This issue celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of English in Africa's inception in 1974. The year 2004 also marks Rhodes University's Centenary, so this issue of the journal is special for two important reasons. Appropriately, it features a series of articles that go to the heart of what English in Africa has attempted to do from the start: publish detailed research on unexplored areas in African literatures in English.
It is rare for a writer to make a literary impact with only one novel. It is even more unusual when that work is written by a novice author in his early sixties. Yet such is the case of R. L. Peteni, whose novel, Hill of Fools, was published by David Philip in South Africa in 1976, and internationally in the same year by Heinemann in the African Writers Series.
Written in English in the early 70s, Hill of Fools was projected into the market for world literature among distinguished company in the Heinemann African Writers Series (HAWS), at a time when expectations for African writing in English reflected a certain orthodoxy; when the book's origins in apartheid South Africa pressed certain 'buttons' in world readerships, and when the country's increasing cultural isolation meant that even relatively well-versed literary Africanists were less than familiar with the milieu from which the story springs.
R. G. Collingwood, the maverick Oxford philosopher of the inter-war years, made the important observation that to properly appreciate a statement it is absolutely necessary to understand and live with the question to which it was intended as an answer.
What kind of debt does Hill of Fools owe to Shakespeare? Look up 'Peteni' in the Companion to South African English Literature (1986) and you will be told that Hill of Fools is "loosely based on the story of Romeo and Juliet" (155).
Two novels which stand out in Xhosa literature must be A. C. Jordan's Wrath of the Ancestors (Ingqumbo Yeminyanya) and Peteni's Hill of Fools. Nevertheless, very little scholarly analysis of the latter has been undertaken.
The early reception of Peteni's novel is interesting because it illustrates the mind-sets and critical assumptions of those who first mediated the novel to different readerships. The book initially caused little stir either in South Africa or abroad, and it has made its way quietly in later years in no small part due to support from set-work prescription committees, and its translation into other media, radio and television. A one-off novel by an unknown writer is unlikely to gather critical momentum in international discussion, and the book has been more often noticed in academic studies focused on the Xhosa novel, some of which barely register that the work was first written in English. However, today it is certainly among the novels most widely-read by ordinary South Africans, not only those from the Eastern Cape, but among many throughout the country who encountered it at school.
It is generally accepted that South Africa has had few women writers before the nineteen-forties, and of those few, fewer are of consequence. Many South African academics, asked to name even those, might get no further than Olive Schreiner and Pauline Smith. The bibliography presented here developed as the result of the realisation that a significant number of women in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had written on South Africa, been published, and found an eager audience, as contemporary reviews make clear. Today, most of those writers have disappeared from the South African literary consciousness. While in some cases this may be justified, when one considers the historical and literary perspective this engaging and diverse body of writing offers, one realises that to blot it from memory would be a loss indeed.
While penning his famous work, The Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan was undeterred by his situation in a cold, damp jail cell huddled together with rough men and hardened criminals. Bunyan was an inspired man devoted to his calling - the result of divine intervention in his personal life: first, his conversion to Christianity and - after having been incarcerated for propagating Nonconformism in his hometown (Bedford in England) - a fantastical revelation that was given to him in a dream and served as the impulse for one of the most influential evangelical works in history.
Despite the playfulness of the above statement, it is indeed true that postcolonial studies is a field that has grown, and continues to grow, very quickly. It is in this context of rapid growth that Davis positions his work on the postcolonial's literary component. He recognizes the vast diversity of postcolonial literatures and the fact that such diversity means there can never be a comprehensive, expert knowledge, and so, in his introduction, he is careful to define his terms, outline problems, and to state exactly what will be dealt with in each of the chapters of the book.
The present study is located at the intersection of several theoretical as well as historical discourses that presently enjoy a great deal of currency in cultural studies not only in South Africa but almost world-wide: the rediscovery of memory - nearly a century after Freud and Proust - as an indispensable but equally untrustworthy means of establishing contact with the past, both on a collective as well as an individual basis.