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Detective Stories During Apartheid: H.I.E. Dhlomo as a Precursor of Drum

Marta Fossati    Università degli Studi di Milano, Italia    



This article aims to contribute to the discussion of English-language crime fiction by black South African writers before 1994 by exploring H.I.E. Dhlomo’s relatively overlooked contribution to the genre in the first decade of apartheid. In particular, I intend to close read three detective stories written between the late 1940s and the early 1950s by Dhlomo, namely “Village Blacksmith Tragicomedy”, “Flowers”, and “Aversion to Snakes”, and compare them with the more celebrated stories published by Arthur Maimane in the popular magazine Drum a few years later. Notwithstanding their different re-elaboration of the tropes of crime fiction, I argue that both Dhlomo and Maimane resorted to this productive strand of popular literature to reassert a claim to knowledge denied to Africans, saturating their texts with new local meanings and exceeding Western genre conventions.

Dec. 20, 2021
Sept. 10, 2021
June 29, 2021

Keywords: Detective storiesDrumSouth AfricaCrime fictionDhlomo

Copyright: © 2021 Marta Fossati. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.