Perched atop our stools at Narina Trogon restaurant in Braamfontein in front of book publishers and marketers, and the assembled Joburg book media, Zukiswa Wanner, Chris van Wyk, Nechama Brodie, Marita van der Vyver, Deon Meyer and myself spent a short few minutes delving into their respective tomes – each of which personifies the art of storytelling in a different way.
Wanner officially represented the Home Away collection of short stories, but several other contributors made the do: Louis Greenberg, Kathryn White and Fiona Snyckers. Other Homebru authors present included Deon Maas and Tania du Toit – and it was great to see Melinda Ferguson (Hooked) there, too.
Comedian Al Prodgers served up a bellyful of laughs alongside the Homebru-themed eats (bobotie, chicken curry, melktert, etc). Here’s a gallery of snaps from the event:
BOOK SA’s Emily Amos was there, and files this report:
Deep in the heart of Braamfontein, Jozi in the place with the green mosaic tiles outside (aka Narina Trogon), any fiendishly book-loving Souf’ Effricans would have felt that they’d died and gone to heaven on 18 May. For in these few square metres, for a just a few smaaklik lekker hours, was a high concentration of SA literary talent, not only authors but publishers, editors and book journos too, and a comedian.
The event? The 2010 launch of Exclusive Books’ annual Homebru list. Guests turned up in their afro chic/ soccer best to celebrate this year’s 30-strong Homebru list of lekker reads. Greeted with ‘n klein blikkie warm wyn and cauliflower kitsch the guest were ready to party. EB’s Rene Brophy kicked off events by saying “there is something for every palate” with each book bringing “their own subtle and sometimes not so subtle hint of flavour”.
BOOK SA editor Ben Williams sat down with Nechama Brodie, Chris van Wyk and Zukiswa Wanner for a quick chat about their Homebru books. Brodie said her Inside Joburg is a book “about Jo’burg experiences, we like to complain, particularly in Jo’burg… but the only way the city becomes safe and exciting is if we interact with it”. Citing examples of recently reclaimed spaces like the parks, where people have started using them again, in turn making them safe – Brodie says Jo’burg is “full of such treasures, all we have to do is use them”. She also hinted at “secret places” in the city saying that there is a “great balance” between the places we know about and those we don’t. Williams was forgiven for admitting to not having known about Lusito Land before reading the book. And FYI, there are over 2 300 parks in Jozi!
Williams then spoke with the ever-effusive Chris van Wyk, asking him about the sense of wonder and childlike joy that comes through in Eggs to Lay, Chickens to Hatch. Van Wyk said he wrote specifically from his own childhood point of view, wanting to honour that period of growing up. Williams and van Wyk spoke of the immediate intimacy of van Wyk’s writing. Williams said reading the book is like “bringing Chris back to your house with you”.
Williams then moved on to talking with Zukiswa Wanner, a contributor to Home Away (and due to release her new book, Men of the South, next week). Wanner said it was a humbling experience being part of the 24-author team who wrote Home Away. The book consists of stories of 24 hours in 24 cities with Wanner tasked with writing about midnight (“the witching hour”). Louis Greenberg, editor of the book was present in the audience along with fellow “hour” contributors, Kathryn White and Fiona Snyckers. Williams rounded up the discussion saying how he loves South African writers’ ability “to spin stories out the craziness” producing “brilliant narrative with an edge”. Thus ended the first Homebru launch author conversation.
Guests tickled their biological tastebuds too – enjoying crispy, light samoosas with a killer chilli dip; fresh green salad, delicious curries and the most divine mini malvas, melktert and koeksisters ever – all on typically South African enamel “borde”.
Comedian Al Prodgers delighted attendees with his quick-witted comedy – never slow to pounce on all our South African foibles. Only in SA does a Sandton “kugel” complain about the freshness of the avocados available at the robot intersection of “dead white man road” and “struggle hero street”.
The second author conversation of the day, with Williams again posing questions, was with Marita van der Vyver and Deon Meyer. Together they explored the depths of their story-telling with Williams calling Meyer’s work, “story telling on serious drugs”! Meyer spoke of the skulduggery in SA’s Afrikaans music scene in recent years including the controversies of sexual abuse, De La Rey, and Voëlvry. Asked if he sees his work as international or South African, Meyer said his work is firmly South African first. Williams spoke with van der Vyver about her revenge-fuelled Homebru novel, It’s Just Dessert, Dear which was influenced by Dangerous Liaisons.
The conversation ended with a brief discussion of where South African writing culture is going. Meyer agreed with Williams that that it is “gaining unstoppable momentum”. He mentioned that his overseas publishers are starting to ask what else and who else is on literary offer from SA. Good news indeed for the wealth of writing talent, publishing genius and the hordes of hungry fans of SA writing.
Last: here, of course, are the books:
Book details: 2010 Homebru Selection
- South Africa: A Visual Tour Through Its Regions by Toast Coetzer
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- Banquet at Brabazan by Patricia Schonstein
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