Literary Birthday – 2 October – Achmat Dangor

Achmat Dangor was born 2 October 1948 and died 6 September 2020.


  1. It struck me that our history is contained in the home we live in, that we are shaped by the ability of these simple structures to resist being defiled
  2. I remember my emotions the day we watched Nelson Mandela walk out of prison. Writing and literature in South Africa during the anti-apartheid years, became a ‘cultural weapon’. You had to use it to fight apartheid… you recognise that you are facing a government that has no scruples about using culture and art to oppress you.
  3. I am an African with Asian and Dutch blood in me, I don’t know what race I am, and I don’t care.
  4. I began by writing plays, taking my models from American playwrights such as Tennessee Williams. I, however, found that writing in a vacuum where there were no theatre facilities led to a situation where nothing significant materialised from my early playwriting. I eventually moved on to poetry. This compact form suited the terse and pointed style through which I wanted to convey the realities I observed around me. I was able to use the immediacy of the form to write about things as I saw them.
  5. Poetry enables me to write about current issues and politics and other immediate matters while prose is a mode through which I explore these issues contemplatively.
  6. Although the political role of the writer is important, it is, however, even of greater importance to stress the intrinsic artistic responsibilities of the writer. Writing in South Africa cannot be reduced to mere ideological, racial or even economic constraints. Its richness is the diffusion of all these aspects.

Achmat Dangor was a South African writer and poet. His works include the novels Kafka’s Curse and Bitter Fruit. Bitter Fruit was shortlisted for the 2003 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the 2004 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. He was also the author of three collections of poetry, a novella, and a short story collection, Strange Pilgrimages. He also headed up the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

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 by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 1st October 2020