This special issue of English in Africa is dedicated to Professor Es'kia Mphahlele who passed away on 27 October 2008. The African Literature Department at the University of the Witwatersrand, which Mphahlele founded in 1983 and of which he was the first Head, decided to inaugurate The Es'kia Mphahlele Postgraduate Colloquium and Arts Forum in 2009 in honour and memory of him.
It is not easy to write on an iconic figure such as Es'kia Mphahlele. Indeed, as one is juggling with eulogy, memory and analysis, one is forced to excavate, sift, and consciously reflect - and these forms of writing do not fit comfortably together. It is in the nature of tributes to ask one's self questions that not only eulogise the subject, but implore the eulogiser to reflect, if he is able, on the ethical aspect of such reflections. Such questions inform my tribute.
Marlene van Niekerk's novels have been the subject of much lively critical discussion in the South African literary community. She has been praised for - among other features - her inventive use of the Afrikaans language, disregard for taboos and the breaching of stylistic and literary boundaries. The existing literature on Van Niekerk has examined her novels in isolation (with the exception of Van Niekerk  and Burger ), and has highlighted the means by which she challenges the conventions of the Afrikaans canon, particularly the genre of the plaasroman. However, there has been no extended comparative critical discussion of her oeuvre, nor has the importance that Van Niekerk accords the body been elucidated. This paper attempts to correct this critical occlusion by providing an analysis of her three novels Triomf (1999), Agaat (2006) and Memorandum (2006) with a specific focus on the role of corporeality. The visceral descriptions of the body and embodiment in her fiction challenge conventional understandings of the relationship between corporeality and spatiality. In fact, I will propose that Van Niekerk's fiction charts a new vision of this relationship that needs to be considered within the wider context of philosophical and literary studies, and which would be diminished by merely examining it from the narrow perspective of 'writing back' to the plaasroman. This study begins by describing the features of the plaasroman, and then introduces Elizabeth Grosz's explanation of the embodiment of space (2001). Subsequently, a chronological analysis of the novels illuminates their innovative treatment of the relationship between corporeality and spatiality. The conclusion sketches a tentative theory of what I consider to be common to Van Niekerk's treatment of space in these three novels.
Two words, 'amanuensis' and 'steatopygia,' each burdened with its own history, appear in Zoë Wicomb's David's Story with a frequency that commands further consideration. This study shows that these two words are in fact narratives which reveal the tension, inherent in all historical narratives, between that which is denotative or factual and that which is connotative or fictional. Similarly, the words also form the shifting horizon from which we may see history as a narrative of the past that is always also a narrative of the present. The link between these words will ultimately show the complex, compromised role of the narrator and, perhaps, of all historians.
The African Renaissance has been one of the post-apartheid South African state's most resonant political ideas, and was so particularly during the presidency of Thabo Mbeki. It is predicated on the need to go back to the past and recover what was lost, muted or distorted under colonial rule. Such an archaeological exercise is then meant to serve as an inspirational guide and catalyst in the journey towards a redemptive future. Thabo Mbeki explained that "an African Renaissance is a call to rebellion" against the distortions produced by colonial historiography (1998, 298). Such calls for historical retrieval and reconstruction are of course not new. Previous generations of African writers were from the outset equally concerned with and involved in the act of recovering and memorialising African history, heroes and literature in their writing.
Using the father-son metaphor, the epigraph evokes the "mad logic" of Christianity, as Nwoye refers to it in Chinua Achebe's first novel Things Fall Apart (1996, 104). It implies the death of tradition and traditional authority and the crisis of legitimacy and, consequently, of the symbolic order of communal identity in the village of Umuaro. In Achebe's fictional villages of Umuofia and Umuaro, custom, tradition and law are validated by a constant oral invocation of what "our fathers said." However, Christianity now shifts symbolic authority and moral/spiritual capital to the son, who arrives in Umuaro with an alternative view, which challenges the traditionally symbolic power base of the father and the established institution of fatherhood.
The appearance of Chris Mann's Home from Home: New and Selected Poems (2010) - at once a retrospective and an offering of current work - provides the occasion for an overview of his career. His First Poems appeared in 1977, and since then readers of South African poetry have been treated to New Shades (1982), Kites and Other Poems (1990), Man Alive! (1992), South Africans: A Set of Portrait Poems (1996), The Horn of Plenty (1997), Heartlands (2002), Beautiful Lofty Things (2005), and Lifelines (2006).
This review essay's task is twofold: to reflect briefly on the meaning of Es'kia Mphahlele (1919-2008) to three generations of East African cultural enthusiasts and practitioners, especially in the light of his brief stay in the region in the early to mid-1960s, and to conduct a more conventional appraisal of his collected letters as edited by Manganyi and Attwell.