South African Modernism: Roy Campbell in Spain
In the 1920s the South African poet Roy Campbell and his family left England for France, Spain and later Portugal. They settled briefly in Altea, a small seaside village in Spain, where they were known as the first "tourists" to intrude on village life, and where the whole family was confirmed into the Catholic church. Much of Campbell's later work engaged with the Iberian world, and his new religion, and included translations of Portuguese and Spanish religious poetry into English. Campbell had been raised during the early days of the South African Union; a period in which the country was described to the world in a manner intended to draw tourism and travel to the young nation, and which represented the country as a repository of pastoral and primitivist experience. As a poet strongly connected to Anglo-American modernist networks, Campbell was instinctively drawn to "primitivist" Mediterranean spaces, and a formal, devotional religion that continued to structure community life. But this choice represented a turning away from his native South African landscape, also rich with material for modernist imagery and themes. This paper will explore the notion that part of his impulse towards the Spanish landscape, and away from the South African one, was driven by the difficulties and complexities of the colonial literary tradition in South Africa, now well documented in South African literary criticism.
Keywords: Roy Campbell, South Africa, Modernism, Masculinity
Ms Alannah E M Birch
Lecturer, English Department, University of the Western Cape