Atrophied literature: 50 years of South African literature as filtered by French publishers

By Jean-Pierre Richard

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The story of South African literature’s translation into French is an interesting one. French translator, Jean-Pierre Richard introduces us to the choices and hurdles (strictly linked to the political climate) which determine to what extent South African literature is understood or misunderstood.

When talking about the South African literature published in French over the past fifty-something years, can we really talk about « shrinkage » when a good hundred works of South African literature have been published in French? Do French-speaking readers not have access to a relatively substantial sample of the literary production of South Africa over the past 5O years?
We will limit this analysis to the second half of the 20th Century since during the previous 50 years only a very few South African works were published in either London or South Africa. Their purpose being to teach people to read, they were very often the work of Christian missionaries. This is the case for Thomas Mofolo’s fictional biography, Chaka, which was published in 1940 and who’s translation from Sesotho into French was published by Gallimard a short time later.
When examining African literature (continent-wide) from the second half of the 20th Century and for which a French translation has been published, it is immediately apparent that South Africa accounts for a sizeable proportion of translations. In fact, 75% of translations published are of South African works, compared with 20% for Nigeria, which has a population double that of South Africa. Furthermore, Nigeria’s Wole Soyinka was the first African author to receive the Nobel Prize (which he was awarded in 1986, five years before Nadine Gordimer).
We might well wonder about this relative surfeit of French translations of South African literature. This imbalance is further perpetrated within South African literature itself, since over 50% of works translated into French (that is, around 60 books) are by six authors only – Alan Paton, Athol Fugard, Breyten Breytenbach, André Brink, Nadine Gordimer and Michael Coetzee, who are all of European origin (or in part, at least). Their readership is focussed in London, Paris and Washington, rather than Johannesbourg or the Cape. Up to a certain point, they write about Africa for Europe and the United States, to the extent that their situation is not radically different from British or American authors selected for publication by French publishers. It should be noted that the South African English or Afrikaans-speaking communities to which these six authors belong account for less than 10% of the total population. Thus, a demographical minority in South Africa represents a publishing majority in France!
Upon close inspection, another major imbalance comes to light. If we examine the situation from a diachronic point of view, the hundred or so works published in French over the past 50 years are published at a surprisingly erratic pace. This is surprising for a number of reasons. Firstly, because there is no comparable irregularity in the publication timeframes for the original works in South Africa. Secondly, during a period of eight years (from 1968 to 1976) not a single South African author was published individually in French. What is worse, other than Breytenbach, Brink and Gordimer, the blackout (no pun intended!) continues until 1984. That is, French publishers imposed a 16-year silence on South African literature!
Out of synch
In order to understand why South African literature was so long eclipsed in France, we need to examine the evolution of South African literature and analysis its publication in French over the past 50 years. The following questions should be considered:
Firstly, are original South African texts and their French publications published in synchronicity? Are the two groups governed by the same developmental logic? Were there incompatibilities, distortions, blockages and delays due to the political climate in South Africa or in France? Could these problems be put down to the nature of the originals available, or the history and structure of the French publishing industry?
The publication in 1942 of Dark Testament to a certain extent constitutes the beginning of South African literature as it has continued to evolve to this day, even though the region offers many works of literature – both oral and written – that were produced much earlier than this publication. Peter Abrahams’ short stories shunned African rural traditions, a fact that represented a clear break with tradition, coinciding with the war effort that Great Britain was imposing on its South African colony. Forced industrialisation had escalated the rural exodus triggered by diamond and gold mining in 1867 and 1886. The short story entitled S’ciety is typical of the entire collection, portraying in the city men who gather in the evening to tell and listen to stories intended to help them survive in a segregated urban society, just as traditional tales helped them to master their rural environment. The first collection of short stories by Es’kia Mphahlele, Man Must Live (1946) confirmed this change.
