...this land is not the sweet home that it looks,
Nor its peace the historical calm of a site
Where something was settled once and for all....
W.H. Auden, `In Praise of Limestone', 1948.
More about the writer
Michael was born in Pinetown in 1954. He attended infant, primary, and high school in Pinetown, after which he was drafted into the army and then spent a year in California as an American Field Service exchange student.
He took up music seriously during this time, and achieved some recognition as a protest-oriented singer-songwriter when he returned and began his studies at the then-University of Natal. Funding his studies (and a music career that drew more attention from the Security Branch than the music industry) as a stoker on the railways, he eventually won a scholarship to study for his Masters Degree at Stanford, California.
After completing this, he took up a post at the then-Rand Afrikaans University under the writer Stephen Gray. He continued to perform as a solo musician and in a range of bands, and in 1982 3rd Ear Music released White Eyes, an album of his songs which immediately sank into what David Marks has called the ‘hidden years’ of the oppressive times.
A Commonwealth scholarship then took Green to the University of York to study for his doctorate. Not long after his return, he became a lecturer at what has become the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1993, Associate Professor in 1996, and Full Professor in 1998. In 2006 he was promoted to Senior Professor (the highest possible academic rank, awarded on the basis of “exceptional standing in their discipline and a continuing record of outstanding service, beyond the normal call of duty, to this University”).
Green was Co-ordinator of the Faculty of Humanities inter-disciplinary Cultural Studies Core Course, ‘Language, Text, and Context’, from November 1996-December 1998.
He served as Head of English Studies at the University of Natal/KwaZulu-Natal from 2000 until 2007.
Green was promoted to the Headship of the university’s School of Literary Studies, Media and Creative Arts in 2008.
Green has published a number of academic articles and chapters in scholarly books, mainly on the uses of history in South African fiction. This is the subject of his book Novel Histories: Past, Present, and Future in South African Fiction, published by the Witwatersrand University Press in 1997.
In the same year Penguin published his first work of historical fiction, Sinking: A Verse Novella (under the name Michael Cawood Green, his adopted name for creative as opposed to scholarly writing). Sinking has been widely reviewed in South Africa, and selections from this work appear in The Heart in Exile: South African Poetry in English, 1990-1995, Illuminations: An International Magazine of Contemporary Writing, and The New Century of South African Poetry.
Sinking was short-listed for the SANLAM award for unpublished fiction in 1995 and called a ‘most notable omission’ (Shaun de Waal, Mail and Guardian, March 20 to 26, 1998, p.30) from the shortlist for the M-Net Book Prize in 1997. It was awarded the University of Natal Book Prize in the ‘Popular’ Book Category in1998 and is on the reading list of a number of international universities.
Green is one of the founders of the extremely successful Poetry Africa Festival held annually in Durban, in which he has appeared as both presenter and performer. He has led a number of writing workshops and featured in several major literary events. He is the recipient of two Distinguished Teacher Awards from the university, the second for introducing and heading undergraduate and postgraduate creative writing streams in English Studies. He has supervised a number of Masters and Doctorate Degrees in Creative Writing (several awarded cum laude) and has also taught creative writing at the University of Texas in Austin.
In 1999, Green was awarded a Commonwealth Fellowship, and spent a year in London as a Research Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Here he beganwork on an historical novel (in prose this time) based on the Trappist monks who came to South Africa in the late nineteenth century and founded Mariannhill Monastery and the chain of missions scattered throughout Natal and East Griqualand. Entitled For the Sake of Silence , this was published by UMUZI and launched at the 2008 Time of the Writer Festival held at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.