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Roy Campbell PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:24

Roy Campbell (1901 - 1957) was born in Durban, the son of Dr Samuel George Campbell. Roy Campbell co-edited (with William Plomer and Laurens van der Post) the magazine entitled Voorslag in 1926. Campbell is the author of a long poem entitled The Flaming Terrapin (1924), as well as poetry collections entitled Adamastor (1930), Flowering Reeds (1933), Mithraic Emblems (1936) and Talking Bronco (1946). He wrote long satirical poems entitled The Wayzgoose (1928) and The Georgiad (1931) on the South African way of life and intellectual climate. Campbell's autobiographical works include Broken Record (1934) and Light on a Dark Horse (1951). He lived in England and Spain before settling permanently in Portugal where he died in a car accident at the age of fifty six. Campbell was fluent in Spanish and translated poems of St John of the Cross, Baudelaire, Lorca, Paco d'Arcos and novels by Ea de Queirs.

He also wrote critical studies entitled Lorca (1952) and Wyndham Lewis which was completed in 1931 but first published posthumously in 1985. His non-fiction works on travel and social commentary include Taurine Provence (1932) and Portugal (1957). Campbell also wrote an adventure story for children entitled The Mamba's Precipice (1953).


Literary studies on Campbell include David Wright's Roy Campbell (1961), Rowland Smith's Lyric and Polemic: The Literary Personality of Roy Campbell (1973), John Povey's Roy Campbell (1977) and Peter Alexander's Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography (1982). Joseph Pearce is the author of a well received biography and literary study of Campbell entitled Bloomsbury and beyond: The friends and enemies of Roy Campbell (2001, Harper Collins), in which he affirms Campbell's merits as a poet and portrays him as having been greatly under-rated in literary circles.  In 2011, Remembering Roy Campbell: The Memoirs of his daughters Anna and Tess, edited by Judith Coullie, was published. 

Thanks to The Guardian/NPG for permission to reproduce Jane Brown's 1951 portrait of the author.


Selected Work

The Zebras from Adamastor (1930)

From the dark woods that breathe of fallen showers,
Harnessed with level rays in golden reins,
The zebras draw the dawn across the plains
Wading knee-keep among the scarlet flowers.
The sunlight, zithering their flanks with fire,
Flashes between the shadows as they pass
Barred with electric tremors through the grass
Like wind along the gold strings of a lyre.
Into the flushed air snorting rosy plumes
That smoulder round their feet in drifting fumes,
With dove-like voices call the distant fillies,
While round the herds the stallion wheels his flight,
Engine of beauty volted with delight,
To roll his mare among the trampled lilies.


1923. The flaming terrapin.  London; Jonathan Cape Publishers.
1928. The wayzgoose; a South African satire.  London:  Jonathan Cape Publishers.
1930. Adamastor.  London:  Faber and Faber.
1930. The gum trees.  London:  Faber and Faber.
1931. The Georgiad: a satirical fantasy in verse.  London:  Boriswood Limited.
1931. Choosing a mast.  London:  Faber and Faber.
1932. Taurine Provence.  London:  Desmond Harmsworth.
1932. Pomegranates.  London:  Boriswood Limited.
1933. Flowering reeds.  London:  Boriswood Limited.
1934. Broken record.  London;  Boriswood Limited.
1936. Mithraic emblems. London:  Boriswood Limited. 
1936. Flowering rifle: a poem from the battlefield of Spain.  London:  Longmans, Green and Co. Publishers.
1941. Songs of the mistral.  London:  Faber and Faber.
1946. Talking bronco.  London:  Faber and Faber.
1951. Light on a dark horse.  London:  Hollis and Carter. 

1952. Poems of Baudelaire: a translation of Les fleurs du mal.  New York:  Pantheon. 
1952.  Lorca:  An Appreciation of his Poetry.  New Haven:  Yale University Press.
1953. The mamba's precipice.  London: Frederick Muller. 
1954. Nativity.  London:  Faber and Faber.
1957. Portugal.  London:  Max Reinhardt.
1960. Poems of Roy Campbell. (Edited by Uys Krige).  Cape Town:  Maskew Miller.
1985. Wyndham Lewis.  Durban;  University of Natal Press.
1985. Collected works. (Edited by P. Alexander, M. Chapman and M. Leveson).  Johannesburg: Ad Donker Publishers.
2002. Selected Poems. (Edited by J. Pearce).  Johannesburg:  Ad Donker Publishers.
2005. Selected Poems. (Edited by M. Chapman).  Johannesburg: Ad Donker Publishers.