French publishers launched Peter Abrahams and Alan Paton at almost the same time as they were published in South Africa. From 1950 to 1968, nine books by these two authors were published in French, on an average of only two years after the original. These included three works by Alan Paton with Albin Michel (Pleure, ô pays bien-aimé/Cry the Bloved Country; Quand l’oiseau disparut/Too Late to Phalarope; Le bal des débutants/Debbie Go Home: collection of short stories), six works by Peter Abrahams – the first with Gallimard, then four with Casteman (by the same translator, Denise Shaw-Mantoux) and one with Stock.
With Abrahams, who was the first great South African writer of non-European origin to be extensively translated into French, a major trend in the French publication of South African literature was instigated. His autobiography (Je ne suis pas un homme libre/Tell Freedom) and five novels (Le Sentier du Tonnerre/Path of Thunder, Une couronne pour Udomo/A Wreath for Udomo, Rouge est le sang des Noirs, Une nuit sans pareille, Cette île entre autres*** check english titles with casterman***) were published in French but not a single short story. This is unfortunate for French readers since during the 1950s, South African literature was marked by an abundance of short story writers, the younger siblings of Peter Abrahams and Es’kia Mphahlele. These writers were assembled by Drum magazine, which was created in 1951 for a new public of freshly urbanised African readers. Between 1951 and 1958, notably under Mphahlele’s guidance (as Fiction Editor up to 1957), Drum published some 90 short stories by Can Themba, Bloke Modisane, Casey Motsisi, Arthur Maimane (alias Mogale), Lewis Nkosi, Tod Matshikiza, Henry Nxumalo, Nat Nakasa, and others. These short stories were peopled with colourful characters – gangsters, boxers, jazzmen – who were all great drinkers, players and revellers. Their English contrasted greatly with the starchy prose of the rural authors who were educated in the mission schools. This English was riddled with tsotsitaal (the slang of South Africa’s bad boys) and their language was a conscious imitation of American jive. The United States had had the Harlem renaissance, and post-war South Africa had Sophiatown, named after Johnnesbourg’s « black » neighbourhood.
Sadly, this lively and highly original literature was not passed on in French, either at that time, or later. The closest French readers came to it was in 2000 when Peter Brook (who had a longstanding connection with Johannesbourg’s Market Theatre) produced Le Costume at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord with Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Sotigui Kouyaté, Marco Prince and Bakary Sangaré (1). Mphalele said of Can Themba, « He’s the true incarnation of Drum – with his Romanesque imagery, theatrical characters, Hollywood, the whole thing interwoven with well-deserved punishment ». (2)
In short, throughout the 1950s, Alan Paton and Peter Abrahams served as a cover. By publishing their novels regularly, French publishers succeeded in hiding their lack of enthusiasm for other South African authors. Despite the fact that South Africa was experiencing a golden age of short story writing, this genre was seriously out of fashion in France, which goes to show just how out of synch the two literary traditions were! However, let us avoid falling into the trap of over-simplifying the popularity of this literary genre through its association with the spirit of a given language or people. In 1889, Andrew Lang, a major British critic, stated, « It is a pity that the English have no taste for short stories. In France, tales and short stories have always been more successful. (…) It would appear that we detest hors d’oeuvres – we demand a hearty helping of literary beef (…) If this theory is correct, short stories will never be very popular in England. » (3) However, the theory must have been wrong, « (…) in less than a year, Kipling had entirely changed the scene (…). From 1890 onwards, short stories were immensely successful in England, whether the author was Kipling, Stevenson, Maugham, Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton or Saki ». (4) In fact, the English short story was born at that time … in India between 1882 and 1888 in the columns of the daily paper, The Civil and Military Gazette, Pendjab’s biggest paper, which was making use of the narrative talent of a very young editor, Rudyard Kipling, aged 17. In total some 80 tales and short stories circulated amongst the paper’s Anglo-Indian readers and, despite the fact that the texts were anonymous, the author’s name very quickly became famous throughout the colony. In 1887 Kipling changed papers and became responsible for Allahabad’s weekly edition of the Pioneer, The Week’s news which was sent to England. Thus, his 2000-word literary « gap-fillers » spread throughout England and the short story found its public.
