N.P. van Wyk Louw
A new translation by Iván Kovács
• N. P. van Wyk Louw’s Raka is probably his best-known and most beautiful poetic creation. It has inspired musical compositions, radio plays as well as a ballet. It has also been widely distributed as a prescribed work for high school and university students who study Afrikaans. Raka has previously been translated into English, German, Zulu, Sotho and Xhosa.
• 2020 was the year which commemorated the 50th anniversary of N. P. van Wyk Louw’s death. It was celebrated countrywide with various talks and shows, often with special references to Raka, and how this South African epic could be reinterpreted by contemporary readers and critics.
• Raka is the story of an African tribe which is threatened by the appearance of Raka “the ape-man”, he “who cannot think” and who is “more than animal, but less than human”. He is both feared and admired by the people of the tribe, because of his physical allure and strength. It is only Koki, the young prince, “he (who) would always be alone among them with his fear for precious things” who realizes the threat that Raka poses to the culture and survival of his tribe. Sadly, his appeal to his people to kill Raka falls on deaf ears.
• The responsibility to remove the threat clearly becomes no one else’s task but Koki’s. So, Koki meticulously prepares himself to meet his foe, but when he sets out in search for Raka, it is not the war song of his tribe that he sings, but its death song. This is a clear indication to the reader that a great tragedy is about to play out.
• Raka’s enduring appeal lies above all in Van Wyk Louw’s exquisite and evocative description of the African landscape, the daily activities and rich cultural heritage of the tribe, and the tragic existential confrontation between Koki and Raka and the world views and values that they each represent.
Cover painting by internationally renowned artist Schalk van der Merwe (www.svdmstudio.com)
Iván Kovács was born in Hungary in 1949 and immigrated to South Africa in 1963. He has written and published poems and prose in a variety of South African literary magazines and worked as a journalist and an art critic.
His lifelong studies in esotericism led to the publication of two books, The Path to Higher States of Consciousness (2014), and Pioneers of Tibet (2017).
As a translator he has published three collections of poetry, the first a collection of poems by Attila Józef entitled Suburban Night and Other Poems (2016), the second György Faludy’s Villon Ballads (2017), and the third An Anthology of Hungarian Verse (2019). The Cardsharp and the Magician, which was also published in 2019, is Kovacs’ translation of Jenö Heltai’s early 20th century novel from the Hungarian.
Face to Face: A Personal Odyssey is Kovacs’ autobiographical novel and was published in 2018, and Moonlight Sonata is his collection of stories, novellas, and anecdotes, was published in 2019.
All the above books were independently published and are available from online suppliers like amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, or locally from loot.co.za.
Kovacs’ translation of N. P. van Wyk Louw’s Raka into English is his most recent publication.