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Listen to five short stories by Nadine Gordimer (including Loot read by the author) via @openculture: fb.me/6CqAHMz7y

Richard Poplak: “The South African Novel is in Crisis”

Richard Poplak

 
Richard Poplak, author of The Sheik’s Batmobile and co-author of the soon to be published Whiteout: An Investigative Journey into Africa 3.0, has written a review of The House on Sugarbush Road by South African-born author Méira Cook who lives in Canada.The House on Sugarbush RoadThe Sheik's Batmobile The House on Sugarbush Road gets relatively mild treatment compared to some of the other books and authors he mentions in the article, after declaring that, “The South African novel is in crisis.” He attributes this to the state of South Africa, which he says has “tipped into an off-kilter netherworld, where fiction can only jog along behind current events, gawping”.

Poplak says that during apartheid writing a novel was “comparatively easy” with André Brink, Nadine Gordimer and JM Coetzee “charting the apartheid-era in high literary terms” but that now “Brink and Gordimer routinely publish rubbish”. He names Ivan Vladislavic as being the best writer currently working in South Africa, but says that he “is largely unread outside of a tiny cabal of literati” and that his best work is the non-fiction book Portrait with Keys.

PhilidaDisgracePortrait with KeysTriomfAgaatSpud - Exit, Pursued by a BearZoo City (SA edition)The Institute for Taxi Poetry

Lauren Beukes and Imraan Coovadia‘s books are referred to after Poplak says that “the country’s novelists have yet to find an idiom that can manage the absurdities”. He mentions Zoo City as getting close to this goal and says that The Institute for Taxi Poetry “isn’t quite puzzling and difficult enough” despite being “a puzzling, difficult book”.

On the subject of black writers, Poplak mentions K. Sello Duiker and Phaswane Mpe, who died in 2005 and 2004, and then says that “Zakes Mda, the country’s best-known black novelist, hasn’t published anything readable in well over a decade”.

Thirteen CentsWelcome to Our HillbrowMaster Harold... and the BoysMadam & Eve: TwentyThe Lion Seeker

Poplak ends off his review saying that The House on Sugarbush Road does nothing to change the fact that South Africa is “No Country for Novelists”:

Last year, the South African non-fiction writers Rian Malan and Kevin Bloom were scheduled to appear at a literary event in Johannesburg. Malan suggested that they circle their intellectual wagons around the following proposition: “South Africa — No Country for Novelists.” Both men count novelists as friends, so they wisely backed off from this genteel form of social suicide. But one understands why Malan made the suggestion, especially since he had just published a lacerating review of Andre Brink’s turgid, Booker-long listed Philida. The South African novel is in crisis. The country, once defined by the clear moral economics of apartheid, has tipped into an off-kilter netherworld, where fiction can only jog along behind current events, gawping.

How weird have things become? During December’s bitter 34th African National Congress (ANC) Convention, the liberation alliance that carried Nelson Mandela into secular sainthood debased itself by handing a second term to the eminently useless, utterly corrupt Jacob Zuma. Who then thanked the country by reminding us that owning dogs is “Un-African,” and by disappearing into an ancestral home taxpayers have renovated for him at a cost of $22-million — a sprawling, high-tech residence the national broadcaster is forbidden from describing as a “compound.”

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Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://henriettaroseinnes.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Henrietta</a>
    Henrietta
    January 21st, 2013 @18:03 #
     
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    Phaswane Mpe, not Mpo. He died at the end of 2004, not in 2005.

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    January 22nd, 2013 @07:16 #
     
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    Thanks for this - corrections made.

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  • Lindsay
    Lindsay
    January 22nd, 2013 @08:44 #
     
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    Apologies - got that from the article...clearly should have checked Poplak's facts!

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  • <a href="http://henriettaroseinnes.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Henrietta</a>
    Henrietta
    January 22nd, 2013 @10:01 #
     
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    Sure - I'm sure the name-slip was just a typo in the original article :)

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    January 22nd, 2013 @11:33 #
     
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    Been too busy to track what's going on, but this predictably makes me go off pop. Too tired and deadlined to write proper response, but REALLY. We agree on Vladislavic, and that's about it, although his points about the late works of Gordimer and Mda are worth debating. Oh, and I do agree this is no country for (literary) novelists, but then only because the book-buying base is too small to support them (see his point about Vladislavic). But really. I mean REALLY. I do think Richard needs to come and look at my bookshelf.