From 1955, the apartheid regime undertook to raze Sophiatown and build a « Whites-only » neighbourhood, which was modestly named Triumf. The Drum’s novelists were forced into exile and intellectual decline, and driven to suicide.
However, another group had already taken up the relay, in Capetown this time, in a « mixed » neighbourhood called « District Six ». District Six was in its turn flattened by the apartheid bulldozers in 1970 and transformed into a « white zone » too. Richard Rive and Alex La Guma are the most eminent representatives of this second school of short story writers, which was less influenced by the States but more militant than Sophiatown. The short stories and novels of these authors dominated the literature of the 1960s.
Once again, nothing was passed on to French readers at the time. French publications of South African works came to a halt in 1968, after Peter Abrahams novels and autobiography, and Es’kia Mphalele’s autobiography, Au-Bas de la 2e Avenue (Présence Africaine, 1963)/Down Second Avenue, (1959).
1968-1984: the eclipse
Several factors contributed to « non-white » authors’ works being blocked for a non-negligent period of 16 years.
Firstly, in South Africa itself – following the Sharpeville massacre on 21 March 1960, and the outlawing of the ANC and other political and unionist organisations – the climate of repression intensified. Just about all writers banned from expressing themselves publicly or from being published. They were either placed under house arrest for a number of years (as in Don Mattera’s case) or sent to prison or forced into exile. The result undoubtedly being that literary production came to a complete halt within the country. Nevertheless, major works continued to be produced abroad, in particular Alex La Guma’s novels, And a Threefold Cord (1964), and The Stone Country (1967), which were published by Seven Seas Books in Berlin. The same goes for Bessie Head’s works, including Maru, which was published in 1971 by Victor Gollancz in London. As early as 1963 a first short extract of La Guma’s works featured in an anthology published in translation by Présence Africaine in Paris (5), although it took 19 years for any other fragments to be published in French (6)! Born in 1937 out of the illegitimate (and totally illegal, according to the laws of the apartheid regime) union between a black groom and an upper middle class white woman whose family made her pay for her « error » by interning her in a psychiatric hospital, Bessie Head went into exile in Botswana in 1963. She died there in 1986, before a single word of her works was published in French (7).
During this entire « eclipse » period, Parisian publishers (even when Senegalese, as was the case for Présence Africaine) published translations of English-speaking African authors from outside South Africa. At least thirteen works, from authors such as Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe and Kenyan author James Ngugi (now published under the name of Ngugi wa Thiongo) were published, as were works by other Nigerian authors such as Wole Soyinka, Cyprian Ekwensi, Femi Osofisan and Nkem Nwankwo (8). Did the emergence of this plethora of East and West African authors and their discovery by French publishers, at the very time when the apartheid regime was trying to silence South African authors, act against the South Africans?
Furthermore, the political situation in France did little to encourage the major publishers to promote South African authors hostile to their government’s regime since General De Gaulle had decided to import South African and Namibian uranium for its nuclear weapons. He also decided to buy South African gold to build the reserves needed to set up the Gold Exchange Standard to replace the American dollar. This was the time during which Winne Mandela noted that France was a best friend of the apartheid regime.
A fourth contributing factor is that South African literature was at that time of more radical inspiration. Short story writers and novelists such as Alex La Guma wanted to be politically committed. In fact, Alex La Guma was the ANC’s official representative for culture for Europe and the Caribbean (notably Cuba, where he later settled). One might wonder how French publishers perceived the works of this militant writer whose novels had been published behind the iron curtain, in East Berlin, at the height of the Cold War.
