Bosman, Herman Charles (1905–1951) By MacKenzie, Craig
A short-story writer, novelist, poet and journalist, Bosman was born in Kuils River near Cape Town, but spent most of his life in the Transvaal, and it is the Transvaal milieu that features in almost all of his writings. He became known in the 1940s for his ‘Oom Schalk Lourens’ stories, and his use of this simple-seeming but wily narrator has ensured his place in South African literature as one of the country’s most enduring and best-loved storywriters. Schalk Lourens features in the short-story collections Mafeking Road (1947) and Unto Dust (1963), while Bosman’s prison memoir, Cold Stone Jug (1949), set the trend for this important genre in South Africa.
Bosman was educated at Jeppe Boys’ High School, the University of the Witwatersrand and Normal College, where he qualified as a teacher. In January 1926 he received a posting to the Groot Marico in the remote Western Transvaal, as it was known then. Despite its short duration, this stay later inspired almost all of his 150 short stories. In July 1926, on vacation at the family home in Johannesburg, he became embroiled in a family quarrel and shot and killed his step-brother David Russell. He was tried and sentenced to death—a sentence that was later commuted to imprisonment for ten years with hard labour. He eventually served four years of this sentence and was released on parole in August 1930.