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Sonny Venkatrathnam and Kadir Hassim

Shakespeare. Complete Works. 1970

Shakespeare. Complete Works. 1970 

Sonny Venkatrathnam and Kadir Hassim signed the Robben Island Shakespeare on the title page and p. ix of the introduction, respectively. By not selecting a favorite passage, they signified a solidarity with other signers or readers or -- in Hassim's case -- with the book's owner, but they did not connect themselves to the meaning of any certain speech or sonnet.


Venkatrathnam brought the volume of Shakespeare to Robben Island as the one book he was allowed when he was arrested for conspiring against the state. Although the book was taken away from him on more than one occasion, he managed to keep it over the course of his time in prison, and in the late 1970s, he asked his fellow prisoners in the single cell block to sign and date passages in the book, while he himself signed a mark of ownership on the title page. Hassim, who signed the introduction for reasons that are not known, was arrested in 1971 with twelve others for conspiring to overthrow the government of South Africa. He was imprisoned at Robben Island until 1978.


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