It should be noted that for the major French publishers, political commitment in literature is often considered a contradiction in terms. It would appear that the debate over politically-committed literature has resulted in anything other than this misconception. At a time when there was a spate of independences, African literature was soon cast aside as being the product of a political discourse. And yet, Alex La Guma’s novels in particular provide French publishers who esteem that works of literature cannot be good when politically motivated with the proof that a work of literature may be good precisely because it is politically motivated. Political motivations have often driven artists to make the most of aesthetical possibilities that would otherwise have remained unexplored and unexploited, and their art is all the richer for it. For example, in L’Oiseau meurtrier/Time of the Butcherbird, the simple fact of dividing the narrative into chapters is charged with meaning because this creates a powerful feeling of apartheid. In the same way that the system wants to shut each person off in their own prison world, the chapters of the book pass from a black village to an Afrikaaner town or a white Anglophone suburban house without any obvious transition. This proceeds until the liberation hour at the end of the novel, when the young hero unites within the framework of a single chapter these three separate worlds. La Guma’s readers are witnesses to a war of the symbols that takes place between the apartheid figures and the counter-figures of the resistance. The subject matter is not the only literary tool used by the author and he fights on all literary fronts. His lexical and syntactical choices, the literary space, the rhythm and tone of his writing are all used as weapons in his struggle. In this context, the politically committed writer has every chance of progressing further in literature.
However, one might wonder whether it is not rather the appearance in South Africa of a new literary trend during the 1970s that explains the silence of French publishers throughout that decade. In 1969, the « black » journal, The Classic, introduced three new authors: Pascal Gwala, Wally Mongane Serote and Njabulo Ndebele. All three were poets, giving birth to a new decade marked by a wave of « black » poetry. In the space of four years, from 1969 to 1972, first collections appeared (in English), by Keorapetse Kgositsile (Spirits Unchanged), James Matthews (Cry Rage), Oswald Mtshali (Sounds of a Cowhide Drum) and Wally Mongane Serote (Yakhal’Inkomo). In 1973, the anthology To Whom it May Concern was published. This was a veritable manifest of the new « black » poetry, revolving around twelve poets, including Mtshali, Serote, Ndebele, Gwala, Mandla Langa and Sipho Sepamla. These young poets had all heard the cry of the movement for Black Consciousness, a South African « Black Arts Movement » that condemned passiveness and invited black artists to glorify and sing out about their (political) colour. Steve Biko was the theoretical father of this cultural movement, which gathered authors who were almost all born after the introduction of the apartheid regime in 1948. These rebel voices belonged to the country’s youth and the « black » proletariat more than the chiefly elders and notables converted to Christianity in the colonial missionary schools. The time for submission and supplication had passed. Choosing poetry (being both a « hiding place and loud speaker », to quote Nadine Gordimer) would prove to be extremely effective. Novels were time-consuming and costly to write, publish and distribute, while poems could be written in the space of a few short minutes and quickly transmitted to thousands of demonstrators. Poetry would propagate the message of black power in lightening speed. In fact, these young militant poets did no more than prolong the tradition of oral poetry that had continued to thrive in the mining dormitories, where some 800,000 African miners would commonly participate in poetry reading and improvisation competitions between each themselves. During the years of rebellion, masters of this living art such as Ingoapele Madingoane, Mzwakhe Mbuli and Alfred Qabula made names for themselves. In muzzling, almost all prose writers of African origin from 1960 onwards, the apartheid regime had involuntarily contributed to the birth of hundreds of young poets. The African high-schoolers revolt against the enforced use of Afrikaans was nourished by this poetry. The massacre of hundreds of Soweto children on 16 June 1976, and the torture and death of Steve Biko in 1977 only served to delay the general uprising.
Simultaneously to poetry’s eruption in the 1970s, several young « black » authors (some of whom were also poets, such as Zakes Mda and Maishe Maponya) moved into theatre. Maponya mounted a theatre group in Soweto, a town with a population of over 1,000,000 but not a single theatre. Maishe Maponya wrote a dozen plays, starting with The Cry in 1976, the year that Fatima Dike in The Sacrifice of Kreli played out the first meeting between the Xhosa King and the English colonisers. Two other names dominated South African theatre at the time – Matsemela Manaka, author of Asinamali and Mbongeni Ngema, co-author, with Percy Ntwa and Simon Barney, of Lève-toi, Albert!/Woza Albert! Peter Brook staged a French adaptation by Jean-Claude Carrière for Parisian audiences in 1989.
