Herman Charles Bosman

Literary Society


P.O. Box 28, Groot-Marico, 2850

Cell phone: 083 272 2958



19 - 21 October 2001

"Born Kuilsriver - died Edenvale  Hospital"

With these words Herman Charles Bosman admitted himself into the hospital on 14 October 1951, where he expired later in the day.

On the weekend of 19 - 21 October 2001 the Herman Charles Bosman Literary society will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the demise of this remarkable South African poet, of whom a friend, George Howard, remarked in the 1930’s: ”He threaded his personal rages with a splendid kind of laughter that was always spiritual medicine to the heavily burdened. He was a life-line to the despairing.”  (Please see postscript at the end of this letter.)

Leon Feldberg, who had befriended him and to whom Bosman had dedicated Mafeking Road, wrote:

”The sudden death of Herman Charles Bosman has robbed South Africa of a fine writer ...

from our very first handshake I realised that he was a person quite out of the ordinary,

imbued with qualities of the spirit that made him sensitive to all kinds of things

the average person does not notice.”

In the November 1951 issue of Common Sense, Lionel Abrahams, his pupil and disciple, wrote: ”He could write funnier humour, and novels, short stories and poems of greater impact, imaginative power and originality than anyone in South Africa. But his legacy to our literature is contained not alone in his writing, but in his life as well.” And indeed, Bosman himself asserted that poetry was something to be lived, rather than written or read. Although he died having published only three books (Jacaranda in the Night – a novel published in 1947; the 21 stories in Mafeking Road, published later in 1947 and shortly after, Cold Stone Jug ”a chronicle: being the unimpassioned record of a somewhat lengthy sojourn in prison”, published by Afrikaanse Pers Beperk in January 1949, 19 years after he had left prison), in a sense death was merely an accidental interruption in his literary career. By the early 1980’s twelve books had been published with stories, essays and poems gleaned from his literary remains. In 1946 Bosman had written in the October issue of Trek that: ”We have nothing in the way of a living school of contemporary English South African writing, such as creates the mould of a people’s thinking and acts as the strongest simple inspiration in the unfolding of people’s spiritual consciousness. ... we haven’t got an English South African literature in terms of South African culture.”

To counteract this deficit seems to be an essential facet of his literary intention. Another friend of Bosman, the artist Gordon Vorster, illuminates this in a remark about ”Thornton Wilder (who) wrote a book about the people of the Eighth Day. An eighth day person does not conform to set standards of behavior, because he is creating another world. ... He was an African, an absolutely genuine African. He grew out of the soil. He knew how it felt between his fingers ... To him, Africa was far greater than these temporary little things we do to it." In my own understanding, Bosman appears to be a precursor of a return to the kind of consciousness that our ancestors started losing after the demise of palaeolithic life and of which genius signals the first faltering steps towards a home-coming to that cosmic consciousness which relegates time once more to its valid but minuscule place in the picture of things, and in the almost mundane sense in which cosmic refers to that vast part of the cosmos that we have constantly under out feet – the earth. Of this Bosman was well aware, calling Africa ”the genius among continents”, Africa, where palaeolithic man perhaps found his last refuge. In this regard Bosman’s essay on the rock-art of the Bushmen is illuminating: ”When we speak of man’s projects and colossal undertakings, let us not forget the vastest conception of them all, that of the Bushman’s, who conceived of an entire continent in terms of an open-air art gallery. ... it would seem that Bushmen painted for magical reasons, and in this way they conformed to what is but inherently part of the wayward and wistful fantasy of the soul of Africa, which dreamt of the crocodile. The Bushman sought for the magic with which to paint, and he found it, in Africa, a strange rapture, sombre in its power, stirring, heavy with the colour of life."

If this view has any validity at all, ”time” will in due course vindicate it; yet already it appears unmistakeable that, as we advance Bosman comes to meet us from the future, always newer, fresher than any New South Africa we can manage to dream up, and with no message at all. Just supremely alive. Mostly alive to that gift we call ”the present”. A true African renaissance should demand nothing less of us.

This, then, as preamble to the forthcoming annual event facilitated by the Herman Charles Bosman Literary Society in the town of Groot Marico, on the weekend of 19 – 21 October 2001.

What is going to happen?

The weekend will showcase stage artists David Butler (in a forceful, unforgettable performance featuring the essential Joh’burg Bosman, called A Touch of Madness)

David Butler performing as Herman Charles Bosman

Patrick Mynhard as the famous Oom Schalk Lourens

Patrick Mynhardt will be there too, of course, portraying the rural Afrikaner in Bosman’s perennial Marico stories. And because, incidentally, 24 October 2001 is the centenary commemoration of the Kleinfontein battle, a bloody skirmish that took place almost in the midst of where the town of Groot Marico is today, Patrick will also be drawing our attention to this historical event in a separate performance, by reading some Bosman stories focusing on the war between Boer and Brit a hundred years ago.


To round off, Beaufort West diva, Antoinette Pienaar, will be performing Johanna, the poignant story of a woman during the Anglo-Boer war.

Antionette Pienaar

The programme will also include art exhibitions by several local visual artists, musicians as well as informative presentations by knowledgeable Bosman aficionados. The weekend will feature typical bosveld cuisine, with the inevitable  camp-fires, coffee kettles and three-legged pots, not forgetting endless rounds of mampoer, and accompanied by informal Bosman readings in which our visitors will be expected to bring along some of their favourite quotations from Bosman to share with the other guests (and perhaps to become part of a future HCBLS archive). In all a brimful treasure-chest can be foreseen for everyone partaking in this year’s Bosman event.

To avoid disappointment, contact the Groot Marico Information Centre at the soonest opportunity, submitting your name, telephone number and e-mail address.

A more detailed programme will become available closer to the date of the event.

Keep in touch.

Santa van Bart

The Information Centre

Bookings for accommodation open on the 6th of August and Santa can be contacted at the Groot Marico Information Centre at 083 272 2958 or santavanbart@xsinet.co.za


A Row of pebbles


Post Script:



On the 14th of October we will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the demise of this remarkable South African poet.


He was buried in the West Park Cemetery, Johannesburg, in Grave no. DR 3942 //3

Headstone of H.C. Bosman's grave

Anyone wishing to pay tribute at the graveside on this date can use the attached map to locate the grave.

Gravemap.jpg (173019 bytes)

Please click on the Thumbnail to load an enlarged version of the map.


A Row of pebbles

Please contact the Information Centre for more information.

Phone Santa at Cell 083 2722 958 or send an Email message to: info@marico.co.za

A Row of pebbles

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