UNISA Press books on Arthur Nortje


Arthur Nortje, Poet and South African: New Critical and Contextual Essays is the first broad-ranging reassessment of Nortje’s life and poetic career. It complements Anatomy of Dark: Collected Poems of Arthur Nortje, also by UNISA Press. The current book is written in an accessible and lively style, by a range of international scholars. This collection will be useful to a general readership and the Africanist scholar alike.

"A collection of . . . fascinating articles."

"The collection will not only serve to consolidate and enhance Nortje’s status in the South African literary canon, but will also undoubtedly provoke new or renewed interest in his life and work."

The contributors of this book re-affiliate Nortje’s work into the South African context. It’s a reassessment of Nortje’s career, biographically, poetically (in terms of theme and structural attributes), pedagogically and bibliographically, in light of the new corpus of work made available in Anatomy of dark. By involving established and emerging scholars an attempt is made to read Nortje’s work and its reception through a melding of old and new. For the same reasons, the book intertwines the specific, concrete critical explications of single texts with the more abstract, theoretically oriented interpretations.

Of the poetry Nortje himself saw through publication, the principal thematic concerns are with South Africa’s race classification laws, with love, and with exile, as each impinges upon the poet’s consciousness.

The intent of this book is to offer a complimentary, multi-voiced response to Nortje rather than a univocal and exclusive assessment.

It is for this reason that this volume of essays is entitled Arthur Nortje, poet and South African. The competing tensions within the man are those bound up in the aesthetic deployment of a specific landscape, within a specific historical moment; what essence there is remains bound by his poetic personae.

Arthur Nortje: Poet and South African. New Critical and Contextual Essays
Item 7263, Laminated soft cover, 138pp. ISBN 1-86888-2772
SA  price R139,00 (VAT and postage incl) Other  countries  in  Africa R141,90 (airmail incl)
Overseas US$21.70, GB£13.80, €19.00 (airmail incl)



Anatomy of dark: Collected poems of Arthur Nortje

This volume comprises the complete poetry of Arthur Nortje (1942–1970). It contains 411 poems written between 1960 and 1970, many previously unpublished. Nortje’s poetry has consistently elicited widespread interest, and this edition will enable more wide-ranging explorations of his work.

Nortje, who found himself relegated to the margins of modern society, socially and psychically homeless, offered not only threnodies of alienation but also lyrical attempts at redefining the embattled spaces he was forced to inhabit.

Arthur Nortje has often been described as a poet of exile. He is also, and perhaps pre eminently, a poet of desire. In the poetry, desire manifests itself simultaneously as rapture and as melancholy, as harmony and as discord, as wholeness and as loss. Given multiple significance in the poetry, desire emerges as a general metaphor of an elusive symmetry, an impossible affinity.

Anatomy of dark: Collected poems of Arthur Nortje
Item 6488 , Soft cover, 2000, 468pp. ISBN 0 86981 910 0, SA price R161,00
Other countries in Africa R176,20  Overseas US$29.50, GB£18.70, €25.80



(If you require more information, please contact Ms MA Coetzee about the digitised collection which is to be launched on 22 March 2006)  

Background: The Nortje Collection

Arthur Kenneth Nortje was born in Oudtshoorn in 1942 and brought up and educated in Port Elizabeth where he was taught English by Dennis Brutus.  He completed a BA degree at the University of the Western Cape.  After a period as a teacher, he won a scholarship in 1967 to Jesus College, Oxford, where he read English. Thereafter, he taught in Canada where he was befriended by Mrs Olga Reed, from whom many of the documents in the Unisa Collection were obtained.  Nortje returned to Oxford to start work on a BPhil degree.  He died in December 1970.

Unisa Library acquired the Arthur Nortje Papers from Mrs Hedy Davis of Pretoria in 1989.  These important Nortje Papers comprise of 0,5 linear metres of archival materials as well as copies of posthumous editions of Nortje’s poetry and anthologies.  Nortje’s mother, Mrs C Potgieter, sold the Nortje copyright to the Unisa Library in 1989.

The Arthur Nortje Collection consists of:

  • Notepads A & B with diary entries and handwritten poems
  • School diary with appointments and poem, South End High School, Port Elizabeth, 1965
  • Nortje’s 352 page Oxford Journal (1965-1969) with diary entries, events, thoughts about his literary studies, observations, reminiscences of South Africa, poems written in England and Canada as well as copies of letters to his friend Maggie Lennox and others
  • The Little Exercise Books with poems written immediately before his death in 1970
  • Handwritten and typescript copies of poems that Nortje gave to friends and literary acquaintances
  • Personal and business correspondence
  • Personal documents such as birth, school and degree certificates, passport, report of the coroner on Nortje’s death at Oxford in December 1970
  • Photographs of Arthur Nortje and his friends
  • Tape recordings of interviews conducted by Mrs Hedy Davis

Mrs Davis obtained this valuable primary source material during her search for information for her MA dissertation The poetry of Arthur Nortje:  a critical introduction (UNISA 1983).  She approached a large number of people who had known Nortje for material and also tape recorded interviews with persons related to or personally acquainted with Nortje, including his mother Mrs Potgieter and his sister Suzie, his friend C Mervyn Rousseau and Athol Fugard.

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