The South Africa that cultivated the short story during the 1950s, and poetry and theatre during the 1970s, was decidedly unlucky where French publishers were concerned, due to their lack of interest in these three literary genres. This situation was corroborated by the rise of Nigerian authors of the likes of Achebe and Soyinka, and the repression of South African authors hostile to the apartheid regime during the 1960s. Furthermore, an international climate dominated by the Cold War, and De Gaulle’s reign in France, make it easier to understand how the eight-year gap (one could even go so far as to say sixteen-year gap) during which French publishers shunned South African literature could have occurred.
1976-1990: French publishers divided
Was it the massacre of Soweto’s children in 1976 (using Panhard rifles of French manufacture) that shook France’s major publishers from their sleep? Whatever the reason, the fact remains that Christian Bourgois put an end to the eclipse by courageously publishing a collection of South African poetry that year. However, instead of lending a French voice to the rebellious young Africans, he chose to publish the translation of Afrikaaner author, Breyten Breytenbach, Feu froid, which was never to have an African counterpart with Bourgois.
It was at that time that the publication of South African works caused a rift between the major publishing houses and small « specialist » publishers. In fact, this phenomenon had not previously occurred, Paton and Abrahams being published by general publishers and major publishing houses such as Stock, Casterman, Albin Michel and Gallimard. Following the eclipse, there was a division of roles, the big publishing houses taking the South African authors of European origin, and the smaller militant publishers taking African authors.
As far as the major publishers were concerned, Stock followed in the footsteps of Christian Bourgois, also publishing in 1976 the first French translation (by Robert Fougues-Duparc) of a novel by André Brink (Looking on Darkness, 1974 / Au plus noir de la nuit). In 1979, Albin Michel also began publishing the works of Nadine gordimer (A World of Strangers, 1958 / Un monde d’étrangers, translated by Lucienne Lotringer). During the 90s, Gordimer would move to Christian Bourgois, when Bourgois separated from Presses de la Cité. Seuil managed to steal Coetzee from her first French publisher Maurice Nadeau in 1985. They also published Mike Nicol, another Capetown novelist of European origin, as of 1991. Gallimard continued to be caught in 1950s timewarp, that is, they did not move on from Peter Abrahams’ first novel.
It was the small – or even Lilliputian – publishers who were responsible for publishing French translations of South African poetry during the 1970s. These included Présence Africaine, which published in 1975 an anthology whose title, Poètes noirs d’Afrique du Sud (presented by Florence Vaillant), made reference to the « negritude » so beloved of the publisher. Again in 1975, Jacques Alvarez-Péreyre, who was militantly against apartheid and taught at Grenoble university, also had an anthology published under the title, Poètes engagés sud-africains, by Grenoble’s Maison de la Culture. In 1981, Silex, which was based in Paris and was headed by a Cameroon poet Paul Dakeyo, put out an anthology entitled L’Aube d’un jour nouveau, 21 poètes sud-africains, presented and translated by Catherine Belvaude.
From then on, the two publishing factions would maintain their given stance. As the uprising grew and becoming more organised, with a violence that caused thousands of deaths per year throughout the 1980s, the activities of the anti-apartheid fighters also built in France and they started canvassing small publishers specialising in African literature such as Présence Africaine, Silex, Karthala, L’Harmattan, as well as publishers specialising in politics such as Syros (connected with France’s socialist party) and Messidor (associated with the Communist movement). Furthermore, the political climate had changed and post-De Gaulle France’s collaboration with South Africa’s apartheid regime was increasingly criticised. Laurent Fabius’ government eventually rallied to the ANC’s theory that the South African government should be sanctioned. Therefore, the political and cultural context became favourable for translating South African literature into French, thanks mostly to enthusiastic associations than academic circles.