    It bothers me that this kind of claim gets made, with authority, about SA writing, on a foreign platform, and is no doubt given some credence.

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  • <a href="http://kathrynwhite.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kathryn</a>
    Kathryn
    January 22nd, 2013 @11:51 #
     
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    Is a shame Poplak doesn't write novels. He is lucky enough to to join "South African non-fiction ... where local writing is at its most robust".

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  • <a href="http://mayafowler.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Maya</a>
    Maya
    January 22nd, 2013 @12:02 #
     
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    Seconded, Helen and Kathryn. Also, what does "not difficult and puzzling enough" mean? And why is difficult and puzzling good? Faulkner, IMHO, is allowed to be opaque, but I think if a writer were to actually strive for opacity, that would set off alarm bells for me. Subversive, sure. Difficult? Isn't "great literature is torture to read" a myth debunked quite some time ago?

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  • <a href="http://www.margieorford.com" rel="nofollow">margie</a>
    margie
    January 22nd, 2013 @12:56 #
     
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    I think Poplak is absolutely spot on. He certainly tapped into the impossibility of writing about South Africa that I feel increasingly when I try to write: 'The country, once defined by the clear moral economics of apartheid, has tipped into an off-kilter netherworld, where fiction can only jog along behind current events, gawping.'
    Gawping: exactly. Gawping or looking elsewhere...

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  • <a href="http://mayafowler.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Maya</a>
    Maya
    January 22nd, 2013 @13:43 #
     
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    No Margie, there's plenty to write about, and you of all people do it really well! I think especially the crime novelists are hitting the nail on the head. I read Gallows Hill and Onse Vaders last month and that's exactly what I thought as I was reading. Yes, the issues aren't as blatant as the "moral melodrama of apartheid", but issues remain. The other point is that writers from elsewhere don't have apartheid to contend with, and they're not struggling to produce attention-grabbing novels ...

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    January 22nd, 2013 @14:06 #
     
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    Poplak clearly hasn't read widely enough.

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    January 22nd, 2013 @15:16 #
     
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    Ja, I wish for the days of apartheid. Imagine what a breeze it must have been to write Waiting for the Barbarians.

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  • <a href="http://mayafowler.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Maya</a>
    Maya
    January 22nd, 2013 @15:46 #
     
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    Rustum, you gem.

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  • <a href="http://mayafowler.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Maya</a>
    Maya
    January 22nd, 2013 @16:20 #
     
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    Here's a social barometer: When Pieter-Dirk Uys runs out of material, we'll know the country is healed and there's nothing left for writers to say. Until then, we'd better keep going!

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  • <a href="http://www.margieorford.com" rel="nofollow">margie</a>
    margie
    January 22nd, 2013 @16:23 #
     
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    Rustum, you should be the Official Epithet Laureate :) I did have a moment when I was reading the article when I tried to imagine JM Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer breezing through anything....but that said, if one took fictional dictation for the reality of South Africa one would end up with something so outlandish. I also find Ian Glenn's belittling description of the 'moral melodrama' of apartheid insulting, dismissive and ethically lazy. What I do struggle with as a novelist, (and thank you Maya for saying nice things about Gallows Hill) is how to get to grips with the slipperiness of history in the present moment. What fascinates me is how (real) people make ethical decisions and do good things despite the current political murk that lurks. Perhaps people (and that would include novelists and non-fiction writers too) always have to find their own moral compass. The task of our current non-fiction writers is to document where those in power have traded theirs in for 30 pieces of silver (or platinum or whatever is their metal of choice) and that of novelists and poets is to imagine how people navigate their comromised and compromising lives day to day. We'll get there...

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    January 22nd, 2013 @17:10 #
     
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    My problem is really with linking whatever state fiction writing is in currently with the end of apartheid - i.e. the end of apartheid has left novelists floundering. And, during apartheid, it was easier to write fiction because there was a supposedly clear-cut target and theme. It's too easy. And the self-assured pose with which it is made, while the author clearly hasn't read enough to make such magisterial declarations, makes for a contemptible ethos in the writing.

    As far as what writers' tasks are - I don't know. Writers choose their tasks. Critics can and should only criticise after the fact, so I won't venture as to what who should do...

