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Peter Abrahams Biography

(1919– ), Dark Testament, Song of the City, Mine Boy, The Path of Thunder, Return to Goli

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South African novelist and journalist, born in Vredetorp, Johannesburg, and largely self-taught. His first work, a collection of short stories, Dark Testament (1942), appeared after he settled in London in 1941. Several novels about life in South Africa's ghettoes followed, including Song of the City (1945), Mine Boy (1946), and The Path of Thunder (1948). Though mainly in a naturalistic style, narrative techniques derived from African oral traditions also inform these novels. The pieces collected in Return to Goli (1953) describe his visit to South Africa; they originally appeared in the Observer to which Abrahams contributed regularly. Tell Freedom, his autobiography, appeared in 1954. In 1957 he moved to Jamaica, where he became editor of the West Indian Economist. Later novels go beyond the purely South African context, and are noted for their acute political perceptiveness. These include Wild Conquest (1950), a historical novel about tensions among the Barolong, Boers, and Matabele; A Wreath for Udomo (1956), which prophetically highlighted some of the problems facing post-independence African states, and focuses on the tragic dilemmas of a charismatic ruler, said to be modelled on Nkrumah of Ghana; This Island Now (1966), set in the Caribbean, and further exploring the hard choices of a post-independence leader; and The View from Coyaba (1985), a historical novel about the struggles for liberation among African slaves and their descendants. See Kolawole Ongungbesan, The Writing of Peter Abrahams (1979).

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