Open Book Festival, Cape Town
Thursday 20 September
Should Literature Be Political?
Keynote address by: Njabulo Ndebele and Antjie Krog
The 1962 Writers’ Conference organisers stated: ‘Many believe that the novelist has the duty to further by his writing the causes in which he believes. Others think that literature must be above the problems of the day’. 50 years on, writers remain divided about the role political events should play in literature.
This free event and public event took place on 20 September 2012, and was chaired by Judith February, columnist and political analyst.
Njabulo S Ndebele: The writer of ‘Fools’ and Other Stories (1983) which won the Noma award as the best book published in Africa in 1983; Rediscovery of the Ordinary: Essays on South African Literature and Culture (1991, 2006) a seminal collection of essays; the novel The Cry of Winnie Mandela, (2004), received the Noma Award Honorable mention for 2005; and Fine Lines from the Box: Further Thoughts About our Country (2007) received the K. Sello Duiker Memorial Award. The two books can be viewed as interacting with each other from the perspectives of literary practice and theoretical reflections on it. How much is the social in the art, and the art in the social? The children’s story Bonolo and the Peach Tree (1991) is a tributary of some of the issues that have flowed from such a question. He is a commentator on a range of public issues in South Africa. He has received honorary doctorates from universities in the UK, USA, The Netherlands, and Japan for achievements in literature, creative writing and higher education leadership.
Antjie Krog: Antjie Krog is a poet, writer, journalist and Extraordinary Professor at the University of the Western Cape. She published twelve volumes of poetry in Afrikaans, two volumes in English, and three non-fiction books: Country of my Skull (1998), on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission; A Change of Tongue (2004) about the transformation in South Africa after ten years and Begging to be Black (2009) about learning to live within a black majority. Country of my Skull And A Change of Tongue have been nominated by South African librarians (LIASA) as two of the ten most important books written in ten years of democracy. Krog has also co-authored an academic book There was this Goat (2009) with two colleagues Prof Kopano Ratele and Nosisi Mpolweni, investigating the Truth Commission testimony of Mrs Notrose Nobomvu Konile. Her work has been widely translated. Krog had been awarded most of the prestigious awards for non-fiction, translation and poetry available in Afrikaans and English, as well as the Stockholm Award from the Hiroshima Foundation for Peace and Culture for the year 2000, as well as the Open Society Prize from the Central European University (previous winners were Jürgen Habermas and Vaclav Havel).