South African literature, literary works written in South Africa or written by South Africans living in other countries. Populated by diverse ethnic and language groups, South Africa has a distinctive literature in many African languages as well as Afrikaans (a vernacular derived from Dutch) and English.
See also African literature.
Although Afrikaans had emerged as a distinctive language by the mid-18th cent., Dutch remained the official language in government and was compulsory in the schools. The pressure of nationalism led finally to the legal recognition of Afrikaans in 1925, and it replaced Dutch completely. There soon emerged several authors writing in Afrikaans. Notable among them was C. J. Langenhoven, who wrote novels and poems, translated the
Other well-known Afrikaans writers were the poets Christian L. Leipoldt, Christiaan M. van der Heever, and Eugene Marais. A. A. Pienaar under the pseudonym Sangiro wrote nature stories. Uys Krige was extremely versatile; his works include novels, short stories, poems, and plays in both Afrikaans and English. Important poets who have written in Afrikaans include W. E. G. Louw and his brother N. P. van Wyk Louw, Adam Small, Ingred Jonker, and Elisabeth Eybers.
At first the limited local market retarded the development of an indigenous English-language literature. With the growth of the publishing industry, an increasing population, and the spread of education, a vital literary community developed in the mid-20th cent. In addition, many African writers, divorced from their ethnic heritage, began to write in English. One of the best known among the English-language novelists is Olive Schreiner, author of
Other important novelists include Sarah G. Millin, whose major work is
In the 1950s and 60s the magazine Drum was an important voice for African writers such as Lewis Nkosi and Ezekiel Mphahlele. Mphahlele wrote
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.