A Soviet Journey

A Critical Annotated Edition

By (author) Alex La Guma Preface by Blanche La Guma Foreword by Ngũgĩ wa Thiongo Edited by Christopher J. Lee

Publication date:

18 April 2017

Length of book:

284 pages


Lexington Books

ISBN-13: 9781498536028

In 1978, the South African activist and novelist Alex La Guma (1925–1985) published A Soviet Journey, a memoir of his travels in the Soviet Union. Today it stands as one of the longest and most substantive first-hand accounts of the USSR by an African writer. La Guma’s book is consequently a rare and important document of the anti-apartheid struggle and the Cold War period, depicting the Soviet model from an African perspective and the specific meaning it held for those envisioning a future South Africa. For many members of the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party, the Soviet Union represented a political system that had achieved political and economic justice through socialism—a point of view that has since been lost with the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War. This new edition of A Soviet Journey—the first since 1978—restores this vision to the historical record, highlighting how activist-intellectuals like La Guma looked to the Soviet Union as a paradigm of self-determination, decolonization, and postcolonial development. The introduction by Christopher J. Lee discusses these elements of La Guma’s text, in addition to situating La Guma more broadly within the intercontinental spaces of the Black Atlantic and an emergent Third World. Presenting a more expansive view of African literature and its global intellectual engagements, A Soviet Journey will be of interest to readers of African fiction and non-fiction, South African history, postcolonial Cold War studies, and radical political thought.
This critical edition of Alex La Guma’s A Soviet Journey (first published in 1978) offers a key to understanding the allure of the Soviet Union during the early through mid-20th century for African and diaspora writers. Editor Lee (Lafayette College) annotates the work with Americanized grammar and punctuation and offers essential grounding in La Guma’s political and creative impulses. Lee’s introduction is both historically and critically comprehensive, providing sufficient context for La Guma’s travel literature and political praxis. Lee suggests that La Guma’s work is important because of its value as a travel account, a work of political theory, and a work of aesthetic theory. Beyond this, students and researchers unfamiliar with his work will find this edition helpful in understanding his lifelong quest for equality. La Guma (the people’s writer who suffered exile) attempted to demonstrate through his Soviet travels that it is possible to create a society and political system that is anti-racist, anti-capitalist, and anti-imperial in nature. Therefore, he, like other writers from Africa and its diaspora, was seeking a philosophical space for his South Africa and other Third World countries suffering from the weight of multilevel oppression. Summing Up: Recommended. All academic levels/libraries.