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Dan Jacobson

JACOBSON, DAN (1929– ), South African novelist. Jacobson was born in Kimberley. After graduating from the University of Witwatersrand, he went to London, where he taught in a Jewish school. He returned to South Africa, for a short time joining the family business in Kimberley, but finally settled in England in 1954 and held a chair at University College, London. Jacobson's writing first appeared in 1953 in the American Jewish monthly, Commentary, and he became a frequent contributor to many leading British and American periodicals. His fiction and much of his other writing is preoccupied by two major issues: the moral implications of apartheid in South Africa, and the problem of Jewish identity in the modern world. His first two novels, The Trap (1955) and A Dance in the Sun (1956), deal with the explosive aspects of apartheid, describing dispassionately the kind of incidents which characterize day-to-day relationships between whites and blacks in the rural areas of the Republic. Both novels are dramatic and symbolic in design. The Price of Diamonds (1957), set in a fictional version of Kimberley, deals with the illicit diamond trade in South Africa and its impact on the life of a middle-aged Jewish wholesaler. Although it presents a brilliantly comic study in frustration, like its predecessors it is very much a moral fable. Two later works in this genre are The Evidence of Love (1960), the story of an interracial love affair set against a background of hatred and false liberalism, and his autobiographical novel, The Beginners (1966). Many of Jacobson's polished short stories also deal with Jewish or South African themes. They include the collections A Long Way from London (1958), The Zulu and the Zeide (1959), which was also the basis for a musical play, and Beggar My Neighbor (1964). His novel The Rape of Tamar (1970) was based on the biblical story of *Amnon and Tamar. Jacobson's Evidence of Love was published in a Russian translation, a unique achievement for an Anglo-Jewish writer. In 1973 there appeared Inklings, a collection of short stories, and the Wonder-Worker, followed in 1977 by The Confessions of Josef Baisz and in 1991 by Hidden in the Heart.


R. Winegarten, in: Midstream, 12 (May 1966), 69–73.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.