Review by John Bojè in the Pretoria News of 25 May 2015.

This publication is of great importance, not only because it makes a substantial and representative selection of Olive Schreiner’s letters accessible in a readable
format, but also because the reader is accompanied throughout by the guiding comments and elucidations of the skilled and highly competent editors.
Olive Schreiner was a prolific letter writer who interacted with a wide range of influential correspondents.

Only 5 000 of her letters are extant and from these, which Liz Stanley monumentally published on the internet (www. oliveschreiner. org), 300 have been selected to reflect Schreiner’s passionate engagement with the inter-related issues of women, labour and, above all, race, which she perceived to be “the world’s great question”.

The letters cover the period 1889 to the author’s death in 1920 and were written against the backdrop of South Africa’s descent into the disaster of the Jameson Raid, the Anglo-Boer War and Unification with the concomitant adoption of racist policies. Schreiner was far ahead of her time. She befriended black leaders and learnt from them and came to espouse the need for universal enfranchisement even before they did.

Because she was an astute and insightful observer of the contemporary scene, she not only saw into events, but could also foresee their consequences. This ability lends her writing a prophetic quality, as can be seen from her warning to Prime Minister Jan Smuts in 1920:
“The next few years are going to determine the whole future of South Africa in 30 or 40 years time. As we sow we shall reap. We may crush the mass of our fellows in South Africa today, as Russia did for generations, but today the serf is in the Palace and where is the Czar?”

The World’s Great Question is an invaluable resource for anyone who is interested in the course of South African history; and its publication is further testimony to the outstanding contribution of the Van Riebeeck Society to historical scholarship in our country.

It is a book that is worth having (and worth investing in as Africana) and can be ordered by non-members at the bargain price of R250 plus R25 for postage.    Tel 021 423 8424;


Resensie deur Marthinus van Bart

Die nuutste boek in die tweede Van Riebeeck-reeks wat  einde verlede jaar ,verskyn het, boek 45,  is “The Worlds Great Question; Olive Schreiner’s South African Let­ters 1889-1920″. Dit is deur Liz Stanley en Andrea Salter saamgestel en bevat meer as 300 briewe van Schreiner, skyfster en menseregte-akti­vis, veral van vroue-regte. Hierdie merkwaardige denker het in haar jeugjare opspraak verwek met haar eerste boek, “Story of an African Farm”, waarin sy onder meer Jingoïstiese vooroordeel jeens die Afrikaners en Iere verwoord het . Toe sy as volwassene met die Afrikaners self inaanraking kom en daardeur besef dat sy haar deur tradisionele Boere-haat laat meesleur het, het sy ‘n ommekeer gemaak en ‘n voorvegter vir die regte van die Afrikaners geword.