Of libraries, books, and reading: A journey of meaning making

Keywords: history, books, reading, struggle, apartheid, exile, culture, South Africa


In this essay I seek to demonstrate how an iterative reading of Archie L. Dick’s The Hidden History of South Africa’s Book and Reading Culture (2012), read through a life history lens, makes meaning of the lived experiences of South Africans—particularly during the time of the struggle against Apartheid, which is the focus of this essay. Relying on the life history approach to the recounting and exploration of South African history through the library, book, and reading culture of South Africans, I trace the complex and multi-layered experience of South Africa and its peoples as reported in The Hidden History. Interwoven with my own experiences with libraries, books, reading, and writing, I unveil the significant making of meaning in Dick’s enterprise. As demanded by Dick, I confirm in this essay that South African liberation history must indeed include the roles played by librarians, books, and the experiences of ordinary South Africans in order to provide a fuller appreciation of the various influences and understanding of South Africa’s past.

Author Biography

Edwin Smith, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Edwin Smith is reading for a master’s degree in History in the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa. He is the manager of campus operations at the Mamelodi campus of the same institution.


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How to Cite
SmithE. (2020). Of libraries, books, and reading: A journey of meaning making. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 57(2), 101-108. https://doi.org/10.17159/tl.v57i2.8798