Blame Me on History
This is the autobiography of William Bloke Modisane. He was one of a team of black writers of the 1950s who created Drum magazine and who also later became an actor and playwright. His story was originally published in 1963, but was banned in South Africa during the 'struggle' years. He lived in Sophiatown, Johannesburg until 1958 when the township was bulldozed flat by government order. Consequently, Modisane decided that the time had come to leave the country and settled in West Germany. While living there he wrote for the BBC as well as for German radio. But he always felt very much an exile, as he so nostalgically wrote in the opening paragraph of his book: ". . . something in me died, a piece of me died, with the dying of Sophiatown." His evocative writing transports the reader back in time to experience the life and shebeen culture that existed at that time in Johannesburg and particularly in Sophiatown. As one of the first urban black intellectuals Modisane became host, in his single room in the township, to such people as Dame Sybil Thorndike and Adlai Stevenson, as well as to many South African whites who wanted to know and understand the culture of shantytown life and the problems of the urban blacks living there. This autobiography takes us back to those days and gives us some insight into the vitality and the vibrant energy that was Sophiatown. William Bloke Modisane died in March 1986 in Dortmund, West Germany.
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