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Ohio University Press · Swallow Press · www.ohioswallow.com

Familiarity Is the Kingdom of the Lost

By Dugmore Boetie
Edited by Benjamin N. Lawrance and Vusumuzi R. Kumalo
Introduction by Vusumuzi R. Kumalo and Benjamin N. Lawrance
Foreword by Nadine Gordimer
Afterword by Barney Simon

“A racy picaresque novel presented as a memoir; more accurately, a literary con. Whatever its genre, it is a flight of wild comic exaggeration and invention that is not only vibrantly funny but a more honest expression of the despair of black South Africans than any number of moralizing exhortations.”

Joseph Lelyveld, New York Times Book Review (1970)

“Nothing like this bullet-like prose has shot out—or been provoked out—of anywhere before. For it is a book with all of life and death in it, including a marvellous lack of pretence at human or artistic perfection.”

Myrna Blumberg, The Guardian (1969)

“There are images in this book that burn the mind.”

Publishers Weekly (1970)

“Duggie is the distillation of urban African experience. Without parentage or tradition, he makes the whole of black South Africa his playground. The succession of pocket-pickings, robberies, hi-jackings, and confidence tricks constitutes a primer of Johannesburg’s criminal underground.”

The Journal of Commonwealth Literature (1972)

A fast-paced romp through apartheid-era South Africa that exemplifies the creative human capacity to overcome seemingly omnipotent enemies and overwhelming odds.

The picaresque hero of this novel, Duggie, is a dispossessed black street kid turned con man. Duggie’s response to being confined to the lowest level of South Africa’s oppressive and humiliating racial hierarchy is to one-up its absurdity with his own glib logic and preposterous schemes. Duggie’s story, as one critic puts it, offers “an encyclopedic catalogue of rip-offs, swindles, and hoaxes” that regularly land him in jail and rely on his white targets’ refusal to admit a black man is capable of outsmarting them.

Duggie exploits South Africa’s bureaucratic pass laws and leverages his artificial leg every chance he gets. As “a worthless embarrassment to the authorities and a bad example to the convicts,” Duggie even manages to get himself thrown out of jail. From Duggie’s Depression-era childhood in urban Johannesburg to World War II and the rise of the white supremacist apartheid regime to his final, bitter triumph, Boetie’s narrative celebrates humanity’s relentless drive to survive at any cost.

This new edition of Boetie’s out-of-print classic features a recently discovered photograph of the author, an introduction replete with previously unpublished research, numerous annotations, and is accompanied by Lionel Abrahams’ haunting poem, “Soweto Funeral,” composed after attending Boetie’s interment, all of which render the text accessible to a new generation of readers.

Dugmore Boetie is the pen name of South African journalist, writer, and musician, Douglas Mahonga Buti (c.1924–66).   More info →

Benjamin N. Lawrance is a historian, author and editor of eleven books, and editor-in-chief of The African Studies Review. He teaches African history at the University of Arizona.   More info →

Vusumuzi R. Kumalo is a senior lecturer in history at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elisabeth, South Africa. He completed his PhD on the history of independent black education in the early- to mid-twentieth century at the University of the Witwatersrand.   More info →

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Formats

Paperback
978-0-8214-2435-3
Retail price: $24.95, T.
Release date: November 2020
5 illus. · 220 pages · 5½ × 8½ in.
Rights: World except Africa

Electronic
978-0-8214-4727-7
Release date: November 2020
5 illus. · 220 pages
Rights: World except Africa

Additional Praise for Familiarity Is the Kingdom of the Lost

“Dugmore Boetie was a thief, a convict (many times), part of a jazz combo and a con man extraordinary. Yet in a South Africa where blacks are humiliated, frustrated, deprived of basic human rights, a cynical agility is an edge on crushing destruction.”

Kirkus Reviews (1969)

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