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Fiction Map of the world- South Africa

by Travelbag on 23 February 2015, 09:02AM

If you are interested in natural, geographical and social diversity, you need to get yourself over to South Africa. There is no place quite like it, there is certainly nowhere else on earth with a culture and history quite as rich and fascinating. In fact, there are wildlife parks here which span multiple ecosystems – the iSimangaliso Wetland Park spans five – so you can only imagine how varied the sights and sounds of this country happen to be. This is paradise for most people, a veritable playground of history, music, art, literature and nightlife. 

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Essential Holiday Reading

There are a staggering 11 national languages in South Africa, so its literature is incredibly diverse and varied. It is very highly regarded too, with multiple novels having made it onto world bestseller lists. The culture here is, unsurprisingly, representative of the great social trauma and conflict that this country has been through – a lot of the novels written in South Africa tackle politics, race and religion. One of its most famous authors, J.M Coetzee, has been described as one of the most celebrated and decorated living English language authors.  He is a multiple Booker Prize winner, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his exceptional contribution to contemporary South African culture. 

Notable South African Books

If you are looking to explore a true South African literary giant, you cannot go wrong with Coetzee. It makes to start with the novels that won him his Booker Prize awards, Life & Times of Michael K and Disgrace. The former follows a man, known only as Michael K, who makes a perilous journey from Cape Town to the place where his mother was born, during an imagined civil war in the 70s and 80s. The novel touches upon military oppression, war and the universal human desire to find a purpose in life. For an even more daring trip through history, pick up Burger’s Daughter by Nadine Gordimer, and follow the adventures of Rosa Burger, as she fights for the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa.

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Notable South African Authors

The South African novelist, poet and playwright Zakes Mda is another great choice, particularly if you are hoping to discover something new. Whilst Mda is highly regarded in his own country, his novels are not quite as well-known as those of Coetzee and Gordimer, in the rest of the world. The terrific Ways of Dying follows the wanderings and creative adventures of a self-employed professional mourner, travelling around South Africa during the country’s transition to a democratic nation. For a slightly lighter holiday read, give Foe by J.M Coetzee a try – it is a reimagining of the classic novel Robinson Crusoe, written from the perspective of a fellow castaway.       

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Notable South African Films

The South African film industry is an extremely vibrant place, and the country produces lots of acclaimed films which later go on to become cult favourites and cultural phenomena. Over the last few years, a plethora of household names have produced films about, or set in, South Africa. The blockbuster Invictus, directed by Clint Eastwood, explored the social implications of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which was held in South Africa following the abolishment of apartheid. For a truly remarkable watch, pick the science fiction epic District 9, which uses a battle between extra-terrestrials and local villagers as a metaphor for contemporary racial segregation.     

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Essential Holiday Listening

There is so much music to choose from here, that it is hard to know what to treat your ears to whilst on holiday. You have the plethora of traditional sounds on one hand, and the diverse and eclectic modern rock, blues, soul, funk, jazz, rap and R&B on the other. For a real laid back vibe, listen to the chilled out sounds of Simphiwe Dana, a Xhosoa singer who combines jazz, afro soul and traditional beats, to form an intriguing blend of modern pop, with a deep and soulful African flavour. Her album Zandisile makes a fabulous addition to an afternoon spent relaxing at the beach, lounging by the pool, or even taking a trek through the mountains.   

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Notable South African Musicians

One of the most notable South African singers is Brenda Fassie, known affectionately as MaBrr to fans. She is often described as the queen of African pop, and the Madonna of the townships – so you can already imagine what her stage presence must have been like. In fact, she was known for her outrageously large persona and capering on stage antics, just as she was known for her wonderful voice and irrepressible generosity when it came to disenfranchised black fans, during the apartheid. Yet, there would be no MaBrr without Miriam Makeba, a Grammy Award winning African singer and civil rights activist. She is considered the first artist to popularise African music around the world, and during her lifetime, performed with some of the biggest stars on the planet. 


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