2011. Remembering Roy Campbell: The Memoirs of his daughters Anna and Tess. Winged Lion Press




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John Conyngham PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:22

John Conyngham (1954- ) was born in Durban and brought up on his family’s sugar farm inland from Stanger (now KwaDukuza). After three years at a farm school in the Doringkop district, he attended Cowan House, Hilton College, Haileybury & Imperial Service College in England, the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, where in his B.A. he majored in English and Classical Civilization, and Trinity College, Dublin, where he studied Anglo-Irish literature. He later completed a post-graduate diploma in education through the University of South Africa.

After two years’ national service in the South African Army, and six months teaching English at Maritzburg College, he was for thirty-one years a journalist on The Witness (formerly The Natal Witness) in Pietermaritzburg, and from 1994 to 2010 the newspaper’s editor. He has held journalism fellowships at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St Petersburg, Florida, United States and at Oxford University.

During his years as a journalist he wrote three novels.

The Arrowing of the Cane (Ad Donker 1986) was joint winner of the 1985 AA Mutual-Ad Donker Vita Award and winner of the 1988 Olive Schreiner Prize and 1989 Sanlam Award, and was also published by Bloomsbury in Britain and Simon & Schuster/Fireside in the United States, and translated into French, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. In the Irish Sunday Independent, Colm Tóibín likened it to Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing and Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist, saying it was ‘as good and as skilful as either of those two novels’, and ‘as good as anything which has come out of white South Africa’. Maureen Isaacson in the Johannesburg Sunday Independent called it ‘a brilliant novel’ and Heather Mackie in the Cape Times said it ‘must rank amongst the finest descriptive writing to come out of this country’. In the New York Times Book Review, Michael Ross said ‘Mr Conyngham has deftly fashioned a metaphor for a country facing its own three o’clock in the morning of the soul’ while in the Los Angeles Times Charles Solomon called it ‘a rare look at the rapidly vanishing privileged world of white South Africa’. English literature professor W.H. Bizley, writing in Natal University Focus, stated: ‘The Arrowing of the Cane has something of classic status in Natal terms’.


The Desecration of the Graves (Ad Donker 1990) was shortlisted for the 1991 M-Net Award and published in Britain by Bloomsbury, and translated into Spanish. In the Johannesburg Sunday Times, Barry Ronge described it as ‘a bracing blend of history, political analysis and a personal discovery which is externalised in a beautifully terse, non-committal plot’, before going on to say in The Natal Witness that ‘the reason he [Conyngham] is so successful is that he writes good English. There is a sense of refinement which one doesn’t often find anymore’. In El Mundo in Barcelona Nelson Marra called it ‘an entirely original and refreshingly different novel’.

The Lostness of Alice (Ad Donker 1998) was published in South Africa. Zolile Nqayi in the Sowetan found the black characters undeveloped and stereotypical but that the book was nevertheless ‘a fascinating read’. In Sawubona, Rina Minervini called it ‘Brilliantly descriptive – Conyngham’s polished but deceptively straightforward style simply draws you on and on’. On Capetalk, John Maytham described it as ‘a really intriguing story ... a poetic, oblique, rather fascinating take on Africa.’

After an 18-year interval, much of it taken up as a newspaper editor, he has written Hazara: Elegy for an African Farm (Natal Society Foundation 2016; Shuter and Shooter 2016), a narrative non-fiction account of an Anglo-South African family and its sugar farm, which has been called ‘outstanding’ by Stephen Robinson in Business Day, ‘inspirational’ by Patricia McCracken in Farmer’s Weekly, and ‘a consummate elegy’ by Stephen Coan in a review on this website.

Selected Work

from The Arrowing of the Cane (1986)

The road from Nonoti into the hills rises slowly out of the mugginess of the town, switchbacking its way past deep old houses seething with wispish Indian children, mango trees with their glossy leaves, car and bus carcasses, and fluttering flags on tall bamboo poles. Slowly, reluctantly, the sprawling suburb succumbs to the ubiquitous cane. Labouring under its load, the Land Rover edges into the sighing greenness, rising and falling with its ebb and flow.

Clusters of palms indicate farmhouses hugged to their outbuildings by high hedges. Signs on the verge announce the company's sections - Carrickfergus, Quantock, Umsundu and Kerry Dale - each with its own manager, overseers, sirdars, indunas and army of labourers. Next the polo club, its team once provincial champions, holders of the Waterford Cup, but now fighting relegation to the third division. Then the company hospital with its two white doctors and shuttered wards, and the little St John's Church with its cemetery. Planter families lie neatly in rows while the Indians' crosses wander from the bottom fence into a grove of gums.

Gradually the air becomes more rarified. Coolness jets through the vents. Far below to the left the Umvoti River coils through another finger of KwaZulu which was a hotspot during the Bambata Rebellion. Now overpopulated, overgrazed and rutted, the valley looks idyllic to strangers crossing this neck miles above it. There is a lay-by from which tourists can take photographs of the picturesque hutted kraals. As with anything gross, distance placates the onlooker.

