Ezekiel Mphahlele 1919–
(Also writes as Es'kia Mphahlele and under pseudonym of Bruno Eseki) Black South African novelist, autobiographer, essayist, short story writer, editor, and poet.
Mphahlele is a major African author and a provocative critic. Both his writing and his life have been marked by the alienation and pain he felt as a citizen within his own country and the anguish he experienced in his self-imposed twenty-year exile. Mphahlele was born on a reserve and raised in an urban ghetto but managed to receive a higher education. He began his exile after his teaching was banned due to his opposition to apartheid.
Although his autobiographical novel, The Wanderers, describes the plight of exile, most of his writing is set in South Africa. Down Second Avenue, another fictional autobiography, is highly praised for its compassionate and realistic treatment of urban ghetto life, also the subject of his short stories. Many of these first appeared in Drum, a South African magazine for black readers, which Mphahlele helped edit.
Mphahlele's critical writings form an important part of his work. The African Image traces the portrayals of blacks in literature and discusses the cultural problems inherent in societies based on racial oppression. In Voices in the Whirlwind Mphahlele reaffirms his humanistic commitment to the for mation of an indigenous literature based on Western aesthetics. He explains that his wariness of Negritude derives from his belief that cultural isolation would deprive the African of realizing his individuality within a world heritage.
Unable to forget his African roots, Mphahlele returned to South Africa in 1978, even though his works continue to be banned.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 81-84.)