cover imageThis website is a supplement to Peter D. McDonald’s book The Literature Police: Apartheid Censorship and its Cultural Consequences (Oxford, 2009). It is intended for anyone curious to know more about the subject and for those interested in doing further research into the vast topic of apartheid censorship. For details about how to access databases relating to the apartheid censorship system, see the Guide.

The Literature Police is available to purchase from Oxford University Press, Amazon and elsewhere.

About the Author

McDonald is Professor of English and Related Literature at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of St Hugh’s College. He writes on literature, the modern state and the freedom of expression; the history of writing systems, cultural institutions and publishing; multilingualism, translation and interculturality; and on the promise of creative criticism. His other principal publications include British Literary Culture and Publishing Practice, 1880-1914 (Cambridge, 1997), Making Meaning: ‘Printers of the Mind’ and Other Essays by D F McKenzie, co-edited with Michael Suarez (University of Massachusetts Press, 2002), and Artefacts of Writing: Ideas of the State and Communities of Letters from Matthew Arnold to Xu Bing (Oxford, 2017; see also artefactsofwriting.com). He is also co-author of PEN: An Illustrated History, UK edition Thames & Hudson, international edition MGIP, US edition Interlink Publishing (September 2021); Motovun Book of the Year for 2021. See also writersandfreeexpression.com and the lecture series The Secret Life of Books (2022).

Praise for The Literature Police:

“McDonald’s book is a vigorous yet subtle and always compellingly readable contribution to the history of and debate about the borders of the literary and the place of words in the world.” – Shaun de Waal, Mail and Guardian

“Indispensable reading if we wish to understand the forces forming and deforming literary production in South Africa during the apartheid years.” – J.M. Coetzee

“In his penetrating investigation as much into the history of censorship in practice as into its philosophical and ideological foundations, McDonald brilliantly and sometimes startlingly fills in [a] disturbing blank…in our country’s recent intellectual history.” – André P. Brink, Die Burger

“Censorship crafted silences into South African cultural life: McDonald speaks, from this historical distance, into those silences…This is historical recovery at its best.” – Michael Titlestad, The Times of South Africa

“An amazing book – a gift actually.” – Antjie Krog

“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission laid greater emphasis on reconciliation than on truth. It has now become the function of scholarship to reveal the unvarnished truth about apartheid machinations. Most of us have always wondered why our literary works were banned – what convoluted logic informed censorship. Peter McDonald’s book lifts the veil of secrecy under which state censors operated in South Africa.” – Mbulelo Mzamane

The Literature Police is one of the most comprehensive, scholarly and human examinations of censorship ever compiled. The Project names, and shames, the censors and posts the blacklist of apartheid South Africas banned books. An inspiration to all of us…” – FACT – Freedom Against Censorship Thailand

Art 47 2
Section 47 (2) of the 1974 Publications Act, a key instrument of apartheid censorship
Thami mnyele
Back cover of Staffrider, 6.3 (1986)