After another steep ascent I reach Manning's Post, the local trading store and bus terminus where each morning one of the gardeners collects the newspaper, and returns in the afternoon for the post. The familiar sign - Rangoon Estate - is on the right, swaying gently from twin chains above the T-junction. Beyond it spreads a neighbour's plantation of bananas, the ripening bunches swathed in hessian.

The wide district road with its harsh all-weather surface bisects the farm and descends to the mill in the valley. Around it capillaries a network of private roads and cane-breaks. Continuing past the mouth of the avenue, I weave along a series of overgrown tracks to the cutting where I consult with the induna. Several men are absent; otherwise all seems to be well. A tractor and loaded trailer move slowly across the row corrugations and I dart ahead of them, doubling back to the avenue.

As I enter the vaulted shadow, a puff adder is crossing the pink gravel, writhing its chain pattern across the open ground. Hideously distended like a length of diseased bowel, it hurries as the Land Rover approaches, entering the path of the right front wheel. To continue would mean popping it, but I decide against it, bearing fractionally to the left as it disappears into the undergrowth bordering the Indians' houses. Why the sudden magnanimity? I ask myself, but the answer isn't forthcoming.


1986. The Arrowing of the Cane. Craighall Johannesburg: Ad Donker

1989. The Arrowing of the Cane. London: Bloomsbury (hardback)

1989. The Arrowing of the Cane. New York: Simon & Schuster/Fireside

1990. The Arrowing of the Cane. London: Bloomsbury

1990: När Sockerrören Brinne/The Arrowing of the Cane. Stockholm: Forum (hardback)

1991. Le commencement de la fin/The Arrowing of the Cane. Paris: Editions du Rocher

1994. Cuando florece le caña/The Arrowing of the Cane. Barcelona: Emecé Editores

1994. Lanças de fogo/The Arrowing of the Cane. São Paulo, Brazil: Editora Best Seller

1994. The Arrowing of the Cane. Johannesburg: Ad Donker/Jonathan Ball

2002. The Arrowing of the Cane. Johannesburg: Ad Donker/Jonathan Ball

1990. The Desecration of the Graves. Parklands Johannesburg: Ad Donker

1992. La profanación de las tumblas/The Descecration of the Graves. Barcelona: Emecé Editores

1992. The Desecration of the Graves. London: Bloomsbury

2002. The Desecration of the Graves. Johannesburg: Ad Donker/Jonathan Ball

1998. The Lostness of Alice. Johannesburg: Ad Donker/Jonathan Ball

2016. Hazara: Elegy for an African Farm. Pietermaritzburg: Natal Society Foundation (hardback)

2016. Hazara: Elegy for an African Farm. Pietermaritzburg: Shuter and Shooter



Jack Cope PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:22

Jack Cope (1913 - 1991), South African novelist, short-story writer, poet, and editor, was born in Natal, South Africa and attended boarding school in Durban, afterwards becoming a journalist on the Natal Mercury and then a political correspondent in London for South African newspapers. At the outbreak of the Second World War, in a state of some disillusionment, he returned to his father's farm and, while working at various jobs, took up creative writing. During the following four decades Cope published eight novels, more than a hundred short stories, and three collections of poetry, the last one in association with C.J. Driver. For twenty of those years, beginning in 1960, he edited Contrast, a bilingual literary magazine that published contributions in both English and Afrikaans. He co-edited The Penguin Book of South African Verse (1968) with Uys Krige and, as general editor throughout much of the 1970s, produced the Mantis editions of southern African poets. In 1980 he moved to England, where he published The Adversary Within: Dissident Writers in Afrikaans (1982) and his Selected Stories (1986).

Cope's first novel, The Fair House (1955), considers the Bambata Rebellion of 1906 in an attempt to account for the later racial and political conditions in his country. Later novels, including The Golden Oriole (1958), Albino (1964), and The Rain-Maker (1971), chronicle the white man's destruction of black culture and the ensuing struggle by the blacks to regain their pride and identity. However, it is as a short- story writer that Cope demonstrated his finest talent. His stories evoke, according to Alan Paton, 'with a few words the scents and sounds and colours of our country'. In 'A Crack in the Sky' (The Tame Ox, 1960) and 'Power' (The Man Who Doubted and Other Stories, 1967) his moral vision is clear; his third collection, Alley Cat and Other Stories (1973), contains darker themes such as those of alienation and loneliness. Among Cope's main achievements was his influence on South African literature during the 1960s and 1970s, important years in the struggle against apartheid
(From the Contemporary Africa Database -


