Culture and Liberation
Edited and introduced by Christopher J. Lee
Foreword by Albie Sachs
Afterword by Bill Nasson
‘At last, Alex La Guma the global internationalist is restored to us. With Christopher Lee’s illuminating introduction, this collection brings home the diversity and exploratory nature of La Guma’s nonfiction, as well as his commitment to emancipatory politics. Uplifting . . . Culture and Liberation is essential reading.’—Zoë Wicomb, author of Race, Nation, Translation: South African Essays, 1990–2013
One of South Africa’s best-known writers during the apartheid era, Alex La Guma was a lifelong activist and a member of the South African Communist Party and the African National Congress. Persecuted and imprisoned by the South African regime in the 1950s and 60s, La Guma went into exile in the United Kingdom with his wife and children in 1966, eventually serving as the ANC’s diplomatic representative for Latin America and the Caribbean in Cuba. He also assumed the position of Secretary General of the Afro-Asian Writers Association during the late 1970s and 1980s. Culture and Liberation captures a different dimension of his long writing career by collecting his political journalism, literary criticism, and other short pieces published while he was in exile.
This volume spans La Guma’s political and literary life in exile through accounts of his travels to Algeria, Lebanon, Vietnam, Soviet Central Asia, and elsewhere, along with his critical assessments of Paul Robeson, Nadine Gordimer, Maxim Gorky, Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Pablo Neruda, among other writers. The first dedicated collection of La Guma’s exile writing, Culture and Liberation restores an overlooked dimension of his life and work, while opening a window on a wider world of cultural and political struggles in Africa, Asia and Latin America during the second half of the twentieth century.
‘Alex La Guma is one of the most important political and cultural personalities to come out of South Africa. His involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle was informed by his intensely uncompromising adherence to internationalism, where he saw his activism as part of a global thrust against imperialism. His leadership in progressive multilateral organizations made him an ambassador of the dispossessed everywhere.’—Mandla Langa, author of The Lost Colours of the Chameleon
‘La Guma has also inspired a consistent body of earnest and well-grounded scholarly study, much of it aimed at filling in the shadow in which the author’s career resides. Culture and Liberation: Exile Writings, 1966–1985 is a new and worthy entrant that does the good work of concretising some of La Guma’s disappearing archive. The editor, Christopher J Lee, has gathered together a weighty assortment of essays, reports, reviews, interviews and stories penned over the course of La Guma’s career. These ancillary texts, the sort of thing writers do out of interest, obligation and a need to support life, are a vital if unwieldy archive through which La Guma’s abiding preoccupations can be traced.’—Wmawui Mbao, Johannesburg Review of Books. Read the full review here.
‘A short review can only touch upon a few points in such a wide-ranging collection. Worth mentioning, though, is La Guma’s beautiful tribute to activist/singer/actor Paul Robeson as one example of a work I am grateful to have encountered. [. . .] Christopher J. Lee’s perceptive introduction is the best account I have seen of La Guma’s life and work. On its own, it is worth the price of the book. [. . .] It is to be hoped that the present volume will help spark greater awareness of the contributions of Alex La Guma to making the world a better place.’—Gregory Elich, Marx and Philosophy Review of Books. Read the full review here.
‘La Guma himself inhabited the dual role of writer-fighter that he maintained was crucial in the national liberation struggle. This conviction—that aesthetic concerns must speak to the people’s lived experiences and their emancipatory aspirations—aligns with La Guma’s commitment to socialist realism; yet, to attend to his non-fiction writing is to see that conviction in action. Offering a more holistic view of La Guma’s writing life in exile, Culture and Liberation works to “bring him home” while contributing new materials for understanding socialism and resistance movements in Africa, and South-South cultural studies more broadly.’—Anh P. Nguyen, Journal of the African Literature Association
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