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Lewis Nkosi Biography

(1936– ), Drum, New African, Home and Exile, The Transplanted Heart

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: New from Tartary to Frank O'connor

South African essayist and novelist, born in Natal. After writing for Drum magazine and other publications, in 19601 he studied journalism at Harvard, but was prevented by the South African authorities from returning to his own country. Living in exile he has held various academic posts, and in London he was literary editor of New African. One of the foremost African literary and cultural critics, Nkosi is best known for his magisterial essays, which vigorously demonstrate the relevance and importance of African literature in the modern world; these are collected in Home and Exile (1965) and The Transplanted Heart (1975). In Tasks and Masks: Themes and Styles of African Literature (1981) African culture and society, resistance to remnants of colonialism, and the development of modern African literature are all examined with vitality and impartial urgency. Nkosi's novel Mating Birds (1986), a spare, laconically eloquent first-person account by a young South African Zulu on death row for allegedly raping a white woman, explores the psychological dimensions of apartheid. His play The Rhythm of Violence (1965), set in Johannesburg in the early 1960s, deals with a group of young African, English, and Afrikaner students who become tragically involved in violent resistance against the apartheid regime.

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