Coming home, coming out: Achmat Dangor's journeys through myth and Constantin Cavafy

29 Jan 2013

Despite his international status, the impact of Constantin Cavafy’s poetry on South African letters has gone largely unnoticed. This article draws attention to the range of Cavafy's, influence on the local poets, writers, critics and cultural activists, particularly during the 1970s and 1980s, but directs most of its attention to two early short stories by Achmat Dangor, ‘The Homecoming’ and ‘Waiting for Leila’, and his most recent novel Bitter Fruit. In all of these works Dangor refers directly and indirectly to Cavafy’s poetry, his sexuality, his evocations of place and his use of Greek mythology, particularly in one of his most famous poems ‘Ithaka’. The article also addresses Dangor’s ambivalence towards Cavafy, particularly the disjuncture between Cavafy’s ironic, apolitical modernism, modernism’s appeal to Dangor, his desire to produce accessible protest literature and his need to justify recourse to the classics in Africa.