Literature in South Africa
Did you know?
South Africa's best-selling author is Wilbur Smith.
South African literature is rich, diverse and increasingly robust with writers receiving acclaim for works of science fiction, magical realism, crime writing, comedy, social realism, reportage and cultural commentary.
One of South Africa’s first writers to receive international recognition is Olive Schreiner. Her semi-autobiographical novel Story of an African Farm was published in 1883. Schreiner was a passionate advocate of feminism, pacifism and free thought.
Laurens van der Post, born in the Free State in 1906, is another famous early South African writer. His works include Venture into the Interior, Flamingo Feather and The Lost World of the Kalahari, in which he documented aspects of San culture.
Alan Paton's novel Cry, the Beloved Country, published in 1948, became an international literary classic, whilst Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom is a contemporary classic of non-fiction.
Cattle rancher Stuart Cloete found popular success as a writer with adventure stories such as Turning Wheels, a novel of the Great Trek, as did Wilbur Smith, a contemporary bestselling international novelist. Poet Roy Campbell, with his South African literary works such as The Flaming Terrapin, The Wayzgoose and Flowering Rifle, is another significant South African author. Athol Fugard is among South Africa’s greatest dramatists and his plays continue to be performed worldwide.
Sol Plaatje was a pioneering black writer whose works such as Native Life and Mhudi have become classics. He is also known for his translations of Shakespeare into Setswana.
Two South African writers have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, Nadine Gordimer (1991) and J M Coetzee (2003). Gordimer also won the Booker Prize, while Coetzee was the first writer to win the Booker Prize twice.
Among our contemporary literary stars, you will find André Brink, Achmat Dangor, Damon Galgut, Zakes Mda, Njabulo Ndebele, Marlene van Niekerk and Zoë Wicomb. Younger writers like Imraan Coovadia, Kopano Matlwa, Niq Mhlongo and crime fiction writer Deon Meyer, are increasingly popular and several significant Afrikaans authors like Eben Venter, Ingrid Winterbach and Etienne van Heerden are available in English translation.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)11 798 0111
Tel: +27 (0) 860 692 274
What will it cost
Fiction in South Africa costs between R100 and R400.
There are a number of book and literary festivals on the South African calendar, including the Franschoek Literary Festival
You can get good deals on South African literature online and at seasonal sales at popular book stores around the country.