Selected Work

from The Tame Ox

The veranda of the office looked across a square of low roofs, and beyond them other buildings of the Native College could be seen scattered among the wind-swept gum trees, one- and two-storey blocks in plain stone masonry topped with corrugated iron. Beyond the campus again stretched rolling hills of sugar- cane plantations. The College Principal, the Reverend Dr Luke Njilo, descended the steps to the broad red-earth square. Along the left side was a row of huge old mango trees. It was a tropical day of broiling sunshine and limp, hot air. The dust lay still and the flags round the platform were motionless. The mango trees had their feet in circles of deep shadow. By the time the ceremony was due to begin the platform would be mostly shaded.
Dr Njilo went among the people, moving his big body with an ease that was solemn but at the same time youthful. The women fixed on him coy, bashful looks and smiled. He was a great man, but distant from them. That day he was to be honoured by the white race. An honorary degree, a Doctorate of Philosophy - these were strange terms to them. Yet they knew no other man of the Zulu nation had ever before arrived where he had. The word had gone out and the people were coming from long distances to see the white men do honour to the teacher, Luke Njilo.

Dr Njilo had a few words for all he greeted. He put into his own language an unusual preciseness, a stiffness of the printed letter and book as though he had a proprietary right but no pride in it. He turned to his secretary a few times with a remark in English. The women had brought beer in earthenware pots and large gourds covered with a few willow leaves. He could not refuse the customary offering. During the morning he had drunk a good deal and the midday meal had revived his thirst. At first he took the beerpots from the Reverend Gumede's hands, drank a few gulps, standing, and then wiped his mouth with his handkerchief. There was little to indicate his pleasure or approval. Perhaps his eyes lit up if he came on a fine brew, but he silenced his belches in the European manner and merely nodded as if he were making a severe concession in accepting at all.

In the shade of the mango trees an old wrinkled woman, more pagan than Christian, remarked in a cracked voice: 'Teacher, if you stand, the beer has far to travel -it will make a waterfall: The people turned their faces away to hide their smiles, but Dr Njilo burst into a hearty laugh in which all joined. 'A waterfall? Is that where the Amanzimtoti River started?' He had a resonant, bell-like voice.

Sitting on his haunches, he took a good pull at the old woman's beer-pot and handed it back with a compliment. He was speaking more easily; his quips flew, and now there was a ripple of amusement where the solid dark figure moved, clothed in academic robes. The sun flickered in patches between the leaves on his crisp black hair, neatly parted. He was sweating freely in the all-pervading heat and breathed like a strong-chested horse in the traces. His protruding eyes rolled amiably and a healthy pink tongue showed when he threw back his head to laugh.

At one place six elders were waiting for him, all greyheaded men. Some were in European clothes, others in the skins and sandals of tribal dress; one man, creased and dimeyed with age, had on the polished head-ring of the old royal warriors. Dr Njilo did not know them - perhaps grandfathers or great-uncles of students. There was a short awkward pause. They regarded him with the cool impassive bearing of men who are perfectly assured of their own place. The head of the eldest nodded continually and spittle dribbled over his beard. The others looked through dark, half-closed eyes, faintly contemptuous, it seemed. He had been criticised before; the extremists among his own people called him a 'good boy', a 'tame ox'. As editor of the weekly People's Voice, he was on the side of moderation, tolerance. He mixed with white missionaries, Negrophiles like Miss Poynton, liberals, and even men who galled him with their patronage. He glanced at Charles Gumede and back at the old men. They were not the kind to criticise him politically. But they were studying him, weighing up the future that he stood for as if gazing into the clouds to divine what storms or what sunny days were in store.



1948.  Marie : A South African Satire. Ontario:  Stewart Publishing. 
1955. The Fair House. London:  Macgibbon and Kee.
1958. The Golden Oriole. London:  Heinemann.
1959. The Road To Ysterberg : A Novel. London:  Heinemann. 
1960. The Tame Ox. London:  Heinemann. 
1964. Albino. London:  Heinemann. 
1967. The Man Who Doubted. London:  Heinemann. 
1968. The Penguin Book Of South African Verse (Co- editor).  Johannesburg:  Penguin Books.
1969. The Dawn Comes Twice. London:  Heinemann. 
1971. The Rain-Maker. London:  Heinemann. 
1972. The Student of Zend. London:  Heinemann.
1973. Alley Cat.  London:  Heinemann.
1973. The Africa We Knew. Cape Town:  David Philip Publishers.
1974. Lacking A Label. Cape Town:  David Philip Publishers.
1977. My Son Max. London:  Heinemann. 
1979. Notes Recorded in Sun. Cape Town:  David Philip Publishers.
The Adversary Within : Dissident Writers In Afrikaans.
Cape Town:  David Philip Publishers.
1986. Selected Stories. Cape Town:  David Philip Publishers.
1990. Tales of the Trickster Boy. Cape Town:  Tafelberg.

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