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ES'KIA MPHAHLELE, 1919 - 2008

S. African author detailed apartheid in autobiography

October 29, 2008|The Associated Press

Es'kia Mphahlele, 88, a politically active South African writer celebrated for his vivid autobiography about the hardships of apartheid, died Monday at a hospital near his home in Lebowakgomo, in northern South Africa, family friend Raks Seakhoa told the Associated Press.

The cause of death was not given, but Seakhoa said in an interview Tuesday that the writer had been in poor health for some time.

Mphahlele is best known for "Down Second Avenue," an autobiography published in 1959 that describes his early years in rural northern South Africa and later in a bustling Pretoria black township. The book ends with the writer's exile from apartheid South Africa in 1957.

Mphahlele lived in Kenya, Zambia, France and the United States, earning a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Denver.

He returned to South Africa in the 1970s. With the end of apartheid, the writer emerged as an eloquent proponent of the need to nurture the arts to feed a culture traumatized by colonization and oppression.

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