These two publishing dynamics (that of the major publishing houses, which focussed exclusively on Breytenbach, Brink, Gordimer, Coetzee and Nicol; and a second, far more militant one that gave priority to African authors) would at last enable French readers to bridge the fifteen-year gap with South African literature. From 1984, a lengthy short story by Alex La Guma (A Walk in the Night, 1962/Nuit d’errance published in French by Hatier) and two of his novels, as well as other novels written by Mewa Ramgobin (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi), Sipho Sepamla, Miriam Tlali and Wally Mongane Serote, (all politically « committed » writers) brought into France and translated by qualified Anglicist translators and French anti-apartheid militants such as Christine Delanne-Abdelkrim.
Although the black poetry and theatre of the 1970s had had trouble reaching French readers, the return of the novel during the 1980s undeniably helped French-speaking anti-apartheid militants (notably translators) in their efforts to convince French publishers. With the appearance of a major unionist confederation, the COSATU, which was connected to the United democratic front – the mass movement born in 1983 that would back the work of the ANC within South Africa (outlawed until 1990) – the urgency of the poetical and theatrical rebellion of the 1970s gave way to a desire to regain control of History. With the help of the novel, African authors sought to gather the elements of a mutilated memory and build their more or less immediate past as an autonomous part of Africa’s History. Thus, the poets of the black consciousness collectively converted to prose, taking on the non-racial ideals of the ANC. Poets such as Sepamla, Serote and Langa, who all set out to capture the time stolen from their people, would publish their first novels in 1979 (The Root is One), 1980 (To Every Birth its Blood/Alexandra, mon amour, ma colère), and 1987 (Tenderness of Blood) respectively. Another poet, Njabulo Ndebele published his first work of prose in 1983 as a collection entitled Fools and Other Stories.
In parallel, a new generation of « black » prose writers was emerging. Mtutuzeli Matshoba’s first collection of short stories, Call Me Not a Man was published in 1979. It contained all the narrative virtuosity and stylistic liveliness of the short story writers of the Drum generation but was also driven by political awareness. Staffrider, a journal founded in 1978, gathered together the works of these young talents. Thanks notably to United Nations funding and the European Community, which was by this time openly involved in the struggle against the apartheid regime, new publishing houses were set up in South Africa. These included, Vivlia, Kwela Books and COSAW (Congress of South African Writers, which was headed by Ndebele). These new publishers launched a number of short story collections by up-and-coming writers such as Matshoba, Bekhi Maseko, Deena Padayachee, Joel Matlou, Maureen Isaacson, Kaizer Nyatsumba, etc.
By some stroke of good luck, at the same time in France, thanks to Jack Lang and policies by the Centre national des lettres (now the Centre national du livre) in favour of financing and promoting literature, French literary journals witnessed a prosperous period. They opened their arms to the young South African short story writers and, given the increasingly intensity of the struggle in South Africa, several magazines produced special issues on South Africa, with (in most cases) a substantial section on its literature. For example, Autrement and L’Afrique littéraire in 1985, Les Temps modernes, Europe, and Présence africaine in 1986, La Revue des Deux Mondes in 1988 and 1990, Nouvelles du Sud in 1989, Notre librairie in 1992 and 1995, Les Temps modernes, Le Serpent à Plumes in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993 and 1994, Lettre internationale in 1988 and 1992, and Revue noire/Black Review in 1992 and 1993. The journal for the Mouvement anti-apartheid (MAA), Apartheid Non! Le Monde diplomatique also published a special issue under the impetus of Micheline Paunet who, published in-depth articles on South African literature between 1979 and 1981, as well as a dozen pieces of South African literature.
This vector was crucial in transmitting South African literature to French readers and determined the publishing configuration still in place, following the liberation of Nelson Mandela in 1990 and the first general elections held under universal suffrage in 1994. Victory had the effect of de-activating the militant network and the small publishers supporting it. These days the situation is considerably less polarised and more diversified. Medium-sized publishing houses have filled the gap left by the « natural » decline of anti-apartheid activities. Belgian and Swiss publishers have also come into play. For example, Complexe published in Brussels from 1992 to 1997 three South African works – Fools and My Uncle by Njabulo Ndebele, and Portés disparus by Ivan Vladislavic; Geneva-based publishing house, Zoé, published Bessie Head.
