, K Sello Duiker, and many more fiction greats.
If you’re looking for a holiday read, here is some of the fiction set in South Africa.
If fiction isn’t your thing, here are some classic non-fiction reads about South Africa. (and some really wonderful novels too)
So if you were to write on South African soil, where would it be? A hut deep in the wilderness? An untrampled stretch of beach that goes on forever? A township? The City of Gold? Or maybe you’d head off to a well-concealed forest or a secluded spot above some remarkable earth-splitting gorge or canyon? Where in our 1.2 million square kilometres of landspace would you set yourself down to write?
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