Dangor, Achmat 1948-

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Dangor, Achmat 1948-


Born 1948, in Johannesburg, South Africa.


Writer. Manager of a multinational company in Johannesburg, South Africa; Kagiso Trust, director. Also served as director of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, until 2001.


Congress of South African Writers (co-founder).


Shortlisted for Booker Prize, Book Trust (England), 2004, for Bitter Fruit.


Waiting for Leila (stories), Ravan Press (Randburg, South Africa), 1981, 2nd edition, 1995.

Voices from Within, A.D. Danker (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1982.

Bulldozer (poems), Ravan Press (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1983.

The Z-Town Trilogy (novella), Ravan Press (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1990.

Private Voices, Cosaw Publishers (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1992.

(With Marlene Winberg) Back to the Land, Porcubine Press (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1996.

Kafka's Curse (novella and stories), Kwela Books (Cape Town, South Africa), 1997, Pantheon (New York, NY) 1999.

Bitter Fruit: A Novel, Kwela Books (Cape Town, South Africa), 2001, Black Cat (New York, NY), 2005.

Also author of the play Majiet.


Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and a tireless anti-apartheid campaigner, Achmat Dangor has expressed his political opinions in stories, verse, and novellas. For a time Dangor was "banned" in South Africa because of his writings; meaning that he was not permitted to be in the company of more than one other individual at any one time, making work outside his home impossible. After the government ban was lifted, Dangor found employment as the manager of a multinational company in Johannesburg, working as well for a humanitarian relief agency. Of Dangor's works, few remained in print by the late 1990s; those still circulating included the story collection Waiting for Leila and Kafka's Curse, a novella and collection of stories.

In Kafka's Curse, Dangor retells the Arabian myth of a gardener whose forbidden love for a princess causes him to be turned into a tree. Set in South Africa, the story revolves around the Khan family. Omar Khan is an Eastern Indian who claims to be a Jew in order to pass for white. His son Fadiel falls in love with a blonde Boer descendent. When Omar dies, his secret identity as a Muslim comes out. Several commentators remarked on Dangor's skillful and lyrical prose. Nadine Gordimer of the Times Literary Supplement judged the novella to be "immensely enjoyable" for the "lyrical energy" and "freshness" of Dangor's writing. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted the "seductive intensity of his lyrical and sinewy" prose and the well-wrought, suspenseful plot.

In Bitter Fruit: A Novel, Dangor tells the story of a black, middle-class family in South Africa after apartheid has ended. Silas Ali is a lawyer in the Justice Department who encounters a white policeman who raped his wife, Lydia, twenty years earlier during apartheid. Their son, Mikey, may actually have resulted from the rape, which sends Mikey out to explore his roots. As Mikey learns more about his grandfather who fought colonialism in India, he eventually decides to take the path of revenge. In the meantime, Silas must deal with the truth from his own past as his marriage with Lydia falls apart. Noting that the story is narrated by various characters within the novel, Hazel Rochman wrote in Booklist that "the searing narratives reveal the wounds of betrayal and no reconciliation." A Kirkus Reviews contributor commented that the author's "storyline … embodies … a sober, measured account of former revolutionaries adjusting to their new roles as pragmatic administrators," Anderson Tepper, writing in the New York Times Book Review, referred to the novel as "powerful."



Africa News Service, September 27, 2004, "SA Author Short-Listed"; April 6, 2005, "African Authors to Speak at New York Literature Festival"; September 28, 2005, "New South African Novel Shows How One Family's Secrets May Destroy Them," review of Bitter Fruit: A Novel.

America's Intelligence Wire, October 19, 2004, "Short List of the Nominees for the Man Booker Prize."

Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, October 2, 2003, "South African Wins the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature," brief mention of author up for Commonwealth award.

Booklist, February 1, 2005, Hazel Rochman, review of Bitter Fruit, p. 941.

Guardian (Manchester, England), December 13, 2003, Gabriel Gbadamosi, review of Bitter Fruit.

Journal of Literary Studies, June, 2005, Henriette Roos, "Torn between Islam and the Other: South African Novelists on Cross-Cultural Relationships," p. 48; June, 2006, Jack Kearney, "Representations of Islamic Belief and Practice in a South African Context: Reflections on the Fictional Work of Ahmed Essop, Aziz Hassim, Achmat Dangor and Rayda Jacobs," p. 138.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2005, review of Bitter Fruit, p. 68.

Library Journal, February 1, 2005, Rebecca Stuhr, review of Bitter Fruit, p. 67.

New York Times Book Review, July 31, 2005, Anderson Tepper, review of Bitter Fruit, p. 16.

Publishers Weekly, November 9, 1998, review of Kafka's Curse, p. 54; February 28, 2005, review of Bitter Fruit, p. 41.

San Francisco Chronicle, May 1, 2005, Melissa Price, review of Bitter Fruit.

Seattle Times, May 20, 2005, Ellen Emry Heltzel, review of Bitter Fruit.

Times Literary Supplement, December 5, 1997, Nadine Gordimer, review of Kafka's Curse, p. 13.


PEN American Center Web site,http://www.pen.org/ (February 5, 2007), brief profile of author.

Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (February 5, 2007), interview with author.