A proud child of Cape Town’s infamous District Six, Alex La Guma (1925 - 1985) is one of South Africa’s unsung literary heroes. As a novelist and a freedom fighter, he followed in the footsteps of his politically active father, Jimmy La Guma to combat the injustices of apartheid, then went into exile in London with his family after harrowing periods of solitary detention and severe harassment at the hands of South Africa’s Special Branch police.
With an eye for the minutiae of life - depicted in all its harsh reality, tempered with profound compassion, gentle humour and a beautifully ornate prose style, he produced five superb novels and over a dozen short stories between 1962 and 1979. In addition to his writing, his political work continued in exile and he subsequently left London for Havana, Cuba to become chief representative of the African National Congress in the Caribbean.
Yet today, tragically, in the country of his birth - where his books were once banned - he is virtually unknown, a forgotten colossus. However, his potent genius for creating vivid characters amidst the brutality of apartheid, his masterful storytelling technique, his ardent humanity and unwavering support of the poor, the oppressed and the ostracized, will in time all ensure his lasting fame, both in South Africa and abroad.
Be in no doubt: the name of Alex La Guma - as a novelist, an activist in the liberation struggle - and as a remarkable human being - should be on all our lips.