Obituary: Lewis Nkosi, writer and academic

2010-09-08 00:00

SOUTH African writer and academic Lewis Nkosi died at the weekend in a Johannesburg hospice. He was 73. He had been in poor health since suffering a stroke last year.

Nkosi was born in Chesterville, Durban, and educated at the M.L. Sultan Technical College. He worked for Ilanga Lase Natal before going to Johannesburg to join Drum magazine where he was part of the famous generation of young black writers he described as “the new Africans … urbanised, eager, fast-talking and brash”. In 1961 he was awarded a fellowship to study at Harvard and left his home country on a one-way exit permit, which led to a long exile.

He worked at one time for the BBC in London and taught literature at universities in Europe, Africa and the U.S. In later years his home was in Switzerland, although, after 1994, he regularly spent time back in South Africa.

Professor Lindy Stiebel of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who with Elizabeth Gunner co-edited Still Beating the Drum, a collection of critical essays on Nkosi’s work as a novelist, playwright, essayist and newspaper columnist, said yesterday that she considers he was very underrated in South Africa due to his long exile.

“He was a fearless critic, a clear analytical voice. He didn’t have to align himself with any group and spoke his mind on both literary and wider cultural issues.”

Nkosi’s 1986 novel Mating Birds, which dealt with sex between a black man and a white woman and with rape, was banned by the apartheid government.

His most recent novel Mandela’s Ego, which was published in 2007, dealt in a humorous way with the consequences of excessive hero worship.

Nkosi leaves his wife, Astrid Starck, and twin daughters. His funeral will be held in Durban on Friday.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.