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  • <a href="http://www.margieorford.com" rel="nofollow">margie</a>
    margie
    January 22nd, 2013 @19:57 #
     
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    Critics could eat humble pie - that is always nice from the mean-spirited perspective of (this) writer

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    January 22nd, 2013 @21:42 #
     
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    Rustum, when I am Queen, dilly dilly, you shall be comment King. You are the breeze beneath my wings...

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    January 24th, 2013 @10:04 #
     
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    It's far too airy and magisterial, and misses out some of the best books of recent times (imo like 'Nineveh' and 'Absolution', and of cause the group of novellas in 'The Exploded View' ) ... but there is a point lurking here.
    What I am starting to think is that our novelists, while reasonable at describing where we are now, have not really tied up how we got from there (the euphoria of the early 1990s) to here (the identity-obsessed kleptocracy in which we live). There's little in the way of bonds of causality, in the old Lukacsian sense - certainly in what I've read. Some of the problem, in my view, is that we haven't understood the past in a complex enough manner. To give an example: the themes of guilt, responsibility, complicitcy etc have been done to death in our TRC literature ... but nowhere do I find anything as unsettling and complexly imagined as two Dutch novels I've recently read, about the same themes as they affected Holland during/after World War II. Myns insiens (Mulisch's 'The Assault' and Hermans' 'The Darkroom of Damocles').
    One thing - Glenn's 'moral melodrama' is of course a deficient way to look at the past - but it's not his: it comes straight out of Ndebele's notion of apartheid and 'the spectacular'.

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  • <a href="http://kathrynwhite.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kathryn</a>
    Kathryn
    January 25th, 2013 @09:25 #
     
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    It all really depends on what the point of the novel is. Currently, it's mostly to be read. And there are a lot of really good TV narratives/series out there. So the competition is entertainment. Intellectual fatigue is real. Writers can only ever write what they can, and what they can feel. An obligation to write with social and political intent can be well discussed but totally irrelevant if there isn't a writer on the block that cares to write about it, right now.

    It's a great discussion, but currently as far as novels go you'd have to use seriously cliched analogies for a story - capitalist pigs somewhere, a gravy train going toot-toot, a pile of textbooks lying under a steaming zinc roof. You see, that zinc roof is problematic, even if it's real. We may has well make an Oxfam campaign. Mail & Guardian does it better at the moment. It's now, current, it's too early to write this up in anything less than .... absolute cliches. I'd rather watch Homeland.

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  • <a href="http://kathrynwhite.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kathryn</a>
    Kathryn
    January 25th, 2013 @09:28 #
     
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    "it's too early to write this up in anything less than .... absolute cliches" refers to novelists struggle w current stuff, not M&G journalists.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    January 25th, 2013 @09:45 #
     
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    Quite a lot of misconceptions there. My understanding is that there are writers wanting to write political novels, but that certainly some (many?) mainstream publishers are not happy with the idea.
    And, while writers should be under no obligation re subject matter/intent, to say that 'writers only write what they can, and what they feel' brings out a really interesting question as to which group(s) in society is/are doing the writing, and what their purview, understanding and interests are. This is a tricky question to answer: but certainly, one has to see that there are huge sections of SA society who are not writing, and whose views are not being expressed - not only in lit, but in any form. It's not enough to see that this is a question of gender, and/or of race - it's also a question about class, region, access etc etc. I would want to ask the question differently: why are certain subjects NOT being written about in SA today, seeing as how they are ever-present concerns for huge numbers of people?
    (Here's the acid test, Kathryn: go off to, say, De Doorns, and say to the first farm labourer you meet, 'South Africans have intellectual fatigue about political subjects'. See what answer you get....
    I don't get the zinc roof metaphor.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    January 25th, 2013 @09:47 #
     
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    Oh, and yes - I was trying to make the point that the novel form facilitates social process in a way short stories, poems etc find difficult. Even tv series - seeing as how the commercial imperative here seems to dictate that they should be kept going as often as possible. (Or, to put it another way: intellectual fatigue is a very real possibility by time one watches, say, Homeland series 23....

