Lewis Nkosi was born in Chesterville, Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal and was educated at local schools before enrolling at M. L. Sultan Technical College in Durban.

Nkosi began his writing career at the publication Ilanga lase Natal in Durban. In 1956, he joined other African writers on the staff of Drum magazine, which was founded in 1951.

In his book Home and Exile and Other Selections (1965), Nkosi describes the Drum staff as "the new African[s] cut adrift from the tribal reserve - urbanised, eager, fast-talking and brash."

In 1960, Nkosi accepted a fellowship to study at Harvard University, and left South Africa on an exit permit.

Nkosi has since worked as an editor for The New African in London and NET in the United States. Nkosi has also been a Professor of Literature at various universities, including the University of Wyoming, the University of California-Irvine, and universities in Zambia and Warsaw, Poland.

Nkosi has also worked with well known African authors such as Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, which was recorded in an interview in Bernth Lindfors' Conversations with Chinua Achebe.

Nkosi also shared the writing credits with Lionel Rogosin and William “Bloke” Modisane for the film Come Back, Africa in 1960.

Nkosi lived in various countries, including Switzerland and England, where he taught and wrote articles on African literature. In recognition of his contribution to South African literature, Nkosi was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga on 28 October 2008.

Lewis Nkosi died on 5 September 2010 in Johannesburg, after a long illness, at the age of 74. He is survived by his twin daughters, Louise and Joy, and his wife, Astrid Starck.


  • Mating Birds (1986) [banned by the apartheid government]
  • Underground People (2002)
  • Mandela’s Ego (2006)


  • The Rhythm of Violence (1963)
  • Malcolm (1972)
  • The Black Psychiatrist (2001)


  • Home and Exile (1965)
  • Home and Exile and Other Selections (1983)
  • The Transplanted Heart: Essays on South Africa (1975)
  • Tasks and Masks: Themes and Styles of African Literature (1981)

Anon. (unknown) ‘Come Back, Africa’ from Wikipedia [online] Available at: www.wikipedia.org   [Accessed 6 September 2010]|Anon. (unknown) ‘Lewis Nkosi’ from KZN Literary Tourism [online] Available at: www.literarytourism.co.za [Accessed 6 September 2010]|Anon. (unknown) ‘Lewis Nkosi’ from Wikipedia [online] Available at: www.wikipedia.org   [Accessed 6 September 2010]|Anon. (unknown) ‘Lewis Nkosi Biography’ from Answers.com [online] Available at: www.answers.com [Accessed 6 September]|Williams, B. (2010) ‘RIP Lewis Nkosi, 1936

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