Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

UKZN Press

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

“Reading takes you on a metaphorical journey, and now you can get up and go on a real one.” – Co-author of A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal, Lindy Stiebel

KwaZulu-Natal is culturally rich, offering a wide range of writers – writing mainly in English and Zulu – who are linked through their lives and their writing to this province of South Africa. The writers include, to name just a few, Alan Paton, Roy Campbell, Lewis Nkosi, Ronnie Govender, Wilbur Smith, Daphne Rooke, Credo Mutwa and Gcina Mhlophe. And how better to understand a writer than to know about the places they are linked to? For example, who, after reading the lyrical opening sentences of Paton’s famous book Cry, the Beloved Country (1948) has not wanted to see this scene in reality?

There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it.

A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal introduces you to the regions and writers through word and image, leading you imaginatively through this beautiful province.

This could include following the route a fictional character charts in a novel, visiting particular settings from a story or tracking down the places linked to a writer, whether a birthplace, home, burial site or significant setting. Literary tourists are interested in how places have influenced writing and at the same time how writing has created place.

This is also a way of reflecting upon and understanding historic and contemporary identities in a changing cultural and political South African landscape.

Niall McNulty is a digital publishing specialist who was involved in the Literary Tourism in KwaZulu-Natal research project for several years. Niall is currently the digital publishing manager at Cambridge University Press where he is at the forefront of researching and developing publishing technologies for the creation of interactive e-books.

Lindy Stiebel is Professor Emeritus of English Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her research interests are linked by a profound interest in the relationship between writers and place: these include the South African colonial and post-colonial novel; Indian Ocean studies, particularly literary interconnections between South Africa, India and Mauritius; and literary tourism. Her latest book published in 2016 is entitled Writing Home: Lewis Nkosi on South African Literature (with Michael Chapman, UKZN Press).

The Times‘s Shelley Seid recently discussed this remarkable book with Lindy Stiebel. Take a peek!

That KZN has the only active literary tourism project in the country must have greatly enhanced the bid to proclaim Durban a Unesco World City of Literature, the first on the African continent.

Literary tourism engages with writers and their real lives as well as the fictional settings that appear in their works.

It is a flourishing niche market in Europe and more prominently in the UK where it’s often hard to avoid – Harry Potter’s platform at King’s Cross station in London, for example, or the George Inn, where you can have a pint in a pub that featured in Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit.

Where geography and literature meet. ©University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.


In South Africa it’s a new initiative and most of the credit for what is available is due to Professor Lindy Stiebel, a UKZN academic who began a research project on KZN writers and writing in 2002.

“KZN Literary Tourism began as a five-year research project. Students received bursaries for their work on KZN writers and we built up an archive. We then created a website and loaded authors’ profiles. My particular interest was literary maps so I began mapping out where and how writers were linked.”

Initially the tourism aspect was “muted”, she says, but grew almost organically.

“Who, after reading the lyrical opening sentences of Paton’s famous book, Cry the Beloved Country, has not wanted to see the place in reality?” asks Stiebel.

Cry, the Beloved Country fans can journey to Paton’s office. ©University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.


Continue reading Seid’s article here.

Book details


Please register or log in to comment