A collection of stories by four Cape Town authors, banned as "politically undesirable" in South Africa when it was published in New York 45 years ago, was released in the city for the first time at the weekend.

Of the four authors of Quartet, only James Matthews and Alf Wannenburgh are still alive. Alex La Guma died in 1985 in Havana, Cuba, where he represented the ANC. Richard Rive was murdered on the Cape Flats in 1996.

First published in New York in 1963, Quartet was released in London by Heinemann in 1965, and remained in print in their African Writers series for the next 20 years. But the only copies seen in South Africa were the few smuggled in by individuals.

Speaking at the South African launch at the District Six Museum on Saturday afternoon, University of the Western Cape vice-chancellor Brian O'Connell said the local publication of Quartet was of literary as well as historical importance. "Here is a piece of Cape history recorded some 40 years ago, in compassion and truth of mood. The Cape and Cape Town, are changing at a more rapid pace than ever, and Quartet offers us a holdfast to whom we were."

Matthews said the publication of Quartet by the Athlone-based publishing house Realities was something he had long sought to achieve.

"I got my first copy of Quartet in a second-hand shop in Long Street years after it was published. I swore then that one day there would be a South African edition."