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  • <a href="http://www.margieorford.com" rel="nofollow">margie</a>
    margie
    January 25th, 2013 @11:53 #
     
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    One thing South AFrica has never given me is intellectual fatigue. It is too complicated and fluid and unpredictable and generous to ever fatigue one intellectually or emotionally. My great difficulty has been - and this is to do with my own intellectual and artistic abilities, rather than anything is - to find a way to map how individuals, the fictive characters in novels, live out the day-to-day-ness of South Africa and its social politics. It feels like trying to catch mercury, sometimes. Crime fiction - with its simple question of why - seemed to offer a way of doing that. After five books (I am a very slow learner) I have realised that I was wrong. The books y cannot get to the heart of how things are lived. But the magical thinking of light fiction can entertain and divert - and sometimes illuminate how life is in the wings of the outlandishness of the adventure story.

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    January 25th, 2013 @12:09 #
     
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    Kelwyn, which subjects are on the list of those that are not being written about (whether in lit or elsewhere) - ?

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    January 26th, 2013 @00:08 #
     
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    Here's Pollyanna again: the more I think of Poplak's assumption of expertise (esp as he is CLEARLY not reading nearly widely enough to be considered informed), the more annoyed I get, until I remember my last sojourn in the US, and how most North Americans assumed that all educated foreigners were instant experts on every aspect of their home nation's life, letters, politics etc. I guess eventually you'd begin to believe it yrself... I digress.

    SA writing has MANY challenges, mostly to do with a dramatically shrinking book-buying base, and the pesky tendency of printers, landlords, staff, etc to need to be paid monthly, which does make publishing a rather tricky enterprise. But local writing is never boring. There is talent in spades. That talent isn't always being developed (see problem of $$), and I see a lot of half-cooked books as a result. BUT: writers and publishers are continuing to write and publish work even when it DOES NOT SELL, contrary to all commonsense and economics, with a giddy heroism that makes me want to weep and cheer. And that work is scattering gleefully in all directions, across genres, and into all the unexplored corners of the national psyche -- if there is such a thing.

    What worries me is the tone of prescriptiveness: the minute someone says "You OUGHT to be writing about XXX", art dies a little.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    January 31st, 2013 @07:13 #
     
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    I dunno if you were in the audience at that Edinburgh thing, Ben, when Ndebele and Krog manfully avoided the subject for discussion; but there are younger writers who do seem to think that there are some publishers - not all - to whom the notion of a politically-tending literature is anathema, if responses from the audience are anything to go buy.
    And Helen - no one's saying "you ought"; rather, "it's interesting that so few are - I wonder why?", which is a different statement.
    Let's be clear: apartheid stunted the growth of popular fiction in this country, or a literature where one could just have fun (i.e. if people want to spank or tickle each other, go ahead). Without a popular base, the more serious stuff seems to just wobble in the air. And this is not just a question of genre; it's also a question of readership, as Helen says.
    However. The book-reading public in SA is still a small coterie, relatively speaking, and the first point I'd make is that we cannot be sure that grand statement about what SAfricans want/don't want to read/hear/deal with are generally applicable.
    Secondly, I cannot understand why, in a situation where the country is sliding ever deeper into crisis, there are these calls to downplay politically-questioning or -revealing literature. It makes no logical sense. The image that comes into my mind is of a bunch of monkeys up a tree, masturbating ever more wildly as the python edges closer...sure, we all feel fatigue. But.
    Thirdly, even though this site is a commercial one, it still wants to promote debate. But some - too many - of the statements put forward as argument seem to lightly clothe self-promotion or be in defense of turf. In my humble opinion, of course. Why is everyone so paranoid about criticism, even if it's sometimes ill-informed? This is not a sign of robustness, myns insiens.
    My colours have always been nailed to the mast of testing, extending, a readership: making them uncomfortable, if need be: Handke rather than handjobs, if you will. Moreover: I don't buy for a single moment that this stuff about 'high falutin'' literature is actually about high-falutin' literature. Whom are we talking about? Coetzee? Joyce? or ?????

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  • <a href="http://kathrynwhite.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kathryn</a>
    Kathryn
    January 31st, 2013 @09:32 #
     
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    http://dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-01-30-a-new-south-african-syndrome-scandal-fatigue < It's this.

    I truly have this idea that writers can only write what they can write - like an athlete you can only sprint the distance your body is designed for (Lance is a cyborg). A student in a creative writing class can be guided by the best, but the sentence>paragraph>final product can only be as good as that creative writing student can make it.

    So, currently the majority of writers I know are having a wonderful break from being obsessed with South African politics/ and/ or treating topics in lighter ways.

