Editors: David Attwell, N Chabani Manganyi
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When Chabani Manganyi published the first edition of selected letters twenty-five years ago as a companion volume to Exiles and Homecomings: A Biography of Es’kia Mphahlele, the idea of Mphahlele’s death was remote and poetic. The title, Bury Me at the Marketplace, suggested that immortality of a kind awaited Mphahlele, in the very coming and going of those who remember him and whose lives he touched. It suggested, too, the energy and magnanimity of Mphahlele, the man, whose personality and intellect as a writer and educator would carve an indelible place for him in South Africa’s public sphere.
This selection of Mphahlele’s own letters has been greatly expanded; it has also been augmented by the addition of letters from Mphahlele’s correspondents, among them such luminaries as Langston Hughes and Nadine Gordimer. It seeks to illustrate the networks that shaped Mphahlele’s personal and intellectual life, the circuits of intimacy, intellectual inquiry, of friendship, scholarship and solidarity that he created and nurtured over the years. The letters cover the period from November 1943 to April 1987, forty-four of Mphahlele’s mature years and most of his active professional life. The correspondence is supplemented by introductory essays from the two editors, by two interviews conducted with Mphahlele by Manganyi and by Attwell’s insightful explanatory notes.