Alex La Guma (1925-1985)

Alex La Guma (1925-1985), South African writer, who used his writing to give a voice to the black South Africans oppressed under apartheid, the official policy of racial segregation followed in South Africa from 1948 to the early 1990s. La Guma`s work helped provide an artistic vision of cultural change that accompanied the efforts of the more celebrated antiapartheid political figures of South Africa, such as Nelson Mandela and Stephen Biko.

Born Justin Alexander La Guma in Cape Town

Born Justin Alexander La Guma in Cape Town, South Africa, he was educated at the Cape Technical College and later, through correspondence courses, at the London School of Journalism. Influenced by the political principles and activities of his family, La Guma participated in the union movement in South Africa, helping to organize a strike in the mid-1940s while employed as a factory worker. He also joined the Young Communist League, and in 1950 he was listed as a known Communist under the Suppression of Communism Act, a law used by the South African government to punish its critics. From 1955 to the early 1960s he worked as a staff journalist of the South African newspaper "New Age". In 1960, during a state of emergency declared after the killing of 69 black South African protesters at a demonstration in Sharpeville, La Guma was imprisoned for his political activities. In 1966 he emigrated to London, where he worked for the African National Congress (ANC). He later served as an ANC representative in Cuba.

La Guma`s short stories include Nocturne

La Guma`s short stories include Nocturne,Out of Darkness, and Slipper Satin, published together in the edited collection "Quartet" (1963) by Richard Rive. They deal with the struggles of finding things of beauty and sensuality amid the trials of poverty, of prison life, of attempts to pass for white, and of participating in interracial relationships forbidden by law. La Guma is best known, however, for his novels, especially "A Walk in the Night" (1962), a short novel that traces the movement of the protagonist, Michael Adonis, toward criminality as he copes with poverty, police harassment, and racism in the workplace. The book is considered to follow in the tradition of American writer Richard Wright, who portrayed social injustice against African Americans in vivid and brutal terms.

La Guma`s novel "And a Threefold Cord"

La Guma`s novel "And a Threefold Cord" (1964), set in Cape Town during an unrelenting rainstorm, focuses on poor black families who live under bleak economic conditions. This culture of poverty encourages alcoholism, prostitution, illness, petty criminality, and violence, all of which lead to further destruction and harassment from police. The book thus emphasizes the ways in which the conditions of inequality and violence in South Africa were created by apartheid itself. The novel "The Stone Country" (1967) depicts life in a South African prison, the brutality of which serves as a metaphor for the experience of black South Africans living under apartheid. La Guma`s other works include the edited volume "Apartheid: A Collection of Writings on South African Racism by South Africans" (1971), the autobiographical novel "In the Fog of the Seasons` End" (1972), the travel book "A Soviet Journey" (1978), and the novel "Time of the Butcherbird" (1979).

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