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Sunday, 22 April, 2001, 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK
South Africa reinstates authors
Nadine Gordimer
Nadine Gordimer said she was insulted
Schoolchildren in South Africa's Gauteng Province - which includes Johannesburg - will continue to read Shakespeare and other authors despite criticism that they are racist or sexist.

The province's education minister - Ignatius Jacobs - told SABC television that children should continue to read the works, even if officials deem them unsuitable.

"Learners, like all of us in society, should be exposed to a wide variety of literary brilliance and traditions," he said.

David Oyelowo
David Oyelowo appears in the RSC's current production of Henry V
Last week a panel of officials said that several of Shakespeare's plays were "racist, sexist or not uplifting" and recommended their removal from school reading lists.

Censorship

The writing of the award-winning novelist Nadine Gordimer was also under threat because officials said her work was racist.

Gordimer, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1991, had several books banned under the apartheid regime.

It was her book July's People, published in 1981, that caused most offence.

The panel's recommendations caused an outcry in South Africa and around the world and the action was likened to Apartheid era censorship.

'Power to excite'

The National Education Minister Kader Asmal described the evaluators as "ill-informed, pedagogically unsound and anti-intellectual."

More than 100 writers signed a petition calling for "a diversity of literary works, representative of South African and World literature to be presented in schools".

Gordimer's July's People tells the story of a white family which shelters in the home of their former servant, who is black, as racial tensions in a futuristic South Africa erupt into civil war.

Comments on Shakespeare
King Lear - ridiculous and unlikely plot
Antony and Cleopatra - racist and undemocratic
Hamlet - not optimistic or uplifting
Othello - racist and sexist

The novelist - who campaigned against censorship during the apartheid era - said: "If the selectors of fiction are looking for moral lessons against racism, few could be more telling than the situation in this novel."

Of Shakespeare's work plays such as Anthony and Cleopatra and Othello were branded racist; Julius Caesar was said to be sexist because it elevates men.

King Lear fared the worst as it "lacks the power to excite readers and is full of violence and despair".

Works which escaped criticism included Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice.

None of the blacklisted works will be removed from the curriculum, but the department of education will encourage a rotation of books in schools.

Jacobs said he will devise a new system for choosing set texts.

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See also:

07 Aug 00 | Education
Teachers 'need Shakespeare lessons'
27 May 99 | South Africa elections
Education: A promise hard to keep
10 Apr 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: South Africa
08 Feb 01 | Education
Non-Shakespeare English move denied
18 Apr 01 | Education
Nobel-winner branded racist
19 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Black actor cast as English king
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