South African Literature’s Russian Soul


My first book, South African Literature’s Russian Soul: Narrative Forms of Global Isolation, was published with Bloomsbury. A Russian edition is also forthcoming with Academic Studies Press. It is centrally concerned with how Russia’s nineteenth-century “Golden Age” of literature and ideas provides a model for the study of South African realist forms and epistemologies both during and after apartheid. It also advances a broader argument for perceived disconnection as a basis for far-flung transnational affinities. Through paired readings of nineteenth-century Russian texts and their South African successors, the book asks how traditions marked by a formative sense of isolation in the world make us ask harder questions about the “global” as a method and analytic category.

South African Literature’s Russian Soul is available through its Bloomsbury website title page and on

The book’s Introduction is posted on my page with Bloomsbury’s permission, and citation details are available through the links above.


Jeanne-Marie Jackson’s book examines the striking series of elective affinities between South African writers and their Russian precursors, from Tolstoy to Nabokov. Anyone with an interest in South African literature will want to read this book, not only for the questions of influence it deals with, but for the way it explores the manifold connections between the local and the global. (Patrick Hayes, Teaching Fellow in English Literature, St John’s College, University of Oxford, UK)

Jeanne-Marie Jackson’s work breaks genuinely new ground in the study of the postcolonial novel-by reading the novels of apartheid-era South Africa not in relationship to Anglo-American literature, but by considering their relationship to the Russian realist novels of the nineteenth century. …[It] is often dazzling in its analytic precision, its heft, its depth of analysis. (Katie Trumpener, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Yale University, USA)

In South African Literature’s Russian Soul, Jeanne-Marie Jackson has written what is in many ways the most original and yet the most traditional study of this country’s intellectual culture–original because it inspects and reworks the existing frameworks by which we understand the national and international dimensions of the written word, traditional because it does its conceptual work with the old-fashioned virtues of capacious historical learning and microscopic engagement with the details of language and imagination. It is the one book I’ll recommend to writers as well as readers who are orienting themselves to this part of the world. (Imraan Coovadia, novelist and Director of Creative Writing at the University of Cape Town, South Africa)

Jeanne-Marie Jackson’s comparative study of South African and Russian writing offers a rich examination of the interplay between politics and literature. [It is] an illuminating investigation of local and global narrative frameworks. (Jill Martiniuk, Slavic and East European Journal)

South African Literature’s Russian Soul is an important study not only for those interested in South-African or Russian literature, but for scholars who have an interest in modes of comparison as such. It proposes a multi-scalar globalist paradigm without the hubris typically associated with such an ambitious undertaking. (Jan Steyn, Research in African Literatures)

[The] acrobatic and original yoking together of texts and philosophical questions is what makes the book so ground-breaking and compelling, and sets it apart from other transnational studies of South African literature. (Coilin Parsons, Wasafiri)

Jeanne-Marie Jackson diligently provides reasons for the claim in her title of a core similarity between Russian and South African literatures. […] In the process, Jackson commences a close discussion of the nature of realism as it emerged, matured, and incrementally manifested its criteria in the views of various distinguished literary scholars from the nineteenth century to our time. (Fidelis Odun Balogun, Comparative Literature Studies)

Trying to find a common ground for the study of “global literature” and a multiculturalist approach,[Jackson] develops an axis of intersection between local contexts and the general concepts necessary for a comparative understanding of the two literary traditions. (Boris Gubman, The European Legacy)

Readers should … savour for themselves the richness and complexity of the overall argument as well as the subtle and profound insights Jackson gleans from her juxtaposition of South African and Russian literature. (Hein Viljoen, Literary Research)