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The First Novel in Xhosa

Jeff Opland
Research in African Literatures
Vol. 38, No. 4 (Winter, 2007), pp. 87-110
Published by: Indiana University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20109540
Page Count: 24
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The First Novel in Xhosa
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Abstract

The first novel in the Xhosa language, USamson, written by the greatest figure in the history of Xhosa literature, S. E. K. Mqhayi (1875-1945), and published in 1907, is now lost. It was produced at a time when black people in South Africa were becoming bolder in their demand for human rights, forming independent black churches and political organizations. It appeared after a period of gestation for Xhosa literature in newspapers, at a time when missionaries were discussing the publication of books in Xhosa, but Mqhayi paid for its printing and organized its distribution. The novelette added details of setting and characterization to the biblical story to encourage the youth to gather behind black leaders who lacked support. Caught in the social tension between Xhosa and Mfengu, USamson was heavily criticized by I. W. Wauchope for departing from biblical narrative, but more generally defended by readers, who looked forward to the further publication of Xhosa literature in books.

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