publications - fiction
2nd Class Taxi
In terms of the law Staffnurse Phofolo – his first name was commonly pronounced 'Stuffness', and how he acquired it was a story in itself – was Idle and Undesireable, liable to instant arrest for having no Pass. But with his greatcoat to keep him warm and a convenient drainpipe to sleep in he didn't much mind about that. Indeed, if he had had a Pass he would probably never have got involved in all the peculiar happenings and with all the extraordinary people – both black and white – with which he did.
Though it is a deeply serious and deeply felt commentary on the tragedy which was South Africa, Second-Class Taxi is at the same time an extra-ordinarily human, humorous and enormously readable story; and Staffnurse one of the most engaging characters you've met for a long time.
Originally published by Faber & Faber in 1958 and immediately banned by the then Apartheid South African government when it hit the best seller list. It was unbanned in 1988.
A taste of the critics
'I have read a good deal about South Africa during the last few years, but somehow this shortish tale has told me more about apartheid than all the solemn articles I have waded through.' J B Priestley
'You will laugh your head off. Laugh so that the taxi will rock over the rude culverts of the township streets. You will feel somewhat sacrilegious for you will know that the things you laugh about so uproariously are dead earnest, doomful indeed.' Can Themba, Drum, 1958
'A gay picaresque tale… wonderfully authentic.' Anthony Sampson
'The scene, South Africa, in which furious satire is interknit with sunshiny humour… Staff Nurse Phofolo, our hero, wins our hearts from the moment we watch him (contained in a outsize ancient army overcoat) wriggling out of a drain pipe – his sole domicile.' Elizabeth Bowen, The Tatler
'Hilarious, tragic, and true - this masterpiece of South African literature is an audacious, enchanting read.' Meg Rosoff
"Projecting his story from the bus boycotts and the tightening pass laws of the 1940s, and the passive resistance campaign of 1951, Stein prophesied the future with astonishing exactness". Christopher Heyward, A History of South African Literature, 2004