Miriam Tlali

Literary Birthday – 11 November – Miriam Tlali

Miriam Tlali was born 11 November 1933 and died 24 February 2017.


  1. We black South African writers… are writing for those whom we know are the relevant audience. We are not going to write in order to qualify into your definition of what you describe as ‘true art’…. Our duty is to write for our people and about them. (via)
  2. I was surprised that I was the first black woman to write a book. I took it for granted that there must be someone else who had authored literature, only to find out that when I had finished writing and submitting it to the publisher, that I was in fact the first African woman in South Africa to write and publish a book.
  3. A good book – if it has the right message in it – it can change a whole human being into something he never thought he would be. (via)
  4. I returned to my matchbox house in Soweto, locked myself in my little bedroom and cried… Five whole chapters had been removed; also paragraphs, phrases, and sentences. It was devastating, to say the least.
  5. I am just myself, just a person.
  6. My mother used to carry a copy of the manuscript around, wrapped in a cloth. There were quite a number [of publishers] whom I tried and they all turned it down. Finally, the system gradually changed, and in 1974 somebody told me about Raven Press. However, they changed the title to Muriel at Metropolitan and took out words and whole passages. They said it would be banned otherwise and they would not be making any money off it. I refused for a year to give my permission to publish. ‘Not under that title,’ I said. But my mother started complaining : ‘I am getting old and I shall die without seeing your book. Let them publish it.’ And so it was published [and almost immediately banned]. (via)

From An Interview With Miriam Tlali (1989)

Miriam Tlali was a South African novelist. She was the first black woman in South Africa to publish a novel, Muriel at Metropolitan, in 1975. It was later released as Between Two Worlds. She was also one of the first to write about Soweto, although most of her writing was originally banned by the South African apartheid regime.

Source for image

South Africa Presidency Archive


 by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 11th November 2017