The Dennis Brutus Tapes

The Dennis Brutus Tapes

Essays at autobiography

Edited by Bernth Lindfors


James Currey



Poet and anti-apartheid activist Dennis Brutus recorded a series of tapes in the 1970s which have been edited and annotated by Bernth Lindfors to give valuable insights into Brutus's life and works.
Dennis Brutus (1924-2009) is known internationally as a South African poet, anti-apartheid activist and campaigner for human rights and the release of political prisoners. His literary works include Sirens Knuckles Boots (1963), Letters to Martha, and Other Poems from a South African Prison (1968), A Simple Lust (1973), and Stubborn Hope (1978).
When Dennis Brutus was a Visiting Professor at The University of Texas at Austin in 1974-75, he recorded on tape a series of reflections on his life and career. In addition, he frequently responded to questions about his poetry and political activities put to him by students and faculty in formal and informal interviews that were also captured on tape. Transcripts of a selection of these tapes, as well as reprints of two interviews recorded earlier, are reproduced here in order to put on record fragments of the autobiography of a remarkable man who lived in extraordinary times and managed to leave his mark on the land and literature of South Africa.
Brutus was an effective anti-apartheid campaigner who succeeded in getting South Africa excluded from the Olympics. His opposition to racial discrimination in sports led to his arrest, banning, and imprisonment on Robben Island. Upon release, he left South Africa and lived most of the rest of his life in exile, where he continued his political work and simultaneously earned an international reputation as a poet who often sang of his love for his country.
The tapes are edited by Bernth Lindfors who has added an Introduction and a transcript of a 1970 interview as well as other transcripts of lectures and discussions.

Bernth Lindfors is Professor Emeritus of English and African Literatures, The University of Texas at Austin, and founding editor of Research in African Literatures. He has written and edited numerous books on African literature, including Folklore in Nigerian Literature (1973), Popular Literatures in Africa (1991), Africans on Stage (1999), Early Soyinka (2008), and Early Achebe (2009).

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July 2011
6 black and white illustrations
224 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781847010346
Format: Hardback
James Currey
BISAC BIO032000, BIO023000, SOC056000
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Table of Contents

Introduction by the Editor - Part I: Life
Family Background
Attempt to Escape (Tapes 1, 2 and 3)
Robben Island
Notes on My Activities
Notes on My Life - Part II: Writings
Somehow Tenderness Survives
Talking with Students
Reviewing a Review
On My Poetry
On Literature and Commitment


An exceptionally well-edited volume, greatly enriched by a comprehensive index and by succinct footnotes that offer essential biographical details. JOURNAL OF THE AFRICAN LITERATURE ASSOCIATION

An important and useful publication. [...] Brutus emerges here as modest and self-critical, courageous and articulate, convinced of the need for political commitment and artistic integrity. WASAFIRI

This collection valuably fills out our picture of Dennis Brutus. [...] Bernth Lindfors is to be commended for producing this posthumous tribute to one of South Africa's most significant writer-activists. RESEARCH IN AFRICAN LITERATURES

[A] fascinating and highly readable volume. [Brutus'] fascinating account is greatly enriched by editor Lindfors who meticulously provides a succinctly footnoted biographical sketch of every individual identified in the story. JOURNAL OF HISTORICAL BIOGRAPHY

A vivid and moving portrait of a man who contributed significantly, through his actions and words, to the fight against apartheid. [It] is a deeply informative and very personal portrait of both the public and private man. LEEDS AFRICAN STUDIES BULLETIN

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