In France, alongside publishers such as the Musée Dapper (En attendant Leila by Achmat Dangor), Mercure de France (La Malédiction de Kafka, also by Dangor), and Le Serpent à Plumes (Une clairière dans le bush by Zoë Wicomb), Actes Sud was a good example of the new order. A series entitled « Afriques » run by Bernard Magnier, has published two South African works: Mhudi, a novel by Sol Plaatje (published in translation in 1997, written in 1915, published in a sanitized version in 1930 and in whole in 1978), and in 2001, Poèmes d’Afrique du Sud, a precious anthology compiled by Denis Hirson that covers four decades of poetry. The time would seem ripe for « black » authors to be translated and published by the major French publishers. This is the case for Mandla Langa, whose third and very powerful novel, The Memory of Stones (2000) was distributed through several publishers simultaneously by the author’s agent and former French anti-apartheid militants. The same applies to Zakes Mda, who could – with his third novel, The Madonna of Excelsior, translated by Catherine du Plessis – join the ranks of the Seuil authors by 2004, alongside Coetzee and Mike Nicol.
Analysis of the case of South African literature provides evidence of the complexity of the relationship between a given country’s literary production and what could be called its reception by publishers in another country – in another linguistic sphere. In the case of South African literature, over the space of 50 years, French readers have experienced both feast and famine for a great variety of reasons, as we have seen. Lastly, « atrophied literature » represents an average. It is the equation between lean and prosperous times.

1. Originally, Le Costume was a short story by Can Themba, and was published in the journal The Critic. South African authors Mothobi Mutloatse and Barney Simon adapted it for the theatre and Marie-Hélène Estienne subsequently adapted it into French for stage director Peter Brook. (Actes Sud published the French text.)
2. « Black and White »; New Statesman, London, 10 September 1960. Cited in Chapman, Michael, ed. The Drum Decade. Stories from the 1950s. Pietermaritzburg, University of Natal Press, 1989.
3. Cited in Green, R. L., ed. The Critical Heritage, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971.
4. Idem [or Ibid.]
5. Anthologie de la littérature négro-africaine, romanciers et conteurs, compiled by Léonard Sainville, published by Présence Africaine in 1963.
6.  » Couvertures  » ( » Blankets « ), short story included in the La Danseuse d’ivoire et autres nouvelles anthology (texts chosen, translated and presented by Jean de Grandsaigne and Gary Spackey), Paris, Hatier (Monde Noir collection), 1982.
7. The first two novels by Bessie Head to appear in French were published in the following journals: « Les Amants », Le Serpent à Plumes n° 13, Autumn 1991, p. 33-38 and « Le Prisonnier qui portait des lunettes », Europe n° 708, April 1988, pp. 110-115 (both translated by Jean-Pierre Richard). From 1994, Editions Zoé, in Geneva, published the following works by Bessie Head : La Femme qui collectionnait des trésors et autres récits du Botswana (1977 in English, 1994 in French) and Question de pouvoirs (1974, 1995), translated by Daisy Perrin; then, translated by Christian Surber, Marou (1971, 1996, that is, over a 25 years after its publication in English!).
8. Several non-South African publications (none of which are South African) from this period: Le Monde s’effondre (1966, that is, eight years after its publication in English), Le Malaise (1974), Flèche de Dieu (1978) by Chinua Achebe, published by Présence Africaine; and, with other publishers, Le Démagogue (Nouvelles Editions Africaines, 1977), Femmes en guerre (Hatier, 1981); Et le blé jaillira (Julliard, 1967, that is, the same year it was published in English) by Ngugi; Le Lion et la perle (C.L.E., 1968, that is, nine years after the English original was published) by Soyinka; and four plays translated by Elisabeth Janvier: La Danse de la forêt, Les Gens des marais, Un sang fort, Les Tribulations de frère Jéro, and Les Interprètes (1979), Idanre (N.E.A., 1982) with Oswald publishers; etc.
Jean-Pierre RICHARD was formerly President of the French anti-apartheid movement. He is currently a literary translator and lecturer at Paris 7 University. ///Article N° : 5684

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