Lewis Sowden

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Lewis Sowden (1905-1974). Journalist, critic, dramatist, novelist and poet, was born in Manchester, England. He was the son of Jacob Isaac and Henda Sowden.


The Sowden family came to South Africa in 1911. Lewis was educated at Germiston High School and at the University of the Witwatersrand. In 1936 he married Dora Leah Levitt (Dora Sowden). He was a past President of the South African Society of Journalists and vice-President (as well as a former Chairman) of the South African P.E.N. Centre. During World War II he served in the Civilian Protective Services, a civil defence organization intended to take preventive and protective measures in the defence of the civilian population against any air or sea attacks and against possible dangers arising from sabotage and other emergencies. The couple left South Africa for Israel in 1966 where he died in 1974.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

Sowden was a highly respected theatre critic for Rand Daily Mail in 1940-1960s.

As a theatre critic and historian he wrote Both Sides of the Mask; The World of Muriel Alexander (1964).

As a poet he wrote: The Charmed Fabric (1943), Poems with Flute (1955) Poems from the Bible ( 1960).

As a novelist he wrote: The Man Who Was Emperor (1947), Lady of Coventry (1949), The King of High Street (1950), To-morrow's Comet (1951), Family Cromer (1952), The Crooked Bluegum (1955) and Kop of Gold ( 1956).

As a playwright he is best known for the highly successful The Kimberley Train (written and performed in 1958, published in 1976), a play on miscegenation and the tragedy of characters to “trying for white” under the apartheid laws. Other plays include: The Fugitives (1934), The Man in Checks (1935), Red Rand (1937), The Gold Earth (1944) and Contact Five (1945) and Ramses the Rich (1955).


Tucker, 1997. 118-9, 141, 222.


South African Jewry 1965, Edited by Leon Feldberg.

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