    The zinc roof is the cliche - an international writer using SA as a setting wouldn't see the inherent ick factor of using it: "the African sun beat off (harsh, demanding, drought) the zinc roof (we know we're in a shanty town, dust, flies, poverty). South African writers are more self-conscious about describing these settings. Those that can do it without hackneyed-ness, do. Most don't write it up - quite simply, because they don't feel like it. There's no call to create lit that is not challenging - it's just the very immediacy and ... repetition of the current situation is .... difficult to make into decent lit that doesn't ... sag.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    February 7th, 2013 @12:27 #
     
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    You know, I have infinite respect for those who felt/feel fatigue from the struggle years. For those politically active at the time, 'fatigue' is the least problem anyone could expect, once it was over (generally coupled with PTSD). What I don't understand are those people who speak of 'political fatigue' when a) they were either too young to have been through this, or b) weren't involved in the political struggle to begin with. I also don't understand those who speak of their 'literary fatigue' now for a) political literature, or b) for pre-liberation SA literature, when - on deeper examination - one finds they have read very little beyond one or two iconic (how I hate that word) texts, and have their ideas formed in SA literary departments. Sure, I am generalising: but too many people who throw around the 'f' word fit this category ... and here, 'fatigue' isn't a description any more; it's an ideology of avoidance.
    Secondly, I can quite take the point of those writers who want to find a spiritual (for want of a better word) centre away from academe. The problems with present academic literary studies is one I could go on re at length. However, the tenor of some (not all) remarks re 'high-falutin'' literature I'm seeing on sites such as this seems to me not to be a corrective: there are traces of anti-intellectualism; and of a disregard for stylistic questions (cf the scorn shown by several commentators here about Joyce); which - along with the political cringe outlined above - surprise me. At times they feel middle/lowbrow in the worst sense of the term. Do we want a literary version of Zappa's Dance Of The Just Plain Folks?
    Finally - even thought these terms aren't completely distinct, of course - the struggle between the belief that art/literature should be about entertainment vs. socio-political questions is a perennial one. From my position, wut writers can get this very wrong, if they cocoon themselves. My personal favourite example of this is a poem by the court poet Thomas Carew a few years before the English Civil War in the 17th C, when he praises the masques and balls of the English Court and compares the English 'peace' to the 30 Years War raging in Europe .... a mere three years before England blows up. We don't want to seem silly in retrospect, do we?

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    February 7th, 2013 @12:51 #
     
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    Personally, I find writing what I want to read enough of a challenge, without having to take into account the wishes, opinions and preferences of an audience or ill-defined world. Perhaps I'm fortunate that I'm too preoccupied with making sense of my own ideas, imaginings and experiences to give a toss about anything else. It's an interesting discussion, but ultimately (presently!) I'll just creep back up my own blissfully ignorant arse.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    February 7th, 2013 @14:17 #
     
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    Richard, I think it's the kiss of death for any writer to be told, or think, that they 'have' to write about something (cf Kathryn's 'only can write what they can write' remark). This country has had its fill of literary - and other - apparatchiks (mind you, don't believe for a moment that they're not still there, pulling strings). But I feel that there is an injunction to writers today, a much subtler one, NOT to write about politics ... which is equally damaging to writers who may wish to. I also have an uneasy hunch that there's some sort of implicit struggle for the ideological high ground going on here, in discussions such as this, which is about power and visibility even as some declaim that it's all about 'freedom'.
    It's probably true that writers who may choose to not write about politics are displaying a political stance through this, nevertheless (Ngugi says this, I think). I would want to be less hard-assed than this though: I think writers are social beings, and that ultimately our lives, and to some extent our writings, reflect this. The totality of our lives should be reflected in this. Entertainment and fun in our literature are great: but if they occur at the expense of socially-committed and political foci as well? - not so great. And imo the 'fatigue' mantra is a sign of avoidance of crucial issues, at exactly the wrong time. What will we say to the next generation of writers about this avoidance, when it's too late?

