Best known as a novelist and political activist, Alex la Guma (1925-85) was also a journalist, comic strip artist, reviewer, sketcher, painter, short story writer and travel writer. Born in Cape Town's famous multiracial District Six, he was a founder member of the South African Coloured People's Organisation and a leading member of the Congress Alliance during the 1950s and 1960s. Due to his political activity he was detained without trial, shot at, placed under house arrest, and ultimately tried for treason in 1956-61. He reluctantly went into exile in 1966, where he continued his writing and political work for the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party, travelling widely as an ANC spokesperson on cultural matters. In 1979 he became the ANC's Chief Representative in Central and Latin America and moved to Havana, where he died in 1985. La Guma attracted the attention of critics and literary scholars from the time his first short stories appeared in the 1950s, and he has been hailed by such important literary figures as Achebe, Soyinka and J.M. Coetzee.
His novels continue to sell steadily and inspire comments by literary critics, who have studied different aspects of his work, but who have left the rest of his life and his literary and political influences relatively untouched. Drawing on a far wider range of his writing and artwork, some previously unpublished, this book combines biography with literary and political analyses to offer fresh insights into his major texts: A Walk in the Night (1962), And a Threefold Cord /(1964), The Stone Country (1967), In the Fog of the Seasons' End (1972) , A Soviet Journey (1975) and Time of the Butcherbird(1979). ROGER FIELD is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of the Western Cape.