Herman Charles Bosman (1905 - October 14, 1951) was a South African writer and journalist who became famous for capturing the rhythms of backveld Afrikaans speech even though he wrote in English. He is widely regarded as the greatest short story writer to come out of South Africa. Many of his stories have a sting in the tail.
He was born at Kuilsrivier, near Cape Town. While still young, his family moved to Johannesburg where he went to school at Jeppe Boys High School in Kensington. He was a contributor to the school magazine. When he was 16, he started writing amusing short stories for the national Sunday newspaper (the Sunday Times). He attended the University of the Witwatersrand submitting various pieces to studentís literary competitions.
Upon graduating, he accepted a teaching position in the Groot Marico district. The area and the people inspired him and provided the background for his best stories; the ones about Oom Schalk Lourens and the Voorkamer sketches. (In Afrikaans, Oom is Uncle and a Voorkamer is literally the Front Room).
During the school holidays in 1926, he returned to visit his family in Johannesburg. During an argument, he fired a rifle at his stepbrother and killed him.
He was sentenced to death and moved to Death row at the Pretoria Central Prison. He was reprieved and sentenced to ten years with hard labour. In 1930, he was released on parole after serving half his sentence. His experiences formed the basis for one of his best known books, Cold Stone Jug.
He then started his own printing press company and was part of a literary set in Johannesburg, associating with poets, journalists and writers. Needing a break, he then toured overseas for nine years, spending most of his time in London. The short stories that he wrote during this period formed the basis for another of his best-known books, Mafeking Road.
At the start of the Second World War, he returned to South Africa and worked as a journalist. He found the time to translate the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam into Afrikaans.
He lamented the fact that Johannesburg never respected its heritage; writing in The Standard Theatre "They will pull down the Standard Theatre like they have pulled down all the old buildings, theatres, gin-palaces, dosshouses, temples, shops, arcades, cafes and joints that were intimately associated with the mining-camp days of Johannesburg. Because I know Johannesburg. And I am satisfied that there is no other city in the world that is so anxious to shake off the memories of its early origins."
He married Ella Manson, and the couple were renowned for their bohemian lifestyle and parties. His parties ended well after midnight with much witty conversation. After a housewarming party he was taken ill with severe chest pains and was taken to Edenvale Hospital. On admission he was asked, "Place of birth?" He replied, "Born Kuilsrivier - Died Edenvale Hospital." He was discharged and collapsed at home a few hours later. He died as he was being rushed to hospital. He is buried in Westpark Cemetery in Westdene.
Only three of his books were published during his lifetime; Mafeking Road published by Dassie, and Jacaranda in the Night and Cold Stone Jug published by APB.
His biography was written by Valerie Rosenberg and was called Sunflower to the sun ISBN 079811228X Human & Rousseau.
Because many of his stories were originally published in long-forgotten magazines and journals, there are a number of anthologies by different collators each containing a different selection. His original books have also been published many times by different publishers. Some of the ISBN numbers and publishers below may not be for the original edition.
Mafeking Road & Other Stories 1947 ISBN 0798139021 Human & Rousseau
Rubaijat van Omar Khajjam 1948 Colin Reed-McDonald
Cold Stone Jug 1949 ISBN 0798139811 Human & Rousseau
Veld-trails and pavements 1949 with Carel Bredell Afrikaanse Pers-Boekhandel
Cask of Jerepigo 1957 Central News Agency
Unto dust 1963 edited by Lionel Abrahams ISBN 0798115017 Anthony Blond
Bosman at his best: a choice of stories and sketches 1965 edited by Lionel Abrahams ISBN 0798102497 Human & Rousseau
Bosman's Johannesburg 1986 edited by Stephen Gray ISBN 0798120010 Human & Rousseau
Ramoutsa Road 1987 ISBN 0868521302 Ad. Donker
A Bekkersdal marathon 1971 ISBN 0798100303 Human & Rousseau
The Earth is Waiting 1974
Willemsdorp 1977 ISBN 0798139013 Human & Rousseau
Almost Forgotten Stories 1979 ISBN 0869781677 H. Timmins
Selected Stories 1980 edited by Stephen Gray ISBN 0798110317 Human & Rousseau
The Collected Works of Herman Charles Bosman 1981 edited by Lionel Abrahams ISBN 0868500291 Jonathan Ball
The Bosman I like 1981 edited by Patrick Mynhardt ISBN 0798111798 Human & Rousseau
Death Hath Eloquence 1981 ISBN 0869841890 Christelike Uitgewersmaatskappy
Uncollected essays 1981 ISBN 0869781677 Timmins
The Illustrated Bosman 1985 ISBN 0868501123 Jonathan Ball
Makapan's cave and other stories 1987 edited by Stephen Gray ISBN 0140092625 Penguin Books
A Bosman Treasury 1991 edited by Ian Lusted ISBN 0798128305 Human & Rousseau
Jurie Steyn's Post Office 1991 ISBN 0798129034 Human & Rousseau
Herman Charles Bosman : the prose juvenilia 1998 collected and introduced by M.C. Andersen ISBN 1868880494 University of South Africa
Idle talk : voorkamer stories 1999 edited by Craig MacKenzie ISBN 079813982X Human & Rousseau
Old Transvaal Stories 2000 edited by Craig MacKenzie ISBN 0798140852 Human & Rousseau
The Rooinek and Other Boer War Stories 2000 edited by Craig MacKenzie ISBN 0798140313 Human & Rousseau
Jacaranda in the Night 2000 ISBN 0798140844 Human & Rousseau
Best of Bosman 2001 edited by Stephen Gray and Craig MacKenzie ISBN 0798142030 Human & Rousseau
Seed-Time and Harvest, and Other Stories 2001 edited by Craig MacKenzie ISBN 0798141867 Human & Rousseau
Verborge skatte : Herman Charles Bosman in/oor Afrikaans 2001 collected by Leon de Kock ISBN 0798141859 Human & Rousseau
Cold Stone Jug 1982 adapted by Barney Simon from the play by Stephen Gray ISBN 079811309X Human & Rousseau