Who is Sizwe Bantu?

Works

The Great South African Novel (2006)

AfriKan Metaphysics (2007), Seven Invisible Selves (2008)

The Five African Senses (2009)

The Cockroach Whisperer (2010)

Cokcraco and Other Stories (2011).

Blurb from the back cover of The Great South African Novel (first edition, 2006,
reprinted 12 times; this edition, 2013)

Sizwe Bantu is considered by many to be the greatest living novelist in the English language.  Spanning five decades, his ambitious narrative project has been consistent in its focus to explore the “nerve centre of being” and “unveil the masks of our … civilization.” He has dissected the sexist, racist and speciesist “myths of our time” with intellectual courage and honesty, and has pushed the boundaries of the genres his fictions inhabit. He has won so many awards for his writing that it would be tedious to list them all. He is most renowned for his cockroach stories and his use of experimental second-person narratives and wry irony. He has succeeded in being both a popular and a literary writer, ploughing through that distinction with ease, and taking delight in leaving piles of overturned critics writhing on their backs in his wake. Simultaneously, he has attracted a cult following of
believers, fervent admirers who live and breathe Bantu, and carry rubber cockroaches in his honour.

A formidable recluse, Sizwe Bantu has never appeared in public, has never shown up to claim any of his multiple awards, and does not give interviews. No one knows where he lives, and though his novels are invariably set in the urban and rural thickets of KwaZulu-Natal, they have an allegorical, ahistorical air about them, as if he has never lived there.

Jones, JM 2008 ‘Anagrammic Dyslexia in Sizwe Bantu’ in Ubuntu! Vol. X, Summer,
pp. 34-43

MOST QUOTED LINES FROM HIS WORKS

From da kokroach point of view, humans are
irrelvant. Kokroaches no like em. Doan want
em. Do not even tink bout em. Doan care for deh
conversations. Books we like to eat, not read. We
wish humans dead so we can eat em too.
– Sizwe Bantu, The Cockroach Whisperer, 2010

Sizwe Bantu has never appeared in public and no photo exists of him. He has never shown up for his many awards, and has never given any interviews. His reclusive nature is the cause of much debate. One clue as to his identity (or lack of its presence ) is in his celebrated poem:

Am Eye white? Am Eye black?
Eye wear meye face backwards.
No one judges me by meye skin colour;
Sizwe is not meye name, because no shell can be me
Eye cannot be freed unless you
listen, read, open the door
And let me out.
Eye will not exist unless you imagine me.
Create me.
Mould me into existence with the
clay of your ‘I’magination.
– Sizwe Bantu, ‘Me, Myself, Eye’ in
The Five AfriKan Senses (2009)

 

Articles on Sizwe Bantu

Watt, T 2008 ‘Bantu Unveils the Masks of our So-called Civilisation’ in The Present
Tense, Vol. XXI Sept, pp. 3-45
Wesson, M 2010 ‘The Original and the Edited Bantu’ in Bantophilia Vol. 1, issue i,
pp. 55-65

 

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