Zoë Wicomb

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Zoë Wicomb
Born (1948-11-23) 23 November 1948 (age 68)
Western Cape, South Africa
Occupation Writer and academic
Notable work You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town

Zoë Wicomb (born 23 November 1948 ) is a South African-Scottish author and academic who has lived in the UK since the 1970s.[1] In 2013 she was awarded the inaugural Windham–Campbell Literature Prize for her fiction.[2]

Early life[edit]

Zoë Wicomb was born near Vanrhynsdorp, Western Cape, in South Africa. Growing up in small-town Namaqualand, she went to Cape Town for high school, and attended the University of the Western Cape.

After graduating, she left South Africa in 1970 for England, where she continued her studies at Reading University. She lived in Nottingham and Glasgow and returned to South Africa in 1990, where she taught for three years in the department of English at the University of the Western Cape.[citation needed]

Since 1994 she has lived in Glasgow, where she was, until her retirement in 2009, Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Strathclyde. She was Professor Extraordinaire at Stellenbosch University from 2005 to 2011. She is now Emeritus Professor at the University of Strathclyde.

Career[edit]

Wicomb gained attention in South Africa and internationally with her first book, a collection of inter-related short stories, You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town (1987), set during the apartheid era and partly autobiographical, as the central character is a young woman brought up speaking English in an Afrikaans-speaking "coloured" community in Little Namaqualand, attending the University of the Western Cape, leaving for England, and authoring a collection of short stories. This work has been compared to V. S. Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival.[3]

Her second work of fiction, the novel David's Story (2000), is set partly in 1991 toward the close of the apartheid era and explores the role of coloureds and women in the military wing of the ANC, and the challenges of adjustment to the realities of the "New South Africa". By presenting the novel as the work of an amanuensis creating a narrative out of the scattered statements of the central character, David Dirkse, Wicomb raises questions about the writing of history in a period of political instability, and by relating the stories of the Griqua people from whom Dirkse is, in part (like Wicomb), descended, it exposes the dangers of ethnic exclusiveness. The novel has been studied as a key work dealing with the transition period in South Africa along with Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee and Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor.[4]

Playing in the Light, her second novel, released in 2006, is set in mid-1990s Cape Town and tells the story of Marion Campbell, the daughter of a coloured couple who succeeded in passing for white, as she comes to learn their painful story and to reassess her own place in the world of post-apartheid South Africa.

Wicomb's second collection of short stories, The One That Got Away (2008), is set mainly in Cape Town and Glasgow and explores a range of human relationships: marriage, friendships, family ties and relations with servants. Many of the stories—which are often linked to one another—deal with South Africans in Scotland or Scots in South Africa.

Her third novel, October, was published in 2015; its central character, Mercia Murray, returns from Glasgow to Namaqualand to visit her brother and his family and to face the question of what "home" means. The novel explicitly evokes its connection with Marilynne Robinson's Home, the title Wicomb also wanted for her work.

Wicomb prefers nonprofit presses for her fiction, such as The Feminist Press and The New Press. Her short stories have been published in many collections, including Colours of a New Day: Writing for South Africa (edited by Sarah Lefanu and Stephen Hayward; Lawrence & Wishart, 1990) and Daughters of Africa (edited by Margaret Busby; Jonathan Cape, 1992).

Wicomb has also published numerous articles of literary and cultural criticism. Her own fiction has been the subject of numerous essays and three special issues of journals, the Journal of Southern African Studies, Current Writing, and Safundi. She chaired the judges' panel for the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing.

Awards and honours[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Neel Mukherjee, "Homing instinct: October by Zoë Wicomb", New Statesman, 26 June 2014.
  2. ^ a b Dorie Baker (4 March 2013). "Yale awards $1.35 million to nine writers". YaleNews. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Donnelly, K. (2014). "Metafictions of development: The Enigma of Arrival, You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town, and the place of the world in world literature", Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 49(1), 63-80.
  4. ^ Gready, Paul. 2008. "Culture, Testimony, and the Toolbox of Transitional Justice", Peace Review 20, no. 1: 41-48.
  5. ^ "Open University Honorary Degrees". 

External links[edit]