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Mine Boy

Peter Abrahams

One of the first ever African novels in English by a radical black South African writer: the 1946 classic of one boy’s loves, friendships and political awakening as a mine worker in Johannesburg’s slums.

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‘One of my all-time favourite novels.’ Tsitsi Dangarembga
‘The first African novel in English to draw international attention.New York Times
‘The forerunner of an entire school of African literary art.’ Sunday Times

And the black man and the white were like two men alone in the world ….

Xuma will never forget the day he arrived in the Johannesburg slums: the charismatic woman who takes him in, the brutal police raids, the fights, friendships, dancing, drinking and romances – yet it soon feels like home. But when he becomes a leader in the city’s gold mines, he is shocked by the racist treatment of the labourers. And as he begins to question whether ‘man could be without colour’, Xuma stages an act of defiance that changes his life forever . . .

In 1946, Peter Abrahams’ classic novel Mine Boy exposed South Africa’s fledgling racial apartheid system and townships to the world – and its wisdom, vividness and political power endures to this day.

What readers are saying:
‘Beautiful, memorable characters [I’ve] remembered since my childhood. These are the kind of stories that make the world better for having been written.

‘A seminal work of African fiction
… Prose as unadorned as Solzhenitsyn or Hemingway.’

‘I can still recall Xuma almost 20 years later … A beautiful book.’

‘An unsung gem, amazing … Its simplicity makes the story such a dramatic tale.’

Critic Reviews

One of my all-time favourite novels.

Tsitsi Dangarembga
Critic Reviews

The forerunner of an entire school of African literary art.

Sunday Times
Critic Reviews

The first African novel in English to draw international attention ... Abrahams explored with sensitivity and passion, the injustices of apartheid and the complexities of racial politics … An important literary voice ... A powerful, sparely written novel.

New York Times
Critic Reviews

Prescient and powerful ... A trailblazer ... Reminiscent of Hemingway ... The characters are vividly drawn through slick dialogue and a series of swift, vibrant scenes ... The Johannesburg slums pulse with life.

Irish Times
Critic Reviews

Abrahams is an African writer, a writer of the world, who opened up in his natal country, South Africa, a path of exploration for us, the writers who have followed the trail he bravely blazed.

Nadine Gordimer
Critic Reviews

Intelligent and exciting … Written with skill and sympathy.


Peter Abrahams was born in Vrededorp, near Johannesburg, in 1919. His Ethiopian father worked in the city’s gold mines; his mother was the daughter of a black African father and white French mother, thus classifying him as ‘coloured’. After his father’s death, Abrahams had an impoverished childhood, selling firewood and working for a tinsmith in the city’s slums, but won…

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