Bolt was a periodical founded in 1970 and ran until 1975. It was an English language publication focused on South African literature, specifically a range of contemporary literary styles, including poetry, criticism, fiction, and creative non-fiction, and its book reviews section was widely regarded as comprehensive and insightful. Despite being published at the height of the Apartheid era, Bolt had a predominantly apolitical stance choosing to rather focus on literary excellence, featuring works by notable South African writers such as Peter Strauss, Lawrence Lerner, Douglas Livingstone, Oswald Mtshali, Christopher Mann, Ruth Keech, Alan Paton, Fiona Morphet, and George Brendon. In addition to creative works, Bolt also included book reviews by writers such as Wally Serote and James Fenton.
Bolt was a quarterly publication, and its editorial team was made up of a small group of dedicated writers and literary enthusiasts. In terms of its design and layout, Bolt was known for its understated aesthetic, which reflected its focus on literary excellence and its commitment to showcasing the best of South African writing. However, a point was made to have an illustrated cover for each issue, with many notable South African artists of the time contributing to the journal, including Patrick O’Connor, Cliff Bestall, Gavin Younge, and Andrew Verster to name a few.
Based in Durban, the journal was published by the Literary Society at the University of Natal (currently UKZN). Its geography and associated institution contributed to Bolt’s importance in the South African literary scene during the 1970s. Bolt provided a platform for writers to showcase their work and engage with contemporary literary trends and ideas during a period when South Africa was placed under strict sanctions by the international community. The journal’s apolitical stance allowed it to stay under the radar of the Apartheid authorities, and it was unique for the time, as many other publications in South Africa were highly political and often aligned with specific political ideologies, mostly related to the dominant minority white Afrikaner propaganda.