In Youth: Scenes from Provincial Life II, Coetzee distances himself from the younger John by writing what he terms an “autre-biography. Written in the present tense and in the third person, the story has a lively and immediate reality while at the same time suggesting a clear distance between the author and his subject.
Biographies and Memoirs
The first of J.M. Coetzee’s three fictionalised memoirs, Boyhood narrates his childhood living with his family on a housing estate outside Worcester, a small town some ninety miles from Cape Town. The book written in Coetzee’s usual style – terse, succinct, sparse – is narrated solely through the young boy’s eyes.
Published in 2006 by University of Kwazulu-Natal Press, Pamphilia Hlapa’s A Daughter’s Legacy is a tearjerker that brings to life the ugly scourge of child sexual abuse that virtually continued unabated in the village of the author’s upbringing where silence was golden and speaking out against such was taboo.
Es’kia Mphahlele’s Down Second Avenue is an autobiographical book that recounts his experiences of Apartheid in South Africa. The book recounts Es’kia’s life story from A – Z – from when he was a young boy living in Marabastad ( in Pretoria) through to when he became an adult and fled the country to go into exile. Es’kia’s account of life under apartheid is vivid: painting the hardships he experienced even as a young boy living with his grandmother.
Toyin Omoyeni Falola, well known scholar of African history, has used his personal experiences to create a rich and innovative memoir, combining his growing up during that time with events in his community and the country as a whole. The resulting book gives the reader vivid insight into a complex society with its intricate traditions, in particular those of the Yoruba culture.
This is the fascinating story of Jewish-South African author and journalist, Bertha Goudvis. Those who know her say she was “an intrepid woman in the mould of Olive Schreiner”. Regrettably, she wasn’t written about as widely. Her novel Little Eden, sold well in 1949 and shortly after it came out. And she had short stories published throughout her writing career.
One Day I Will Write About This Place is an interesting, honest, and immensely readable short memoir. The book documents the Binyavanga Wainaina’s life from childhood through to how he eventually became an author, going on to win the Caine Prize. The memoir gives us a window not only into the Wainaina’s life, but into the Kenya he grew up in.
In January 1941, Josslyn Hay was discovered shot dead in his car, in Nairobi. The resulting court case laid bare the astonishingly louche lifestyle of the white minority in Kenya at that time, and this book is an interesting record of both that crime and the society that surrounded it.
My Right To Write And Be Heard (published in 2011 by Mosala-Masedi Publishers), is the life story of J. Mokutu Ramothibedi Moeketsi, a man who, despite suffering from celebral palsy went on to achieve success against the odds. In the book, he tells the story of how children in Kagiso used to mock him and call him names because of his disability. Due to his bad handwriting, he had to use a typewriter to sit for his school exams. So bad was his writing that some heartless teachers would not even mark his work. In another incident, a Mr Steenkamp, who was at that point a high-ranking education department official in Pretoria, told Mokutu’s father, a school principal, not to waste his money on the boy
Glen Retief writes about growing up as a young white South African during the final years of Apartheid. And while his story is, at its core, indeed a memoir, the book as a whole is full of symbolism, and touches on subjects that go beyond the narrator’s person.