Friday, August 21, 2009

What to look out for next week

Next week’s author is the South African literary giant Herman Charles Bosman. If you are as old and wrinkly as I am, you may remember studying HCB in school, and I am quite sad to note that it has been removed from the list of school set books by the Department of Education, probably because of the repeated use of the word “kaffir” in his Oom Schalk Lourens stories.

Although it is an uncomfortable term for us today, it is certainly not racism on Herman Charles Bosman’s part. In fact, the truth is that through the use of the subtle irony and humour of which he was so fond, he has been able to clearly portray the shocking extent of racism in the old Transvaal of which he wrote. Reading his books is akin to opening a portal to another time and witnessing first-hand the treatment of blacks as second-class citizens.

It is unfortunate that today’s pupils are denied the opportunity to study and discuss Bosman’s short stories – I think they are the legacy of a genius and a valuable part of South Africa’s literary heritage that deserves more acknowledgement. If you have an opinion on HCB, please leave a comment below.

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