n English in Africa - A community of letters on the Indian Ocean rim : friendship, fraternity and (af-filial) love




An extraordinary epistolary exchange, criss-crossing the Indian Ocean in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and animated by the circulation of literary texts, forms the focus of this study. My dramatis personae - Marie Kathleen Jeffreys, V. S. Srinivasa Sastri and P. Kodanda Rao - played remarkable if varied roles in the theatres of empire, decolonisation and nation-building during this charged era, while in the process briefly producing a community across the Indian Ocean. The prophetic comment made by Rao to Jeffreys in the epistolary excerpt quoted in the epigraph above invites an inquiry into these "intimate relations between South Africa and India" which I undertake in this article and in a set of related studies. Such an enquiry is made possible today by the "archives habit" Rao refers to : Jeffreys kept carbon copies of her correspondence in her letter books which, along with responses from Sastri and Rao, were carefully filed and bequeathed to the Cape Town Archives on her death. Rao's comment, along with this archival impulse, shifts this epistolary exchange from the private domain to the public, authorising the trespass into the intimate and affective sphere that I here undertake, and eliciting readings that approach the political via the personal.


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