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    February 7th, 2013 @15:06 #
     
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    I tend to steer clear of the "genre wars" and high-brow-low-brow debates for the simple reason that they seem to pale into insignificance beside the losing battle that writing/reading seems to be fighting with the ever-growing, constantly-evolving audiovisual storm we are faced with. Who still listens to three-hour operas? Most people want three-minute songs. Who still sits through Hamlet? Most people prefer to watch a two-minute clip on YouTube. Could the same be happening with books? Perhaps they too will eventually become the quaint pastime of an intellectual elite. I hope not, but I fear we are fighting a losing battle. So whenever I see any book, regardless of its genre or content, attracting readers, I heave a sigh of relief and hope that some of them will be tempted to read on, dive deeper, try something more challenging.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    February 7th, 2013 @15:26 #
     
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    Up to a point I agree with you, Richard - although I think any medium which allows more creative, enquiry-based interaction is fine by me. The audiovisual storm could do this; TV could have done it once upon a time: fact is, those who have control over it have made/make sure it isn't truthful, or a spur to action of any kind. These media bid fair to become sommer another form of consumerism.
    And 'the book' in its present economic context is more and more about making us simple consumers, rather than discerning readers; there's quite a struggle going out over what 'reading' should entail (e.g. I'm quite interested in the connections and disconnections between literary 'entertainment' as a concept and consumerism as a burgeoning fact shaping the form 'the book' and its publishing and reception are taking). But we're in full agreement about 'read on, dive deeper, try something more challenging'...
    One could also wonder about whether access to the web, or to the equipment needed for audiovisual relief, do not themselves have a cut-off point for accessibility which could render some versions themselves elitist - an interesting discussion in itself.
    But you know, here and there I'm seeing a realisation of some of the advantages of the book - it's not all disadvantage, surely. As for me, I'd still rather have a small volume in my pocket.

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  • <a href="http://www.knotofstone.com/author" rel="nofollow">Nicolaas Vergunst</a>
    Nicolaas Vergunst
    February 7th, 2013 @17:38 #
     
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    As Richard neatly said, "I find writing what I want to read enough of a challenge". While South African writers produce challenging works—intellectually, ethically and artistically—I found myself writing the book I'd always wanted to read but no one else had written. This is not to say that I've read them all or that I could do one better, but that I had a story no one else had heard or wanted to talk about. However, I’m not a novelist and doubt that I shall ever write fiction again—the form is too rigorous for me. In all humility, I now tend toward reading what writers do best rather than what readers think it's best for them to write about.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    February 7th, 2013 @18:59 #
     
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    That feels a tad disingenuous, Nick. Writers are also readers; and lots of readers want to be writers. And the questions involved still remain interesting.
    How are you, by the way?

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  • <a href="http://www.knotofstone.com/author" rel="nofollow">Nicolaas Vergunst</a>
    Nicolaas Vergunst
    February 7th, 2013 @23:31 #
     
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    Kelwyn, I merely wanted to note that the novel is not my medium of choice but the best form I could use to tell my story. While I agree that writers like to read and readers like to write, I have no desire to be a novelist myself. Others do that far better. Instead, I’d like to start painting again. It’s what I can do best.

    As you know, I left the local art world for a diplomatic life abroad. My wife is a Dutch diplomat and we currently live in Strasbourg where I continue to work on the backstory to Knot of Stone. We shall be here until next summer (it’s a four year posting), so if you ever pass through this corner of France be sure to let us know. And that’s a sincere invitation.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    February 8th, 2013 @13:22 #
     
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    Would be good to see you!...
    generally, though, I have just come across something that explains my paranoia about SA artists and politics better than I could i.e. if this terrain of argument is ceded, all goes down the drain....
    http://slipnet.co.za/view/event/south-african-artists-toadies-or-traitors/

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  • <a href="http://www.knotofstone.com/author" rel="nofollow">Nicolaas Vergunst</a>
    Nicolaas Vergunst
    February 8th, 2013 @15:15 #
     
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    Thanks, Kelwyn, I'd seen the article this morning but couldn't stomach it on an otherwise flawless Friday. Why let another tit-for-tat tale from SA spoil a perfectly good weekend? While Mike is at his best here (giving context and insight, especially within parentheses), the recent spate of retaliatory attacks on or by artists and politicians has reached "obscene" proportions. The debacle has become too public for me. I prefer the use of "obscena" when it refers to what happens off-stage, as in Greek theatre, or to acts so brutal they should take place behind the scena, tent or bush. So, perhaps it's time for another SA bosberaad?

    Whatever happens, I'm going to enjoy a weekend in the Black Forest.

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